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Motivation Articles  ›  Picking Yourself Back Up

5 Emotional Roadblocks That Are Keeping You Fat

Are Your Weight-Loss Efforts Being Derailed by Years of Baggage?

-- By Ellen G. Goldman, Health & Wellness Coach
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Eat less, move more is the advice touted to the overweight ad nauseam, as if it were really that simple.
I have been in the business of helping individuals take off unwanted pounds for more than 30 years. Although success usually does include cutting back on unnecessary calories and moving more, there are a myriad of other factors that are part of the equation. Sleep, stress, metabolic factors, genetics and body type can all affect how quickly or easily you lose weight. And, without a doubt, emotional factors have a huge impact as well.
I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, and I would never attempt to analyze or prescribe solutions to a person who might have an emotional roadblock interfering with his or her weight loss goals. However, I can share with you some of the patterns and hindrances I've come across over many years of training and coaching my overweight clients. Perhaps a glimpse into these themes will help open your eyes to some hidden obstacles that have been holding you back.  
Case #1: Whom would I be if I weren't the fat, funny one?
As long as John could remember, he was overweight. However, it never stood in the way of him having loads of friends and being happy. He could remember his elementary school teachers telling his parents how enjoyable it was to have him in the classroom; he knew how to be funny without being disruptive. His parents would beam with pride as they shared the feedback with friends and family. In high school and college, he had loads of friends. The girls adored him and thought of him as their trusted buddy and confidant. When broken-hearted by some other boy, they relied on John to cheer them up using his sense of humor.
Now, happily married with two kids, he loves overhearing their friends say, "Your dad is so funny!" When John's doctor told him he needed to lose weight to control his rising blood pressure and elevated glucose levels, he hired me to help him. Having made several failed weight-loss attempts in the past, he seriously doubted his ability to succeed. Each week he would set goals around sensible eating and making time for evening walks after dinner. The week would start off great, but by Wednesday, he was slipping back into old unhealthy eating habits and making excuses not to take his walks.
Frustrated, he couldn't seem to understand why he struggled to stick to his goals for more than a few days at a time even though he wanted to lose the weight so badly. One day I asked John, "If you were able to stick to your plan throughout the week, and you began to experience weight loss, what would that look like and feel like to you?"
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About The Author

Ellen Goldman Ellen Goldman
Ellen Goldman has bachelor's and master's degrees in health and physical education. An AFAA-certified personal trainer and certified wellness coach, she is also the founder EnerG Coaching, LLC. Through one-on-one and group sessions, Ellen helps individuals make positive lifestyle changes, lose weight, manage stress and attain work-life balance. Visit her at

Member Comments

  • This was an excellent, insightful article. I am till looking for ways to stop self sabotaging myself.
    I have learned some wonderful tools on this journey that I want to share. Dr Amy Johnson's free online 23 page booklet, Fighting the Urge has helped me overcome that negative inner voice that says Eat it. NOW! She gave me the tools that I successfully used to stop my compulsive eating. It really works!
    I also am learning from Renee Stephens free online podcasts at Inside Out Weight Loss (IOWL). Renee's has shown me ways to change my journey and remove my fears. She describes a life of being Naturally Slender and not a life of constant struggle to lose or maintain my weight.
    My personal Super Hero, Amy Cuddy, has given me a free 2 minute tool to FEEL Powerful in any situation. If you ever feel powerless around food, or about your struggle or inability to change, please watch this free video. It could change YOUR life, too.
    Here is the link:

