Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
17 Apr

10 Psychological Hurdles Keeping You From Losing Weight (and How to Overcome Them)

hurdles

A few weeks back, I discussed nine (more) reasons you might not be losing the weight you want, and I got a lot of responses. Those were mostly “physical” reasons grounded in physiological terms we usually use to describe weight loss or gain. In other words, they were the ones you expect, things like eating too little and tanking the metabolism, suffering from “hidden stress,” disordered eating, or training too hard with inadequate nutrition. Today, I’m doing something a bit different. Instead of couching everything in the body, I’m focusing more on the ways in which our minds (which, of course, are part of the body, but we typically separate the two in common parlance) trip us up and prevent us from losing weight.

Let’s jump into it.

You’ve Developed Poor Habits

Habits become ingrained in our days and in our brains to the point where it just doesn’t feel right without them. Now, if your habits take the form of regular exercise, eating plants and animals, and getting good sleep, you’re in good shape. If your habits look a little different, you might not be:

The coffee and crueller (stat!) on the way to work. The handful of candy beans every time you pass the candy-loving receptionist’s desk. The nightly six pack. The propensity to plop down on the couch and stay there for hours after work. We’ve all got some bad habits, and depending on their composition, they can disrupt our ability to lose weight.

It’s easy to recognize our bad habits, but it’s tough to break the cycle using sheer willpower. Instead, try to understand the underlying contexts that give rise to the habits. That way, you can target the contexts – the situations, the emotions, the cues – that trigger the habit.

It could be as simple as taking a different route to the bathroom to avoid the receptionist’s candy-laden desk, or it could be as hard as examining why you feel the need to drink six beers at night.

You can also replace the bad habit with a good one. If you’re craving that morning pastry, eating a piece of sweet fruit instead might be easier than just going without altogether.

I recommend The Power of Habit for those looking to learn more about habits, how to break bad ones and create new ones.

You’re Afraid of Being a Social Pariah

We are social animals. In fact, acknowledgement and indulgence of that fact is crucial for maintaining and supporting personal health. It’s the rare person who can live without social contact with other humans and remain happy and healthy. That innate drive to be accepted by and avoid offending those around us, however, can also keep us from making the right dietary choices when those around us are constantly bringing cookies into the office, going out to eat at the Chinese buffet, ordering wings and fries at happy hour, and so on.

There’s no easy way to relish social pariahism, although I think a healthy dose of it leads to superior health (more for being independent/your own man/woman than for any dietary advantages it confers). You can’t just decide to be happy about being the weird person who turns down the birthday cake. You can, however, decide to be the weird person who turns it down. Sometimes there’s no easy way around the hurdle, no strategic path. Sometimes you just have to bull your way through it and bear the consequences. Like running hurdles on the track, scaling this particular psychological hurdle gets easier the more you do it. Turn down the cake a few times and you’ll realize that it’s not so bad after all and people really don’t care.

Just don’t make a big deal out of it when you say no. Don’t get indignant or lecture-y.

You Still Fear Fat

Years of indoctrination from mass media, your family, doctors, “experts,” and pretty much everyone can have you convinced that fat is a scary, inherently dangerous macronutrient – even if you can intellectually accept its place in the human diet. No matter how many studies you read exonerating dietary fat as the cause of heart disease and obesity and diabetes and how many success stories you hear from people who ate fat to lose fat, there may always be a voice deep down inside saying “you know that stuff will kill you, right?” Even though you know it’s not anything to worry about and a high-fat diet actually can be incredibly healthy, the animal instinct is strong and stubborn. And yet if you don’t shake that fear of fat even as you reduce your carbohydrates, you’ll end up on a low-carb, low-fat, overall low energy diet that won’t get you anywhere but stuck and stalled.

It’s tough to shake indoctrination, but it can be done. Read GCBC, at least the first half that deals with the diet-heart hypothesis to have your fear ripped asunder to be replaced with a strong yearning for butter. Read the success stories on this very site from people who ate lots of fat and lost weight, improved their blood markers, and lowered their risk of developing heart disease. Taken together, clinical research and personal anecdote combine to form a powerful de-conditioning agent.

You Eat for Comfort

Comfort eating has an initial utility, I’ll admit. If you’re stressed out and can’t handle the situation, eating something that comforts you and lowers stress can be helpful, regardless of the nutritional composition of the food in question. However, if that becomes a habit, if you find yourself eating fried chicken and waffles four nights a week in order to make yourself feel better, your weight loss will almost assuredly halt – or reverse itself altogether, leading to an entirely different kind of “feeling bad.”

The problem is the stress, not the food. If you just keep switching up the food without addressing the root cause, you’ll never truly break through. You need to figure out what’s stressing you out and then take steps to reduce or mitigate it. If that means taking specific steps, like avoiding a particularly caustic personality in your life or switching jobs at the first available opportunity, so be it. It might also require taking a more general approach to stress reduction, like daily meditation, a morning walk, or some time in nature. Better yet, take both specific and general steps.

You’re Stuck on What Worked at First Even Though It’s Not Working Anymore

The initial weight loss is a rush. It comes so quickly and so effortlessly (for many people) that people often assume that doing whatever caused that first big burst of change will work in perpetuity. They become wedded to the initial method, even as it stops working. People tend to do that – to identify strongly with a belief or a group, especially if it’s generally worked very well for them. This identification often persists even when it stops working, or stops working quite so smoothly. It’s “normal” human behavior, but it can still be counterproductive or even destructive.

Maybe early on you didn’t have to think about caloric content, but now you should consider it.

Maybe early on you didn’t have to exercise much beyond walking, but now you could really benefit from more.

Maybe early on you didn’t have to worry about anything but diet, but now you should explore the other important aspects of Primal life.

You Think “Why Even Bother?”

