8 Mental Obstacles That Are Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Success

Where the mind goes, the body will follow. – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Have you tried to lose weight, only to end up feeling frustrated and defeated?

Maybe you have lost a few pounds in the past – or even a significant amount of weight – only to gain it back, and then some.

Humans are good at a lot of things, but weight loss isn’t one of them.


But why is weight loss so difficult?

Well, transformations begin within your mind, and unfortunately…your mind often works against you.

Changes don’t come from external sources – YOU have to be mentally prepared to make them happen.

The good news is that you CAN change your mindset – and change your life for the better.


Here are 8 common mental obstacles to weight loss success.

I bet at least a few of these are getting in your way.

Self-image and Self-sabotage

Grab a pen and paper and quickly make a list of a few words and phrases you’d use to describe yourself.

Then, look over your list.

The words and phrases you jotted down are good indicators of your self-concept.

Your self-concept started forming in early childhood. Your parents, your peers, and authority figures largely influenced its development. All of the information and suggestions you gathered from those sources was stored in your subconscious mind – and were accepted as true, even if they weren’t.

If you see yourself as an overweight, unhealthy person, it is going to be very difficult for you to do things that people of a healthy weight do. When you try to do things that not consistent with your self-image, you may subconsciously sabotage yourself.

People who don’t understand self-image erroneously put all their attention on changing their eating and exercise behaviors, but the problem with this physical-only approach is that it’s not addressing the source or cause of the behavior. Self-image must be adjusted before a transformation can begin.

“The self-image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment. It defines what you can and cannot do. Expand the self-image and you expand the ‘area of the possible.’

The development of an adequate, realistic self-image will seem to imbue the individual with new capabilities, new talents, and literally turn failure into success.” – Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics, Updated and Expanded

Want to know more about self-image and self-sabotage? Click here: Are You Sabotaging Yourself?


Do you believe you deserve to live a life of happiness, abundance, and good health?

Or…do you feel guilty when you think about those things?

Deep inside many of us is a feeling that we aren’t worthy.

Some of us even believe (usually at the subconscious level) that are supposed to suffer.

In the article How to Finally Feel Good Enough to Deserve Better, Suzanne Lachmann, Psy.D, writes,

Maybe you can’t complete what you’ve started, or you mess something up no matter how bad you don’t want to.

If you don’t feel deserving, you’ll find a way not to allow yourself to have “it” (whatever “it” is). Your concept of yourself as undeserving compels you to sabotage, retreat from and resist the things you long to change in yourself.

This experience is a vicious cycle.

Do you feel like you DESERVE to be at your desired weight?

If you are a parent or caregiver, it is possible that you feel guilty when you take time for yourself.


When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant tells you to put your oxygen mask on before helping others in the event of an emergency. Why is that? Well – because if YOU run out of oxygen, how will you be able to help anyone else?

This is an important metaphor for those of you who run around taking care of everything and everyone else except yourself.

If you are tired, miserable, and unhealthy, what good are you to your loved ones?

Oh, and closely related to guilt…making certain foods forbidden. This usually backfires too.

Tell yourself you can’t have brownies, and what will you think about for the rest of the day?

It’s not going to be broccoli, I can tell you that. *wink*

Making things forbidden tends to make us want them even more.

On that note…try NOT using that naughty four-letter word: DIET.

Humans hate dieting! The word implies deprivation and suffering. Go on a diet for a month (if you can last that long), and most likely all you’ll lose is 30 days. And some of your sanity.

Instead, try eating healthfully and mindfully.

“We cannot achieve more in life than what we believe in our heart of hearts we deserve to have.” – James R. Ball

Being too hard on yourself

Are your goals and expectations realistic?

Expecting to lose more than 2 pounds of body fat per week is not realistic. In fact, it is HARD…if not impossible for most people.

And, expecting to stick to a weight loss plan without slipping at all is not realistic. In fact, it is HARD..if not nearly impossible for most people.

How do you handle slip-ups? If you eat one cookie, do you feel bad about it, figure the day is ruined, and eat the whole box? This mentality – called black-and-white thinking – disrupts the balance in your life because it leads you to believe you have to do everything right or do nothing at all.

Perfectionism can result from a rigid mindset in which you don’t change your expectations based on the situation. It can lead to second-guessing, procrastinating, feeling constantly overwhelmed, or giving up and not trying at all.

Practice being easier on yourself. You are human! Show yourself the compassion you would extend to others facing the same challenges.

