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What’s getting in your way?

Why is the diet industry a multi-billion dollar industry and yet obesity is on the rise globally?

These facts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) are sobering:

  • Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980
  • In 2008, 1.5 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. Of these over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese
  • 65% of the world’s population live in countries where being overweight and obesity kills more people than being underweight
  • Nearly 43 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2010


WHO state in the same factsheet that at least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.

The really shocking fact however is that obesity is preventable!  So why are we racing towards it with open arms?

We know what the problem is, the next logical question is; do we know what to do about it?

I did a search on Amazon to find out how many diet, nutrition and exercise books there are to choose from. Suffice to say there are too many to count. But as an example, “diet books” gave 51,885 results with 348 new arrivals in the last month, “nutrition”  11,037 and “exercise” a mere 110,538 results.

Impressive – clearly we have lots of information about what we should eat, how, when, in what quantities and what we need to do to burn it all off again. And, on an even more positive note, IQ is also not a limiting factor because there are both idiot guides and smart guides available!

So, if knowing that excess weight is not good for our health is not enough to spur us to healthy diet and exercise regimes, surely the images of physical perfection portrayed through the media would guilt us into better habits?

There is no doubt that media images of perfection fuel the diet and exercise industry. But didn’t WHO just tell us that obesity is on the rise?

We know what the problem is, we have a vision for how we want to be and we know how to get there. And I bet any of the 3,824 “personal change” books available from Amazon will tell you that if you want to change, you need a vision and you need a plan.

So why is obesity on the rise? Where are we going wrong? Kegan and Lahey in their book Immunity to Change talk about the  difference between technical and adaptive approaches to change.

Technical problems are those that require processes and routines. There is a cause and effect relationship, do this and that will happen. And technically speaking, if I eat less and move more I will weigh less. I know this because I’ve tried it and it works.

Every time I want to drop some weight, I eat less and move more and guess what? I lose weight. Trouble is I manage to find it again!!

This leads me to believe that weight-loss and exercise go beyond being technical challenges. As human beings we are emotional creatures that are essentially driven by our emotional needs. Emotional needs are not addressed through knowledge and process.

Of course, if we didn’t have systems, processes and routines life would be very chaotic – imagine having no rules of the road or traffic light systems! So believe me, I’m not dismissing them as unimportant. They are very important, just not the full picture.

If we approach weight-loss as if it is a technical problem that can be solved through knowledge and process alone, we are missing the point.

To understand what’s preventing you from achieving your goals, you need to understand what you are protecting. What is competing with your goal of weight-loss or fitness? What are you giving up when you pursue your goal of the ideal body size and weight?

What I’m talking about isn’t a quick fix or another miracle solution that will help you lose 7lbs in 7 days! This is a process that involves getting in touch with who you are and what really motivates you.

So how do you do that? The real starting point for change is awareness. If you are serious about losing weight, getting fit or any other goal for that matter, you need to become more aware of what’s really going on for you.

What are your emotional needs and what are you currently doing to feed them? Are you literally feeding them with lattes, chocolate or some other calorific delight?

Kegan and Lahey tell us about a man who struggled with his weight all his life. What he came to realise was that food in his family was synonymous with love. Before he recognised this, any attempts at weight loss left him feeling emotionally empty. His family also took his efforts to lose weight as a personal rejection. No wonder weight-loss felt like a hopeless struggle!

If you are serious about achieving your weight-loss and exercise goal, I recommend you put more focus on what’s really driving you.

  1. Each day, take some quiet time. Sit comfortably and focus on your breathing. This helps clear the mind. Ask yourself what’s important to you. It might be helpful to write this down in a diary.
  2. Keep a record of your eating – thinking – feeling patterns. Track what you eat and your exercise in one column; record the related thoughts and feelings in the opposite column.

After three weeks, look back over your diary to identify the cognitive and emotional patterns. What’s really important to you? What motivates you? What are your emotional triggers? How do your thought processes influence your actions?

What next? Personally, I find that raised awareness around something is often enough for me to take control and move forward. However, there are times I need to find additional avenues of support.

Either way, you have taken the most important step forward towards achieving your goal – understanding what’s getting in our way. Now you are ready to make a plan that you can follow through.

/ Leave a comment / 3 comments

Filed under: Business Coaching,Change,Goals


  1. I found this article a great read, a realistic approach which is a must in achieving weight loss I would highly recommend a read as we know it’s a huge issue in our society and something a lot of us struggle with us in our daily lives.

  2. Isolde Norris says:

    Thanks for the feedback Clodagh, glad you found it useful.

  3. This is pretty wonderful posting. I have got lot of information from here.

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