The Well Trodden Road
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
One of my biggest mental obstacles that I've been mulling over lately is the plain, sad fact that I've done all this before. I've lost weight before. In fact, I've lost these _same exact pounds_ before. It really makes the process a lot less glamorous.
I'm sure a lot of people here on SparkPeople can relate. Me, I successfully lost around 40 pounds during one long, motivated summer 7 years ago or so. (Ahhh... has it really been 7 years?) I was in grad school on summer break. Wasn't teaching at the time, and the only class I was taking was a really really fun intensive language class. I had all this free time to cook, read about health and nutrition, self reflect, and exercise. I went vegan for the summer, which let me cut down on a lot of calories while going way up on the number of veggies and legumes and fruit that I ate. I drank lots of water. I learned to love green tea. It wasn't like my early weight loss efforts as an angsty teen (like my infamous "Swedish Fish and Diet Coke" diet in high school) -- I was healthy. I felt amazing! And the weight just fell off me.
I maintained most of that loss for a long time, too. I remember reading statistics that almost everyone who loses weight gains it back within 5 years. (Seriously, the number of articles out there about this phenomenon are freaking depressing.) I remember thinking, "Not me! I've escaped the trap!"
But I spoke too soon... and low and behold, around the 5 year mark, I started gaining weight again, and now here I am again -- I started a few weeks ago at a higher weight than my original weight loss start weight back in the day.
Maybe it took my brain 5 years to forget everything I'd been through during my first major weight loss. 5 years to completely, irrevocably forget all my good habits and adopt a bunch of fun, bad habits without even really realizing it.
At any rate, it happened. And so here I am. I weigh myself once a week, and yes, I'm seeing some nice reasonable progress. But I can't stop myself from thinking, "I've lost that pound before." And then I let that thought take away a lot of the fun about it from me. Is it really "progress" if you've progressed that progress before?
That's the negative thought pattern. So... how to get past it? Well, there's a few things I can do, right?
1) Instead of beating myself up about my past experiences and dredging up all these feelings of failure, I can use them to my advantage. Learn from my experiences. I can think about what things really worked well for me last time I lost weight, and apply some of them again. I can think about what things didn't work -- either at that time, or in the years following. I'm 7 years smarter than I was back then, and maybe that means that this time, I'll be 7 more times successful.
2) Try to break out of the weight loss-weight regain cycle completely this time. If most people on a diet eventually regain the weight, then maybe the key is not thinking of myself as "on a diet" at all. I've read some people on here write the equivalent of, "I'm not going to make any changes that I can't sustain indefinitely," and I like that idea a lot. For example, last time, the vegan diet was a great way to force myself to learn how to cook more interesting, flavorful meals with vegetables and discover new ingredients like tempeh and nutritional yeast and whatnot. But I knew at the time I wasn't going to be a vegan forever. Ditto with going to the gym 5 times a week... with a full time job now and a personal life, that's just never going to be something I'm going to want to do for the rest of my life. And so, the changes I made then were all good for me at the time, but not sustainable in the long run. This time, I'm really trying to focus on the question, "How do you want to eat for the rest of your life?"
3) Try to catch myself in the act whenever those, "Ugh, I've lost this pound before" unhappy thoughts come up, and practice actively replacing them with a better thought. I'm just not sure what at the moment. Maybe just something like, "That's just a number. The REAL progress I'm making is getting closer every day to being healthy for the rest of my life."
Or else, "Yes, in some ways I've been down this road before. But this time my destination's different. Even better." Or I don't know. Maybe it's not the same road at all. Maybe it's not even a road. Maybe a road is a stupid metaphor!
And maybe the more times I force myself to think that thought, the sooner it will be until I completely believe it. It's soooo hard not to get all caught up in the numbers in this process.
But if I want this time to be different, then it's got to be different. And it's up to me and this pretty little head of mine to make the difference. So here goes.