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. I’ve had wonderful health results, not eating glutin. I have hashimotos, my goiter was so large my endo said the only treatment is surgical removal. I quit glutin, and my goiter shunk and my many other Heath problems have gone away. I’ve been thinking of going primal, but after a decade of severe health problems, I’m very poor. Thank you Mark for this article I’m doing something right. And I will go primal, I’m on food stamps so I will have to compromise on quality of meat and vegetables, but my quality of life is so improved. I no longer crave the peace of death. Also I’m so happy and healthy exept when accidentally glutin poisoned my thyroid swells and my brain fogs and I get severely depressed. And all my joints hurt, and my skin erupts in pimples and rashes. Ect. But at least now I have hope. Thank you sincerely . Glutin free for life Kim.

    Kind honesty wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • I’m surfing the information super highway. I’m learning so much excellent health knowledge, I’m loving the palio diet, and lifestyle. It’s common sense. Eat well, laugh often, and get outside and play in the sunshine. It’s a beautiful philosophy and one I tell my children often. And I’ve learned a few new things from your website. You do have a way with words. Keep up the good work. We are on the crest of a new wave of human advancement, thanks to good people like you and the freedom of knowledge on the Internet. To your health and freedom. Honestly Kind One.

      Kind honesty wrote on April 17th, 2013
  2. The more I think the more I stink. The more I do the more I get done. It’s not always easy but I try to keep it that simple. Even if I’ve had a bad day/night of eating the wrong thing I try to move on quickly from it and get on with my regular PB program. I accept that I am incapable of working a perfect anything let alone PB.

    So I just plod along and manage to keep my weight around 145-150. Yeah I may gain a few pounds after a day or two of non PB but I get back on and it comes back off. Not the end of the world for me. I just try to have mostly good days while accepting the not so good ones (which make me more grateful for the good ones).

    paleodog wrote on April 17th, 2013
  3. Great article – thank you!

    Daisynyc wrote on April 17th, 2013
  4. The social pariah thing is not as big of an issue as I thought it would be but, like other things, it’s not all or nothing anyway. I don’t go out for pizza, but we have a family tradition of Dim Sum when we see my in-laws. I like Dim Sum a lot so, I still do it when I see my in-laws. Is it primal? A lot of it isn’t. But that’s why we’re 80/20, right? It’s also a regular intro to talk about being primal, which I enjoy doing.

    I’ve dropped 30ish lbs. since I started. The first 20 came off really fast (like two months with nothing but walking, which I was doing before going primal anyway) and I’ve stalled since. I want to see another 10 go (I think that’ll be the end of what belly fat I have left) but now I’m focusing on building muscle and refining what I eat a little bit better.

    “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.”

    This is the best line of this post. Not only is it really funny, it’s true. I started doing some workouts with a bodybuilder buddy of mine and I can tell you this from what I know of him and his friends: big guys at the gym respect you if you’re working out for the most part. They weren’t born big. You’re far more likely to be the topic of mockery if you’re slugging around weights that are too big for you than being the “new guy.”

    Joshua wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • “They weren’t born big. You’re far more likely to be the topic of mockery if you’re slugging around weights that are too big for you than being the “new guy.””

      This is very seriously true. I never worry about the young guys I see at the gym who have built muscle. Most of them are polite and disciplined.

      It’s the idiots throwing around crazy weights and/or clearly there to socialize and/or listen to their MP3 players that are problematic.

      I respect (and appreciate how hard must be) to be 60, flabby, and show up at the gym anyway. To be 16, reasonably athletic but spend your time at the gym “looking good” and hanging out with your buddies — not so much. I’ve had people comment positively just by doing a few burpees in my workout. Being serious about the workout itself, not how you look, is what seems to garner real respect, especially of those who have shaped their bodies already.

