Feelings of sadness, boredom, or stress can cause people to overeat, hindering weight loss efforts, say experts. But more deeply seated issues with self-esteem often play a role, too.

Oftentimes when people want to lose weight and keep it off, they have tried to do so before and failed. “Each failed attempt will decrease self-efficacy [your belief in your ability to do something] and self-esteem. People start to think they can’t lose weight,” says Jacinda Roach, PhD, RD, who conducted a study that found that as subjects’ self-efficacy improved, so did their weight loss results.

Low self-worth can also be at the root of putting on extra weight in the first place. And it may be related to many factors, including abuse, says Roach, or uncomfortable feelings that you experience in relationships, such as criticism, rejection, and betrayal, according to Gordon Cochrane, PhD, author of a 2008 report on self-efficacy and weight in Canadian Family Physician.

The solution is to resolve the underlying issues that cause you to use food for comfort. Roach suggests finding a counselor who specializes in weight loss or a group program that addresses behaviors that lead to over- eating. Cochrane believes facilitators should focus on ego repair to help participants come to believe they can achieve their goals.