Stalling is hard, especially if it persists for months on end. But stalling is completely normal. Weight loss (as mentioned above) is easiest when you have the most to lose. Dropping 100 pounds off of 300 in a year isn’t too tough and happens all the time, while dropping the last twenty when you’re sitting at 200 is considerably tougher and often takes a lot longer. This can be incredibly discouraging, especially if you’re “used” to losing weight faster.

The solution? Don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. Focus on all the other benefits you’ve accrued. Enjoy the improved and steadier energy throughout the day. Cherish the newfound appreciation and capacity for outdoor activities. Rub your skeptical friends’ faces in your blood test results (not the actual blood, but rather the numbers). If you do these things and keep on keepin’ on, the weight loss will come. But it will never come if you give up.

You’re Embarrassed to Go to the Gym

Ah, the gym: hall of mirrors, impossibly ripped testosterbros, models, and high standards, all of whom are prepared to gaze disapprovingly in your specific direction. Or so some people assume. In reality, the gym is full of people trying to lose some weight, build some muscle, and gnash their teeth in pleasurewrath at the latest episode of Hannity on Fox as they walk the treadmill. And most of them are just as self-conscious as you.

Embarrassment is another hurdle that can’t be surmounted by tricks. You just gotta go for it. Before you know it, you’ll either be too fit and strong to worry, or you’ll have stopped caring. That said, there are a few strategies to ease your embarrassment:

Consider a trainer. A trainer will help you perform the lifts with confidence and grace so that you don’t think you look funny (even though you don’t and no one cares anyway).

Get a plan. Don’t just go in and start doing strange things with the dumbbells. Follow a legitimate program like Starting Strength (barbells), Convict Conditioning (bodyweight), Overcoming Gravity (gymnastics), or Raising the Bar (bar calisthenics). Primal Blueprint Fitness is another (free) option.

Go during off hours. You can get your workouts in relative solitude.

Work out elsewhere. Who needs the gym? Not everyone. Go for hikes, lift your own bodyweight, build a home gym, buy a few kettlebells and a sandbag and make a slosh tube or two, play sports. You don’t need the gym to work out and lose weight.

Besides, those big guys with tank tops that show ample man nipple? They’re more concerned with staring at themselves than anyone else – as should you.

You Think in Black and White/All or Nothing

A while ago, I warned you guys against making the perfect the enemy of the good: bailing out because you can’t get grass-fed/organic/pastured/wild/perfect everything. That advice still stands, especially the more wrapped up you get in all this Primal stuff, and yet I hear about it a lot.

You’ve read all about the benefits of grass-fed beef, so you won’t touch anything that ate a grain and end up unable to afford this diet.

You can’t find a farmers market near you and have no room to grow your own veggies, so rather than buy conventional produce from the supermarket, you avoid plants altogether.

You eat a bite or two of nigiri (with the rice) along with some shrimp tempura and freak out on yourself, going on a three day water fast to cleanse the impurities and end up derailing the entire ship, tanking your metabolism, and triggering a weeklong binge.

The vast majority of the millions of unique visitors Mark’s Daily Apple gets every month aren’t buying exclusively grass-fed beef and pastured chicken, shunning every green vegetable if it isn’t organic and hand delivered by the farmer, and making zero mistakes or concessions. And yet somehow they keep coming back. Somehow we keep getting success stories. Somehow people are getting massive benefits from adopting a less than perfect Primal lifestyle. Realize this, and the black and white thinking should dissipate.

You’re Depressed

Depression is often linked to weight gain, and the two appear to be mutually reinforcing. Whether you overeat because you’re depressed and want to cope with the depression or are depressed because you’re overeating, the connection between the two is undeniable.

It could be a very mechanistic thing, too. Although depression is typically imagined and conceived of as purely a psychological matter (“of the mind”), it’s also of the body. In a post from last year, Dr. Emily Deans explained how depression can lead to increased cortisol, circulating levels of inflammatory cytokines (throughout the body and the brain), impaired glucose tolerance, and accumulation of visceral fat. Resistin, a hormone that increases insulin resistance and diabetes, also increases during depression. Depression has long been linked to type 2 diabetes, too.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix for depression. Antidepressants may help in some situations, but even the relationships between antidepressants themselves and weight gain/loss are unclear (and vary depending on which medication you’re using and how long you’re using it). A generally healthy Primal lifestyle full of good food, smart activity, social contact, nature exposure, and all the other trappings I discuss can’t hurt, of course. Don’t let it fester or “tough it out,” whatever you do. Get help from someone who knows what they’re doing, whether they’ve got an MD after their name or not. You may not know exactly how to scale this particular hurdle yet, but at least you can identify and begin to assay it.

You’re Constantly Comparing Yourself to Others

As animals subject to competitive pressures, we have the tendency to constantly compare ourselves to other members of the species. We’re sizing each other up, trying to see what’s working and what isn’t for the other guy, either to gauge our ability to beat them in a had to head match up or to learn from their successes and failures. An animal that wonders about its own existence also has the ability to wonder about how they stack up against other animals. It’s a feature and a shortcoming all at once.

As for how this can become a psychological hurdle impeding weight loss, there can be a couple reasons. I’ve seen people rushing from dietary change to dietary change based on other people’s experiences without pausing to consider whether those modifications make sense for their situation. There’s nothing wrong with drawing on another person’s experience or advice to apply it to your own, but you have to stay abreast of the results. You have to give it a chance to work – or to not work.

There’s also the fact that when you look at someone else who’s seemingly got it all together, you’re only looking at their outward projections. If you could gain access to their inner workings, you’d likely find yourself tramping around in puddles of self doubt, self consciousness, and self criticism, just like we all deal with from day to day.

That’s what I’ve got, folks: 10 solid, but not insurmountable, hurdles. Let me know what you think in the comment section, and be sure to include any psychological hurdles I might have missed. Thanks for reading!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Aren’t we all just an illogical ball of conflicting nonsense!

    Groktimus Primal wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Well said.

