Does Weight Loss Feel Restrictive?

by | Jun 13, 2023

Several years ago I had my big aha moment. I was feeling really sorry for myself. This whole story I had created about oh my gosh, I have to go on a diet. Why? Why do I keep having to go on diets and this isn’t fair. I’ll spend my whole life being on a diet. 

My brain has created a lot of really unhelpful thoughts, because our brain is always thinking about how to make our life easier and how to keep us safe. There are a lot of great things our brain does for us, a lot of things are on autopilot. I don’t have to spend four hours trying to figure out how to tie a shoe or ride a bike because I already know how to do that. But it is interesting that even today, we can still feel restricted or deprived. 

Even though what we want is to feel; 

  • Light, 
  • Lean, 
  • Healthy, 
  • Vibrant, 
  • Radiant, 
  • Energetic, 
  • Like our clothes fit easily, 
  • Comfortable bending down to tie that shoe, 
  • We move more freely, and that we show up in our lives. 

We want to walk into any social occasion, into a room, into a business meeting, onto an airplane, into a restaurant feeling comfortable and confident. That doesn’t really line up with the feelings of restriction and deprivation. 

Today is all about poking holes in some of the thoughts that we have about how to lose weight. 

We need to let go of some of those old thoughts or old beliefs, or thought errors. Recognizing that wow, my brain is offering me really unhelpful thoughts. And that’s okay. A brain is like a supercomputer. Many of us have had our supercomputer for many decades. If we haven’t spent time evaluating or assessing or having help to clear out the junk in our supercomputer. Maybe get a new hard drive or some new software to make our brain actually work for us, rather than just being a victim of our thinking. 

I’m gonna say something, and it might trigger you. 

Dieting does not make you feel restricted or deprived. 

In fact, dieting doesn’t make you feel anything because it can’t. Dieting doesn’t do anything to us. It’s kind of like the scale, it can’t do anything to you. 

What is really happening? It is our thoughts about dieting that can make us feel restricted and or deprived. It’s our thoughts. Okay. That’s good news because thoughts are not permanent. Thoughts are just sentences in our head and we can actually address them. We could change them. We could keep them. We could think about them. We could decide to keep them or let them go. 

I tend to think that if I find thoughts that are not helpful, then I probably don’t want to keep them. Sometimes we like to ruminate, we like to be dramatic. It doesn’t really help us move forward. It’s okay to have feelings. They are part of being human. I’m not saying feelings are bad, but sometimes they get in the way. 

Sometimes our feelings about 

  • Food, 
  • Our weight, 
  • The scale, 
  • What we see in the mirror, 
  • What we don’t see in the mirror, 
  • The tag in the clothing. 

All of that is in our way. It keeps us stuck. It keeps us from even getting started. 

Ultimately, if we’re going to unf*ck our weight loss, we want to be willing to take a look and say okay, what’s f*cked up my weight loss all this time? 

You remember the show Scooby Doo? Every episode ends the same way, very formulaic. It’s like Seinfeld, there’s always miscommunication. In Scooby Doo. It’s always at the end, they want to reveal who is behind this crime or who’s to blame? It’s easy to blame the diet industry, the diet industry is the villain. But it’s not. That’s just making us a victim of the diet industry. I’m not saying that you are to blame. We do have the power to say, all of the messaging about dieting, the thoughts I have about how hard it is to lose weight, that’s just not helping me. I can identify that I am, in my own way, I am going to be unmasked on Scooby Doo. 

I think if you’re here it means that you are willing to reconsider how you’ve approached weight loss in the past and you’re willing to consider a new path. I like that about you. 

While you might feel restricted and/or deprived, you’re not wrong. I don’t want to make you wrong to have those feelings. I’m just going to say it isn’t helping you. If you’re noticing feelings of restriction or deprivation, then I think we want to take note of that. Maybe write about it in your own unf*ck your weight loss special journal, which I’m sure you’ve already started. You probably have a notebook from CVS or Walmart, and you’re writing down the thoughts that are leading you to feel restricted or deprived. That is kind of where I would start at and see what is in there. 

