How to Deal With the Pressure to Lose Weight

Getty Images/Dave and Les Jacobs

How much pressure do you feel to lose weight or to maintain your current weight? If you're like most of us, you feel it constantly. Enter any gas station, grocery store or market and you'll probably see a long row of fitness magazines with half-naked, perfectly formed, fat-less men and women reminding you of what you're 'supposed' to look like - if you could just get yourself together.

You feel it when you pass a jogger on the way to work and are reminded of the workout you didn't do.

You feel it when you're eating out and wonder what people will think if you (gasp) order your salad with dressing.

The pressure seems to come from everywhere, both in the real world and in our own heads and that pressure can often lead to:

  • Feeling like you're in jail - The words that accompany pressure are usually words like 'can't' and 'have to' and 'should' - all words that make us feel trapped. You can't have that hamburger, you have to do your workout, you should be losing weight. At some point, you may feel like you don't have any choices left, which only makes the need to escape that narrow existence too great to withstand.
  • Trying too hard - So, what happens when you feel all this pressure to be perfect, to lose weight? Some of us become controlling that every bite, every movement, every little thing we do has to be monitored. The problem is, the more you try to be perfect, the more out of control you feel.

    So, how can you take the pressure off?  Some ideas:

    • Give up on weight loss - That doesn't mean you stop trying to lose weight, but it does mean stopping and refocusing on the things that matter - How you feel, how much you value yourself and your health and how well you're taking care of yourself. When you focus on those things, you end up doing all the things that lead to weight loss: You eat good foods, you move more and you feel good...all without all that pressure weighing you down.
    • Give up on being perfect - Most of us have some idea in our head of what constitutes the 'perfect' workout.  For example, my perfect workout is an hour of high intensity exercise where I burn a bazillion calories and nothing less will do.  But what happens when I can't, or shouldn't, do that 'perfect' workout?  If nothing less will do, then I do nothing and doing doing nothing not only burns zero calories, it doesn't make me feel any better about myself.
    • Put the scale away - For many of us, the scale is the sum total of our success or failure, even though the scale is not the best ways measure your success. We all know the scale doesn't tell us the information we really need to know - If we've gained muscle and lost fat.  We all know that it isn't possible to gain 4 pounds overnight - Yet, if the scale shows we're 4 pounds heavier, we instantly feel like a complete failure.  Putting away the scale, even if it's just for a week or two, can take the pressure off having to be at a certain weight to feel good about yourself.  It may even help you improve your body image.

      The stress and pressure to lose weight can be overwhelming, so much so that it may end up paralyzing you rather than galvanizing you. It's much easier to focus on the healthy behaviors you need to lose weight when you feel calm and in control, when you relieve the pressure of having to measure up to an impossible standard. Are you putting too much pressure on yourself?  What would happen if you took the pressure off?

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