Motivation Articles

5 Emotional Roadblocks That Are Keeping You Fat

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

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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 founded EllenG Coaching, LLC to help individuals struggling with health issues that can be impacted by positive lifestyle change, such as weight loss, stress management, exercise, and life/work balance. As a certified professional wellness coach and certified personal trainer, Ellen holds a BS and Masters in Physical Education and is certified by ACSM, AFAA, and Wellcoaches Corporation. Visit her at Get her complimentary report, 52 Tips, Tools & Tricks to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet, at

Member Comments

    Excellent article, thanks for writing it, Ellen! I saw myself in several of the stories and it made me realize how much I am in my own way. You gave me something to mentally (for a change) chew on and I am going to start journaling to work through some of this. - 5/23/2016 3:35:27 PM
    I was always envied because i was a grazer, I ate when I was hungry. Was careful but always on the move. Never big or overweight as a kid. My sister was brutally murdered by her ex husband exactly a year to the day after my mum died suddenly. When I was told, I spent several weeks throwing up due to the shock. I couldn't keep food down... was 24 and had moved to Greece 3 months earlier. I was stuck at home looking after 4 young girls. The family I worked for were very supportive and somehow we got into a pattern of putting the kids to bed and sitting down to a lovely meal, a chat and a couple of glasses of wine. They didn't want me to be on my own. Unfortunately, without realising i piled on the weight. i am now 47 and am desparate to be a decent weight. i am 83 kilos. I saw a therapist this year and lost 7 kilos but she said a few offensive things, i stopped going and piled the weight back on.............he
    lp............ - 5/21/2016 2:07:41 PM
  • Growing up, I was the skinny, active kid. My parents expected me to eat lima beans and english peas (one or the other) every night. I hated them and they made me gag. I sat there every night with those vegs that I could not eat (even the dog wouldn't eat them) while the rest of the family had dessert which I never got to have. Finally my doctor told my mother that I was way too skinny and she "prescribed" a milk shake every night. I started to gain weight when my second marriage was failing. I was very successful in business but as I aged, my weight grew as well. When I retired, I thought ok, you are large, but retired now, so just enjoy yourself and eat and do what ever you want! I gained so much weight that I couldn't even get comfortable enough to fall asleep. My eye opener moment was when I was watching something on the history channel about the life of a 400 lb woman. That scared me and the next day I signed up for Weight Watchers. I have lost the excess weight tho not nearly as skinny as before. I decided the goal weight would be where I felt physically good and could do the activities I wanted to do. Because I became more active, I became involved with 8 clubs, volunteered and started my own group. I love life, am active with hiking, playing, meeting others travel and my life is fun and happy. So - if you are not where you want to be, the most important thing of all is to BELIEVE you can change your life. Every small step builds on another. Don't get stressed about the number on the scale. Focus on how you feel when you start to loose the weight. YOU CAN DO IT. - 5/21/2016 8:14:12 AM
  • This article has been the most eyeopening one I have read on here. I see myself in many of the people whose stories were told. I am also beginning to think a consultation with a good mental health doctor might be just what I need to break past some of my personal barriers to weight loss. Thanks for such a positive article. - 5/14/2016 1:10:32 PM
  • Great article. I see myself as the kid who grew up with rules. " you can't control me". I can actually remember hearing that little voice as I sneaked a treat. - 5/21/2015 5:45:38 AM
  • I'm a survivor of child abuse and many of us use food to eat away bad feelings and to make sure we're seen as undesirable like we could not make happen as children. It's actually a very common survival mechanism. Since eat least 1 in 5 women have had to deal with this, it is much ,much more common than people think. And it makes it so very, very hard to take good care of your health and yourself. I am still struggling with it, in my forties,, still doing lots of therapy, struggling with difficult emotions and feeling super vulnerable if I imagine myself thin. I am glad that it's becoming more clear to other people now and that it's not 'just eat less and move more', it's wayyy not that simple.

    If society actually stopped turning a blind eye to child abuse a lot of obesity and a lot of health care costs (not just due to obesity but almost all health challenges are influenced by Adverse Child Experiences). A study has been done that over 60 percent of all healthcare costs could be prevented if we were able to prevent trauma like this. - 1/25/2015 11:29:01 PM
  • As I read these, not only did I want to share this but also examine myself and my marriage to my wonderful wife. This goes hand in hand with Wm. Glasser's Reality Therapy. Just goes to show me pwhat I counsel others: there's a difference between having information and having knowledge. Thanks, I needs that!! - 1/25/2015 4:29:57 PM
  • What about excess weight being my protection? I'm just starting to work on this. In high school and college I was pursued for my body. Dates turned into wrestling matches, and if I didn't "put out" I didn't see the guy again, except in passing. Of course I didn't really understand that thinking then, I thought they wanted to see me because I was cute or fun. I only went out with people I was attracted to, so when they didn't call again I was hurt. Somewhere along the line I think I realized, deep down, that they only wanted parts of me, and maybe I began disguising those parts with fat. I've been married for 40 years to a guy who loves all of me, but the thought of winks, whistles, and rude comments scares me to death. - 1/25/2015 11:52:56 AM
  • This article was very interesting, and I saw myself in so many of the people. So I'm going to reevaluate why I'm not able to be consistent as well. - 1/8/2015 2:23:22 PM
    The reasons listed are great for the average dieter, but for someone who suffers from an eating disorder, the reasons I eat are much more deeply rooted and complex and include the role of genetics and brain chemistry. If your eating is out of control and you seem unable to have a normal relationship with food, please get professional help. For years I suffered and blamed myself but after treating my weight problem as the psychiatric and psychological issue that it truly is, was I able to turn things around. - 11/22/2014 10:32:18 AM
  • Very interesting article, Thanks. I have been trying to lose 50lbs. at least, for many, many years. At this stage I still have not reconciled with the excess weigh, yet I keep mouthing, "who cares", I still do.
    I will definitely try to identify what is my " road block" .

    - 10/5/2014 3:55:09 PM
  • DISAL1025
    Totally can relate. I am making a concentrated effort to to be very cognizant of what I put in my mouth, why I am doing it and keeping emotions out of it. Wish me luck! - 10/4/2014 5:05:52 PM
  • this is very good. Too often we treat weight loss as a simple math problem, calories in and calories out. I am one of many people who have sleep, stress etc issues as to why we overeat and shining a light on that can help others - 10/3/2014 3:07:24 PM
  • Wow.. a very insightful article. I really like it. It made me want to research more about these reason of sabotage or thought process. Thanks for the resource at the end. I will check out those books. I never consider reading these but I think these books will help me think about finding myself on the right path to a better me. Thanks! - 10/3/2014 12:27:40 PM
  • BJB1987
    very good artical - 10/3/2014 10:05:02 AM

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