Health & Wellness Articles

Is Weight Loss Stressing You Out?

Take the Weight Loss Expectations Quiz

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There’s no doubt about it: trying to lose weight can be a stressful thing! There’s nothing like trying to stick to a “simple” weight loss plan for bringing you face-to-face with the frustrating complexities of human nature and the limits of our rationality and will power. And even when we do manage to do what we know we should, often our bodies seem to operate according to a different kind of math—where a 3,500-calorie deficit doesn’t always equal one pound of weight lost.

The unfortunate part is that this constant stress can make losing weight more difficult than it needs to be. Research shows that chronic stress can affect your metabolism, promoting fat storage, and increasing cravings for sugary, high-fat “comfort foods.

There are lots of things you can do to manage this stress, ranging from yoga and meditation to a hot bath or a pleasant walk in the park. In this article, however, we’ll focus on how certain (very common) expectations about weight loss can cause stress, and how you can adjust your expectations so that you’re not stressing out about your own weight loss (or lack thereof).

To find out whether your expectations about weight loss may be increasing your stress levels, take the following brief quiz. Indicate whether you think the following statements are true or false. To benefit from this exercise, your answer should reflect how you honestly feel most of the time, NOT what you think the “correct” response might be.

  1. I have taken a careful look at my eating and exercise habits, and I have a good idea of what I need to change and how I want to do it.
  2. I have accepted the idea that I need to make permanent changes in my lifestyle to lose weight and keep it off permanently.
  3. I will feel successful only if reach my weight loss goal.
  4. I know that it took time to gain weight, and I believe it is best to try to lose the weight slowly.
  5. I am working on weight loss now because I really want to, not because someone else thinks I should.
  6. If I can manage to lose the weight, I think many other problems in my life will be solved.
  7. I am willing and able to do a significant amount of physical activity on a daily basis, including planned exercise.
  8. I can lose weight successfully with no slip-ups.
  9. I am ready, willing, and able to spend enough time each day planning and tracking my food intake and exercise activities.
  10. If my weight loss slows down or stalls out, I usually lose my motivation and stop my program.<
  11. When I am having problems sticking to my plan, I usually get on the message boards or the phone and talk about it with other people.
  12. I have many stressful situations in my life right now, but I'm determined to be successful at weight loss. Continued ›
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • LEEWEI
    Nice article. - 7/25/2014 5:57:23 PM
  • a wonderful quiz and very thought provoking.

    I think it's a wonderful quiz -- thought provoking and blog worthy.

    You can easily take the quiz without reading ahead.

    I blogged my answers and then went back and scored it. - 6/5/2014 10:19:58 AM
  • "Finally, the most important concept—if you scored a 0 on Question 6 (believing that weight loss will solve many other problems in your life), you may be expecting more than weight loss can deliver, setting yourself up for problems both now and after you reach your goal."

    You cannot say this because you don't know what my problems are, losing weight will in fact solve many issues I am experiencing such as high blood pressure, it will help to ease the pain in my arthritic knees, it will help me to sit on the plane without needing an extender belt, and, hopefully, it will get me active enough to be able to to do things like hiking, walking or biking with my husband! Your interpretation of that question implies that I am thinking it will make me happy or solve my mood issues that lead to eating erratically...not everyone thinks that way when they see that question. - 9/6/2013 4:05:04 PM
  • I think you totally 'hit the nail on the head' when you mentioned that we need to put our weight loss journey into a proper perspective. I definitely fall under that category of panicking if I don't do things the perfect and right away so that I could lose weight and end up getting that career and relationship I've always wanted.

    You're right...I need to start living the life I want NOW, and let the weightloss part just be a smaller part of the bigger picture.

    Less stress on me! Thanks for the excellent article. Have a great day. - 9/5/2013 10:53:47 AM
  • Really great article! - 9/5/2013 10:00:06 AM
  • Great article. - 7/22/2013 11:55:48 AM
  • The model already lost it and it trying to maintain. Or maybe she really needs to lose more. You know I hate it when bigger people do that to me. I know I NEED to lose 10-15 lbs, but they say to me, "oh but you are at what my goal weight is, why do you need to lose." Not trying to be hateful, just maybe a thought worth considering. - 2/23/2013 9:56:16 AM
  • Why does the model in that photo want to lose weight? ;-) - 2/18/2013 1:44:32 PM
  • Though I got a 7, I still don't believe that I can lose weight. Have been trying for 60 years. A few times I lost a few pounds, but now am at the highest in my life at 73. When I track my food I am in the range. If I eat only protein I can lose a few, but who can keep that up? And it's not really healthy. - 2/17/2013 1:01:12 AM
  • ROSOPRO53
    I'm a bit unreasonable...I just gained .50 lbs and I feel a little freaked. I stayed within my calorie count and exercise program this week...what happened? I'm looking to lose 1 lb per week and have been going strong for six weeks.....ugh.... - 2/15/2013 10:08:57 AM
  • TOTALGYM2264
    Great article helped me see if I was stressing out and if it was going to hurt my goals and success so far. - 2/15/2013 5:22:32 AM
  • I disagree with # 12 because I don't have a lot of stressful situations in my life. Everyone is NOT equal. Some people stress over everything, and some don't. Some people just don't have a lot of stress. You can't lump everyone together. - 2/15/2013 3:19:59 AM
  • Great article - made me realise a lot.
    However it's a shame it ends with "and you can start doing that right now! " without expanding. - 11/21/2012 4:57:45 AM
  • I think that this is the best article I have read regarding healthy and realistic expectations about weight loss. I wish everyone trying to lose weight, AND their doctors, friends, families and critics could read this. It seems like there is so much societal pressure to lose weight without most people understanding what it takes to achieve permanent weight loss and what weight loss does and doesn't accomplish.

    Thank you so much!!! - 10/24/2012 1:58:58 PM
  • I disagree with #12. We always have stressful situations in our lives. That is what got most of us in the condition we are in. It's handling the stress along with our weight loss that will make us sucessful! - 10/23/2012 3:39:03 AM