Set a timer, two or three minutes, five minutes max. See what is coming up. 

Sometimes when we go to sit down to write in a journal, we’re like, I have no idea what to write. Ask yourself this question:

  • What is in your way of weight loss? 
  • What is in your way? 
  • Or what do you think is in your way? 
  • What is the greatest obstacle you have? 
  • What are all the obstacles you have?
  • Why haven’t you lost weight? 
  • What is holding you back and see what comes up? 

Kind of brain dump it out there. 

If you don’t like the answers, it’s okay. The Notebook is yours. You could tear up the page. You could never look at it again. Sometimes seeing what is coming up is going to be helpful.

I have a lot of women, and you might be that woman who’s told me;

  • I’m overwhelmed by it. 
  • It’s daunting.
  • I can’t even. 
  • I don’t even know if I want to try anymore. 
  • I feel like I’ve given up.

I don’t want that for you. 

If you have a desire to feel better and I don’t mean feel physically better, although you probably want to feel physically better. I’m talking about emotional wellness. Really, that’s what I do inside of Self Made. Although it is a weight loss program, I do weight loss coaching and I consider myself a weight loss coach. Ultimately, I’m an emotional wellness coach. Which is kind of interesting because I hate feelings, but I’ve recognized that feeling better is priceless. 

Feeling good in your own body, in your own skin, in your own life, in the clothes, all the things is where it’s at. It takes work to do that but it’s not too much work. It’s not something that you can’t do.

Why might you feel restricted and deprived? Why do we feel this way? I have a couple of reasons for you. 

1) We do have emotional attachments to food.

100% cannot override that. I’m not even mad about it. I just think it is what it is. We do have deep associations when it comes to food. Whether that is comfort, pleasure, celebration, reward, feelings of safety, even if it reminds you of being a child. We like certain foods because they remind us of being a kid or being with our parents or our grandparents or going away for the summer, all of those things.

I’ve come to recognize my obsession with peanut m&ms. When I slow down and eat peanut m&ms, they’re not very good. I’ll be honest, they really aren’t. It’s just an old candy that probably was made for Easter 1975. Yet here I am, still eating them. I have an association where my brain has offered me that peanut M&Ms are my dad’s favorite candy. I don’t even know if it’s true. Somewhere along the line I’ve put together that peanut M&Ms are my dad’s favorite candy. I feel like I think about my dad when I get them or when I see them or when I eat them. I only mentioned it, not so that you crave peanut m&ms, but so that you see in your own life. 

Whether it’s a holiday or a birthday or every day things I do when I get home from work. 

If we’re so used to;

  • Making ourselves a snack, 
  • Pouring a glass of wine, 
  • We clean our plate at every meal,
  • We always have dessert,
  • Anytime something goes wrong I need to reward myself or comfort myself with food. 

Our brains like, whoa, okay, we like eating food, it makes us feel good.

If we’re going to lose weight, there’s a possibility that we’re going to no longer have that level of comfort, those rewards, that fuzzy feel good connection with food. 

I want you to understand that it is normal for your brain to offer you a red flag. 

  • Weight loss sucks. 
  • You don’t want to do that.
  • It’s going to be terrible. 
  • You can’t have Christmas cookies. 
  • You’re going to be missing out. 
  • You’re going to feel sad and lonely all by yourself. 

Our brains are very dramatic. 

It is okay to have emotional attachments to food. Totally. In fact, I think having very fond memories of all those things is great. It doesn’t mean that we can never have them.It doesn’t mean that we have to have them. I think just acknowledging that is very normal. It gets us one step closer to saying okay, yeah, I get it, I totally see what’s happening here. My brain is worried. it is important to sort of see where these feelings of deprivation and restriction kind of pop up. 

