10 Reasons Weight Loss is Hard: Plus Some Solutions

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I had a weight loss client who always told me, “Why can’t this be easy?”

The truth is that if weight loss was easy, fewer people would be overweight. If weight loss easy easy, all you’d have to do is follow a few simple steps and poof! you’d be at the weight you wanted.

Easy weight loss is a myth.

Sure the weight loss equation is simple. Eat less than your body needs and you will lose weight. That’s true on the surface, but there is a lot more to weight loss than just food choices.

Here are 10 reasons weight loss isn’t easy and some suggestions to help you on your way.

1. Restaurants on Every Corner

mcdonalds mall

Things are different now than they were 40 years ago. Back then there weren’t fast food restaurants around the corner, lined in a row, and going out to eat was a treat. Now, if you want an ice cream cone at 1:30 a.m., you can probably find someplace that will serve you one. This makes losing weight hard because if you have a craving for a particular food, you can just go get it.

2. Huge Portions

huge portion

I’ve written about this before, but portions are out-of-control in modern society, and that makes it hard to lose weight. When I lost weight, portion control (which I write a lot about in my book,) was one of my “big three” in losing weight.

3. Our Lack of Activity

woman sitting couch

It’s easy to sit around unless you have a job that requires lots of physical activity. It takes a dedicated effort on your part to get up, get active, and get fit. Although you can lose weight without exercising, you will be more successful if you incorporate a reasonable exercise program into your weight loss journey.

4. The Tomorrow Mindset

start tomorrow

Why do today what you can start tomorrow? A lot of people feel as though they just can’t start to lose weight right now, so they keep putting it off. This makes losing weight hard, because if you don’t get started, you will never finish.

5. The Fat Acceptance Movement

health at every size

I’ve written about this before too, but the tendency for some people to say that being overweight doesn’t matter and that you should just accept your body how it is (overweight or not), is dangerous for those people who want to lose weight. It sets up a feeling of uncertainty about your desire  to lose weight and can lull you into complacency.

6. The Unnatural Foods in Stores

Grocery Stores and Food Snobbery

In simpler times, people ate simpler foods. Now most grocery store shelves are lined with box after box of foods filled with chemical preservatives, GMOs, fat, sugar, and salt. It makes it hard to lose weight when 80 percent of the food in the grocery stores isn’t food you need.

7. Emotions

sad woman

Emotions play a huge role in our food choices. If you are significantly overweight, I’d wager a guess that there is an emotional component to your weight struggles. Ignore these emotions at your own peril because I’ve met very few people who could lose weight without understanding why they got to be overweight in the first place.

8. Relationships

couple fighting

You can’t blame your weight on someone else. However, there may be people in your life who make it harder for you to lose weight. They might push food on you, sabotage your weight loss efforts, make fun of your successes, and stand in your way.

9. Health Reasons

doctor lady

It would be wrong to ignore possible health reasons for a lack of weight loss success. There are medications that cause weight gain, medical conditions that make weight loss difficult, and physical problems that make you susceptible to weight gain. Always talk to your doctor when trying to lose weight.

10. You

Downward spiral and mirror image

You could be your own worst enemy when it comes to losing weight. I know I was. I’d say “I want to lose weight,” but then the next day would find me buying six Dunkin’ Donuts and eating three of them before I got home. This is a tough one, but it’s important to acknowledge your role in your own weight struggles as a step on the road to being the solution to those same problems.

I hope I have not made you depressed over the difficulties you might face losing weight, but instead helped you see why it can be hard to lose weight. Acknowledging the difficulties is smart. Because once you know what you are up against, you have a better chance of succeeding in the long run.

Do you ever think about why losing weight is hard? Do you have anything I should add to my list? Diane


  1. Danielle Hughes says

    You are 100% correct. Great post. And no, you did not make me depressed over my weight. In fact I appreciate people who tel it like it is instead of those who got he sugar coating it route. weight loss is a massive issue (no pun intended) today and people need to know the bald face truth about why it’s so darn hard to get rid of it. The last point u made is the best and the truest. We stand in our own way when it comes to weight loss. People need to hear it, so speak loud and proud. Hope to see more posts like this!