      Amy wrote on April 17th, 2013
  5. ouch. It feels like I have all of these reasons to deal with. I’ve been primal for two years and it feels like im getting further away from my goal everyday. I really need to watch my calories, I love food so much and I eat more than my boyfriend, I feel deprived if I cant eat that much, probably since I’ve been borderline anorectic years ago. I’ve lost a total of 10 pounds since I started. Gained back some(most) lost it again and so on. I hate the gym, I love hiking and regular walks and I’m out as much as I can. I really don’t like hard workouts, I’ve tried much, I know myself, I start and I know I will fail in the end so I just give up. And I never really cheated the first year but still all this happened. Now I DO freak out if I eat sushi. I’m perfectly healthy according to the test results but I don’t really feel healthy anymore, or at least not what I’m used to. Gosh, I’m so tired of thinking! I dont want to measure and watching the scale, I dont want to weigh the freaking food I eat again, I don’t want to go to the gym but just keep doing what I’m doing which is so much more than most are doing! I want to have fun and enjoy life but not hide in full clothes while at beach and just being ashamed of my body. I cant talk about what I eat anymore because I’m afraid people will say “of course eat much fat, look at you”. I love this lifestyle in so many ways and I will never give up on it. but I don’t want to spend my life worrying about my weight and do so many things I despise again. I guess I have no choice. This is a bad day.

    Emily wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Here’s some encouragement for you!! I don’t know how many times I wished I could just never eat again since food caused me so much misery. I have had success and felt like my fat-storage cells were OFF, then either slacking off on carb-restriction, or stress or stress leading to carb indulgence or injury or sickness will sideline me for a while and it will come back on.

      I HATE rules, but when it comes down to it, my body has certain guidelines within which it will function. When I step outside the recommended factory settings, I pay the price with a downward spiral of carb-feeding, increased stress and depression, decreased energy, low self-esteem and more until I think, “Why do I bother? I have been fat for the past 39 years. What on earth makes me think I’ll ever be able to defeat this?”

      BUT — and this is a BIG BUT — when I go back to my body’s default settings (low carb, HIGH fat, active working instead of sitting, conscious destressing, and here lately avoidance of food additives, esp. Splenda and MSG), my whole psyche turns around, not just my weight. The overwhelming becomes achievable, bit by bit. Until your bad day can turn around, please have a piece of my good day.

      Rhonda the Red wrote on April 17th, 2013
  6. It is interesting to see the looks on peoples faces when I respond to their question of how I got into shape. Their faces goes from excitement to sadness when they realize their isn’t a magic pill. It all boils down to how badly you want to succeed at getting fit and healthy. For me, it was a gluten allergy and a refusal to gravitate towards prescription drugs.

    James wrote on April 17th, 2013
  7. How about Reason #11 – There’s no escaping the junk food?

    I’ve been trying to go primal for a while now, but my wife and kids think it’s crazy and insist on keeping the pizza, chicken nuggets, Easter candy, ice cream, whipped cream, graham crackers, peanuts, Oreos – I’ll stop here because it can go on a lot longer – in the house all the time.

    Resistance works great for a month or two, but eventually it just wears down.

    Anyone in New England need a primal buddy? A little camaraderie could go a long way.

    Ben wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • If your wife has to have a “secret stash” then do something like that. Or ask to remove 1 junk food at a time. (“Honey, I’d like to stop keeping Oreos in the house”. 2 months later: “Can we please stop buying graham crackers and buy the kids fruit instead.”

      We do have many of those foods in the house during holidays, but the we’re all pretty clear that it’s temporary. I’ve used the slowly pare back with some success – the kids have tortillas and sandwich thins in the house instead of bread. Our ravioli supply will not be re-stocked when it runs out. (Also kid only food)

      I also have mentally drawn a line around many foods in our house as “not mine”. They’re not edible to me personally so that helps, too.

      Amy wrote on April 17th, 2013
  8. Don’t feel bad about getting old, in March I turned 75, having lost close to over 45 lbs, in the last 5 years, I feel great. I hope by the end of summer I will see the “six pack” again.
    I do my best to do 80/20, the other night at a church affair, they had “refreshments’
    I saw something with coconut that looked good, bit into it and almost gagged, it was so sweet. When you do away with sugar, you never want to go back.

    Fred Timm wrote on April 17th, 2013
  9. Since having my second child and continuing to work a demanding job from home, I have no time to myself and I’ve noticed I’ve been soothing myself with food quite a bit. Can’t seem to lose the last 15 pounds from a very difficult pregnancy. I am often doing mindless “stress eating” – gobbling food on the run, even from my kids’ plates, not tasting or chewing, just ingesting. Somehow I have to find the time to slow down and relax (meditation! Walks! Runs! Trips to the gym!) but it never seems to happen. It has led to the low-key depression Mark mentions, I believe, that only fuels the carb eating. It’s all about STRESS REDUCTION, relieving the high-stress symptoms in your body, but I have to carve out time to actually do it.

