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Understanding the Barriers to Successful Weight Loss

April 13, 2020

In Dr. Robert's Kushner's "How To Lose Weight Successfully" article, we learned about the art of losing weight successfully and the importance of lifestyle modification. You write your weight loss journey!

“You have your own weight story to tell and your own personal relationship with food, physical activity, mindset, and emotions.“ -Dr. Kushner

Understanding the Barriers to Successful Weight Loss

As Dr. Kushner says, you have your own weight story to tell. No one else can know and understand about your personal journey and struggles with obesity. Only you know your complete story, and that story is still being written by YOU! As the author of your journey, it is important that you come to know and understand what your personal weight loss barriers are and that you feel empowered to overcome them by implementing behavioral and cognitive changes.

Dr. Kushner’s research shows that a one-size-fits-all mentality, diet fazes, and not addressing your barriers can sabotage your weight loss goals because it’s too easy to fall back into default behaviors. He strongly believes that implementing personalized lifestyle strategies that are a fit for you instead of offering generic advice is key to long-term weight loss success. If you can overcome the behaviors that you keep falling back into and form new, healthy habits, then you are not as likely to fall into the same behaviors over and over again with the same results.

Of the six factors that Dr. Kushner has scientifically identified as weight loss barriers, you may find that several of the barriers (if not all) apply to you. Some factors apply less than others, and Dr. Kushner’s 27 point, Six Factor Quiz will reveal your personal, most impactful barriers that are standing in your way of continued weight loss success.

Whether you are an easily enticed eater, a convenient diner, exercise struggler, fast pacer, self-critic, or all or nothing doer, your barriers are unique to you. No one lives your life, knows your mindset, your daily life challenges, and the obstacles you face better than you. Identifying your weight loss barriers is the first step to weight loss success for the long-term.

Breaking Your Personal Weight Loss Barriers

“The goal is to build a repertoire of new behaviors and thought patterns for each factor that collectively leads to improved health.“ -Dr. Kushner

As you embark on your new lifestyle management journey and strive to break through your weight loss barriers, having support in your life, whether through social networking or personal relationships, is essential. To enhance your chances of success, Dr. Kushner believes it is important to surround yourself with like-minded people that can help you problem-solve and keep you accountable.

When it comes to tackling the barriers and factors that have continually caused your weight gain and blocked your weight loss successes, you should remember the goal is for you to make progress, not perfection. Once you have identified your weight loss barriers, Dr. Kushner recommends that you choose the factor/barrier that you have the most confidence in tackling as your starting point.

He shares with us that modifying your eating-related barriers first may jumpstart your weight loss success and therefore help to boost your energy, mood, and motivation to tackle other barriers. Remember that when you start to tackle a new barrier, it is important not to let the previous factor strategies slip away. Stay on top of your new habits by practicing repetition, planning ahead, and staying accountable.

Making slow and steady changes in your lifestyle to break through the barriers that have been a roadblock to your weight loss success include changing your mindset and thought patterns, setting new goals, and forming new habits that stick.

It is helpful to link your new behaviors with an event or setting so that your new habits become a daily routine. An example may be combining packing a healthy lunch or snack to bring to work the next day with your after-dinner kitchen clean-up routine. Leaving an insulated lunch tote bag on the counter can also be a reminder.

Setting goals that are achievable and rewarding will make your milestones a part of your weight management. Self-monitor your journey by keeping track of the foods you eat and the steps you take. Knowing how you move your body, what you eat, why and when and changing old habits will help you break through your barriers.

Slowly but surely, you will start to see gradual and improved changes in your health and your lifestyle, even when life gets in the way!

As discussed in Dr. Kushner's "How To Lose Weight Successfully" article, we learned that his in-depth research has allowed him to identify six scientifically-validated barriers to successful long-term weight loss. After you review the six factors below, you'll be able to identify your behaviors. To change behaviors, you need to identify which of them that you are.

The Six Factors* That Can Be Barriers to Long-Term Weight Loss

Which of these six major factors do you identify with?

  1. Easily Enticed Eater describes someone who struggles with eating temptations and may also have an emotional connection with food.
  2. Convenient Diner is someone who often treats eating as an afterthought and grabs meals on the go. Without planning ahead, foods ordered off a menu are often higher in calories and sodium and lower in fiber than foods cooked at home.
  3. Exercise Struggler is someone who’s not physically active at the present time; either they don’t like to exercise or struggle exercising because of their health.
  4. Fast Pacer describes someone who feels stressed and struggles with prioritizing a healthy lifestyle into their busy life. These days, so many of us lead a very hectic life, and our personal health takes a backseat.
  5. Self-Critic This factor describes individuals who engage in negative self-talk, have poor body image and low self-esteem that get in the way of managing their weight and moving forward in their life.
  6. All or Nothing Doer are individuals who are black or white thinkers who have difficulty making practical changes for long-term weight loss; when it comes to trying to lose weight, they are either ‘all in’ or ‘why bother’.

Do you know what your weight loss barriers are? You can find out by taking Dr. Kushner's research-based, short Six Factor Quiz to get your personalized results. When you know what your weight loss barriers are, you’ll know what to do when life gets in the way. You’ll find out more about that in Dr. Kushner’s next article.

For more helpful information from Dr. Kushner, check out his other two articles:

*Adapted with permission from Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You! Kushner, RF, Kushner, N and Blatner, DJ. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2020.

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Robert Kushner


Dr. Robert F. Kushner, is board-certified in internal medicine, nutrition and obesity. He is a passionate clinician, educator, researcher and advocate in helping to improve the lives of those affected by obesity. His new book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You! was just published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Read more articles by Dr. Kushner!