  2. Susan says

    Great post, great list! I would add watch out for all or nothing thinking, or the I’ve blown it now syndrome. Too many people give up too soon, also they try to take on every part of the weight loss process at once which can be over whelming. So I would say pick one part of the process I started exercising and did that regularly for three months before I started working on the eating part then I started working on the eating part making better choices, measuring out portions etc. I fell off the wagon many times but I believe in daily renewal so I got right back up, forgave myself and moved on I have kept my weight off for 15 years now so it can be done but you can never go back to the person you were or you will put the weight back on.

    • says

      It can be overwhelming to try and change everything at once – I totally agree with that. I did make a lot of sweeping changes, but I also had an urgency to stop my unhealthy behaviors in their tracks and refocus completely.

      Congratulations on keeping the weight off for 15 years – that is wonderful!

  3. says

    Great list, Diane! And, I agree, these are all things we need to be aware of when we try to lose weight. For me, portion size was the biggest problem. Even though I ate mostly very healthy foods, I ate way too much.

    I also like Susan’s point about “all or nothing thinking.” For me it was important to realize that every meal presented an opportunity to make better choices. So instead of beating myself up over a bad choice, I focused on the next choice and made sure it was a good one.
    Andrea@WellnessNotes recently posted…Spiced Cashew MilkMy Profile

    • says

      I too ate way too big portions but unlike you, I didn’t eat healthy foods. Instead I was pigging out on brownies, cakes, and other junk. You lost weight in a really healthy way and that shows in how you have been able to maintain your weight loss!

  4. says

    Everything in the American environment discourages healthy living. The pervasiveness of unhealthy food 24/7, as you mention. If you watch TV or spend time on the Internet, alluring food photos and messages are ubiquitous. Corporate profits hinge on grabbing your attention and breaking down your resistance. You might want to take up walking as exercise, but your community may not have sidewalks, or if it does, they may be poorly maintained and dangerous. Roads are traffic laden and too busy to safely ride a bike. And I wouldn’t walk alone in a natural or wooded area to save my life! (And it’s saving my life I’m thinking of.) Your nearest gym might be 20 minutes away and you have to make a decision every day about whether you have the time for it. When you decide to lose weight, you not only have to leap over your own personal hurdles, but also those of your daily environment. It’s a tough slog.

  5. PaulaMP says

    I remember back in the 70s and earlier, you rarely saw a heavy person. Look at old tv shows, I particularly notice Soul Train, the dancers are so thin, the size you don’t see that often today. I think the biggest contributing factor is portion size. An old dinner plate was small and round, I remember being at a restaurant one day and noticing “why are all the plates platter sized now”. It had been going on for awhile and apparently I wasn’t paying attention. We all got used to eating more and more. People didn’t used to order appetizers, why do you need food to make you hungry? It doesn’t even make sense. I also think people are drinking more alcohol now, and not taking into account if you have all that booze it’s many extra calories. The fact of people sitting in front of computers day and night now, and also ALWAYS on the phone, be it talking or texting, only makes the situation a hundred times worse. Sadly for so many women I think the weight issue is more about looks than worrying about health. I always want to tell young girls who are “happy at any size” that maybe you are right now, but you WILL have health issues when you get older. I think it’s great to love your body at any size, but never stop trying to make that a smaller healthier size.

  6. Martha G says

    Years ago I thought it was hard because going on a diet meant deprivation and starvation and who wanted to do that? The last time I decided to lose weight I didn’t go on a diet; I changed the way I ate and finally accepted that this was going to be a lifelong way I eat. Surprisingly enough that wasn’t hard to accept. I realized that most people who aren’t overweight pay attention to what they eat and it is good for our health to eat the right foods. Nothing punishing about that.