It’s been said that we have approximately 16,000 thoughts a day and 75 percent of them are negative. What you think about, you bring about, so focus on the positive.

“Remember you will not always win. Some days, the most resourceful individual will taste defeat. But there is, in this case, always tomorrow – after you have done your best to achieve success today.” – Maxwell Maltz

Being too easy on yourself

Do you want to overhaul your life, but believe that you can only handle small changes?

Well, guess what? You might be underestimating your abilities.

Recent research strongly suggests that we tend to seriously underestimate our ability to change our lives for the better.

Contrary to popular belief, it appears that we are capable of multiple, simultaneous life changes. For more this, click here: Small Changes or Life Overhaul? The Answer May Surprise You

Don’t you dare give up on yourself because you’ve “failed” in the past.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill


Do you weigh yourself every day and lose patience when you don’t see the pounds dropping off…and revert back to your old eating habits?

If so, I want to share three facts with you:

  1. The scale doesn’t tell the whole story. It only tells you your overall body weight – and there are many components involved in body weight and weight loss.
  2. When you reduce your caloric intake and increase exercise in an attempt to lose “weight,” you are likely gaining some lean mass while you are losing fat. That’s a good thing, but that kind of progress is not measured on a typical scale. In fact, the number on the scale may increase, or stay the same, especially in the early stages.
  3. There are far better ways to measure your progress, including taking your measurements, having your body fat percentage tested periodically, and watching how your clothes fit…oh, and going by how you feel overall.

“Never allow impatience to rob you of what you truly deserve.”- Lailah Gifty Akita

Want to know more about why you should scrap your scale? Read on: Why You Should Ditch Your Scale


What are the benefits you’ll think you’ll gain if you reach your goal weight (nicer appearance, improved health, better-fitting clothes, feelings of control) versus the costs (expense, time, effort, stress, and feelings of guilt or frustration)?

If you are struggling with weight loss, is it possible that, in your mind, the perceived benefits don’t outweigh the perceived costs?

“How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most.”- Stephen R. Covey

Over-analysis Paralysis

Do you tend to drown in the details?

Let’s face it: there is a LOT of information available to you now. Unless you live in a cave with no internet connection or cannot read, you have access to unlimited resources on how to improve your health and lose body fat.

But the availability of so much information can be overwhelming, and being overwhelmed can result in inaction.

What’s the solution?

Stick to the basics. For more on how to do that, please see Why You Can’t Lose Weight and What to Do About It and Adults Fail Miserably at This, and It Is Killing Us.

And, like Nike says, Just Do It.

Stop thinking so much, and start DOING more.

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”- Rabindranath Tagore


All of us procrastinate on occasion (who doesn’t prefer surfing the internet to cleaning the house?), but some of us take it to a level that is, well, destructive. Chronic procrastination can prevent you from fulfilling your potential, and from fully enjoying life.

Procrastination is complicated. It is a gap between intention and action. The desire to start or complete a task exists – but it loses to less important but more instantly rewarding activities.

Experts say procrastination can serve as a coping mechanism. When you procrastinate, you are avoiding emotionally unpleasant tasks and replacing them with activities that provide a temporary mood boost.

But, the procrastination itself causes anxiety, shame, and guilt, which in turn leads you to procrastinate even further, creating a vicious cycle.

If you are a procrastinator, I highly recommend this article: The Real Reasons You Procrastinate and How to Stop (Don’t put it off – read it today!)

“Success is not obtained overnight. It comes in installments; you get a little bit today, a little bit tomorrow until the whole package is given out. The day you procrastinate, you lose that day’s success.”- Israelmore Ayivor

“Lack of confidence, sometimes alternating with unrealistic dreams of heroic success, often leads to procrastination, and many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create conditions that make success impossible, a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle.” – James Surowiecki

Additional Resources

The following links are affiliate links for books we recommend. If you make a purchase through one of those links, this site may earn a commission. The money we earn helps us keep this site running so we can continue to provide quality content to awesome people like you. All About Habits is currently an affiliate with three companies – Amazon, Gene Food, and Organica Naturals – so if you purchase through any links to those companies via our site, we may earn a commission.

Psycho-Cybernetics, Updated and Expanded by Dr. Maxwell Maltz

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change by Timothy A. Pychyl

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal

The Neuroscience of Change: A Compassion-Based Program for Personal Transformation (Audio CD) by Kelly McGonigal


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