      Susie wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Yes! Wait, no… wait…

      BonzoGal wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • You said it!!! What a load of total self-serving conflicting craptasticness.

      JJP wrote on April 17th, 2013
  2. No matter how many times you read this type of encouragement, it is still up to you. I’m finding it hard to do any of this, but want to most desperately. I think I am going to pick one thing at a time and make a change for the better; smaller steps maybe? Thanks Mark, brilliant post.

    Michelle wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • I’m a big fan of baby steps, progress not perfection, and looking back to see how far we’ve come rather than looking ahead to see how far we have to go as a way to motivate oneself. Small steps taken many times accumulate to great distances.

      Alison Golden wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • I started with small steps. I used to drink 3-4 cans of soda a day. So, to start I cut back to 1 can a day, then started to have one every other day. I haven’t had a soda in 4 months. I don’t even miss having one anymore.

      Scott wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • BJ Fogg has program called Tiny Habits ( http://tinyhabits.com/ ) that might help with getting started.

      Heath wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Thanks for the encouragement :)

      Michelle wrote on April 17th, 2013
  3. In a stall after a successful year of Primal, the Whole 30 I’m on has made me recognize those habits you talk about…it wasn’t a 6-pack every night, but it was a couple glasses of wine (OK, up to a third the bottle), and that friendly dark chocolate was just about after each lunch and dinner…the habits crept in! In a couple weeks I’ll see how hard the plateau was broken.

    Just about every day the weight-loss-stall question comes up on the forum–gotta send them here!

    Tom B-D wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Sounds familiar – I sure do enjoy the red wine and dark chocolate – knew it was getting out of hand… I too will see how well it works to correct this. Thanks Mark!

      Dr Tank wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Same here!

      NJ Paleo wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Too much daily wine and dark chocolate get me too!! I do melt the chocolate (85% cacao) with coconut oil and shredded coconut and then freeze it into a bark, but I also add almonds and raisins (I know!) and then eat way too much of it. Things that are so easy to just “grab” in passing (including another handful of nuts or more slices of Dubliner cheese) rather than stopping and thinking about making a proper meal are a tough habit to break.

      Dorothy wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • Yes! It’s the grab-n-go that’s a killer for me. It’s easy, thoughtless/mindless, and I don’t have any idea how much I’m eating.

        Danielle wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • your bark sounds pretty good. it’s a small improvement, but instead of raisins, maybe you could use dried cranberries.

        Joshua wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • Ha! I don’t think posting that recipe wll help those with dark choc issues control their urges. I shall be trying it very soon.

        Greg wrote on April 18th, 2013
  4. The admin Assistant with the candy basket is so difficult to pass up – dove dark chocolate- and i walk by her desk when ever i leave my office

    lockard wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • The girl who used to stock our office snacks recently left, much to my dismay. She was so healthy and awesome and stocked us with nuts with no seed oils, unsweetened applesauce, snap peas and carrots in the fridge, and a giant fruit bowl with tons of variety. The best part was people totally ate them! She would buy soda for the people who requested it, but it was mostly water, green drinks, unsweetened ice tea, etc. Now that she’s gone, the person who now stocks it buys all sorts of granola bars, 100 calorie packs, sugar and crap-filled nuts, and applesauce with HFCS. :( I am very sad and back to packing my own snacks. Basically, work food temptations suck.

      Susie wrote on April 17th, 2013
  5. The black/white, all or nothing thing really applies to me, but not in the way of “if I have a bite of something I freak out and go on a water fast”. No no, it’s the

    “If I’m going to have a bite of something I might as well eat the whole damn cake”.

    Ugh. When I get derailed I go so hard. For some reason, even after years of practicing and educating myself, I still get into this mentality of “if I’m going to eat ice cream I better eat a LOT of it because I never eat it so I need to go all out eating it!” Then I do that again a week later.

    Susie wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • +1

      lockard wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • I think that’s a fairly common response. I find if you commit to indulging its easier to do it in “moderation” rather than if you just casually have it.

      For me casual having “just a bite” in passing is more likely to lead to not stopping.

      Versus the real thought out decision to have something usually means I can limit how much. Rather than a mistake it was a decision.

      I don’t know maybe that wont make sense to you.

      Luke wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • Makes total sense to me. If I find myself trapped in a meeting with danishes and sweets freely available and I cave to pressure (peer-pressure, not just for schoolkids ;P) with “just a bite”, well, I’m going to end up eating a whole danish, and a doughnut, and sugar my coffee, etc.

        Meanwhile, if I say “Today I’m going to have a slice of my favourite pie and enjoy it” I find it easy to stop when I’ve had that first couple bites and gotten my fill of it.

        Jasmine wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • +2

      Dena wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Wow your comment describes me exactly! Good to know I am not the only one who goes through these issues.

      Annie wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • +1

      TerriAnn wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Me, too!!

      Stpehanie wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Susie,
      I do the same with ice cream….;-)

      Chantal wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • +1

      Bryce wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • You sound just like me…total derailment when it happens. Go big or go home and that goes for the binges. Really having the battle of my life right now to get a pound off, getting really frustrated and wondering about depression. Turning forty has been really rough. If anyone has any suggestions PLEASE bring them on!

      Sarah wrote on April 18th, 2013
  6. This is a great article! I do have several excuses why I could not maintain my weight loss program. First of all, I got lazy to do the workouts. Secondly, I am losing the motivation to lose weight. Lastly, I could not control my cravings for unhealthy food. These are my obstacles that hinder me to attain my objectives. I am still struggling to overcome all these obstacles. Anyway, thanks for sharing!

    Julio Yohe wrote on April 17th, 2013
  7. The thing that saps my motivation to lose another 20 pounds is that I’m kind of ok with where I am now. My clothes all fit quite well (except for the stuff from 35 pounds ago), my movements feel free, I don’t feel fat anymore, and my bloodwork is fine. I’m 5 10 with genetically muscular legs and I went from 226 to 190 in about 7 months and have kept it off for the last 8 months with no trouble. I am strong enough to do what I need to do and with 3 wonderful small children who want to play with me, I am not going to go off on solitary adventures that the kids can’t yet do. So without being aware of any explicit need healthwise, I am ok with carrying an extra 10% body fat compared to what it would take to lose it. Any reason my ranking of priorities should change?

