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?

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    VHAYES04 8/25/2020
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    GRANNYOF05 5/8/2020
    Thanks Report
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    Some good insight and suggestions Report
    Good article Report
    great. Report
    I no longer rely on the scale, it stopped moving a long time ago and I am much more excited that my clothes keep changing. I'm eating healthy 80/20, exercising 4 nights per week and moving alot on the weekends. I'm loving my body image, I feel great, and I love to be more active. I've lost 42 lbs, 3 clothes sizes, I'm getting toned and my figure is returning. My self confidence is much greater and I feel sexy once again. I'm very proud of all my accomplishments. If I don't shed anthoer pound, I'll be fine with that!

    I'm living my healthy lifestyle! Report
    Like many of you, I too like to weigh myself usually every morning. It helps me to stay focused on what I need to be doing. Report
    I'm glad that I don't rely on my scale to determine if I'm losing weight. I use the scale, but my ultimate tool is how my clothes fit on me, how I'm able to walk without huffing and puffing, how I feel every morning when I get out of my bed. I found moving earlier on in the day, gives me lots of energy. I've also noticed that when I weigh myself in the mornings I'm a lot lighter than in the mid day. Hmm... makes me wonder. Report
    Always remember that the scale number isnt always the number you want to look at, it could be muscle. Go by measurements and cl;othing.... Report
    This was my situation this morning, I saw the scale ... and "I started feeling extremely frustrated and hopeless not only about weight loss but almost everything." The exact words... and its so true that I have to work upon my self esteem and self confidence.

    I will work upon creating a vision statement, and strategies on short term and intermediate goals.

    Thank you so much for answering my deepest unspoken questions. I did not even have words for them ...

    This is such a great place to be. Thank you. Report
    Thank you for this blog, even though I`m coming to it a bit late, it still encourages me. I am the same way, convinced that weighing less will fix all problems in my life, but you are right, the only thing it will do is make me weigh less and I need to find other ways to fix other aspects. That, and I need to find other ways to measure my progress...I suppose one is that I can bend over and touch my toes now, thanks to yoga...couldn`t do that before. :) Report
    Thanks for the encouragement. I am feeling discouraged about the scale, and what I weigh. Your article helped me remember that I still haven't made a motivation page for myself, and that I am making progress on my other goals. With the exercise I've been doing and eating better (and eating less sodium), my blood pressure has gone down! Report
    I too am guilty of being very annoyed with my scale! However, I do keep reminding myself that slow and steady wins the race. I'm taking it off slowly and my body has changed so much from exercising and being moving more that it is hard not to feel good about things. Thank you for sharing your suggestions to get out of tunnel vision, great ideas. Report
    I'm new here & never really used a scale that often. I don't mind my weekly weigh-in's. I don't want to be afraid of using the scale as I have been in the past. Report
    Boy, its nice to know there are others out there who relate 100%. The person in my life to help keep me on track is my mom. She's been struggling with weight issues for years and helped try to get me through a whole lot of health issue. I am going to TRY to take your advice and apply it to my life and goals instead of worrying consistently about the scale numbers. But I sure HATE it when the doctors do just that.
    Working on a healthier ME and being a role model for my son to eat healthy and stay active seems more realistic then trying to fit some weight chart.
    Thanks for the words of wisedom. Report
    I don't use the scale! I refuse to let a number dictate my success on my journey. Instead I make the healthiest choices I can, one day a time. The scale has ruined too many of my days. Report
    I've already stopped weighing/measuring since July 1st, and I've decided to weigh again some day before Christmas... as a season gift to myself!! Till that time I had already lost about 70kilos/~155Lb out of 100/220 [target weight]. I feel relieved. I feel more responsible, so I do my BEST-est (-:) to reach my scheduled appointment with the scale/tape as fit/lean as feasible! I've gone 4+ almost 5 sizes down, I start to look lean, especially in the extremities -face, hands, feet-. I feel lighter, I exercise with ease, I am much more energetic!! Report
    This is an excellent post. I agree wholeheartedly. Not working on the other things I needed to work on is why I gained the weight in the first place. I now realize that the drama and stress that comes with "weight loss tunnel vision" can quickly become an excuse for not losing the weight if I let it. Thank you, I will write my vision statement and use it as a guide. I was just trying to develop strategies. Report
    Wow! You just captured my frustration. It's so hard not to focus on the scale. Focusing on something else, like a healthier lifestyle, makes sense. Thanks! Report
    This gave me something to really think about. Report
    thanks for the reminder that numbers on the scale don't change our life - we do. we need to begin to be the people we want to become (fit, healthy, happy) no matter what our weight is today. I needed the reminder today - today I will eat and exercise like I am already where I want to be (and not check the scale for validation) Report
    Thank you for this article and the great advise. We can become too focused on what the scale says, especially if you attend support groups for weight loss. You weigh in as soon as you come in the door, you are rewarded for the amount of loss, you are encouraged to come back next week weighing less. We definately should take into account lifestyle changes, exercise, how great we feel,our newer lower cholesterol levels and how our clothes are fitting differently regardless of what the scale says.
    Thanks for the reminder! Report
    I was just suffering from Weight Loss Tunnel Vision yesterday. I challenged myself to break through a certain weight plateau by the end of May. I was upset when I got on the scale and I only lost half a pound. A Spark Friend wrote to me and stated, "A half pound loss is still considered a LOSS." I felt so petty after that. She was right. Though I set the challenge as a mini goal for myself (a kind of motivation tool), I began to see it as a succeed-or-fail, all-or-nothing endeavor. It would be great to meet the challenge by the end of May, but if I did it in June, that still would be great.

