Stopping the Downward Spiral of Giving Up on Weight Loss

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

4 thoughts on “Stopping the Downward Spiral of Giving Up on Weight Loss

  1. EMILY says:

    I handle downward spirals by stopping before it gets bad. I have a journal where I document what passes my lips and how much I exercise, how I am feeling and what I am grateful for.

    This has helped me hugely with weight loss and the long road to achieving it!

  2. Leah (Goodnight, Cheese) says:

    I love these tips! Something that really works for me is to ask myself, firmly but not harshly, “What is the alternative to getting back on track as soon as possible?” When I’m honest with myself, I know the answer is, “Gain thirty pounds” or “Stall my weight loss for another six months.”

    Losing weight is hard. Being overweight and feeling like crap about myself is also hard. But the first one is better.

  3. Shannon says:

    I really resonate with this entry. I’ve been IN a downward shame spiral for a bit and I’m finally coming out of it. I had to have my low moment and now that I’ve hit it, I’m working on getting back to where I need to be. All of your posts really resonate! Thank you for sharing your story, Diane!

  4. Mary Ellen Quigley says:

    I love these tips. I went down the downward spiral and finally hit rock bottom. My current weight is almost exactly the same as it was when I started. I’ve gained about 70 lbs back. Just went grocery shopping for healthy food earlier today and am getting back on plan. My biggest fear – falling down the downward spiral again. I didn’t realize how much of weight loss was mental.

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