    Dana wrote on April 17th, 2013
  10. I apply all that I can but not eating organic, its so expensive, but I still have great results,

    Shirley wrote on April 17th, 2013
  11. Great post and every point is valid.

    I think most of us have experienced at least 2 or 3 of these issues when trying to lose weight and adopt a new lifestyle.

    From my experience working with personal training clients the 2 most common hurdles I see is the second and last points.

    Many people I know really struggle to break away from their social groups and say no to occasions that they know they should not be attending.

    For me this is was a big problem and one that I have had to overcome at the cost of a few so called friendships but it had to be done because I know I couldn´t continue as I was.

    Ultimately once the urge to change becomes strong enough all these obstacles can be overcome.

    For me if you are struggling then you have not reached the point where enough is enough even though you think you are.

    Don´t give up though because that day will come and when it does you will realize nothing is going to stop you.

    H

    Howard wrote on April 17th, 2013
  12. I really appreciated this post as I am now at a point where I need to figure out how to stay more “on” than “off” with my paleo lifestyle and tackling my sugar addictions.

    Alison Golden’s new book has some good tips for all kinds of things.

    Regarding depression…I suffered from depression for about 8 years and was using Welbutrin to cope. Once I had been more or less Paleo for about a year, I realized that my mood had evened out and cloudy days weren’t affecting me so much. My family physician who was treating my depression AND who believes no one needs grains, set up a program for me to follow to reduce and eliminate the medication. I have been off the stuff for more than a year and have not once had a relapse of my symptoms. I credit my Paleo diet with the “cure”.

    Stacey wrote on April 17th, 2013
  13. It’s heartening to read everyone’s comments about their problems, because it means I’m not alone. When I read the success stories every week, I feel like the only person who hasn’t lost weight, leaned out, and discovered amazing benefits from being paleo/primal. There’s a lot of advice in this post that will help me, but I will also benefit from the knowledge that this lifestyle isn’t a direct path to amazing fitness for everyone. Other people struggle–they keep going–I can, too. Thanks.

    mindyk wrote on April 17th, 2013
  14. Dear Mark,

    Please write a post on the dangers of eating disorders, warning your followers of the signs and symptoms, and telling them that if they experience ANY of these things, to see a therapist and medical professional immediately, and stop using your site forever. You have no idea how harmful diet gurus can be to young teenagers who buy into the hype (perfect body = perfect life omg), and end up in a deadly cycle of caloric restriction and malnutrition.

    Maybe you think you’re above that, because you promote “wholesome foods.” Well guess what buddy, you’re also into hardcore carbohydrate restriction, which will automatically lead to caloric restriction in the life of a young person–potentially cutting their intake to well below the amount necessary for their proper growth. I beg you to watch out for these youngsters. We don’t need anymore of their lives being permanently damaged by hormonal problems, osteoporosis, and so forth.

    Thanks.

    Someone Who Was Severely Harmed by Well Meaning Diet Gurus as a Teenager

    lala wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Iala -

      Thanks for deciding your experience is everyone’s experience. :(

      -Carbohydrate restriction in an abundance of animal fat is not calorie restriction. That’s why getting over fat phobia is so critical to returning to wholesome foods. If you insist on cutting fat and carbs, yes, you will create nutrition problems in people of any age. That’s not what Mark or anyone serious about Paleo/Primal promotes.

      -It’s not all about the children. I’m sincerely sorry (more than you may know) that people have dumb parents. However, it’s not fair to ask anyone to ask them to stop speaking out because extreme people take ideas to extremes and involve their children too. (And to be clear, I’m including vegan and low fat diet advocates in that statement — I cannot commit to the right to free speech and then say only the people who agree with me can speak.)

      -Therapists and medical professionals can be extremists and quacks, too. My family is pretty well convinced that my Mother divorced my Father by a well meaning therapist who forgot “first, do no harm”. My Mother has never been “fixed” by decades of therapy nor by listening to mainstream medical advise. I have been actively harmed by listening to “approved” medical advise. There are many here with same experience.

      If you’ve had better luck with the medical profession, then I’m happy for you, especially in the light of your other bad experiences. My family has not been quite so lucky and I’m profoundly grateful that Mark and others like him have the courage to speak and trust me to make up my own mind.

