John and I have a phrase we use when we are feeling down about ourselves. We call it the “Shame Spiral.”
You may have a different phrase for it, but the characteristics are often similar.
First you start to feel badly about yourself. Then you eat something you know isn’t part of your weight loss plan such as Oreos or Girl Scout cookies.
Next, you might look at yourself in a mirror and call yourself an unflattering name like “fatty.” (This was own private name for myself when I was morbidly obese.)
Then you eat something else bad and something else worse and a lot of something else’s that you have no business eating. Now the downward spiral is really in force.
Down, down, down I would go until there seemed like no way back up. And for a lot of years, getting to the bottom of that shame spiral meant I would stay there for a long, long time.
If you can identify with this pattern, you are not alone. Having the downward shame spiral is a very common phenomena in weight loss. I am not certain why, but it seems to me it is because our weight is so closely tied to our body image.
The important question becomes: How to turn the downward spiral around.
In an ideal world we would lose weight consistently and feel positive about ourselves both before, during, and after our weight loss experience. However, for many people, that doesn’t happen.
If you find yourself on the downward spiral, here are some ways that you can haul yourself back up and keep going on your own personal weight loss journey.
1. Remember why you are doing this.
This can be a powerful turn-around. When I found myself spiraling down if I could just remember the top three reasons I was losing weight and reaffirm them to myself, I found it much easier to get back on track. Curious about my top three reasons? They were health, family, and appearance.
Write down your top three reasons for losing weight and pin them to a board or put them on your computer screen. Don’t forget!
2. Give yourself a pat on the back.
Pat yourself on the back for all you have already accomplished. Even if you are new into your weight loss attempt, there have to have been times where you made a healthy choice, exercised when you didn’t want to, or prepared a favorite dish in a healthier way. Remember those great accomplishments and remember how empowered your felt when you made them.
3. Plan ahead for the next week.
Planning is a powerful tool for breaking the downward spiral. When we are feeling down in the dumps, we often go by emotion when making choices. Unfortunately, our emotional choices when it comes to food are often not the best for us. Instead of relying on emotion, plan carefully what you will eat for the next week and go shopping to get what you need.
4. Keep track of what you eat and when you move.
Writing things down is a powerful tool. I don’t know if you are like me, but if I write down my “to-do” list I check a lot more things off then if I just have the list in my head. The same holds true for eating and exercise. Write down what you are eating to help keep yourself accountable and keep track of your exercise to keep yourself motivated.
5. Check in emotionally.
Oftentimes we downward spiral because of unhealthy emotional eating behaviors. Stress, sadness, anxiety, boredom, and other emotions can play a huge role in our food choices. You may find talking things over with a friend or therapist to be helpful.
The great thing about downward spirals is that you can turn yourself around and head back up before you hit the bottom. And if you do hit the bottom, just turn around and take one step at a time until you find your footing again. The worst thing to do is completely give up because giving up means you will never get there.
How do you handle downward spirals? Do you have any tips for other readers? Diane