Motivation Articles

How to Exercise Your Resiliency Muscle

6 Ways to Deal with the Ups and Downs of Weight Loss (without Giving Up)

I sat listening quietly to the women in my monthly weight-loss support group talk amongst themselves over the conference line. Marge was sharing how happy she was to be back to her regular daily walks after months of being derailed by her broken ankle. She was sad that five pounds had crept back on but felt determined and ready to get back down to her pre-injury weight. "You can do it!" Sue cheered, "I remember you gained 20 pounds the year your mom passed away, but you got back down to maintenance. If you can take off 20 pounds, five will be a walk in the park." 
Every month, the group members reconnect to swap stories, support one another, and share anything new they have learned in the field of weight loss to help them continue their journeys. Some are maintaining at their goal weight; others are still looking to pare down. They range in age and life experiences, but what they all have in common is resiliency. Each one of them has experienced setbacks, and not a single woman has given up! 
There are a lot of personal strengths that are helpful for achieving permanent weight loss: determination, perseverance, self-discipline, even organizational skills. However, the one strength I believe to be vital is resiliency.
Resiliency is the capacity of humans to come out of extreme shock, damage, injury and trauma and get back to normal life. However, Robert Brooks, author of The Power of Resilience, feels that we should not foster a resilient mindset just to safeguard against the possibility of unfathomable crisis and tragedy. His research has led him and others to believe that a resilient mindset will help us handle even the "minor" setbacks, disappointments and problems of ordinary living.
Another author and researcher in the field of developing resiliency is Emily Werner. She states, "Resilience reflects the concept of 'reserve capacity.' It helps us prepare for future adversity and enables the potential for change and continued personal growth."
I particularly like this concept as it relates to permanent weight loss, which requires adjustments to one's habits and lifestyle. Many who achieve and maintain their weight-loss goals report that they have changed not only in body size but also in mental toughness, finding strength, perseverance, and determination they didn't know they had—and developing, sometimes for the first time in their lives, the inner belief that they can succeed at whatever they put their mind to. Along with weight-loss success came increased confidence and self-esteem, not necessarily because of their new body, but because of their success at reaching a goal.
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About The Author

Ellen Goldman Ellen Goldman
Ellen founded EnerG Coaching, LLC to help individuals struggling with health issues that can be impacted by positive lifestyle change, such as weight loss, stress management, exercise, and life/work balance. As a professional wellness coach and certified personal trainer, Ellen holds a BS and Masters in Physical Education and is certified by ACSM, AFAA, and Wellcoaches Corporation. Visit her at Get her complimentary report, 52 Tips, Tools & Tricks to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet, at

Member Comments

  • Fantastic article and extremely helpful to me today. I've printed it out and am hanging it on my fridge door as a reminder. Thank you Spark People! - 9/29/2015 10:43:33 AM
  • The great thing about a resilient mindset is that it helps in traumas that are huge and small setbacks to accomplishing any goal. A resilient mindset can even help you avoid some of the bad stuff that happens in life in the first place. The more you exercise your resilience the stronger it gets. - 9/17/2015 3:18:20 PM
  • WOW what a day to show up in my feed. Been fighting with 2 lbs back and forth. I make 2 strides forward fall of the horse and fall back 3 strides. They are all self inflicted because I want or deserve attitude. I know the whole tome my had is feeding my mouth I will regret it in the morning. - 9/17/2015 5:42:38 AM
  • Wow, but this is a depressing article. To reduce a concept as important and vital as resiliency to how it affects weight loss.... There are more things in life, and more important, surely, than just the numbers on the scales?!

    The opening definitions, that resilience is our capacity to deal with extreme shock and trauma, and is our spare capacity for the big things, are right. To then refer all that to dieting - ugh.

    I was overweight for 15 years. I knew during that time that what was missing was a real commitment to losing weight, that my desire for another treat or to laze rather than run was greater than that to be slim. Decisiveness, not resilience, was the key, that and persistence. The examples given of dealing with grief and with injury, these are to do with resilience, and I was too busy dealing with similar to have much space for worrying too much about what I ate. Now that I've lost the weight though, it isn't because I'm a massive hero and have developed weight loss resilience, it's more that I've dealt with these bigger issues and have time to almost indulge my physical health, now my emotional health has bounced back.