      Amy wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • I’ve never read Mark’s recommendation for people to stop eating altogether. In fact, he tries to educate people about nutrient dense food and the benefits to their health in consuming it.

      Christine wrote on April 18th, 2013
  15. THANK YOU! Wonderful tips. These things are not talked a out enough in the Primal Paleo sphere!!! Very few of us are perfect. But it’s worth trying!!

    Joanne - The Real Food Mama wrote on April 17th, 2013
  16. What’s wrong with wings at happy hour? Fatty chicken, skin, hot sauce.. mmm.

    murtry wrote on April 17th, 2013
  17. Has anyone seen the connection with happy gut bacteria? Another consideration when feeding yur gut. Fermenting is fun! Exercise is the key, though. And in my case, it has to be hard exercise, at the gym, in a class, sweaty. Like HIIT and weights, box jumping and burpees til I gasp like a bass on the boat deck. Blood sugars? No problem.

    Suze wrote on April 17th, 2013
  18. Fat Bastard: I can’t stop eating. I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat. It’s a vicious cycle.

    Aaron wrote on April 17th, 2013
  19. Thanks so much for this series of articles. It has been helping keep my focus even if it is only on how far I have come. I know I have a long ways to go but I feel better. On my bad days, I remind myself that I have successfully lost and kept off 70lbs. I am overall feeling better and have a brain again. Gluten and Dairy are such toxins to me that accidentally ingesting either will make me sick for over a week(flu-like symptoms, GI distress, skin eruptions the works). Finding out that I have autoimmune issues also allowed me to forgive myself for my failures easier.

    Right now I am recovering from my second injury in the last year. Last summer I fell and damaged my ribs, it took over 6 months for them to heal and I gained back 15 lbs of weight since I had trouble doing anything for very long. Just a few weeks ago I sprained/strained the muscles in my hip. I think this is more painful than the rib injury. I spent most of the last 2 weeks on involuntary bedrest as I could hardly move my leg or put any weight on it. Now that I am moving again I have spent time outside every single day and it is remarkable how that one thing even if all I do is hobble outside and stand in the sunshine for a few minutes is helping my recovery. I didn’t realize how much I NEED to get outside every day until I couldn’t.

    Thanks again for MDA, it has been such a source of encouragement and inspiration for me. I need the daily reminders to focus on my health and make myself a little better every day.

    Stephanie wrote on April 17th, 2013
  20. Absolutely ALL of the above 10 reasons Mark wrote about resemble me in some form or fashion!

    I thought of #11 for me – NOT having enough good snacks or food around – being out of groceries!

    I must be one walking mess!

    I totally “get” the Primal Paleo thing – I even worked it hard for 2 months and felt on top of the world – but it seems I get sabotaged by me myself and I, and my man who is determined to eat what tastes good in life and to heck with my latest cure all “Primal”

    Still I am a strong woman and none of this should stop or sabotage me! NO!

    I have had 5 brain operations – 4 stomach operations and probably about 6 other kinds all in the last 4 years and I think I fall back on feeling sorry for myself and then let ANY reason get it my way. Lost my dear father too.

    I just think I must actively look for excuses to get in my own way of not only weight loss – but great health!

    I have just a miserable 50 lbs to lose and an awesome strong body dying to break out behind the flab!

    Thanks Mark – your article was SO timely and I am tired of my own excuses and I own every single one you posted (except the alcohol) so being aware is maybe all I need!

    That – and I need get an attitude and take no prisoners! :)

    I’m on it!

    Trisha wrote on April 17th, 2013
  21. Change is scary. While I am thrilled with my weight loss and can’t believe the way I look, I still struggle with appearance issues. Being the chubby invisible middle-aged frump was easy. Being a hot, shapely babe-of-a-certain-age is a whole different situation. Seeing men half my age checking me out…and liking what they see…is terrifying sometimes. When I started out on this journey, I never thought about dealing with things like that!

    Siobhan wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • You seem to have a profoundly better set of problems :)

      Amy wrote on April 17th, 2013
      • What Amy said :) A better set of issue though, no? ;)

        Monique wrote on April 18th, 2013
  22. “You’re Embarrassed to Go to the Gym”

    Here’s some irony for you: I judge people who use this as an excuse to not work out way more harshly than I judge fat people at the gym.

