Why fear is preventing your weight loss

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Are you trying to lose weight but wondering why you’re not succeeding?

Chances are that you’re letting fear hold you back.

What is fear?

Fear is a normal human reaction and a survival mechanism. It alerts us to danger, and on an evolutionary perspective, it was vital in keeping the human race alive.

When we face a perceived threat, our body responds in a specific way, inducing a ‘fight or flight’ response. In other words, you stay and fight the threat, or you’ll take flight and run from it. Whether you stay or flee, your body responds the same way — increased heart rate, sweating, high adrenaline, and increased alertness.

This is a universal physical response which is designed to keep us safe and is crucial to our survival.

On the other hand, there is also an emotional response which is highly individual. This is why some people thrive on adrenaline-filled activities such as jumping out of a plane, while others sweat and shake at the thought of it.

Although the physical reaction is the same, the personal reaction to the trigger is very different.

Some fears may be caused by past trauma or negative experiences. Other fears may be caused by the physical symptoms that occur when confronted with a situation. While other fears may be based on something else such as a lack of control, or the thoughts we tell ourselves about the situation.

What are people afraid of?

Ask anyone what they’re afraid of and you’ll get the usual list that includes heights, snakes, spiders, closed spaces, public speaking or even death.

While these are indeed fears and phobias, they’re not the things that prevent most people from achieving their deepest desires. And they’re certainly not the fears that are preventing you from losing weight.

It’s your own thoughts about what you have to do to lose the weight, and what this will mean for you, that’s causing you to be afraid.

Let’s take a look at Alison.

Alison has been trying to lose weight for years. She’s lost weight many times in the past, but it always comes back, with interest. She knows she really needs to get her weight under control and she’s desperate to feel better about herself, but she’s worried about how hard it will be to lose weight and keep it off. She’s thought about joining a local PT group she’s been following on Facebook, but she’s not sure she’ll fit in. She knows she’s unfit and from what she’s seen, most of the people who train with this PT look fitter and stronger than her. Besides, the thought of wearing a pair of leggings in public makes her cringe. Alison is also worried about what this PT might say to her about her drinking. She catches up with her girlfriends every Saturday night over drinks and she’s not ready to give this up. She doesn’t want her friends to think she’s boring, or a party pooper. And she doesn’t want them to feel uncomfortable drinking around her. She also doesn’t want them to keep asking her about her PT sessions and how her weight loss is going, in case she fails yet again. After all, they’ve been on all of her weight loss journeys so far, so they must be sick of it. So Alison decides to wait and see if she can lose weight on her own. And if she can’t then she might contact the PT down the track.
In the example above, Alison is afraid of:

  • the amount of work it will take to lose weight
  • not fitting in with the PT group
  • being seen as a beginner and judged as unfit
  • being seen in public in her leggings (and being judged)
  • being told by a PT that she’ll have to stop drinking
  • not being liked by her friends because she won’t drink with them
  • upsetting her friends by not drinking
  • failing in her weight loss attempts
  • being judged for failing.

And all of these fears cause Alison to hold back and take no action towards losing weight.

The need to be loved

At the root of most of the things Alison is afraid of is the fear of not being liked.

One of the deepest human desires is to be loved and accepted. That’s why you see so many people trying to ‘fit in’; why they’ll do anything to please other people. They’ll even put themselves last instead of doing the things that will get them closer to their goals, because they’re so desperate to be liked.

In the case of Alison, she’s putting her need to be liked and accepted above her desire to lose weight. She doesn’t want to feel judged, or rejected. In short, she’s worried about what other people will think of her and is afraid they won’t like her. So, she avoids taking action.

When you’re afraid of not being loved, you’ll be afraid of:

  • being seen for who you really are
  • having people dislike you
  • not feeling like you fit in
  • putting your needs above other people’s
  • feeling lonely
  • upsetting other people
  • being judged
  • what other people might think or say about you.

And so, you’ll engage in behaviours that will help you feel accepted and loved, instead of doing the things required to have the body you really want.

What this fear usually indicates is low self-esteem and lack of confidence.

Because what you’re really afraid of is that you can’t handle whatever happens when you take action.

Signs that fear is holding you back

Fear holds you back in more ways than you realise. But it can often be difficult to see from your own point of view. Here are 6 signs that probably indicate you’re letting fear dictate your life.

  1. You only focus on the negatives — There are always positives and negatives to a situation, but a person operating from fear will only think about the worst that can happen. In the case of Alison, she was only thinking that she’d lose her friends if she didn’t drink, instead of thinking that she might inspire one of them to make a healthy change for the better too.
  2. You react emotionally and are quick to flee — Remember the ‘fight or flight’ response? Most people working from a place of fear will flee, rather than think the situation through rationally and take action. Alison chose to try to lose weight on her own, rather than reach out and ask for help.
  3. You avoid new things, situations, or people — The familiar is comfortable but staying in your comfort zone won’t get you what you want. In Alison’s case, she avoided contacting the PT.
  4. You’re afraid to take a chance — Fear causes you to close off to opportunities rather than embrace them. It encourages you to avoid any potential failures or rejection. Alison shut down all thoughts of joining the PT group because of her fear of rejection.
  5. You don’t listen to your gut — There’s no room to ‘listen to your gut’ when fear is speaking loudly. Alison let her fears dictate what she was going to do with regards to losing weight.
  6. You won’t make a decision — Fear can cause you to avoid making a decision in case it’s the wrong one. And you often can’t see that not making a choice, is a decision in itself! In this case, Alison has left her options open for contacting the PT later on. Although we all know that she won’t…don’t we!

So how do you move past the fear and start taking action?

You must take action instead of thinking about taking action.

The power of taking action

Fear can leave you paralysed, but you don’t have to let it control you.

The first step towards taking back your power is to decide that you’re not going to let fear run your life. Other things that may help include:

  • Remembering that everyone else is living in fear too and they’re all trying to hide it.
  • Realising that the only way to diminish fear is to face it. Your comfort zone will only increase when you begin to address your fears.
  • Doing one scary thing makes it easier for you to tackle another scary thing. The more you step out in courage, the less fear you’ll feel and the easier these things will become.
  • The feel-good feelings will only come after you’ve done the thing you’re afraid to do.
  • Understanding that what’s on the other side of fear is more and better, than what you have now.
  • Pushing through fear is better than living in fear every day of your life.

Perhaps the most powerful path to overcoming fear so you can lose weight is to develop your confidence. When you do, you’ll know that whatever consequences lie on the other side of doing what scares you, you’ll be able to handle them.

At Imani Tribe, we help our clients develop new habits and grow in their confidence so they can do the things they’re afraid of, in order to have the body they want.

All of our clients understand that to have what they want, they need to face their fears and do something they’re afraid of. We give them strategies and support, so they can begin to address the fears that have been holding them back for so long. Once they’ve addressed one fear, they’re better equipped at addressing the next one.

This has a snowball effect and eventually, our clients realise that what’s on the other side of fear, is more of what they really desire. This means they’re more willing to do the things that scare them to have more of what they want because they have the skills and self-belief to face whatever comes their way.

Why not face your fear head-on and join us to find the confidence that you crave?

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