    Thanks for bringing me back ot Earth. Report
    I blogged about this constantly. OF course I know better, but it doesn't help to know or get out of. In fact I'm in my F* it now mode. Report
    Most of the time I think that if I lost a certain amount of weight I would be really happy in life and things would be perfect and I would have really good self-esteem. But, I used to be thinner, as thin as I would like to be now, and I wasn't any happier. I still had low self-esteem. I still had a bad view of my body image. Dean, you're right. I need to revamp my goals. They shouldn't be lose 20 pounds. They should be: Train for a 10K, Make three new friends this year, join a canoeing group, and do what I need to do to get the job that I want. If these types of goals were my focus, I would probably be more successful and happier than I was 4 years ago when I was 20 pounds lighter. Report
    I was feeling upset because I had not lost any weight, my husband said something about some chick on the TV and I felt like a slug. So later that night I got up after he had gone to bed and I looked on the internet for what the world thought was the perfect woman. All I found was what some guy thought the perfect woman was and it was pretty shallow I must say. I printed this picture, wrote something down about if this is what I have to be like to be accepter by the world then fine!!! I put it on my mirror to look at everyday to inspire me but it didn't it just made me realize how not realistic it was. So I was again laying in bed one night, maybe a month later and I was praying asking God to help me. And it just came to me. I can not be what others want me to be I have to be me, love me and know that I am loved not only by God, but by my husband and my kids. I am special in my own way. So I got up again, found a picture of me about ten years earlier, I did look better then but don't we all. Anyway I wrote about how I can only change the things that need to be done, no can do that for me and no one can make me feel less then if I don't allow it. I chose to believe what I want and right now I chose not to entertain negative crap in my life. When I start feel inferior to someone or I feel un sure of myself. When I feel those yucky insecure thoughts poping in my head. I close my eyes and think of a scripture that I can say over and over again, Or the song that Christia Agulara sings, about I am beautiful no matter what you say, words won't bring me down. Just say positive things to yourself and before long, you'll be amazed at how much better you feel. When you walk in a room, keep your head up, eyes forward and know that you are precious and special and that you are loved. Be blessed, Jeannie Report
    Motivation is not an issue, I'm motivated out the wazoo. BUT I have a serious problem with scale-itis. You read about yo-yo dieters and I read so many spark pages about people who've lost and gained it all back. I am not a typical yo-yo dieter because this was my first attempt and I am so afraid that I will gain it back. I want to be that 5% that keeps it off forever but the side effect is a scale obsession. Report
    Motivation is one of my biggest obstacles... the second one being that I've had 2 hip replacements 2 years ago and then my mom got sick... and I'm a single mom... blah blah.. full of excuses.. Report
    This is an excellent article that brings up very tangible points. It allows me to refocus my thoughts/feelings on the "weight loss" aspect. Even so, by numbers, I fit into a healthy weight doesn't seem to be enough for me. I am so obsessed with getting to the number I weighed before having my sons that it keeps me frustrated when I step on the scale and see I'm seven pounds away from that so-called "magical" number. I should be satisfied with where I have come, losing 70 lbs and establishing a much healthier lifestyle incorporating healthy food choices and exercise. This article just puts into perspective how grateful I am to be where I am now and reduces the stress of looking at a number on the scale. Thanks for the great advice. Report
    This blog nails it for me. I am a perfectionist and have been telling myself that I need to be thinner for men to find me attractive, do better at work, make more friends, be happier etc etc. No wonder I would feel hopeless from all the pressure and the stress of eating and exercising "perfectly" all the time (and then go on a huge binge and feel even more hopeless and depressed!). I have been foccusing on letting go of perfectionist thinking. I believe I have found a "root" of why I binge. I try so hard to be perfect. I believe I need to be perfect. I can't be perfect. I feel hopeless about my life and my future because it is not my idea of perfect . I use food as a drug and binge to numb and comfort myself. This is my epiphany I had this week and reading this article today is reafirming. Now I know what really needs work. I need to love myself. I don't need to be perfect. Report
    Of all days, TODAY is the day I really needed to read this. Thanks, Spark! Report
    I really needed this right now! I absolutely have tunnel vision right now and this is a great reminder! Thanks Coach Dean :) Report
    I lost around 40 pounds about 3 years ago...and not weighing myself regularly after that loss was a BIG reason that I gained back. I needed that to keep me honest. That being said, I don't think it is necessary or for some of us a good idea to weigh in more than once a week or two. Also very good idea to log your measurements, often those are lowering when the scale is not. We have to learn to measure progress in many ways as Coach Dean suggests! Thanks for another great blog! Report
    Like many of you, I too like to weigh myself usually every morning. It helps me to stay focused on what I need to be doing. Report
    I'm on the scale at least twice a day! I don't allow it to slow me down though. I use it to keep me motivated to stay on track. It seems like if I go a week without weighing in, I'm 5lbs heavier when I get on. I need it to keep me focused on my eating habits and fitness routine. It gauges my efforts in a way. Report
    i have to admit i am a slave to my scale.....this habit is awfully "catching" too, as people who come to my house always want to weigh themselves when they see my scale (it sits in my bathroom and allows privacy when one weighs oneself). My friend (who babysits my children regularly) recently commented about how she misses it when she doesnt get to weigh herself!!
    I have also found that counting calories, in combination with weighing myself daily, has actually taken some of the fun out of eating and has even increased my perceived hunger at other people ever get that feeling? Report
    Like Betrme, this blog entry was perfect timing. Yesterday I was feeling all bent out of shape because my weight's been going back up--even with workouts and watching my diet carefully. I was very put out yesterday about it all, even thinking of a vacation from logging calories. An email from my sister put me back on track a little bit--reminding me of a long-term goal for which I'd lost my vision, temporarily. I also did not weigh-in this morning...that's a usual part of my morning. I think I just needed to give that a rest so I could feel good about everything else I'm doing. Yes, I have tunnel vision at times... Report
    This blog couldn't have come at a better time. Several of us on the Emotional Eaters team have been discussing this very issue...that losing weight doesn't change who you are or the things in your life that you wish were different...losing weight gets you into a smaller size and likely improves your health, but it doesn't fix relationship problems, it doesn't give you the job of your dreams, it doesn't even (as hard as this is to believe) make you truly happy. Those things are, and always have been, totally separate from weight. We didn't know it at our heaviest weights, we didn't know it when we would lose then regain huge amounts of weight...but we do know it now. And now it is up to each of us to do the work necessary to remake our lives...