    Joshua wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • I think this is a good point. I feel much the same way, after losing about 40 pounds I felt GREAT, looked great, clothes fit much better and I even bought some smaller sized jeans (a size I haven’t bought since high school). I’m extremely active but also work two jobs and go to school full time for my masters, so weight loss has fell on the back burner during the fall and spring semesters.

      I could definitely lose more since I’m 5’7 and teetering around 200 lbs, but for a long time I felt happy with my body and where I was, and I was okay with putting some other things first for a while. What happened to me, though, was that I got a little too comfortable; that comfort soon turned to “well, I like where I am so I can have pizza, and I can go out and have a couple margaritas, and I can veg out and have icecream” all because I was happy with where I was (this happened 8 months after I lost the 40 pounds).

      That, however, very quickly turned into me feeling bloated, sleeping terribly, unable to focus on school or anything else, and generally feeling terrible about myself. My weight was up only 5 pounds, but WOW…what a difference.

      I think as long as you are able to stay on track with your lifestyle, then losing weight doesn’t have to be priority #1. But for me, once I got too “comfortable,” other things started to slip. Maybe making other goals beside weight loss goals will help keep us on track without worrying so much about weight loss; goals like upping push ups in a single set or pull ups, or running a mile faster. Whatever you’re into.

      Anyway, that’s my story, and I love this post. Always great reminders to what I need to be doing to stay happy and healthy.

      Stacie wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • I think you make an excellent point Joshua, and while a lot of people starting or continuing this journey do and should focus on weight, when you get closer to the ‘mark’ as it were, you find your own equilibrium if you listen to your body.

      I myself am at that point, I could lose up to 10lb if I really worked at it, but for me right now the important markers are what my body CAN do – pull ups, sprint for the train, stand up all day, walk heaps – not what it weighs or even what it looks like.

      For everyone who is concerned they’ve “stalled” with only 5, 10 or even 20lb to go – why not see what your body is capable of, and maybe that weight is just what you are (especially if you like to lift heavy as much as I do!)

      Cledbo wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • You are one upbeat fellow. Love your pic – it’s so happy.

        Susan Alexander wrote on April 18th, 2013
        • I’m pretty sure that’s the doctor. As in Doctor Who.

          anna wrote on April 18th, 2013
  8. I still fear fat. It’s hard not to, especially when you are calorie counting.

    karen wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • I feel bad for you. I actually fear the carrots I’m about to eat more than the 3 tablespoons of butter in which they will be bathing. I don’t fear the carrots very much, but looking forward to the butter.

      Joshua wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • +1

        Neil wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • Paradoxically, eating large quantities of carrots was long thought to give the power of night vision, hence allowing children to overcome their fears of the dark.

        Yousef wrote on April 17th, 2013
  9. Yoyo loser because “my husband made me do it!” I lose some and then he says, “Let’s go out to eat to celebrate!”

    Sister Sue wrote on April 17th, 2013
  10. fantastic

    I’m saving this one to read and reread.

    Deborah wrote on April 17th, 2013
  11. The only six-pack I wanna see at night is when I take off my shirt and look down at my stomach, LOL!

    Nocona wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • I don’t think I I’ve seen a real six pack since i was 24.

      Fred Timm wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • sometimes they stack them next to the water in the gas station coolers :)

        Josh S wrote on April 17th, 2013
  12. While I hate to admit it, my main issue is that I’m terrified of success. I’ve had this body composition for decades now. Losing this belly, ditching these moobs…it just seems like a betrayal or something.

    Odd, I know, but there it is. I had dropped fifty pounds and now forty of it is back and not in the good body composition way.

    GeekGrokker wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Snap out of it! You’ll be so much happier once you get over your fear of change. :)

      BG wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • I totally jive with that.. I was always afraid I wouldn’t have “real” friends if I lost weight or that I would be more susceptible to guys just trying to get into my knickers… I think that’s why now that I’m married I feel much more comfortable about getting fit.

        Sunny wrote on April 19th, 2013
    • It’s not really all that odd. People tend create an id around their general body weight. As in – well, “I’m not part of that freakish, obsessive group over there” defined as both people who are at a normal, healthy weight and spend a few hours at the gym and those who spend 20 hours a week exercising. It’s also “I’m not part of that lazy group over there that’s 20, 50, 100 pounds more overweight then me.”

      At that point lose weight becomes changing a social group and maybe to “promote” yourself out of your current group.

      Body fat is also literally physical armor against life’s social problems. You didn’t get the promotion/girlfriend/boyfriend not because you didn’t put enough effort into or were maybe just plain unlucky; it was because you are overweight and people who get prompted/girlfriend/boyfriend are thin ( and have lots of hair.)

      My Dad has both of the same problems after spending his life significantly overweight. All I can say is that if you change your mind, you can change the your world. There’s no easy fix other than to start reverse brain washing yourself. It is worth it, but it’s uphill.

      Amy wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • Amy, that comment so resonates with me. I have come to identify myself as a fat person for 4 years now, and before that I was still a little chunky. I have never in my life been thin and I am terrified of the type of attention I might receive. I am also afraid of maintaining the lifestyle. It’s easy to be motivated when there are visible changes, but how do I stay motivated when I am staying the same? I’m probably over-thinking all of this, but it looks like I’m not the only one!

        Liza wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • It’s not really all that odd. People tend create an id around their general body weight. As in – well, “I’m not part of that freakish, obsessive group over there” defined as both people who are at a normal, healthy weight and spend a few hours at the gym and those who spend 20 hours a week exercising. It’s also “I’m not part of that lazy group over there that’s 20, 50, 100 pounds more overweight then me.”