    Which is pretty easy, since I don’t judge the latter group at all. I don’t even really notice anyone else at the gym, and if I do it’s because they’re hogging equipment or screaming into their cell phone, not because they’re fat.

    Violette wrote on April 17th, 2013
  23. I got stuck at a certain weight and still could not lose my tummy, even though my husband continued to lose his (to the point I had to buy size 32 pants for him and now those are falling off!) I blamed middle-age, menopause and other things out of my control. Then – I happened to get a middle-ear issue that would not go away, so my Naturopath told me to try to ditch the dairy for a week. Well, heck! My tummy got flatter! Doh! Do I feel stupid…

    The bad habits do tend to creep up because us humans are wired that way – we want routines – even my dog gets cranky when his routine is disrupted. For example, I had to stop with the dark chocolate because it became an every-day habit instead of a once-in-a-while habit. And eating after dinner was a long-time habit of ours. So I ditched that habit, and if we really want to eat something before bed we’ll slice an apple or grab a couple of tangerines and a handful of Macadamias, always mindful not to do it two nights in a row, because that’s the road to hell – I mean habits.

    The other thing I did to help myself was to stop reading the forums. Too many whiners, nervous-Nellies, drama queens/kings and other negative types of folks looking for you to hold their hands and give them positive feedback for being negative. I used to try to help them but too many folks just come back with more reasons they can’t do this or that. Screw ‘em, I’m out on my patio doing kettlebell swings instead. See ya!

    Pure Hapa wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Just found myself nodding at everything you said. I salute you!

      Greg wrote on April 19th, 2013
  24. Great post! And thank you, I love your blog and all the good it has done for me. :)

    Nely wrote on April 17th, 2013
  25. I’ve can relate to a few of these even from a non-weight-loss viewpoint. When I was at Ohio State and there were throngs of students hitting the gym daily, meatheads hitting the enormous free weights and grunting, cardio bunnies bouncing away on the elliptical for hours on end, it took a lot of nerve to cross over to the “dark side” and pick up my measly 5# dumbbells and start lifting. I saw results almost immediately. When I did my masters at a smaller university and the gym wasn’t overwhelmed by the athletically gifted, going to the gym was a lot less intimidating, and now I have a trainer who subscribes to the Primal Blueprint method of fitness and I’m in the best shape ever. Like, exponentially better in the course of half a year.

    I’m also an all-or-nothing person in the “Well, if I’m gonna have a bite, I might as well eat the whole cake” kind of way. Any more, I just plan for it. I’m not going to eat one piece of dark chocolate, and I don’t like dealing with the stress of trying to eat only one piece. So I never keep it in the house. I only eat it if I’m going to go to the store myself and pick out a properly-sized bar so that I CAN eat the whole thing. Then it’s done. It’s such a CW way of dealing with a craving, but it works for me. Same goes for any kind of nut butter. I can keep peanut butter around the house because “it’s my husband’s,” but if I buy “my” sunflower seed butter, the whole jar is gone in two days. Just not worth keeping around or indulging in regularly.

    Now, I am the total opposite of #5: I try EVERYTHING and if it doesn’t work immediately, I start analyzing why, hit up Google, and try to find the next thing that does work. Breaking out? Cut out all dairy! Three days later and I have a new zit? Must not be dairy, must be nuts! Cut out all nuts and gorge on cheese! And so on and so forth. I think anyone who is stuck could use to be more methodical about the changes they do make: make a change, give it TIME, and observe any changes.

    Deanna wrote on April 17th, 2013
  26. Agree with Alison above. It’s all about baby steps. When you try and take to many big steps, the disappointment leads to failure. When you take baby steps and celebrate each baby step, you mind becomes trained for success. The mind doesn’t know the difference between a small success or a big success, so make steps that you will be successful at and make sure to celebrate them no matter how small.

    Hamish wrote on April 17th, 2013
  27. Great article! The downside to starting antidepressants is that certain ones have a greater propensity to cause weight gain, particularly mirtazapine and paroxetine. This may be due to either a decrease in metabolic rate and/or an increase in appetite. But this weight gain can still be offset by controlling your caloric intake! Of all the antidepressants, bupropion is least likely to cause weight gain and is great for patients who also feel lethargic. But if you are actually depressed, then obviously see your physician since the benefits of treating depression outweigh the risk of adverse effects of antidepressants in certain cases.

