Not to state the obvious, but losing weight is hard. No matter what way you go about it — diet, exercise, (or ideally) a combination of both — achieving any weight goal is going to take dedication, willpower, and probably some sacrifices along the way. But according to registered dietitian Audra Wilson, RD, LD, bariatric dietitian at the Northwestern Medicine Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center at Delnor Hospital, the biggest thing standing in the way of your weight loss goals isn't overeating, giving into a food craving, or failing to exercise (though those probably won't help). In fact, she says, it's all mental.
"The biggest obstacle for a lot of people is thinking that weight loss is going to happen really fast," Audra told POPSUGAR. Going hand in hand with that, she added, is thinking you won't have to change your current habits to see results. These are both unrealistic expectations, Audra explained, and they can hurt you in a few ways.
Thinking that the weight will come off quickly leads you to look for quick, temporary fixes. Audra said, "You might think, 'Well, I'm going to cut calories for a month and that should be good,'" then immediately revert to your old unhealthy habits. That won't keep the weight off in the long-term, she explained. Long-term success won't come from on-again, off-again diets or fitness plans, but from "really making healthy changes a part of your lifestyle."
Expecting to lose weight quickly also sets you up for disappointment, which can lead you to give up your healthy habits before they have a chance to to take effect. It's understandable; when you don't see results by the time you think you should, it's tempting to just throw in the towel. "It's not working anyway, so why bother?" In reality, losing weight simply takes time. Fully committing to a healthy diet and regular exercise will help you see results, but it won't happen overnight.
"You have to be ready," Audra said. "You have to wrap your head around the fact that your life is going to look different." You may not need to make drastic lifestyle changes, but you will have to make changes that you can stick to for the long-term. They won't be easy — because, again, losing weight isn't easy. But going in with the knowledge that it'll take time and commitment can prepare you for what's to come, help you stay the course when things get tough, and give you the strength to fully commit to a healthy lifestyle.