      At that point lose weight becomes changing a social group and maybe to “promote” yourself out of your current group.

      Body fat is also literally physical armor against life’s social problems. You didn’t get the promotion/girlfriend/boyfriend not because you didn’t put enough effort into or were maybe just plain unlucky; it was because you are overweight and people who get prompted/girlfriend/boyfriend are thin ( and have lots of hair.)

      My Dad has both of the same problems after spending his life significantly overweight. All I can say is that if you change your mind, you can change your world. There’s no easy fix other than to start reverse brain washing yourself. It is worth it, but it’s uphill.

      Amy wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Not strange at all. I had a similar experience once I lost 40 pounds and felt “normal” even though I could probably lose another 40 pounds. I’ve never been that small before, and there was a definite fear going on with what was next to come. I’m still trying to overcome it and lose those 40 pounds. You’re not alone!

      Stacie wrote on April 17th, 2013
  13. Really fantastic post, thanks for this!!!!! A few of these really ring true for me.

    Matt C wrote on April 17th, 2013
  14. I had amazing results for the first two months but then started to suffer from increased cortisol and poor sleep. It’s been a long hard struggle now for nine months but I’ve finally realized that a bit of safe starch in the evening seems to make me sleep like a baby and decrease my cortisol dramatically. I’ve gained a bit of weight (mostly bellyfat) but am starting to feel better and getting better sleep.

    Anders Emil wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Is there a link between high cortisol and low carb eating? I developed an autoimmune disease short after starting low carb. Thanks for any insights.

      Les wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Anders, I am glad you shared this! I have had the same problem not sleeping well since lowering the carbs. If I have a little more carbs with dinner or early evening, I definitely sleep better. I had begun to feel I could not do the Primal lifestyle because I couldn’t keep my carbs low enough and also started having some mild heartburn that went away if I ate some carbs. Not a lot, but it felt like a betrayal or something of what I was trying to achieve. I finally realized what Mark said about all or nothing thinking and loosened up a bit. After all, a good night’s sleep is critical and that seemed a higher priority than lower grams of carbs. It’s a process and I’m just trying to be satisfied with where I’m at for now and work on tweaking my food without sacrificing sleep or grabbing a Zantac!

      Laurie wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • I gave up all wheat and after about 5 weeks started to get heartburn. I had never had it before so I was researching “esophogeal burning” instead of heart burn (silly). Finally had some bread at Easter and it went away. Ok, now what? I am still staying away from the bread but allowing a potato with dinner or a handful of corn chips. Rice isn’t part of my life anyway. What a strange thing and I haven’t heard too much about it although there is some reference to it on the forums.

        Vanessa wrote on April 17th, 2013
  15. Very helpful! I fall in the category of getting stuck on what worked initially. I lost 110 pounds in less than a year and for the last year I’ve been stuck and I can’t seem to lose the last 25. It was encouraging to hear you say that it is not uncommon but also a good reminder that I may need to change things up. Thanks!

    Jeanne wrote on April 17th, 2013
  16. The black/white/all/nothing thing is SO me. It’s what trips me up in all aspects of my life. If I eat a donut in the morning I think “well, might as well blow the rest of the day, I’ve already screwed it up” even though that is completely illogical. I’m slowly working on it.

    Carly wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • 100% same here. Why oh why am I this way!?

      Susie wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Carly if you find a way to overcome that let us know! Need to try and get out of that mindset when I think ‘This is a failed day, another cupcake won’t change anything as it will still be a failed day..’ wrong I know but hard to control!

      Annie wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • me too!

      TerriAnn wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • One thing that helped me get out of this mindset was to literally stop what I was doing and reflect on WHY I just ate that donut/cupcake/candy/whatever. Self reflection can go a long, long, long way. And I don’t mean just do it in passing. Seriously consider what made you make that choice. Talk it out, or write it down. Really think about why you made that choice, and then talk about what you’re going to do next. Think about your long term and short term goals that you’ve also written down, and how those goals far outweigh the pleasure of whatever is tempting you.

      Then, the very next meal, get back on track. Self reflection has helped me a TON with this problem; it’s helped me recognize self-destructive behaviors and combat those. It’s also helped me recognize when I’m heading into something where I’ll need to say no, and I can better mentally prepare for those moments.

      It sounds silly/juvenile/crazy…but it works. And I’m all for things that work.

      Stacie wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • I was the same on other diets, before I went fully Primal I gave up sugar; this is my key trigger for binging, if I’m going to ‘cheat’ or if I don’t have any good choices in front of me I’ll choose the option with least sugar (and avoid desert at all costs). This is my first consideration and it has helped me stay on track, it also helps that so much Primal fare feels indugent and delicious.

      I think that in some ways the fact that Primal seems couter-intuitive (for anyone brought up in the generation taught to fear fat) is a good thing. It doesn’t fit into the mental image of a ‘diet’ (with all the denial and privation that entails) and so doesn’t trigger the need to ‘break out’ in the same way. Well, for me at least.

      Primal V wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • What if you program yourself to work only slightly differently… For example, try to not allow yourself to make the conscious choice to blow the whole day WHILE you are still eating the donut, but require yourself to wait until 2-3 hours after your slip (your own little N=1 “cheats-periments).

      I’d imagine this would work two-fold:
      First, it would give you the time for your body to digest the donut (or other slip food), which will probably be unpleasant… Maybe not at the digestive level if your system is OK with grains/processed garbage, but definitely at the energy/well-being level once you ride the sugar roller coaster into a crash!

      Secondly, by not allowing yourself to make the decision while in the act of slipping, you are no longer directly in the mindset associated with the slip (that allowed it in the first place) and will likely be able to make a sound logical choice.

      Josh S wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • +1

      Liz wrote on April 17th, 2013
  17. Great article! I find your posts so helpful – thank you!