    Source: I’m a pharmacist :)

    keLee wrote on April 17th, 2013
  28. This is a good list. I’d like to share my experience of getting healthy/losing weight with severe biological depression in the bipolar spectrum. First, I’d like to state that I’m healthy now, I have my ups and downs, but I’m OK. I’ve been working solidly on that for a couple of years now. A couple of years ago I finally got help & started seeing a clinical psychologist. After a few weeks something snapped in me & I quit sugar (huge for me at that time) & joined a gym which I would attend daily. Over a few months I lost a lot of weight which attracted a lot of attention from folk around me. I looked the way I wanted to look – but I was still so miserable that I couldn’t function in other areas of my life to the extent that cleaning my teeth or having a shower were at times insurmountable efforts. It’s hard for most to imagine that deep depth of depression. I became frustrated because I knew I was eating right, I knew I was raising my endorphins with vigorous exercise – but I didn’t feel any better INSIDE. I remember crying words along those lines to my psychologist who recommended anti-depressants. By this time of my life (I was 33) I’d variously been on Prozac, St John’s Wort, SAMe, and many others. Nothing had helped much (some had made me manic) and so was scared and skeptical about going on meds again. But I’m SO glad I did. This time I went on Zoloft, supervised by a psychiatrist who was recommended by my psychologist. After a while I began to think logically, I quit the destructive, hopeless, self-hating ruminating thought patterns that had been holding my success & happiness back. The key this time was to stay ON it for more than 6 months. It takes time to fix a brain. Having said that I’m not sure my brain is fixed (approx 2 years later), but I know now that I’m in a much better place to identify when I’m not functioning properly. The other key with meds is taper off VERY slowly. I was on 100mg & I’m now down to 25mg – but that’s taken months. Rushing that process can really screw you up – trust me, I’ve done it before. You need at least 8 weeks on each 25mg drop. In a few weeks I hope to be meds free, but if I try that & discover that I can’t be, I will not be ashamed. I know now that I go above & beyond the self-care (in eating well, exercising etc) that most give themselves – my brain just isn’t wired well for happiness, and that’s the way I was born. My mother & her mother are/were the same. See Pottenger’s Cat’s! Aside from the meds, which gave me the clarity to begin thinking normally (trust me, my mouth & body are now immaculate – immaculate I tell you – I’m swishing coconut oil as I write) here is one really important lesson I’ve learned – “It’s what you do most days that counts.” Most days I eat tonnes of veggies, quality protein & natural fats and zero sugar. But occasionally I lose it and give into a sugar urge. A year ago that would have turned into a sugar binge that might have lasted a week before I got back on track. Now I say, “OK,” and move on. That’s because I now eat so clean that experience with these occasional sugar splurges has taught me how sugar screws me up. This is how it goes – eat sugar – feel giggly & awesome – feel tired & irritable – feel angry – feel sad. That process takes at least 3 days – sometimes it’s a week. Over time I’ve figured out that it’s rarely worth it. However, if I do really, really want that gluten-free caramel slice that the awesome bakery next to work makes – I get it, and I DON’T beat myself up about it. It’s what I do most days that counts. I hope this helps someone else beating themselves up for feeling miserable – or worse, someone who hasn’t even realised they’re depressed yet – I tell ya, I denied it for years, had a good excuse for every way I was failing to thrive. When you’re depressed you can’t think clearly, and that’s why you need outside help.

    Mala wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • I have found that since switching to the Primal way of eating 6 months ago, and eating lots of good fats, I have not felt even the slightest bit blue, and I was on antidepressants for 5 of the last 7 years. I feel so happy and positive now. Don’t be afraid of the healthy fats.

      Mu wrote on April 18th, 2013
  29. This is one of the most dead on and needed blog posts ever! I pray it helps many people.

    natali wrote on April 17th, 2013
  30. WOW! Thank you for this amazing post. I don’t normally reply but this is certainly a time to break the “habit”!

    I have been dabbling with Primal Paleo for the last 4 months and granted, I haven’t seen much improvement – all because of my reasoning why to not do it: My husband won’t participate. My children are over the use of coconut. I end up cooking two meals – blah, blah, blah!

    I love the concept. I love everything about what Primal is all about. I love reading all the cookbooks, and joining all the other Primal Paleo websites/blogs out there in cyberspace – and that’s my problem. I am starting to realise that I am a reader, not a doer. Well, not a 100% committed to trying doer anyway.

