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.
Scoring the Quiz
Look at your answers to questions 1,2,4,5,7, 9 and 11, and give yourself 1 point for every True answer, and 0 for every False. For questions 3,6,8,10 and 12, give yourself 1 point for every False answer, and 0 for every True. Add your total points up to get your score.

A high score (7-12 points) shows that your expectations about weight loss are more realistic, and you are more likely to reach your goal.

Each question you scored a zero for represents a misconception or unrealistic expectation that might be adding unnecessary stress to your weight loss efforts.

For example, a zero on Question 11 (you don’t talk to others when you have trouble sticking to your plan) may indicate that you tend to keep problems to yourself, which can add even more stress to the difficulties you are already having.

Scoring zero on Question 8 (believing you can lose weight successfully without slipping up) may mean that you are unrealistically expecting perfection. Slip-ups are inevitable, but they also help you learn from your experience. Expecting to be perfect creates more stress when things don’t turn out as desired. Plus, you will learn less about what does and does not work for you in different circumstances.

Likewise, a zero on Question 12 (determination for weight loss despite high stress in other areas of your life) may indicate that you don’t fully appreciate the difficulties of trying to lose weight, or the importance of modifying your weight loss expectations when other aspects of life become difficult. Sometimes, just holding your own and not gaining (or regaining) weight is a very significant accomplishment!

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.

At least two negative things can happen when you start looking at weight loss as the “magic” solution to everything. First, this puts an awful lot of pressure on the daily ups and downs of your weight loss journey. Every slip-up or bad day, every weight plateau, becomes magnified in importance because, in your head, it is linked to so many other important things. You can imagine how much extra stress you generate if going over your calorie budget or skipping an exercise session has come to mean that the career or the relationship you want is that much further away.

Second, the belief that you have to lose weight before you can start living the life you want only keeps you from creating that life right now.

When healthy eating and exercise are just a small part of what you do to care for yourself, you'll likely decrease stress and progress towards your weight loss goal. A big part of making a successful lifestyle change is putting your weight in meaningful perspective—and you can start doing that right now!

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Member Comments

  • This is an awesome article
  • Scored 12. I really have fome a long way.
  • SAFIRE82
    Scored an 8. I disagree that each of these scenarios are always true.

    "For example, a zero on Question 11 (you donít talk to others when you have trouble sticking to your plan) may indicate that you tend to keep problems to yourself, which can add even more stress to the difficulties you are already having.

    Scoring zero on Question 8 (believing you can lose weight successfully without slipping up) may mean that you are unrealistically expecting perfection. Slip-ups are inevitable, but they also help you learn from your experience. Expecting to be perfect creates more stress when things donít turn out as desired. Plus, you will learn less about what does and does not work for you in different circumstances."

    If you are introverted and an empath often talking to others can lead you to doing this weight loss thign for the WRONG reasons, this has happened to me before. Over all I think this test was pretty well done, but certainly not perfect. It brings to light issues we need to be aware of, but more detail is needed. If you are looking at this just keep searching always, never give up. You have it in YOU to make this happen. And some people do not have supportive friends to go to anyway. That is OK, you can still do this thing. You can. you are stronger than you think.

    I have so much more I could say, just know I love to hear from others who need to talk, even if it is just once. I have been 3 years getting to where I am now and I am still losing weight. We are all different, and yes I agree with "bigcurvygirl" that sometimes weight loss will solve other issues in a person's life. What those are varies person to person. But either way we heal from the INSIDE out whether it is physical or emotional we do. And we all can do it. We can.

    Stay strong fellow sparkers!
  • Scored a 7....enjoyed the insights on the areas that I scored a zero on
  • Gained wt. for the first time in 62 Days and searched for an article to help me. I live for this program..its is my life. I see how that may be my downfall. I need to live a fuller life, make things happen. I will work on that. Monday through thursday I rock it...come friday and I begin loosing it...need to fill those days with something fulfilling. I do not share my defeats. I don't know how to do that. What will you think of me now that I have failed...that's my attitude.
  • I'm too tired to score it myself.
  • I must face the fact that I need to do this because of health issues and to get myself back into shape. If I do this I have a go chance of losing my diabetes problem, high blood pressure, and most of all the medications I must take for it and the problems that I have gained. I have had back surgery and the Doctors told me I need to lose weight to help the back pain that did not go away. I am hopeful to get rid of this extra weight.
  • I got a 14 and was surprised b/c I feel pretty realistic about weight loss goals and how I cope. Then again, I am not a great test taker and think some of the interpretations of the answers might be different if I had a chance to talk with the tester. Good reminders, though.
  • SHAHAI16
    I got a 7 on this quiz, but I don't agree with the rationale for some of the scoring. Number 6 seems odd, because I know areas of my life will be better if I lose weight (can find cute clothing in my size! can fit on a plane/roller coaster, "normal-sized" chair without bruises on my hips! Less/none of the sore feet/joint pain from standing all day! Being able to clip my toenails without pain/ discomfort from squishing my stomach! Relief from PCOS symptoms!). Also, a decent amount of the stress in my life isn't going away anytime soon, so why put off weight loss any longer?
  • MAMAKITTEH1
    Thanks for sharing the helpful suggestions! Has anyone tried a program called Diet Free Weekends? Itís not a free ride to overindulge on the weekends, this programís actually based on sound scientific advice that takes the stress and guilt out of dieting while still enjoying the foods you love. Just knowing you can enjoy your favorite foods promotes healthier eating in the long run because those foods aren't "forbidden" and you'll automatically readjust to better food choices. It's definitely worth a look if you like good food but sticking to restrictive diets sabotages your weight loss efforts. You can find the page here:
    http://www.gett
    inghealthywit
    hmary.com/Die
    tFreeWeekends
    Or get more info here:
    http://www.gett
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  • ETHELMERZ
    Finally, some Truth! Weight loss will not make your whole life feel perfect, your health will improve, but the rest of the world will not treat you better because you lost weight. Your whole attitude might need to change. You will not be the toast of the town, and I find maintenance to be more stressful than losing the weight. Prepare for that, friends. I think that is why people go back to overeating, time and again.
  • Good quiz, but I don't know how much it will change anyone's thinking. I CAN say with clarity that accepting that weight loss is a gradual, non-linear process has been the most successful mental change I've made, and now that I've lost 95 pounds I think it's fair to say that it's working for me.
  • MOOGLESFOREVER
    I disagree with number 6 being false, because weight loss can and HAS solved a lot of health issues for me. My cholesterol level has gone from extremely high to completely normal, I had a lot of pains in my joints, and now I feel good, I got winded easily, now I can walk alongside my fiancť in a store without falling behind or needing to stop completely, and I just feel better! And I disagree with number 11 needing to be true. I'm sure some people like to do that, but I don't. I find journaling when I am having any problems is a lot better than talking to others. But that's a personal preference.
  • EWAGNEV493
    This was a very helpful article for me. I have to really focus on: "The belief that you have to lose weight before you can start living the life you want only keeps you from creating that life right now." :D
  • I scored a 9! Yeah! I am not going to quit my new healthy lifestyle no matter what!

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.