Ep: 167: The Fat Trap – How Not to Get Discouraged About Difficulty Losing Weight

Guess What? Bad news: if you’ve ever been overweight and you’re trying to lose weight it’s even harder than you think. Yikes. Pretty de-motivating. As psychologist Matthew Edlund wrote recently, Weight: Why Simple Answers Won’t (Can’t) Work. However, let’s see what motivational psychologists would have to say about this. How to keep from getting too discouraged. Obesity is difficult to overcome – sometimes a life long struggle. Here are some reasons why this is so.

Resources on the Difficulty of Losing Weight

    • The Fat Trap by Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times, December 28, 2011.
    • Episode 126 (video): SuperNormal Stimuli: Is This Why We’re Overweight? There are many reasons why it is difficult to lose weight, but have you considered how supernormal stimuli might be one of them? In this episode I discuss some of the ideas in the books Waistland and Supernormal Stimuli by Dierdre Barrett. Is it possible that the old saying Everything in Moderation might just be wrong?

. Trying to get in shape and lose weight? What’s the psychology behind getting in shape? Well, first forget the psychobabble. I examine two established theories of human motivation – goal setting and expectancy theory. Join me for a different perspective on weight loss, exercise and fitness.



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    January 3, 2012

    Fowler, I don’t think you should let someone tell you what’s “scientifically possible” and what’s not. People lose large amounts of weight all the time, I think you should not get discouraged or think that you have to rely on a surgery for you to lose weight. There is a man who lost over 200lbs on his own. It starts with your eating. You have to eat the right things for your body. There’s also a man and he has a movie called “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” and he was also overweight but lost a lot of it juicing and is keeping it off by continuing to exercise and making healthy choices. Don’t get discouraged, get moving. You lost it before and you can lose it again. Don’t read any negative things that are going to tell you that you can’t, because you won’t know unless you try. I am also overweight and understand how you feel. Read positive things and things that will inspire you the last thing anyone needs to hear when they’re at the starting gate of trying to accomplish something is things telling them that they can’t.

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    January 3, 2012

    I have always been overweight, it’s something that has plauged me my entire life. It has kept my confidence low and hidered my sucess in many ways. The only time I was even close to being fit was in college. I was then as I am now 270lbs. I had lost 70lbs by diet and exercise. This “new me” gave me tons of energy and confidence. My social life exploded and my weight loss came to a hault. After college I gained it all back and despite numerous efforts have not been able to lose any weight. I was still holding on to hope that I might one day win the war on fat until reading “the fat trap”. It’s very depressing to find out that it’s scientifically impossible for me to reach and maintain my goal weight. I fear I am losing hope and I don’t know what to do.

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    January 3, 2012

    Esther: it is very discouraging how our bodies fight us as we get older. I passed that 40 mark quite a while ago and like I’ve had my ups and downs with weight. Life just presents us all with so many challenges. I’ve got a full time job and a full time family, so it’s hard to find that time to work out and the stress of it all makes it hard to resist those “comfort foods” I enjoyed as a kid. I wish you luck with your efforts. You certainly have the right attitude – you have to learn to accept some things that you really cannot easily change and remember that our society makes this all very difficult – showing images of beautiful people while at the same time making really bad food so easily available. It’s tough.

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    January 3, 2012

    Sigh. Beginning in 2007 I started on a journey to lose weight and get in shape by my 40th birthday which is in 3 days! EEK! I manage to lose 15 pounds and get in great shape however somewhere in the last year or two its been a downhill battle. I’m not fat per say but I am not at the level of fitness and shapeliness I had hoped to be. 🙁 I suppose the down turn has been my bouts with depression and ups and down and just plain internal conflicts I have been experiencing. I am such a dreamer, as in those who dreams of flights of fancy and a literal dreamer. I have such crazy vivid dreams at times and a lot of famous people inhabit my dreams, but I digress! I just wanted to say that losing weight and keeping it off is HARD work. Ugh. (Michael you must do a podcast on female body image!) The important thing I needed to learn is to LIKE myself no matter what I look like or weigh. Sure I think I would do liposuction in a minute if I had the finances, but there is more to life than looking good…more to me than looking good! Like yourself no matter what, but try to take care of yourself is my advice. But don’t get all crazy like I did. Obsessively counting calories and having a cheat day in which I would basically binge. I’ve calmed down quite a bit. I am exercising again. Three days cardio and two days weights. Now about my diet…I acknowledge I need to make some changes. Mid-life is three days away!!! I hope John Lennon was right…life begins at 40.

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    January 3, 2012

    Thanks for the podcast – I enjoy listening to it while working out. You might be interested in the huge amounts of (just) criticism that this ‘the fat trap’-article provoked: it is basically just bad science.
    It was denounced pretty neatly in one of my other favorite podcasts, (about halfway into the episode)

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    Noel Bell

    January 3, 2012

    Hey thanks for the resource.

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    January 3, 2012

    Steve: thanks for your feedback. I just checked out the website. Interesting. It’s another example of the growing idea of “gamification” and I’ve been meaning to do an episode on this topic. Looks like what they do on that site could work.

    Thanks also for the note about the excess mouth noise in the audio. I hate it when I hear that in other podcasts. I think I know what the problem is and I’ll fix it in the next episode. Appreciate the feeback.

    Take care and good luck with your goals!

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    January 3, 2012

    Hey Mike,

    I just discovered your podcast as I did a search for some podcasts that might help me with my own depression issues. Mine are the mild type that usually just take someone to talk to, but being broke I can’t find a place that will help me… oddly enough not even if I’m going through an really low time that has me feeling suicidal. Needless to say, I checked out your podcast to help focus my own knowledge into something that might benefit through self help till I can get work.

    This episode was great. I’m actually a member of a great fitness site that I think is revolutionary in the sense of the psychology of fitness. It’s called The idea is that you have goals that are for real life fitness but they are put in the form of a role playing game leveling system. You work out, you post your activity, and you get experience points. With enough experience points, eventually you level up.

    There’s also achievements to unlock like “100 push-ups in one setting” and everyone is supportive by “giving props” for each of your achievements, activities, and goals accomplished.

    I happen to weigh 270lbs but I should weight 180lbs. I’ve been putting exercise off for when they might have a great virtual reality system for an MMO online game where you could workout as you level up. I waited, that is, until about a year ago when I experienced divorce for the first time and I needed to do anything I could to feel good about myself. So I worked out at the gym as much as I could bring myself to.

    I lost 45 lbs and gained most of it back. Now, for slightly altered reasons, I’m getting back into the program and fitocrasy seems to work wonders on my confidence and a desire to do more.

    Anyway, I wanted to fill you in on that and one more thing. I think you might have a case of using a high-def sound system that’s too high-def. I can hear your mouth make an excess of noise other than the words you’re trying to form. I don’t mean to poke fun but it almost sounds like you’re packing some loose-fit dentures in there.

    If I’m off or there’s a special thing here that you can’t help, then I’m sorry, I just thought it might likely be something that’s an easy fix. Not to mention I’m sure that most people might be too embarrassed to tell you.

    Like I said, I think you’ve got a nice show here. Best of luck to you.

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