Emotional attachments to food, there’s nothing wrong with that. I think that’s why flexible eating kind of wins out, because we still can have our favorite foods and therefore not feel restricted and deprived. That’s really why Self Made is so incredibly successful and popular. We want to have our family time, we want to reminisce, sometimes with food. It doesn’t mean emotionally eating. Every time I’m sad, I should eat. But to learn how to comfort ourselves emotionally, without food. I can still think about food, I can still remember food, I can still have food associations. But if I want to lose weight and keep it off, and still not feel restricted or deprived, I get to learn how to feel my feelings without food.

I do enjoy certain foods, and the emotional attachments are about happiness and joy. I don’t want to eat M&Ms when I’m angry. I only want to eat M&Ms when I’m happy.

2) Diet culture and messaging.

Here’s where I will concede there is some level of diet culture and messaging that does have us feel restricted and deprived. I would love to make diets and dieting culture the villain in weight loss. It would be so easy, but that’s like saying my problem was caused by the Boogeyman. My problem is caused by Jenny Craig commercials.

The problem with weight loss is unsustainable diets. Diets don’t cause us to be restricted and deprived. It’s really our thoughts and diet culture. The messaging around diets can get in our heads. It is mostly just this idea of eat less, move more. 

  • You should eat very little. 
  • Eat like a bird kind of thing. 
  • It’s not feminine, to be hungry.
  • It’s wrong to be hungry. 
  • You shouldn’t be hungry. 

When you really start to untangle it a little bit and find where we’ve picked up messages about what we should look like or how we should be with food. That has probably caused some of us to be closet eaters, to only eat the food when we’re by ourselves. In public, I’m just going to order a salad with chicken. But when I go home, I’m going to eat a box of ding dongs. 

3) Lack of flexibility. 

We’re always going to feel restricted and deprived when we don’t know flexibility. If you’re paleo, you only eat these things. If you’re keto, you only eat these things. If you’re high carb, this. Vegan, this. SlimFast, this. All of that. This is the yes list. This is the no list. Of course, you’re going to feel deprived.

Your brain is in many cases a supercomputer, but also kind of basic. If there’s something that says, No, you can’t have this. 

What does your inner five year old think? 

  • F*ck you. I’m having that.
  • No, I’m not going to bed. 
  • No, I’m not cleaning my room.
  • No, I’m not eating vegetables. 
  • No, I’m not taking a bath.
  • No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. 

As soon as we see something we can’t have.

It’s very normal to be like, but that’s not fair. I want that. I need that. I liked that. I’ll miss that. Right, all of that stuff. Flexibility isn’t the opposite. It’s not just yes to everything, whatever you want. If you feel like it, you should have it. Everything in moderation. 

Flexibility is having a plan for it. It’s really about having structure and also the flexibility. I still have structure. I still eat regular meals. I don’t just eat all day. If I see the peanut M&Ms, I just eat them. I plan ahead. 

If I know I’m going out, I decide ahead of time;

  • Am I drinking? 
  • How much am I drinking? 
  • Am I having an appetizer? 
  • Am I having dessert?

I plan all that out. 

Not every time I go out needs to be, you know, the party of the century. If you travel a lot, or you are very social and you have a lot of friends and you like to go out, you’re going to probably have to pick and choose. We can’t eat and drink all the things every time we go out, if we go out a lot. If you’re somebody who doesn’t go out a lot, which is probably me. I’m a little bit of an introverted hermit. My favorite place is my bedroom closet. Where I am right now. I don’t go out that much. But when I do, I think about it ahead of time. What am I doing? What am I not doing? And I stick to my plan. If I decided I was going to have a glass of wine, I wouldn’t have 10 glasses of wine. Well, mainly because I couldn’t handle 10 glasses of wine. But you get what I’m saying.

4) Societal expectations or perceived standards. 

I think we can feel restricted and deprived when we have thoughts about how we’re supposed to do it. 

  • How we’re supposed to lose weight. 
  • How we’re supposed to look.
  • How we’re supposed to act.
  • What we’re supposed to order. 
  • What we shouldn’t. 

All that stuff. 

I think it’s important to recognize that some of the things that we’ve been taught, or we were told, or we’ve picked up along the way, aren’t true. It’s okay to let that go. There are a lot of societal expectations, and perceived standards even about how we should walk or what size we should wear or how we should exercise. 