    Kit Report
    This is great. I decided a while ago that I will only weigh in every 2 WEEKS at most. That keeps me less focused on the scale and for me over 2 weeks there is never a gain. Report
    Great article, thanks. I have the same problem so this article really gave me a better outlook. Report
    thank you so much. i really needed this. i am struggling with this "weight loss tunnel vision". one bad day is enough to make me nuts anymore and i wasn't like that before. i have to work on changing that! Report
    I'm guilty of putting my life on hold until I fit the jeans I want to fit. This article inspired me and today I know I can change that tunnel vision. Whooohooooo----thanks Dean. Report
    Great article! I am more conscious of how the scale affects me emotionally. I love to weigh myself daily, or several times a day. I found that at times it would keep me motivated, but, at other times, it was like a green light to eat more. I am now trying to weigh myself once a week or less often. That way I have to keep eating right and exercising to reach my goal. Report
    Awesome blog Report
    Just what I needed! One of the best i've read! I have a habit of weighing myself everday when i get to the gym and when it doesn't move I get so frustrated...I will take control of actions and stay away from the scale!! Report
    Great blog...thanks! Report
    When I started this I committed myself to only weighing myself once a month because I do get frustrated and discouraged with the scale and how I view it. So far I have maintained that committment although I do get tempted. Report
    Thanks for the great advice, I will try to stay off the scale or maybe weigh in once a week instead of every day Report