    It’s not so much the habit – I think I can recognise the signs now – but it’s about the procrastination on when, and how, to break it. If I can work on this, then I am already half way there.

    This probably doesn’t make any sense except to me, but this is where I see myself and it’s because of posts (and replies) such as this that confirms that I can do this – and so can everyone.

    Sharon Butler wrote on April 17th, 2013
  31. I find the BIGGEST mistakes people make from this list is comparing themselves to OTHERS and shunning fat! A friend of mine constantly compares herself to others and I swear by the time she is thirty she is going to have some much plastic surgery done, and then still not be happy with herself. It’s unfortunate and heart breaking because she is a stunning girl… Clearly this issue can be a sickness that truly needs to be dealt with.

    GiGi wrote on April 17th, 2013
  32. I can relate to some of these points, especially in terms of habits and being embarrassed to go to the gym, but I think there are some points that have been missed.

    I think my main problem is that I know what I want to look like, but I have such a deeply ingrained perspective of myself that I’ve convinced myself that I won’t get there. For example, I’d love to have a six pack, but I often say things like “I’m built for comfort” or “I’ve never been an athletic person” and deep down I keep telling myself it’s never going to happen. It’s like I’ve convinced myself that it’s just not “me” or that I can’t do it and so I end up sabotaging myself or I won’t try.

    Dino wrote on April 17th, 2013
  33. Speaking of habits, has anyone had a look at the stuff put out by James Clear?
    What a gold mine of habit making/breaking information!

    Nutter wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Thanks for the James Clear tip! I was not so excited about the Duhigg recomendation from Mark and was looking for alternative sources of information about forming good habits – think i found one :)

      Arlene wrote on April 18th, 2013
  34. Thanks Mark! Enjoyed reading as always! So glad you touched a bit on depression, I’m suffering from major depression ( which was a shocker to me really, but I was in denial) as soon as I went to my doctor, figured out a plan of attack( meds, therapy, pamper time to de-stress(dr ordered lol) and exercise/diet) I’ve started to lose weight again, but it is a long hard road… I think diet is important of course! But really seeking help is key and also being willing to take medication in this instance… I had tried to not take meds but honestly I needed them. That was so hard for me to admit that I needed help, especially in pill form… but now my chronic fatigue has lifted and I actually eat more than I was & sleep way better than I have in years! Depression was/is my biggest hurdle to jump over… but so far I’m kicking depressions rump!

    LexxyV wrote on April 17th, 2013
  35. This was just what I needed to read at the right time. There are a handful of things I need to consider right now and this has given me some great starting point.\s.

    Lauren wrote on April 18th, 2013
  36. Superb article…but given that it is about psychological factors I have to point out that the whole thing is built on the single most fundamental mental mistake. You should choose to GET RID OF UNWANTED BODY FAT…not try to lose weight. Positive choice, positive action, and you will not ‘find’ that ‘lost’ weight again.

    Age Lowther wrote on April 18th, 2013
  37. word…

    Cleo wrote on April 18th, 2013
  38. It’s all about mindset, WOW!
    Take control of your morning and go from there.
    Well that’s what i am trying to do.

    Tom wrote on April 18th, 2013
  39. This post really spoke to me. I’ve read the others about what I might not be doing but my hurdles (and deep down I have know it for months) are definitely mental. I find I use the idea of entitlement to “justify” why one more piece of chocolate (even if it is 86% high quality!) is deserved. The part particularly about that rush of weight loss was also really well said! It’s such a high seeing the weight effortlessly fall off DAILY while no longer counting calories and eating all you want of delicious real food. The plateau can really kinda deflate the excitement in one quick punch. I’ve been primal 8 months now and I have only just now started to need to incorporate primal fitness to continue getting results.

    Monique wrote on April 18th, 2013
  40. I think that one element which is often misunderstood, or not seen, in this are aspects of our views of ourselves which hinder progress. Hinder progress not only in losing weight/gaining muscle/health, but in everything we do. We can develop endless knowledge and inspiration for things, but if there is something stopping us, it is all for nothing.

    My example is the subconscious story that I’d been telling myself: that I’m a ‘failure’, which affected and sabotaged every effort I made to achieve anything. Identifying the intrinsic characteristics which hold us back will make the most significant changes in our success in all fields, in all fields.

    Barnaby wrote on April 18th, 2013

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