Staying Motivated, Tip #4: Inoculate Yourself Against Weight Loss Tunnel Vision

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Do you find yourself getting very upset when you don’t see the number you want on your scale? Can a bad food day leave you feeling so frustrated or helpless that you wonder if this whole weight loss business is really worth all the effort it takes?

If so, you’re definitely not alone. But you may need a little attitude adjustment to take some of this drama out of your relationship with your scale and your food, before it does you in.

That was definitely the case for me, during my many weight loss failures and the yo-yo dieting years.

I know that an awful lot of the emotional eating I did can be traced back to this kind of drama. I’d do fine on all my diets, until the scale started being uncooperative--which, of course, it always did, and not just once in a while. Then I’d end up feeling extremely frustrated and hopeless, not only about losing weight but about almost everything. All because I gained a pound or didn’t lose as much as I expected. If you were looking for a classic example of the weight loss drama king, you definitely didn’t have to look any further than me.

So, what’s really going on here? How did the number on the scale become so important that it could literally determine my mood and how I felt about life?

Looking back now, I can see that I had developed a bad case of weight loss tunnel vision. This is what happens when you start thinking that losing weight is the key to everything that really matters to you.

I was counting on weight loss to solve lots of problems and produce many other benefits for me. Improving my health, looking more attractive, feeling better about myself and my body, being able to do more of the things I wanted to do, living longer, getting a good job, finding a good relationship--in my mind, all of these things depended on getting to my weight loss goal. And, of course, every little set back on the scale made me feel like everything that was important to me was slipping further away, and there wasn't much I could do about it.

Needless to say, it’s pretty hard to stay motivated when you’re dealing with that kind of pressure, stress and frustration. More importantly, focusing most of my attention on losing weight kept me from doing the things that actually could have helped me achieve the goals that really mattered the most to me.

During my more recent and successful weight loss effort, things were very different. I finally figured out that losing weight can’t do very much except make me weigh less. I realized that, by itself, losing weight wasn't going to make all my other problems go away, or make my other goals happen by themselves, without direct effort on my part.

Instead of waiting until I'd lost a lot of weight to start working on the other things I needed to work on, I started doing little things every day to help me build up my self-esteem and self-confidence. Instead of worrying about the scale, I focused on the improvements I was making in my mobility and fitness, and in my various health problems, thanks to the exercise and healthy eating I was doing. I challenged my self-consciousness and low self-esteem in lots of little ways every day, like going swimming at the gym, even though I still felt like Moby Dick in my swimming suit. I went back to school so I could start preparing myself for the kind of work that I felt like I really wanted to do, even though I was older than most of my professors.

It's really amazing how little things can add up to big changes in your mood, your attitude towards yourself, and your motivation--and take a lot of the pressure off your weight loss efforts at the same time, making that much easier, too. In fact, I'd say that finally losing the weight I wanted to lose was really more of a side effect of taking care of some other business I needed to deal with.

So, if you're having problems with your mood and your motivation when you have a bad weigh-in or a less than perfect food day, here's what I suggest.

  • First, create your own personal Vision Statement. This can include a verbal and/or pictorial expression of where you want to be in one (or two, or five) years, not only with your weight, but with all important aspects of your life. Your Vision Statement should include several specific long-term goals that will help you get where you want to be. And be sure to ask yourself whether you really need to see a lower number on the scale before you can start working on these goals.

  • Second, create some strategies, or short-term and intermediate goals, that will give you specific targets to aim for right now, and help you keep your weight loss efforts in the proper perspective. Start tracking your progress on these goals, as well as your weight loss.

    What's your vision for yourself? Has the drama and stress that comes with "weight loss tunnel vision" been causing motivation problems for you? What do you think you can do to change this situation?