In the 70s and 80s and 90s we had TV. We had movies. Women did look a certain way. Small, because I guess they’re movie stars. Now we have social media, as if we didn’t feel bad enough before. Social media is the highlight reel. 

  • If somebody’s going to do food prep, they’re going to show you beautiful food prep. 
  • If somebody’s going to create a meal, they’re going to show a beautiful meal. 
  • If someone’s going to work out, they’re going to show you their muscles from a certain angle. 

We live in that world where we’re constantly shown how other people are better than us. How they look or how they eat And how easy it is for them. We’re all painting that picture of how easy it is for them and that’s not really true. 

I think each and every person is on their own journey. It’s important to recognize that. It is easy to get overwhelmed and to feel restricted, feel deprived, when you are thinking it’s so easy for everybody else. I must be doing it wrong. I’m not working hard enough. I have to give up more. I just think those are normal thoughts that your brain could be offering you, but they’re just not helpful.

I have a lot of thoughts all day long. I have a human brain, just like you. If I’m having a thought that doesn’t serve me. In other words, it feels bad. It’s usually about comparisons. 

I will ask myself;

  • Is this thought true? 
  • How do I know it’s true? 
  • What else could be true? 
  • Is this thought helpful? 
  • Who would I be without this thought? 
  • Could I think something different? 

That is just a little filter I use all the time to help reset me. To help steer my ship in another direction, because we could spend a lot of time thinking about how we’re not good enough. How we’re not measuring up. How we don’t fit the mold, We’re not hitting the standard. We’re behind, everybody else is ahead of us. We’ll never get there. It’s not helpful.

I can assure you, nobody’s walking around with those thoughts and feeling motivated to make better food choices or to work out or to get more sleep or to drink the water. 

When I talk so much I know about thoughts and feelings, it is because our results are going to be created by our thoughts and our feelings. They lead into what we do and do not take action on. That’s ultimately what is happening. When we feel so restricted and deprived it does not make us feel excited to work on our goals. It doesn’t make us feel motivated. It doesn’t make us feel enthusiastic. It doesn’t make us feel even worthy. It makes us feel overwhelmed, anxious, and stuck. That doesn’t work for weight loss.

Is it okay, if you have a bad day or a bad week or a bad month? Yeah, 100%. We’re not going to be whistling zippity doo da all day long, every single day. If we can get a hold of our brains a little bit better then we’ll have a better time understanding what’s going on and not make it mean, we can’t get to our goals. 

5) Unrealistic expectations.

Why you might be feeling restricted or deprived is that we have unrealistic expectations. We think weight loss has to be fast. We should lose two pounds every single week. If we’re not losing two pounds or more every single week, it’s not going to happen. We’re not made for this. We don’t deserve it. It’s not working for us. We need a different thing. A different way. We have to go back to the drawing board. That’s simply not true. 

We could point fingers at where unrealistic expectations come from. It could be all of the things whether it is messaging that we got as a kid or messaging from the diet industry or messaging from social media, it doesn’t really matter. Ultimately, why Unf*ck Your Weight Loss exists is because I want to put the ball back in your court. 

Putting the ball back in your court means you get to take ownership of your own thoughts and your own feelings. You get to own that. Otherwise, we’re going to always feel like a victim. We’re always going to feel victimized by dieting. Victimized by social media. Victimized by other people Our family did it wrong. They didn’t raise us right. They set us up for failure. 

No matter who you are and where you’ve been on your road to health and wellness and being in the body you want, there’s always going to be obstacles. We can always find the right reasons why we think we failed or we weren’t successful or it’s taking a long time. It’s not that helpful to look in the past and do that. 

I really do understand that if you’ve been on a diet, you probably were told foods you can eat and foods you cannot eat. That, in and of itself, can feel restrictive. Allowing yourself to eat foods that you enjoy is important. It takes practice, it really does. Otherwise, we fall into that “I’m going to do intuitive eating” and I’m just going to eat whatever I feel like. 

