A few weeks ago someone asked me to blog about how to avoid getting discouraged during the weight loss process. Or in other words, how to stay positive and focused even when your weight loss goal seems far away. Discouragement comes so easily during periods of weight loss doesn’t it? For me, depressed and discouraged were two words I just couldn’t seem to get out of my vocabulary during the 10 years I tried to lose weight. Depression came when I realized I could no longer fit into my size 20 pants, and discouragement followed on its heels as I saw that my two full days of “eating healthy” hadn’t enabled me to magically lose 75 pounds.
At that time, my expectations of how quickly weight loss would occur were unrealistic. Gradual weight gain had been part of the fabric of my life since my marriage, followed by great leaps on the scale after the births of my first three children. As the scale flew up and over the 200 mark, briefly touched the 300 mark and settled in at the 290 range, I vainly tried losing weight time and time again. I’d start a diet, briefly stick with it, and promptly quit when the results were slow in coming.
There are a lot of reasons people quit a weight loss program before they reach their goal, and one of the most common reasons is lack of progress. Has this ever happened to you? Was it a conscious decision to quit, or did you just gradually fall back into your old habits? For me, I never remember consciously quitting, but rather after a day or two of no progress I’d make some cookies “for a treat” and eat every last one of them. After that, I’d run through my favorite restaurant “for another treat” and before I knew it I had gained all my weight back and was well on my way to adding more. When I started my Fit to the Finish plan in 1997, I made a conscious decision to put aside the feelings of depression and discouragement, and make every effort to focus on every positive change I knew would come as I lost weight. My final goal was so far away it was like looking at it through a tunnel; somewhere at the very end of the tunnel I could make out a faint light, but I knew I’d have to travel a long way to reach the light. Quite frankly, even going under 250 pounds seemed impossible. But armed with a 3 point plan, some positive introspection, and a sincere desire to keep with it until the end, I started.
Progress came quickly at first. Just by virtue of lowering my calorie intake I lost weight, and I reinforced the calorie reduction by starting an exercise program. After the initial rush of victory came the stunning screech of defeat. The weight loss slowed, and then stalled, then stopped. Usually I would have quit right then, but this time I reminded myself of my decision to focus on the positive changes I had already seen. Even at 50 pounds lighter, some of the changes were: smaller sized clothing (even if it was a 22, instead of a 26/28), increased energy levels, more stamina, and budding self confidence. By thinking about the positive changes, and then writing them down, I was able to see tangible results, even when the scale stopped moving. I just kept working on my plan, one day at a time. The scale started moving again, and the weight loss continued. This process occurred time and time again over the 14 months it took me to lose the weight.
We all know that a 1-2 pound weight loss per week is healthy and sought after, but in reality that rarely happens. I’d find that I’d lose no weight for a week, and then 3 – 4 pounds the next week. The week after that may be 1.5 pounds, and then 2.5 the next. Week after week I watched my eating, exercised and focused on the positive. Some other things I did to stay positive and not get discouraged were:
- Focus on the positive changes
- Break up my weight loss goals into 5 pound increments
- Visualize myself at the weight I wanted to be
- Reward myself with special treats that weren’t food
- Be consistent, committed and unchanging
When you are tempted to fall into the pit of discouragement and despair – don’t!! How many other times has that happened to you and how many times have you thought to yourself, “Boy, if I had just kept with that diet two years ago, I probably wouldn’t have to be dieting right now!” Take one day at a time and banish thoughts of discouragement from your mind. I’m not saying that’s easy to do, but it is possible.
How do you deal with discouragement and stay positive? Diane