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Image by Annie Spratt


Food Fabulous

Notes from midlife

The downside to weight loss

This might be a familiar scenario. You’ve been doing really well with what you’re eating and drinking. You’ve maybe been more consistent with your attempts to exercise (or, hang that, actually DOING it). But then you eat a whole box of cream cakes (or whatever). You’re not even hungry. You can barely remember doing it. But you did. And now you feel annoyed. And puzzled.


Welcome to the land of self-sabotage. From a logical point of you, smart women can’t figure out what just happened. Why would you be getting in your own way and wrecking everything you have been working towards?

There are two sides to diet sabotage. There’s the downside that you feel bad and are putting the brakes on your progress. Then there’s the upside – you’ve something nice to eat that maybe you have denied yourself in a while.

There are many ways you can sabotage your progress (that’s for another post) but what I want to talk about today is when you sabotage without being conscious of wanting something to eat. Without being consciously drawn into the biscuit barrel.

You really need to look at the worst-case scenario. One of the very common reasons for sabotaging your diet is fear of failure. You might wonder, ‘what if I have a goal and I fail?’

But worse still (and here’s where I’m going with this), what if you got everything you wanted? What would happen then? What would happen to the YOU you know and love? Would other people hate you?

Go and get yourself a notepad and pen because we’re going to do a little brainstorming exercise to get through this barrier… I’ll wait while you get them…


Write down your weight loss (or other) goals on the paper. For each of the goals on your list, you’ll now want an extra page. Write the goal in the middle of the page and draw a circle around it. Now start to brainstorm all the possible downsides to your goal. Write each point somewhere on that page. You can use lines coming off the central circle if you like. Whatever works. This is just for you, so get it all down. Even if it seems crazy or ridiculous.

You might be thinking that this is a bonkers exercise or wonder how this will make a difference. It will, believe me. It is hugely important and gives you valuable information. Remember that successful weight loss for life is not going to come from willpower alone. The only way through this is to get rid of all the stuff in your head that is holding you back. If part of your brain is telling you that BAD THINGS will happen if you lose weight, what do you think your outcome is going to be?

Let me give you an example. You want to learn to eat more healthily and lose weight. Consider all the unintended negative consequences of that. Your first thought might be ‘there isn’t a downside; that would be great’. Believe me, there is always something…

Dig a little deeper and you might find things like:

  • If I commit to eating healthily, I’ll never be able to eat … again. And I would hate that.

  • If I eat healthily, I won’t be able to go out for dinner.

  • I won’t be invited to dinner parties as people will think I need to eat weird food

  • I’ll have to buy new clothes, and that would cost too much money.

  • People will treat me differently, and I don’t want that. It will be difficult to know who to trust.

  • My husband will hate the new me. He always says he loves my curves.

  • My friends might be jealous of my weight loss and talk about me behind my back or exclude me from things we used to do together.

  • I’ll miss the cosy nights in front of the TV with my husband and a giant chocolate cake.

  • I’ll never be able to lose enough weight, so what’s that point in starting?

  • Backhanded compliments (like ‘wow, you look so much better’) that insult me will make me miserable.

  • What if I start getting obsessed?


It doesn’t matter how crazy it seems, get down EVERY SINGLE downside you can think of. Huge ones, small ones, tiny ones. It doesn’t matter. Some of the things might be unresolved fears from way back.

What else can you write?

What else?

Even when you feel you can’t think of anything else, where are always a few more.

You might have a list of 15 to 20 downsides to eating healthily and losing weight. Read over what you have got and chances are, there will be two or three that really hit home.

It will start to dawn on you that YOU are holding yourself back from getting healthy and losing weight because of these fears you have (however crazy). There is part of you that is so scared about changing that you will do anything to keep yourself on familiar ground and stuck. And that is why you are sabotaging your goals.

In writing all this stuff down, there’s a high likelihood that none of it will happen. It also gives you some work to do. Naming your fears isn’t showing weakness. It’s the starting point, and voicing them releases the hold they have on you.


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