Beating Discouragement

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

29 thoughts on “Beating Discouragement

  1. Amy says:

    The long haul is the hardest thing about losing weight, along with realizing this is a life long change you are making if you want to stay at a healthy weight once you get there. I think for me the best thing has been to move slowly and gradually. I notice that when I get all obsessed and try to lose faster, it always seems to backfire on me. Slow and steady wins the race!

  2. blackhuff says:

    How do I deal with discouragement?
    By telling me exactly what you just explained in your post. By telling myself that the scale will move once again and that I just need to keep going.

  3. Karen says:

    I still struggle with this. But the best thing for me right now is being part of the blog community. That always keeps me going:) And I have shifted my thinking away from the scale, which I can’t control, towards my own actions, which in theory I can control.

  4. Susan says:

    I keep from getting discouraged by relizing this is a lifestyle change not a “diet” to go on and back off of. Also, I try to take my weight and life really one day at a time. For today I can eat right, exercise and stay committed to living my life.
    I agree with your suggestions in your post…Back when I had a lot of weight to lose I would take it 10 pounds at a time but 5 would be better. Concentrate on what is doable for today..get support from others with the same goals I wish I had known about the blogging community sooner.

  5. South Beach Steve says:

    This is so tough. I don’t know many people with significant amounts of weight to lose who don’t get discouraged. I think it is important to know ourselves and the things that motivate us. For me, I am motivated by others. I need a pat on the back periodically. I am self-driven, but only to a point. Many others are that way too. Other than that, a periodic review of my progress keeps me going.

  6. vickie says:

    I think your point about only thinking in 5 lb increments (or 10 is what I did) is really important. Only looking at the far away goal number is too abstract. 5 or 10 lbs from current is much better. Those ‘pound decades’ are really helpful.

    I also think looking forward (positive) and not staring backward (woulda-shoulda-coulda) is really important point.

  7. Sharon says:

    It always helped me to try and change something as I am someone who becomes bored very easily. Not wanting to mess with a plan that was working and understanding that plateaus were inevitable, I’d still attempt to “tweak” something or try a different exercise for awhile. Sadly, I didn’t have the blog community when I originally lost my weight and as others have already mentioned, finding a new blog of someone who’s experience this, reading their story and then following along with them is the best remedy for discouragement!

  8. Lori Lynn says:

    This has been a work in progress for me, b/c it is hard to not focus on the “negative,” rather than the positive. It’s probably good for me that since I started losing weight, I haven’t weighed myself at all. In fact, I actually have no idea what weight I am. I only know what size of clothing I fit in. I didn’t start out not wanting to weigh myself. The batteries in scale were dead, and I just kept forgetting to go to the store to buy them. And I still haven’t. Eventually, I will probably start weighing myself to keep in check, but I think there’s almost a little bit of fear involved, b/c of what size is connected with “number.”
    I think it also helps to forgive yourself, start over, and not dwell on the past. Easier said than done, but definitely worth a try. 🙂

  9. Cynthia (It All Changes) says:

    Discouragement is the hardest part. The littlest set backs are the worst. Big things I can explain away and start again. But little things are so tricky.

    For me I have to keep remembering this is for life and ups and downs are for life. That’s where I came up with my roller coaster of life philosophy. There will be weeks like this one where I’m on bed rest with health problems. And there will be others that I’m working out 6 days and eating wonderfully.

    Learning to be able to balance them has been keep to maintaining my weight and being happy.

  10. jessey says:

    I need to break up the loss into small chunks, even less than 5 pounds, and I have them written down so I can physically check them off once I hit them. I also have to weigh myself every day so I can have a “reward” of having the scale be lower, or even stay the same. But I am still fairly early in the game, 29 lbs down out of 72. So the scale does still tend to move down on a daily basis if I do eat right. In the beginning I didn’t have these goals – my initial 5% was still 10 lbs and that was really hard and took forever. Now that I have mini goals it seems to be easier and harder to get discouraged.

  11. Sagan says:

    I can always come here for the encouragement I need! Thanks, Diane. You’ve really nailed it here.

    I keep thinking to myself, “WHY is it so hard to lose just 10 lbs when other people are losing 100?” But a big part of it is the discouragement factor. I get discouraged when I don’t see immediate results, even though I KNOW it takes time.

    Gotta keep at it.

  12. BlessedMama says:

    Oh, my gosh, what an excellent post. I have played the game with my weight so often. This year things finally changed for me. I re-joined the gym in December. For months I wasn’t losing weight, even though I was exercising five and six days a week. Then in May I was a tester for an online vegan weight-loss program. Must be a lot of chubby vegans out there! That’s what did it for me. With the gym and calorie-counted recipes I finally began to lose weight. Now, I realize that all these things are aligned for me, and I have to do it now. There won’t be a better time. I’m not on the online program anymore but am learning to portion control my own food. I have a confidante in my mom who keeps me accountable, and I still go to the gym. Since May I’ve lost 27 pounds, but now I’m stalled. This post is the perfect timing for me and reminds me that I can still do it and be successful. Thank you!

