Why You Can’t Lose Weight: Seven Blocks to Successful Weight Loss

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By Tricia Greaves
Special to NurseZone

If you’re like me, you’d sooner write a nutrition book than follow one! If you’ve read at least one nutrition or diet book in your lifetime, then you probably know what to eat. You may even have it down to a science: a cup of this, four ounces of that, two tablespoons of this and so on. Yet when you really want to eat, you’re sitting down on the couch with a bag or box, not your measuring cup.

My 50 extra pounds wasn’t caused by lack of nutritional know-how, it was caused by uncontrollable emotional eating. You see, we don’t overeat simply because we love food--if only it were that simple; we overeat and snack on unhealthy foods out of emotional impulse. Successful weight loss is possible only when we identify what emotional function overeating is playing and take action to fill our needs in healthier ways. I have identified what I believe are the seven primary emotional blocks to lasting weight loss and how to overcome them.

1. The Stress Effect

The number one cause of compulsive eating is stress. When our energy is low from overactivity and burnout, we use excess food to power us through. Eating relaxes us--temporarily.

Often, our stress is self-created; we subconsciously seek validation from our professional, social and family obligations. Are you aiming to please at the expense of your own health?

Try this: Adopt a meditation or yoga practice and embrace the silence; allow peace to be your new craving, instead of approval and food. For “easy-to-do” meditation, visit

2. The Great Escape

Overeating dulls our emotions. The more we eat, the further away our troubles seem to be. Eating starch and sugar causes a secretion of serotonin in our systems, creating a feeling of euphoria and a numbing of our senses. The problem is that the further we escape in food, the harder life becomes; our problems pile up, and our ability to cope diminishes.

Try this: Ask for help from a friend, coach, counselor, or family member to face difficult issues. The sooner you face them, the sooner you’ll solve them.

3. Self-Protection Plan

Studies prove that there is a very strong link between obesity and experiences of early childhood sexual abuse. The fact is that when our bodies are violated in any way, it is natural to want to protect ourselves from further harm. Maintaining a large (or underweight) body can also be an unconscious attempt to shut down our sexuality and keep our own sexual impulses in check. We not only construct a physical prison with the intention of keeping others out, but also to trap ourselves in.

Try this: Begin exploring your relationship with your body and your sexuality. Join a supportive dance or exercise group and seek assistance from friends, a coach or a counselor.

4. Buried Alive!

We use food as a pillow to muffle our inner voices. We all have that still, small voice (God, Spirit, Holy Spirit, conscience, intuition) inside, directing and protecting us. When we listen to it, our lives are relatively smooth and orderly. When we deny it and act from our ego mind, we create chaos. We often bury this voice to avoid the responsibility of following its guidance.

Try this: Affirm daily: “I welcome, embrace and eagerly follow my inner voice, for this brings me energy, protection and unlimited good!”

5. Self-Sabotage Solution

Gaining weight and living in a body we cannot stand erodes our self-esteem and subconsciously take perverse pleasure in our food lashings. We easily feel guilt for things we have thought, said and done, and instead of addressing these issues directly, we seek to deliver our own punishment by overeating and gaining weight.

Try this: Start today to forgive yourself for all that you perceive you’ve done wrong. Next, when you say or do something that offends or if you make a mistake, apologize and move on.

6. Self-Care Crisis

Emotional eaters take better care of others than themselves. But if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will or can. Eating right is about self-care, not self-control. If you don’t make self-respecting choices in your life, you won’t be able to make self-respecting choices when it’s time to eat.

Try this: Spend the evening fixing and savoring a fresh, organic meal at home. Relax and enjoy the experience!

7. Decrease the Deficit

Most compulsive eaters are compulsive doers. Yet we pay dearly for our “super powers.” At the end of a hard day, we refuel with a binge, telling ourselves that after all we’ve accomplished, we deserve it. The fact is that we create a deficit when we try to do more than our bodies and minds can reasonably do in a day. If we have to compensate for all do we by overeating, we are doing too much.

Try this: Identify one activity a week you can cancel or pass to someone else. Everything will get done without your being there to do it.

If you want real answers as to your weight problem, look within. It’s not because you have the wrong diet, running shoes or exercise equipment; the food you crave is filling an emotional need that must be addressed and healed in order to have lasting success. When you identify and heal these mechanisms, your entire life changes, and with it the number on the scale.

Tricia Greaves is the founder of Be Totally Free!, which helps people to overcome eating disorders, emotional eating, dieting and weight loss and all addictions. She is a contributing author of “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health” and “Thank God I Was Fat.” Tricia has been featured on TV and radio shows, including K-USI San Diego, K-EARTH, and WOR. Access for more information.

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