    Franny wrote on April 17th, 2013
  18. Fantastic. I just this morning emailed the experts on this exact question. I’m trying to loose and hit myself for falling off the proverbial wagon (I’m the nigiri guy). But if it happens I get back on. Each fall is shorter than the previous. But it’s feels good to keep going. It’s not a diet but a lifestyle change I keep saying. Forward on…..

    Neil wrote on April 17th, 2013
  19. Hmmm…. are my reasons 1 and 2, 3 or 5, or all of the above? Yes and yes. I am 60 yrs old, retired from a mostly sedentary office (read: chained to desk) career, thyroid disease sufferer, family history of heart disease, have passed through menopause, and am approx. 50 lbs overweight. In the last two months, I have substantially deleted most wheat-based foods and obvious sugars in my diet, and lost 10 pounds. Two months to lose 10 lbs????? Well, better than nothing. Oh, and I usually average two miles a day of walking. Once warmer weather returns to Michigan, I will be swimming daily, up to one mile a day. Yes, I still have a belly and flabby midriff, but I am rational about it ….. an excess of 50 lbs didn’t happen overnite, so slow and steady wins the race, right? At this point, I’m just happy I can continue to walk and swim ….. 60 yrs on a body isn’t pretty sometimes, LOL. Thanks for the continued insight and inspiration I get from reading the posts and articles on this site. I don’t believe that any one approach is 100% perfect, so I glean the points that work for me and continue to tweek. Godspeed.

    Lynn wrote on April 17th, 2013
  20. Great read and comments from readers. A very wise man once told me an idea on targets and how to achieve anything in life; physically or mentally by writing them down on paper. Most people (ladies especially) like lists, then start crossing them of starting with the easiest ones to achieve, then start knocking off the harder ones, you will always feel you are getting some where and achieving your to do list. Do not number them or colour code them just write them down in any order and then crack on, YOU will feel great. Thanks Gary Turner.

    Clifford Ross wrote on April 17th, 2013
  21. Definitely read the book “Power of Habit” that Mark recommends, fascinating and insightful!

    Denise wrote on April 17th, 2013
  22. Mark consistently turns out great material, this article is especially outstanding and contains vital guidance and advice that should be absorbed on an intellectual and emotional level.

    George wrote on April 17th, 2013
  23. Great post! Full of insight and definitely resonates with me. Thank you!

    Irene wrote on April 17th, 2013
  24. The habits are a killer for me, as well as eating to self-soothe. Had a bad day? You deserve some ice cream! (Unfortunately, it’s also “had a great day? Celebrate with ice cream!”)

    My husband and I are currently in the middle of a 30-day reset, trying to be 100% instead of 80/20 to reset our habits that were sliding. Last night, I realized that I’ll actually have to finish this semester of grad school during our 30 days. What, I’m supposed to write a term paper without Oreos? Yowza!

    emily wrote on April 17th, 2013
  25. My psychological “problem” is I’m afraid to lose weight. Yes, I want to lose it, have tried various methods for decades and i’m now heavier than ever. If someone notices and comments that I’m losing weight, I sabotage myself and end up gaining back what I lost. I can’t seem to stick any one plan (including this one…) because I’m afraid to see it through. I have family members that say the same thing.

    Melanie wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • I do the same thing. I used to joke it was my inner teenager rebelling over anyone judging me (for good or bad), and then finally someone asked me what my teenager was protecting me from. Well, didnt that just break the dam, and wow *epiphany*. Sometimes our fears come from something that happened to us, and specifically to our bodies, in the past, and part of our brains are still living in that moment, stuck making decisions like a 16 yr old instead of the adult that we are. We want to hide (fat makes great camouflage to hide from sexual attention) or prove that no one call tell us what to do (even when what we are telling ourselves is destructive). Maybe work on figuring out why are you afraid. What is the worse case scenario if you do lose weight or stick to a plan? What are you telling yourself that would mean? And they compare that to reality.

      Good luck! You are not alone.

      vivian wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • Thank you. Working through the issues is scary in itself. It’s easy to say x or y in my life isn’t good because I’m very overweight. What happens if I lose weight and x or y still isn’t good? That’s one fear. Also, I believe I don’t deserve it so I use my weight as a form of punishment. (For what reason, I don’t know.) I’m afraid of the unwanted attention. (You’re right- fat is excellent camo.) Also, living as a fat person is very different from living as a healthy (thinner) person. I’m afraid I won’t know how to function in day-to-day life. I have a lot of issues. Identifying them is a very important step. Dealing with them and moving on is a lot harder.

        Melanie wrote on April 17th, 2013
        • I am a big fan of meridian tapping (aka EFT) for emotional release. It has been extremely useful in my life to help me recognized and let go of some of my hangups in a gentle, but quickly effective fashion.

          Rhonda the Red wrote on April 17th, 2013
        • I grew up with a lot of betrayal going on around me, and somewhere along the way I decided (subconsciously) that I wasn’t going to be that type of person. But it became a self-fullfilling prophesy, when I associated anything to do with “me” as suspect to unhappiness.

          I thought I knew what made me happy and what didn’t – turned out it was all suspect, every single day, without any real judiciary process based on an equilibrium of good and bad. There was no sliding scale in other words. It was how would you like your “bad” served up today? Is it a little bit bad, or a lot – or are you distracted enough with this new “venture/idea/diet/lifestyle change” to fool yourself into believing something might be good?

          When I took the proverbial can of “whoop-ass” and served it up to myself, I realised the game changer. I had to stop fooling myself that everything to do with life was somehow inherently bad. Secondly though, I had to realise that I wasn’t the undercover cop I thought I was – personally elected to stop bad things from happening in the world, by sabbotaging myself.

          Simple really: and that’s the short version. ;)

          Fat person, skinny person – does it matter on the outside, if you don’t even know what happiness and personal acceptance feels like on the inside? Find out what made you doubt in the first place, and open a can of “whoop ass” on it. You obviously have an inherent desire to do what’s right – so learn what a sliding scale of right can look like. Many shades of wrong, is never going to cut it in the right department.

