Before pursuing your weight-loss goals it is crucial that you first spend some time exploring potential and actual barriers to success. It stands to logical reasoning that, by proxy of the need to implement a weight-loss programme, you have up to now been unsuccessful in surmounting barriers that stopped you from maintaining a healthy weight.
Module 2 will provide you with the opportunity to explore barriers to success. We will dedicate discussion to identifying what constitutes as a barrier – as not all barriers are explicit or tangible. Following this a range of prevalent and common barriers will be identified. We will then consider methods of reducing or removing one of the identified barriers. To conclude Module 2 you will be set the task of searching out and identifying the barriers that you believe to be responsible for preventing you from maintaining a healthy weight.
What constitutes as a barrier to success?
At its essence, a barrier is something that slows, impedes or prevents progress. A common misconception is that barriers always possess a tangible quality, say the highly tempting fast-food outlet next to your place of work, or the inability to access a gym. However, barriers are more often psychological as opposed to physical.
Psychological barriers tend to present a far greater conundrum to the would-be success seeker. Unlike their physical counterparts, psychological barriers – that is, barriers that exits in the mind – can be irritatingly illusive and prohibitively difficult to breakdown. Such barriers include negative self-talk, the absence of motivation and low self-efficacy, to name the most prevalent.
Before a barrier can be broken down it of course must firstly be identified. Intuitively obvious though that sentence may be, identifying barriers can for some present a significant challenge.
Through fear that I might be entering the realms of psychology, a subject of which I am woefully ignorant, I will quickly conclude with a few words of encouragement. By being open and honest with yourself and reflecting on previous failed attempts at weight-loss, you will undoubtedly unearth any barriers that could block the road to success.
Once you have unearthed them you can now take the necessary action needed to reduce, remove or mitigate them.
Below you will find a list of commonly reported barriers to weight loss. From the list one barrier has been selected for dismantling.
Lack of motivation
The barrier that we will consider in detail is lack of motivation. If this is not the barrier that has prohibited you in the past, or not the one that you fear will prohibit you in the future, don’t dismiss this module. Of course, to tackle each barrier identified would require an inordinate number of pages which, I fear, would test the reader’s patience. Also, the overarching methodology – or process – of breaking down the barrier of lack of motivation, perhaps the single most common of all barriers, can be applied to the others.
Lack of motivation
Motivation is an intrinsic quality that drives or compels us to take directed and sustained action often in the pursuit of completing tasks or when progressing towards goals. Without this mercurial and enigmatic quality even small tasks become prohibitively difficult. Large tasks nigh on impossible.
Thus, the person who harbours hopes of losing weight and progressing towards an improved state of health must, if they stand any chance of achieving these lofty and noble goals, maintain motivation. But few people possess the requisite motivation to see their goals through to fruition. That in some way accounts for why ‘obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with more than 1 billion adults overweight – [and] at least 300 million clinically obese,’¹ (my italics).
It is (more or less) true that you’re either over-brimming with motivation or you suffer a near permanent drought. There is, of course, that group of people who sit somewhere in the middle, for whom motivation irregularly flows in fits and starts – but then too often dries up before much gets done. Though this is about as useful as intermittent blackouts are to workmen trying to refurbish a derelict house. To do a good job and in a timely fashion you need to be able to turn on the electricity at the flick of switch. I’m sure you grasp the metaphor, tenuously phrased though it is.
Why there is such a disparity in the ebb and flow of motivation amongst people generally no one really knows. Best guesses pin the problem on a neurochemical quirk – or more specifically on overly excitable ‘dopamine-producing neurons in the brain’s ventral tegmental area’ which ‘communicate with those in the region called the nucleus accumbens in order to process rewards and to motivate behaviour’². This means very little to anyone and it certainly doesn’t offer succour for those who harbour aspirations but lack the motivation to achieve them.
However, there’s some good news. Motivation can be developed and trained – analogously to the way fitness or intelligence can be developed and trained. Pretty much all methods of improving motivation draw off some form of psychological carrot and stick trickery.
