If losing weight was as simple as changing our eating habits and moving more, obesity wouldn’t be a global epidemic. Without a doubt, there is a psychological component to weight loss.
Health and weight can be a part of our identity, which explains why the thought of changing those parts of us can be scary and uncomfortable. There can be many psychological roadblocks between us and our healthy weight.
If we ignore a personal mental block, we may end up reverting back to our comfort zone, which prevents us from reaching our goals.
Feeling these emotions and fears is quite common. The issue arises when we are not conscious that we have them. It is easier to move past these mental roadblocks and continue making healthy lifestyle changes when we are aware of them. That way, we can put things into place that help to deal with these feelings, rather than allowing them to halt our progress.
Why am I scared of losing weight?
There are many personal reasons why someone might be scared to lose weight, and most of these fit under the theme of being scared of success. Although this sounds odd, it is not always the success per se that people fear, but the changes that come alongside it.
Here are some common reasons you might be scared to succeed on a weight loss journey:
1) Fear of failure
Changing your habits is not easy, and losing weight the healthy way takes commitment and time. For this reason, many people worry about losing motivation and ‘falling off the wagon’, which can be followed by feelings of guilt and resistance to making changes in the first place. On top of this, some may fear weight gain after losing weight.
Example fear: I have a holiday and some social events coming up, so there is no point starting now, I will never be able to stick to my plan.
Example solution: There will never be a perfect time to start making changes, life will always get in the way if you let it! Slip-ups along your health journey are perfectly normal, but it is how you respond to them that is important. Try to avoid harbouring guilt and viewing the occasional indulgence as a ‘failure’. Instead, see it as a part of life and try to continue with your healthy changes once it is over. To reduce the chances of slipping up, diet plans can be very helpful.
2) Losing the comfort of food
We often use food for more than nutrients. Food can be social as well as emotional. Many people use food as a comfort when they are feeling sad, stressed, or anxious. It can be scary to think about losing this form of comfort or distraction and having to replace it with something else.
Example fear: Not being able to comfort eat chocolate or biscuits when you have had an exhausting day at work and an argument with a family member.
Example solution: Think about other things you can put into place to comfort or distract yourself and prepare for this situation. For example, taking the dog for a walk, buying a journal to write in, or keeping some scented bath salts in the bathroom to have a bath when you feel overwhelmed.
3) Not being able to use weight as an excuse
It can be easy to get into the habit of using weight as an excuse to avoid doing things, whether that is social events or significant life changes. There is often a cognitive distortion that if one thing changes, then everything will be different. For example, if you lose weight, you can start dating again or go on a solo holiday. It can be scary to face these big changes once you have lost weight.
Example fear: If I lose weight, I can’t put off asking for a promotion at work anymore.
Example solution: It is important to recognise that healthy changes will make you feel and look better but are not a magic fix. Change might always feel uncomfortable, regardless of weight loss. Take things slowly and keep your goal in mind. Perhaps set some smaller goals for the next 4 weeks and then once you have achieved these, approach your manager about a potential promotion.
A common fear about embarking on a weight loss journey is feeling embarrassed. This embarrassment can be of anything, from saying no to cake at a birthday party, to exercising in public.
Example fear: Feeling embarrassed about joining a gym for the first time and not knowing what to do when you get there.
Example solution: Consider an exercise class where there is clear instruction, and everyone is doing the same thing. Alternatively, joining a free group, like a park run, can be very motivating and lighten the pressure of exercising alone.
5) Fear of losing what you enjoy
A big concern for many people is that making lifestyle changes means missing out on food they love or saying no to social events.
Example fear: Feeling worried about giving up the foods you love in order to join a weight management program.
Example solution: Consider joining a program that doesn’t focus on restriction and takes a holistic approach to improve your health (e.g. nutrition, exercise, and mindset), such as Second Nature.
6) Concern about relationships changing
Making big changes to your lifestyle could affect relationships with those closest to you. Perhaps you are worried about friends or family not fully supporting your decisions, or your progress affecting them in some way.
Example fear: You usually watch TV with your partner and eat sugary snacks, and you worry that declining the snacks might make them feel awkward or guilty about their choices.
Example solution: Communicate your weight goals and the lifestyle changes you are trying to make to your partner. Make sure you stock up on healthy alternatives to sugary snacks, such as carrot sticks and hummus, so you can still enjoy this time together without straying from your plan. You could even consider asking your partner to make healthy changes with you, as evidence suggests health journeys are easier alongside friends and family.
7) Fear of attention
When you lose weight, it is quite common for those around you to notice and comment on your progress. This can make some people feel more motivated, but others may feel uncomfortable from the extra attention.
Example fear: A co-worker comments on how you look and asks if you have lost weight in front of others.
Example solution: Try to steer the conversation to the healthy changes you have made and how they are making you feel. E.g. ‘I have been focusing on trying some new exercise activities, like swimming, so that I feel a bit more energetic!’
Take home message
- There are many different reasons why healthy lifestyle changes might feel daunting.
- Having a fear of failure is common in all walks of life.
- There will never be a perfect time to start making changes, so the best way to approach things is to start small.
- Tackle one fear or issue at a time (e.g. joining a gym or reducing evening snacking), otherwise, it can be overwhelming.
- Comfort can be found in things other than food, such as walking, having a bath, or writing in a journal.
- Remember that weight loss is not a magic fix to other aspects of your life, for example, aiming for a promotion at work.