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By Jennifer Roche

Sunday, December 30, 2012.

With the epidemic of obesity on the rise, more and more of us are attempting to lose weight through diet and exercise. So why do so many people fail? To put it plainly – fear of success. This may sound strange so let’s take a closer look at the psychology of weight loss success and failure.

Why do we fail?

You have decided that today’s the day. You’re all geared up. The fridge is bursting with healthy food, your meals are planned out and your running shoes are on. It’s the first day of your journey to a slimmer, healthier you. Let’s go!

Sounds great doesn’t it? The first few pounds drop off. You’re feeling good. The exercise is hard and your body aches but you’re getting there….until something happens to bring you to a grinding halt. It could be a family crisis, a stressful day at work or a pulled muscle. All of a sudden you’re back on the sofa, biscuit in hand, a few pounds heavier, wondering where it all went wrong and why the diet didn’t work. The simple reason is that subconsciously, a lot of people fear losing weight successfully.

This may sound strange but a lot of the time, we are more at home with staying in our comfortable little rut because we are familiar with being overweight. It’s not healthy but it’s safe. Your clothes may not fit too well but at least you don’t have to splash out on a new wardrobe if you drop a couple of dress sizes. You don’t have to participate in those activities because you are overweight. Your husband/wife/partner likes you just the way you are. The diet was too hard and didn’t work anyway. You don’t have time for it. All these are excuses that undermine your potential to succeed. Why? Because we fear change.

Fear of change is not just about weight loss. Making any kind of change in our lives has consequences and a lot of the time we would rather not deal with the consequences that change brings. Yes, a promotion would be great but not with all the extra work and responsibility so you stay where you are and don’t realize your full potential. Yes, you are unhappy in your relationship but don’t want to go through the trauma of a break-up/divorce and all the upheaval that comes with it. We are not prepared to make the sacrifices needed to realize our full potential and through it be happier. A lot of the time we prefer to stay with what’s safe and familiar….even at the cost of being healthier or happier.

So how do we deal with this fear of success and change? Realizing the ultimate rewards to be had is a start. Success comes when your reasons for changing outweigh the reasons for staying where you are. A good exercise is to take a page and write down all the reasons you want to change and what you will gain by doing so. Then, write down the reasons for staying where you are and what this will achieve. If your list for change is longer than your reasons for doing nothing then you are in a positive frame of mind and embracing change and keeping these goals in mind will help you to lose weight successfully.

Embracing change

Losing weight successfully requires the willingness to make permanent changes to our lifestyle. Instead of saying “I should lose weight”, start saying “I will lose weight” that small change can instil a pro-active and positive frame of mind straight away. The reason a lot of people fail is that they see weight loss as a temporary ‘fix’. They do the diet, lose the weight then go back to their bad old habits again which brings them back to square one. They put limits on themselves by saying “I will lose xlbs in x weeks/months” then blame the diet plan when this doesn’t happen. In a world of quick fixes, celebrity fad diets and instant gratification we have come to expect overnight results. Successful weight loss is about making permanent behavioural changes, embracing new habits and not setting a time limit on yourself. Yes, it will be hard, yes it will mean making changes to your lifestyle and yes, it will take time. It may take weeks, months or even years, depending on how much you have to lose but the end result is still the same –success. Remind yourself constantly of those rewards at the end of it all. Keep telling yourself it will be worth it.

“What will happen if I succeed?”

Another reason for failure is a lot of people are afraid of what changes will come when they successfully lose weight. How will they feel about themselves? How will other people view them? Will their friends be jealous? Will their husband/wife/partner feel the same about them? Will people have higher expectations of them? What changes will successful weight loss bring? All these questions are enough to make many people give up before they have started. Overcoming these fears with plenty of positive affirmations and self-confidence can help you embrace these lifestyle changes and the success that weight loss brings. Positive change is about saying to yourself “I don’t want to be this person any more” and when you realise this, you are already on your way.

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