Why It’s Good to “Own” the Pain of Losing Weight

August 14, 2013 | By | Comments (3)

Had an interesting conversation with David Allison, PhD, an obesity expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and one of the clearest thinkers on weight-loss issues I know. Allison feels that, outside actual clinical environments (where clinical language is used), experts are nervous about discussing the extent to which deprivation is a part of losing weight. It’s as if it’s a bad word—as if there’s a magic way to get there in which you don’t feel deprived, don’t feel you’re making a sacrifice.

Allison thinks this is counterproductive because acceptance that you will be somewhat deprived, that your desires will be unfilled, is one of the things that motivates. Think of it in terms of athletics: We celebrate the pain that athletes go through to make their goal. Or in terms of the all-nighters students pull to ace a test: Sleep deprivation is a badge of honor.

Getting what you want involves sacrifice and deprivation. We all know this—people who try to eat less know it more than most. The challenge is that eating is a several-times-a-day activity in an environment saturated with messages of indulgence.

Allison also pointed out that while it would be nice to think that, once we reach our goal weights, we can ease up on the throttle and cruise along without further sacrifice, many people who have lost weight permanently adjust permanently to some sacrifices. The reward for doing so: knowing you’re staying at a goal that you reached the hard way.

Fellow dieters: Do you feel deprived? How do you deal deprivation? Comment here, email Scott_Mowbray@timeinc.com, and tweet @ScottMowb or @Cooking_Light using #SocialDiet.


  1. Kathryn E.

    I like the idea of owning the pain of dieting. My husband and I talk about it together all the time. Change is hard, no matter what kind of change it is, and so it should be the same with changing your body. I think it is good to let people know that the pain that they are feeling should be expected and that they are not doing it wrong if they can’t lose weight and get in shape without feeling hungry or sore sometimes. We worry sometimes though about finding the balance. How much pain is good and how much starts to be unhealthy or not a smart plan?

    August 19, 2013 at 3:17 pm
  2. Julia Werth

    I really like the comparison to the athlete. I never thought of dieting that way but it makes sense, I, usually, embrace the pain when I’m running a difficult speed workout, uphill, or in a race, so why shouldn’t I embrace the pain of a little food deprivation?

    August 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm
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