For example, let’s say that before now you’ve tried to lose weight but at some point, for reasons inexplicable, lost motivation and gave up. This not only knocks the confidence but breeds the erroneous belief that you are incurably unmotivated and thus will never succeed at losing weight.
The truth of the matter is you probably just haven’t yet found the sufficient psychological spark to set the fires of motivation burning. I’m reminded of a friend who repeatedly failed to lose weight. He’d tried every diet and every fad under the sun – and some. At one point, in a fit of exasperated rage, he even contemplated gastric band surgery.
But after the countless failed attempts (and very nearly going under the surgeon’s knife), it was one small, seemingly insignificant incident that set the fires of motivation blazing. Whilst out playing at a local park with his young son he became breathless, dizzy, nauseous and, through fear of potentially passing out, had to sit down and decline his son’s pleas to play.
It was that moment when his unfit body, over-laden with superfluous fat, prohibited him from joining in with his son, and the subsequent thoughts that, if he did not ameliorate his disastrous state of health, he might not see his boy grow into a man, it was then that he resolved to take action. And action he took!
The following day he cleaned up his diet and undertook an exercise regime. And whenever he felt his motivation waning, he would remind himself of that time in the park. ‘I’m not just doing this for myself,’ he would tell himself, ‘I’m doing it for my boy.’
It was this subtle psychological trick that unleashed a levy of motivation in a person who previously believed he didn’t contain a single drop.
If it’s an absence or inconsistent levels of motivation that is presently prohibiting you from successfully reaching your target weight, then it is imperative that you search out the spark that will set the fires of motivation blazing.
As with all barriers the process is pretty much the same. First, the barrier must be brought into the light of conscious awareness. Once it has, once you have clearly identified the barrier and can see it for what it is, a strategy of how to break it down, surmount it or circumvent it, must be formulated. When that strategy has been conceived you must TAKE ACTION!
Barrier-breaking Action Plan
Identify the barrier (or barriers) that presently stands in your way of weight loss and improved health. (If you predict that a barrier could present itself once you have set-off on your weight-loss journey, consider a pre-emptive strike – that is, follow through with the action plan and develop some strategies so that they’re ready to be deployed should you bump up against the barrier in the future.)
With the barrier – either actual or hypothetical – identified, you must now spend time strategizing methods of razing it to the ground. If the barrier is indestructible, as some indubitably are, this is most emphatically not an excuse to throw in the towel and wave goodbye to your weight-loss dreams. Instead you must consider how the barrier can be circumvented. To do this might require a radical reconsideration of how you approach this course. But if doing so means you can continue your weight-loss journey then do so you must.
Once you have devised a strategy to overcoming your barrier you should, prior to implementing it, gather any resources you may need. Any attempt to tackle a barrier without adequately preparing is likely to result in failure. And failure can weaken and wear resolve which in turn erodes confidence and self-efficacy. It is for this reason why you mustn’t rush headlong into a barrier but dedicate time to drawing up a battle plan and preparing resources. Sun Tzu, In The Art of War, identifies ‘preparedness’ as one of the five essential factors for securing victory.
You have now arrived at that most decisive of moments; the one that requires you to implement your strategy. Step 4 demands that you take action. But what if my strategy fails me? The answer is simple. Scrape yourself off the floor, dust yourself down, go straight back to Step 2, reformulate a new strategy ensuring to identify the failings in the first, and carry on. Repeat until you succeed. Truly, that’s all you can do.
Ready to progress to Module 3: Diet & Nutrition?
(As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)
Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.
¹The following quote: ‘obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with more than 1 billion adults overweight – [and] at least 300 million clinically obese,’ was taken from a WHO pdf document entitled Obesity and Overweight (2003). This interesting and highly accessible article can be found at the following web address: https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/media/en/gsfs_obesity.pdf
²Halber. D. (2018) Motivation: Why You Do the Things You Do. An article published on BrainFacts.org: https://www.brainfacts.org/thinking-sensing-and-behaving/learning-and-memory/2018/motivation-why-you-do-the-things-you-do.