    - 3/16/2014 12:52:52 AM
  • I could definitely relate to a lot in this article. Thank you so much for writing it and posting it on here. - 3/5/2014 9:46:14 PM
  • This is one of the best articles I have read on sparks. I can so relate to what was written. I have eaten many times from my rotten marriage and abusive childhood. I didn't learn until years later as to why I needed to eat. Now things are so much better. I am a big believer that it is not just about eating right and working out. You need to deal with the issues behind why you eat the way you do. I believe this article needed to be written as I am sure it will help others. - 3/4/2014 10:04:03 PM
  • I can so completely relate to this article. My husband is a business and success coach, and last year, we found ourselves in a position to have a mental toughness coach for weight loss, which not only has helped us both to finally be on track to lose the weight for good, but has also now allowed us to help others to do the same. For me, I always knew it wasn't about the food and exercise as much as it was the mental side of things. I knew what to eat and what I needed to do to lose the weight - I just refused to do it. I found myself always getting in my own way. And, until I started to deal with the underlying issue (after all, my being overweight was really a symptom of many other issues), I couldn't have long-term success. I thought I'd also share a couple of free resources that might be helpful. Steve Siebold (his wife is our personal mentor) wrote a book called Die Fat or Get Tough (sounds "in your face," but it's a good attention-getter and really is written with some tough love in mind). You can purchase it on More recently, he wrote another book called Fat Loser! Mental Toughness Training for Dieters, and you can download the entire book for free http://www.fatlos He also has a 21-day online program that used to retail for $495 that is now free as well. It's an awesome program and is what kick-started our success. You watch a 3-8 minute online video each day and answer 3 questions. I love it because it really helps you to start to think about things differently. Anyway, you can also sign up for that for free by going to http://fatlosers.
    com/burke.php. Both are completely free (no catch!) as Steve has a mission to help turn around the obesity epidemic. I highly recommend them to anyone who is serious about making the mental changes it takes to lose the weight and, almost more importantly, keep it off. Hope this helps! And, thanks again for the GREAT article! As much as it sometimes hurts to have to think through this stuff, I love being challenged to think differently because I know that'... - 3/4/2014 2:20:15 PM
  • 813SLIM
    I found myself in this article. I understand how I sabotage my own efforts, particularly in the area of weight loss. I am glad to revisit this area and look for ways to circumnavigate my saboteurs. - 3/4/2014 12:46:33 PM
  • What a great article! Thank you for the insights! - 3/4/2014 12:18:42 PM
  • I definitely have had an issue with how I'd be seen but in the sense of my friends thinking I was a health nut and the fact of how much my social life had come to revolve around eating out...which we no longer do a lot of. - 3/4/2014 8:29:20 AM
  • I think it might be time for me to find a therapist. I appreciate having the book title. I have about 15 pounds left to lose. I have had 15 pounds left to lose since last June. So frustrating. I think I recognize most of the emotional issues behind my eating, but I seem powerless to stop them. I need new patterns of thought and awareness, but I can't seem to discover them for myself. (I thought I would.) - 3/4/2014 8:19:34 AM
  • The food is love obstacle was the problem for me. My mother and grandparents equated food with love, and I ballooned up to over 500 lbs by the time I was 15. I finally got my mind around the idea that love was not on the end of a fork. I've gone up and down, and have started another journey, but now I know the purpose of food. - 2/1/2014 3:14:27 PM
  • I recognise that I use food and drink to "push down emotions". Don't speak up was a learned response, which continues through adulthood. My answer to don't speak up is to write it down. I can be so much more eloquent in writing (and there's no-one to interrupt). Blogging on SparkPeople really helps. I also sent an impassioned defence of a new way of working that I couldn't have vocalised. - 12/21/2013 4:12:08 AM
  • Wow this is some info. I am struggling with my weight loss I 65lbs and have gained all most all of it back I try so hard to stick to my goals but always mess up and then I eat out of control and say to myself who cares your just always going to be fat but I don't want to be fat I want to be healthy and feel good inside my skin and right now I don't like myself much this has really given me something to think about its deeper then just losing the weight.
    Thanks! - 12/20/2013 4:15:54 PM
  • Interesting and useful article.

    I do wish that SP would quit chopping such worthwhile pieces into so many pages, however. I hated waiting for each of the SIX pages to load, when it could have been presented in 2 pages. I think more of us would be likely to read it to the end if formatted better. - 12/18/2013 8:11:02 PM
  • This really is food for thought I find myself falling into two of these categories. I really do need to shift the thoughts in my head to make any real progress on my weight loss journey. Thanks for the personal insight! - 12/18/2013 8:05:38 AM
  • Exactly what I needed to read. - 12/17/2013 8:43:53 PM
  • Fabulous article! Very well written, and extremely helpful. Thank you! - 12/17/2013 2:32:26 PM