That can be a really slippery slope when we don’t have enough tools in the toolbox to 

  • Figure out our physical hunger, 
  • Override false desire, 
  • Really keep our goals in front of us, 
  • Be eating enough, 
  • Know how to fuel our bodies. 

It isn’t necessarily that simple. 

Being unrealistic with your expectations is very human. We want results. We want them now. We’re looking at losing weight, or dieting, as a short term event. 

Like I’m gonna go on a diet, then 

  • I will lose the weight,  
  • I will be happy, 
  • I will have arrived, 
  • I will be a different person, 
  • I will be in a different place, 
  • My life will be so much better,
  • I will not be that person anymore. 
  • I will be the new me. 

And to some extent, yeah, but you have to keep doing what you did to lose the weight. 

You’re kind of like, wow, this is a downer. I really am all about empowerment and pointing out that a lot of what is going on with restriction and deprivation is simply our thoughts about dieting and about weight loss. If I can make it easier for you, I’m here for it. That is why I’m doing this. That is why Self Made exists. So that we can take a look at what the obstacles are and clear them. Get them out of the way. Debunk them. Poke holes in them. Challenge them so that you can see that a lot of this is just our minds doing what they do. 

It is a lot of the same thoughts over and over and over, 

  • I’ll have to give up so much. 
  • This will be hard. 
  • It’s not fair. 
  • I have to eat a lot less. 
  • I can’t have my favorite foods. 
  • I’ll never get to enjoy anything.
  • I can’t go out. 
  • This is going to be impossible. 
  • The anxiety and dread of any social occasions. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. Not at all. It is just about understanding where all of this comes from. 

I want to just repeat this, dieting does not make you feel restricted or deprived. In fact, dieting and diets do not make you feel anything. It really is our thoughts about dieting, and I use the word dieting, to mean whatever it is that I’m eating. That is one thing that has helped me quite a bit is I took out all of the negatives of the word. Dieting doesn’t mean anything to me. If dieting is a triggering word to you, then simply look at your plan or your program or how you choose to eat, your way of eating as your method to get to your weight loss. 

I hope you have a wonderful week where you start to look and find some of the thoughts that have been in your way. That have made you feel restricted and deprived on your weight loss journey. If I can be of assistance, you know that I want to be. 


Newsflash…dieting does not make you feel restricted or deprived. Read that again. The words diet or dieting doesn’t do anything to you…because they can’t. They are just words. The thoughts and feelings you have associated with those words are the problem. That’s what tends to leave us feeling restricted or deprived. That’s good news because thoughts are not permanent. Thoughts are just sentences in our heads. And here’s the beautiful part…we can actually address them. We can change the thoughts we have around dieting and losing weight permanently.

Let’s discuss how and why we feel restricted and deprived by our diets in episode 50 of the Unf*ck Your Weight Loss Podcast, now. 


Bonnie Lefrak is a Life & Body Transformation Expert and Founder of Self Made, a program designed to help you tackle the physical aspects of health and weight loss as well as the beliefs and thoughts that drive our habits and behaviors. It is her goal to help women create certainty in their own lives, their own results, and their own abilities.

Weight loss is not about the one “right” diet – it is about MUCH more than that. Weight loss is not about the one “right” workout. Weight loss is not about being positive and putting a big smile on. Weight loss is about FEELINGS. All of them. Not trying to bury them or hide from them but knowing and allowing the full human experience.

Weight loss is not about grinding hustling and will powering your way to some end line. Transformation (when done well) is done from the inside out.

By addressing both the physical and mental aspects of dieting and weight loss, she has coached thousands of women ages 30-55+ from all over and helped them ditch the mindsets that are holding them back, achieve permanent weight loss, and get the bangin’ body of their dreams.

Bonnie is an expert at Demystifying weight loss. She helps you unf*ck your diet brain.

She is on a mission to help women love themselves, to find PEACE in the process of losing weight, taking care of themselves, and leveraging the power they do have to become who and want they want right now.

Connect with Bonnie:

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