    • says

      Changing the way you think about food and really working on changing your lifestyle is the key. It’s hard in some ways, but in the end, it’s the easiest way to maintain your weight for the long term.

  7. helina k says

    I loved this post a lot. I am in the process of losing weight . I have lost 11 lbs so far and I have 30 to 40 lbs to go. In the past I have always fallen off the wagon after losing most of the weight. I use to think once I lose the weight i could eat whatever I wanted to and didn’t have a clue about what maintainance required. the all or nothing syndrome is very familiar to me. this time I didn’t go on a diet . I am watching portions by counting my calories on my fitness pal and eating healthy foods 95% of the time. I eat some chips or sweets if i crave them but take into account the number of calories on them.

    • says

      It sounds like you have a good idea of what to do now once you get to maintenance. So many people struggle to maintain their weight because they assume they can just go back to eating like they did before.

      I think My Fitness Pal is a wonderful website with lots of great tools! Congratulations on your success to this point.

  8. L says

    I’ve been thinking about how hard it is for a few weeks now. I’m on another plateau and those are extra hard to deal with. I know eventually something I do will flip a switch and the weight will come off once again, but I will tell you that there are times when I seriously don’t know what that “right combination of actions” is that gets it going again. ??? That is the mystery to me. Why does what I’m doing work sometimes, and not other times? Still wondering about that…

    • says

      That’s one of the biggest questions of weight loss. Why does it seem to stop when you know you are doing the right things?

      I had that experience several times during my final weight loss effort and I just kept doing what I knew was good for me and eventually it picked back up again. Of course, I also had to make sure I was eating the right amount of food and hadn’t slacked off on my exercise as well. I hope you get off that plateau soon!

  9. Mandy Cat says

    I ran across an interesting piece of information on the topic of portion sizes. Some researchers looked at cookbooks, specifically cookbooks like Better Homes and Gardens and Betty Crocker, the ones that have been around for quite a while and tend to repeat their recipes. The researchers found that over a 30 year span dishes that used to “serve six” now “serve four.” If the number of portions remained the same, the quantity of individual ingredients went up. If something used to call for a cup of flour, now it calls for a cup and a half. So even home cooked meals are getting larger. It’s no wonder Americans are getting larger too.

  10. Janis says

    I sometimes wonder if the HAES movement doesn’t sort of have the same effect on its target population at the pro-ana movement. A lot of girls get involved in pro-ana stuff, but it’s almost like it’s the last stop on the road before they just say, “Okay that’s it, I have a problem and I need to do something.” Some girls who have gone through that say that the pro-ana forums give them a place to go that’s non-judgmental, and that the oddly supportive atmosphere naturally led them to getting help. It’s very strange, but humans are strange creatures. I wonder how many women spend their lives fighting their weight, conclude with getting involved in HAES, and then the next step they take is to finally just say, “Enough, I need help.” They really do seem to be the last stop right before people finally decide to take the rudder and do something.

    • says

      I have gotten emails from people who were part of the HAES movement and after spending some time on the forums realized that they needed to make some changes to their diet/weight. It’s always interesting to get those emails because their personal conclusion is the exact opposite of what the movement recommends.

  11. says

    I think that’s a great list, but I think the “you” is the primary reason on that list. I’m my own worst enemy, and truth be told I haven’t ever met anyone else who wasn’t. We’re also our own best friend and defender, but it takes a conscious choice to make ourselves into that, and almost nothing to make ourselves our enemy. Constant vigilance! :)
    Kyra recently posted…Going DeepMy Profile

  12. says

    I totally agree with Kyra about your list. As I was reading, I was also thinking that we are our own worst enemy because of the way we think about food. It would be so much easier just to quit eating altogether rather than deal with food on a daily basis. Of course, that doesn’t work, so we plug along. Thanks for another great post.
    Caron recently posted…SundayMy Profile

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