          Disclaimer: I’m not having a go at you, just being as honest as I was with myself.

          Christine wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • Melanie so sorry you are having this issue. I want to encourage you to look around to see if you can find something to help you transform your fear of losing weight to something positive. It’s like taking out the garbage, you are not losing the garbage, you are getting rid of it. Feelings buried alive never die, dig them out and transform them into something that you want to feel instead.

      2Rae wrote on April 17th, 2013
  26. What about when you are over 50, like 58 and it’s very hard to lose weight. I have been struggling since Christmas, when I didn’t want to be a social pariah at a work. Now I’m paying for it. I run 3 times a week and also do weights and watch what I eat. People forget you when you’re over 50.

    susieq wrote on April 17th, 2013
  27. Started off as a great article – but I stopped after the Hannity comment. Some of your readers are Consevatives and we do watch Fox. Please leave out the political commentary.

    FOXy wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Thank you FOXy for saying that. I too am a conservative and didn’t appreciate the comment either. Mark, please be careful what you say. I don’t agree with all your beliefs, but I stay open minded and consider what you are saying. I have lost 10 lbs eating primal and my blood work came out great this last time. I believe it can work but remember you have others out there that don’t agree with your politics so please keep that in mind. Very tacky little dig.

      Debbie wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • Wow Mark, reduce humans to animals and no one says a peep. But one backhanded comment that it may not be the best way to get along in the world for your screwed up government to tell the rest of the world how to not be screwed up and killing any who disagree and you get multiple rebukes. Tough crowd! But soldier on you pro-war pro-lifers! Mark’s the crazy one.

        Joshua wrote on April 17th, 2013
        • Don’t get your loincloth in a wad.

          Maynard wrote on April 17th, 2013
        • LOL – Well, humans *are* animals. (Maybe I missed that biology class where we’re all exempt from the rules of biochemistry because we fill out annual tax returns.) I don’t see how it’s offensive to state a fact like that unless you’ve got a notion lose in your head that we are superior to the Earth’s other creatures.

          I re-read the article just to find Hannity comment. It’s just a joke about the idea that type of programming creates pleasure by pointing out how other people think dumb things. Thus, the pleasurable mouth froth. There are also all sorts of media outlets on the other side of the political spectrum that do the same thing (Huffington Post/Salon anyone?) In carefully review your post, I note some of the same tendencies. Lot of frothy goodness there. ;)

          When I turned off all of it and actually started listening to people, none of it sounded quite so dumb anymore, regardless of political orientation. The people who don’t agree with you don’t do so because they are angry, uneducated idiots — they do so because they have different experiences and therefore a different POV.

          *shrug* Accepting that one thought alone has cut off the frothy goodness, but has also given me a lot of peace.

          Amy wrote on April 17th, 2013
        • Never heard of Hannity. I assumed it was yet another ‘reality’ show featuring surgically enhanced girls in too little clothing.
          International audience here folks.

          Lyn wrote on April 17th, 2013
        • Wow Joshua, do you mind translating your statement so that a human being could understand it?

          Shanika wrote on April 18th, 2013
      • I’m about as conservative as you get, but I really don’t care about his jokes. It’s best to not be easily bothered by stuff. I only start to mind when it gets hateful, especially toward my God. My family’s from South Vietnam where people got shot outside their home for political beliefs. All our pictures in Vietnam have the flag cut out for fear of retribution at the time. When you’ve gone through that, little digs just don’t matter anymore.

        Heda wrote on April 18th, 2013
    • Agreed.

      Maynard wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • -1

      Suzanne wrote on April 19th, 2013
  28. Great advice!
    I agree that one of the best benefits of saying no to the cake, or other sweets, is the sense of empowerment – that I don’t have to eat it just because it’s there, and ‘everyone else’ is having a piece.

    Bob wrote on April 17th, 2013
  29. Another bit of perspective may help. Celebrate your “stall”. If you compare your “plateau” to the “yo-yo” that typically happens to people who lose weight a lot of other ways, it looks great.

    Personally, I lost about 60 pounds over 8 months. Since then I have kept it off for another 8 months. My weight is basically level, but my strength and muscles are still building. I could afford to lose another 15-20, but I feel so much better than I ever previously imagined I could. When I put it into the correct perspective, my “stall” is something to be celebrated. I have lost weight, and I am keeping it off.

    PhilmontScott wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • That’s a great way to look at it. Thanks PhilmontScott.

      Joshua wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Especially when we think of this as a lifestyle, those stalls should be celebrated. In the long run, 8 months maintaining is a sort of success, because you haven’t slipped back into your old habits that made you gain the weight in the first place.

      Stacie wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • +1!

      Nikki Nelson wrote on April 18th, 2013
  30. Eating 4-6 oz of red meat daily helped bring my lipid panel numbers into healthy range — even after my cardiologist said it would not be impossible!!

    Do I feel silly at the gym? Sometimes, yes, but do I let that stop me? Absolutely not — and I’m on my third annual gym membership. Who woulda thought?!

    Anngellica wrote on April 17th, 2013
  31. This was a great article. I am 4 days away from finishing the 21 day sugar detox. I knew the day I was starting it and I just started slowly cutting out sugars until the day of and then I just did it. I’m 50 years old, 5’4″, 123 now. I was 131 pounds when I started. It was menopause creep and not understanding carbs that put on those pounds. I am relearning 40 years of cooking to now eat healthier, but the funny thing is, I always just liked the taste of my meat and veggies plain. No salad dressing, no sauces nothing but the flavor of the food. I think this has helped me tremendously in this change. I am fearful of being done with the sugar detox, but then I tell myself, I don’t have to be done with it. I can still follow the lists and eat the same things. I do miss sweet potatoes and I will add those back but as for the rest of it…I ate that way anyway and just didn’t realize it.