  13. Dr. J says:

    Whether it was running a marathon, or completing medical school, I took it one step at a time or one day at a time. Eventually I made it to the finish line. The same with weight loss. And yes, I kept on running after the marathon and kept being a doctor after medical school so you see, they are lifestyle changes also.

  14. Taryl says:

    Honestly, I pretty much do exactly as you do – keep my eyes on my goal and realize that, in a year or two, even if I haven’t made it I am better for trying. It’s still less weight than I carry around today. And that my reasons for wanting to lose weight are more powerful and important than any convenience or enjoyment while staying fat.

  15. Quix says:

    I got really discouraged two years ago when I stopped losing weight easily. I could have easily given up if the only goal was to just get to a certain weight. Instead, I turned my focus to athletic accomplishments, which, while I have not maintained my lowest weight, I’m within 10 lbs. I feel fit and healthy, and I’ve maintained, while not the optimum weight, but that feeling for 2 years.

  16. Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun says:

    This is such an important topic to discuss! We have to remember that our goals are achievable, even if they do take longer than we hoped/expected. We also have to remember we are worthy of achieving these things so we must continue caring for ourselves in working towards them. Fabulous post!

  17. RNegade says:

    Discouragement? Ugh. I’ve hit another plateau, so yesterday I threatened to put the scale in the driveway… so my hubby could *accidently* run it over with the car! Lol. Having a sense of humor is probably my #1 strategy. That, and trying to live in the present moment while appreciating all the wonderful things about my life right NOW. 🙂

  18. beerab says:

    Thanks for posting this- lately part of me has been nothing but discouraged. I have been determined to not gain the weight back and at least maintain but I know I can’t give up.

  19. Lori (Finding Radiance) says:

    I always think of that point as the dedication versus motivation. When the motivation and the honeymoon is over, sometimes you just have to put your head down and slog for a bit until you get it back.

    I always look at the alternative when times are tough. I ask myself if I really want to gain back 100 pounds. Answer is always no.

  20. Shawnee says:

    It is hard to keep a positive outlook. I just have to keep reminding myself that weightloss doesn’t happen over night and I also have to be gentle and kind to myself when I am being mean to myself.

  21. Jody - Fit at 53 says:

    Diane, I have a post coming up on your question.. maybe after Thanksgiving when people come back.. don’t want to waste it next week when many may not read it….

    As for me, I just get back up & keep trying.. better than not & the alternative!

  22. 'Drea says:

    It’s hard to stay focused when the scale is not moving but I do realize that indulging in ultra-decadent food is not the answer. So, as you suggested, I try to stay committed and unchanging…

  23. LovesCatsinCA says:

    Sometimes I think it was easier to be motivated when I WAS in “weight loss” mode. Weighing myself in the morning to make sure I haven’t gained doesn’t have the same joy as weighing myself to see if I lost… On the other hand, the 30 pounds I lost had crept on over a long time–they didn’t suddenly appear overnight.

    I try to remind myself of the headaches from the high blood pressure when I was heavier… and I have a picture of my face all round–and a Christmas picture with Santa and the kitties, where I had hips.

    I lost very slowly so sometimes it would zigzag up and down, up and down before I lost. I try to focus on how I feel and how nice having slim clothes looks….

    I just can’t imagine being heavy again. I might put on a couple pounds over the winter as I do tend to have fluctuations over the year (it’s comforting to eat hot food in the fall and winter) but overall, it’s so NOT WORTH IT.

    I had a lot of stress in the past week and stress ate–and then I went right back to taking off the weight… I think we just have to not let it snowball–keep vigilant.

    I assure you, I don’t intend to starve at Thanksgiving–or to eat with wild abandon. I’ll be in the middle…

  24. Michelle says:

    For me I just needed a plan. Something sustainable I could do forver. Something that didn’t cut out my favorite foods or add weird foods. Everything in moderation, watching servings, figuring out how many calories my body needs to function (which is a lot more than 1200 calories!) If you feel deprived and hungry it’s easy to go back to the way you were. Realizing this has made all the difference for me.

  25. Miz says:

    for me it is as silly and as simple as NEXT MONTH OR YEAR OR WHATEVER WILL COME WHETHER I STICK TO MY PATH OR NOT.

    so I may as well.

  26. Debra says:

    This is my first Thanksgiving since I started my diet last July. I have lost 45-50 lbs. so far. I have “Fallen off the Wagon”. I am reading this blog and everyone’s comments to get back on track. I have about 60 lbs. left to lose. I am responding as my way to say, “I am feeling so much better physically and I do not want to gain that weight back. I am making that commitment once again to myself and my family to continue my exercise and weight loss program.” Thank you for this blog!

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