    Really, really banal article. - 9/4/2015 7:10:08 PM
  • I loooOoOved this article. Resiliency is what pushes us towards what we want, and it helps us gain momentum to accomplish what we are determined to do. For me, the mental toughness that it takes to embrace healthy living has been one of the trickiest bits! When my resiliency is wimping out on me, I remind myself that in order for the magic to happen, my effort has to be greater than my excuses... - 7/22/2015 6:45:31 AM
  • This is certainly what I'm going through right now. I had lost around 40 lbs. before I got married 4 years ago. Shortly after the wedding, I had unrelenting pain for months. I could hardly do anything without being in pain. I was shortly diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Just getting out of bed and going to work was more than enough to exhaust me and any more than that was very painful. The medications I took weren't much help and I gained everything back and then some over the course of 3 years to the tune of 70 lbs. I'm finally in a place now where I am able to go to the gym and exercise. It will be a huge challenge to reach that weight loss goal, but even just going to the gym and doing something certainly makes things better. - 6/24/2015 12:32:24 PM
  • I just wrote to Sparkpeople about this exact thing. My problem is that I cannot do all the things they "want" me to do, as I am just getting over a fractured knee. I have found a great support system in my local YMCA, and have found a great program called "Silver Sneakers". It is not only for people who are no longer able to rock to cardio, but those who need to sit every once in a while, or for the whole class, for that matter. They offer a yoga class, basically done from a chair (you get to decide what you can/want to do), a cardio class that is 45 minutes of CONSTANT MOVEMENT, and it is a workout, whether you are stuck in a chair, are able to hold onto the chair, or can be independent of the chair. The third thing they have is a circuit class, which is the hardest of the three classes and you have to be pretty fit and agile to do this class. I am not ready for that one yet. The additional good news is that YouTube has a BUNCH of Silver Sneakers videos that you can do at home. I do one yoga one that I love. Go to You Tube and type in Silver Sneakers and you will be amazed!!

    Also at my YMCA, they have a bike called a Nu-Step. It has been a lifesaver for me. It is a bike that can be adjusted for your speed, your height, your capabilities, and even has a seat with a good back support, so you can use it as you recover and and it works for a lot of different problems. Knee replacements, hip replacements, broken ankles, on and on. Try these things, it is worth it to give it a go. I did, and it really changed my life!!! Good luck to all of you working on injuries. You DO get better! - 6/18/2015 9:53:02 PM
  • I've read this article too before, but just having broken MY ankle a week ago, the first paragraph spoke to me. Looking forward to when I can resume my long walks, but in the meantime I'm doing chair exercises and trying to do as much as I can until then. Making an effort to concentrate on eating properly so hoping when the cast comes off I won't have too many gained pounds to take off again - even better if I actually manage to LOSE a few! - 6/15/2014 11:21:13 AM
    I had surgery 1 1/2 weeks ago for a skiing injury to my ankle, so I was hooked on the first paragraph. In addition, I just recovered from a 3-day virus, so I've been very inactive.
    Without my cast, I was able to get on the scale yesterday and learned I'd gained 2 pounds. Not a lot, but better to address it now than later.
    I'm limited in what I can do, but Coach Nicole has videos for upper body exercises that I just did, with a lot of effort. I plan to do a second video later in the day, and then continue doing them daily until I'm able to move around more. Thanks so much for the great article - it was very timely for me! - 2/22/2014 10:58:14 AM
  • I have read this article before, but it now relates to me more then ever. - 2/22/2014 10:09:03 AM
  • Wow! This is a wonderful article--so complete and told me so many good things I needed to hear RIGHT NOW! THANK YOU!!!! - 2/22/2014 3:29:28 AM
  • VKELLY77
    In 2010 I lost 35 pounds and kept it off until a knee injury last year. Now I've gained 22 back and after rehab and my own inaction, I've decided to get back on track. For me, this article is right on time. - 9/18/2013 7:05:20 AM
  • the six points for resilience are so apt! - 9/17/2013 6:58:00 PM
  • Great article, and I agree all the way around, but the video advertisement makes my page load really slow. I wonder if a lot of people are missing great information because they give up and x out? - 9/17/2013 4:18:32 PM
    This article came at just the right time for me! I'm going to share this with my friends who, like me, have given up trying to loose weight. Thank you for the great advice! - 9/17/2013 10:43:08 AM

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