    Janet wrote on April 17th, 2013
  32. I enjoyed this post, thanks for all you do! I live in Alaska and recently found out through a blood test that my Vitamin D levels were critically low (11.8 ng/ml). My naturopath suggested 50,000 i.u. twice a week for 4 weeks and then once per week for 3 weeks, to get my levels back up. I am on week 4 and feel much better – a more positive attitude and more energy! Vitamin B12 is helping, too…

    Crista Cady wrote on April 17th, 2013
  33. A very long comment here – thanks for indulging me, Mark & Aaron. :-)

    I’m especially interested in the part of this post about habits. The book that’s recommended: The Power of Habit, has some good info, but there’s a big part of that book I question, namely the author’s cookie example, which he uses over and over in the book to make various points.

    The author wrote that he had a daily habit of leaving his desk at mid-afternoon and going to get a chocolate chip cookie in the office cafeteria. He says he broke the habit by examining the cues for the habit and doing some self-sleuthing. Through that, he says, he determined that it really wasn’t the cookie he wanted. It was the socializing with colleagues that happened in the cafeteria while he was eating the cookie. So from there on in, he used his mid-afternoon break for socializing a bit – and he was just as O.K. with no cookie as he was with one.

    Here’s my question: How does this example help people for whom IT IS about the cookie? For many people (just look at the comments), I think it’s unlikely that they’re going to replace problem eating with something as benign as socializing with colleagues. In other words, the author might have found he didn’t really want the cookie, but I think a heck of a lot of people out there have a different experience going on, i.e. they really want the cookie (or whatever they’re eating in the office or wherever they are when they’re eating the food at issue).

    So what are they supposed to do? Among other things, this post suggests looking to the underlying reasons for problem eating. I take this to mean the emotional reasons. As is pointed out, the “why” may be stress or the need for comfort or something else. The thing is, I don’t think we can assume that resolving the underlying reasons for problem eating will – by itself – stop the eating.

    I think it’s more complex than that. Because of addiction, which plays a big role in the picture of problem eating. Highly palatable foods (like sweets and sweets combined with fat and/or salt) are addictive in the true sense. The literature and research make this clear. These foods impact the same reward center in the brain as heroin, cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, etc. – and they hit it it hard enough to cause very real addiction.

    The problems are many, including that: 1) the foods themselves are pretty unavoidable outside our own homes; 2) so are the cues for these foods; and 3) willpower is an exhaustible resource.

    Looking at the problem in the context of addiction can change things. When we see that certain foods actually cause a neurological malfunction in our brains, the problem starts to seem fixable.

    Fixing addiction is a process we have to know about and do. No one thing will work for everyone. It involves changing our perceptions and test driving strategies until we find what works – for us. It’s what I’m writing about now, in a series of posts. Anyone who’d like to have a look is welcome: http://bit.ly/YjY0E9

    Susan Alexander wrote on April 17th, 2013
  34. I can resonate with Mark’s post, and am intrigued to read The Power of Habit book. I figured most of your readers don’t struggle with this stuff, as I see these incredibly healthy Primal folks out and about and read their posts on this site weekly…..and just figured it was my own struggle. So, you guys out there….do you have any of this ‘mind over matter’ stuff actually going on? Mark, surely you don’t. (Bust my bubble….I think so highly of you!)
    Thank you!

    Karin wrote on April 17th, 2013
  35. Thank you, this is exactly what I needed to read. Just today I was frustrated with the fact that I can’t lose the 5-10 pounds that I want to shed, even though I’ve been eating Primal for 2 months and working out (not too much, not too little) consistently. So many of these points apply to me.

    Dani B. wrote on April 17th, 2013
  36. These are awesome!

    All too often people think that if they can’t be PERFECT with a diet or lifestyle than they should just give up or not even try in the first place.

    They let one little “slip up” cause them to completely backslide instead of just appreciating the fact that overall the were healthier and better than they used to be.

    Weight loss and better health are most definitely a journey. You have to appreciate the ups and downs and commit to something without becoming so indoctrinated that you can’t learn new things.

    Cori wrote on April 17th, 2013
  37. I’m have the same issue Susie and some of the other folks making comment have – if I have one of bite of cake, or donut or whatever I’ll finish the whole thing off

    Jake wrote on April 17th, 2013
  38. Great post. I think I’m in the “why even bother” category. I’m on my last 5 or 10 lbs and have been trying to get it off for practically 6 months. I’m super close to just saying, “eh…I look good enough.” and giving up but I think I’ll give it another couple months.

    Alysia Caringi wrote on April 17th, 2013
  39. I like this definition: “Discipline is remembering what you want.”

    Billy wrote on April 17th, 2013
  40. Thanks for the encouragement in this article. I do tend to compare myself to others, and I hold on to some resentment over this. I switched to primal eating 9 weeks ago and have not lost any weight. And that is the reason I did this, to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way. I am 53 years old, 5’9″, 173 lbs. The change I do notice is less hunger. I just don’t feel I want to eat as much as I used to and it
    just makes me much more comfortable in my body. The only thing I can think to do is to start counting calories (which I abhor). I would like to get down to155 lbs.

    Marc wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Marc, please don’t get down to 155 unless you plan on going out as Skeletor next October. Really, you folks who don’t have an obesity problem need to focus on the strength and immune benefits of this lifestyle rather than on the weight loss side effects. If you haven’t lost any fat in 9 weeks, that might be an indication you’re at your correct weight.

      Joshua wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • +1

        There is a point where it *is* good enough. I could lose 10-20 pounds, too. But I’m a size 10 and can do what I want to do. My body fat, alas, has not read any of the BMI charts.

        I’m much more concerned with stamping out the brush fires of creeping bad habits and several more foods that I need to wean myself away from. That’s much more on the horizon then those last few pounds.

        Amy wrote on April 17th, 2013

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