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Can Motivation and Resilience Be Developed?

Friday, September 20, 2013

I believe the answer is yes.

It might seem like motivation and resilience are traits that we either have or don't--that some people are naturally able to get and keep themselves motivated over the long haul and are capable of bouncing back in difficult times with relative ease--and that no amount of introspection or work can help us overcome our basic nature.

Looking back over my weight loss and regain history, I could have concluded that I was simply one of those people who was not genetically gifted in either of those categories, at least in the longer term. I could get and stay motivated in the short-term, often long enough to lose whatever weight I felt I needed to at the time, but once I reached goal, it seemed to dissipate and I felt aimless. And often a life change or two would be enough to throw me off track, not just for a few days, but for months and even years at a time. Naturally, this led to a diminished self-esteem, confidence and belief that I could take and maintain control of my weight and health. Other people could manage the ups and downs of life without becoming obese, why couldn't I?

Perhaps there was something "broken" within me. Every person deals with negative emotions like stress, sadness and disappointment, but they don't all numb those feelings with food. Some people in my family have suffered from addiction and dependency, likely fueled by underlying psychological issues such as anxiety and depression, so maybe food was my preferred coping mechanism to deal with stress. And even naturally slender people overeat from time to time, but the odd huge meal and few weeks of vacation each year represent a relatively small portion of the overall picture. A resilient person can indulge on holidays and vacations and return to a saner way of eating the rest of the time. This was another way I was "broken". Christmastime, for example, didn't just mean a few days of overeating followed by a return to normal. It meant the undoing of whatever progress I had achieved the previous year and, often, months or years of total backsliding and rapid weight gain.

I believe that these issues were the underlying reasons for my past weight management failures. It wasn't so much that I was eating the "wrong" types of food, had a freakish appetite, wasn't a natural athlete or that I lacked self-control. I just couldn't seem to cope with the normal ups and downs of life without turning to food and when I did that, I wasn't equipped with the skills to bounce back. Just recognizing these patterns was a huge first step in helping me to overcome them. Reflecting on and learning from my past failures--what's often referred to as grit--was the next step. Developing a plan of action to create a different future for myself was the next. Slogging through tough periods doing the best I could came next. And finally, forgiving myself and forging ahead when I wasn't perfect through both happy and unhappy times was the last piece of the puzzle.

It's still not easy and I still consider myself to be a work in progress. Life's ups and downs are inevitable and I have periods of intense motivation and resilience and other times where I just want to eat cake and hide under the covers in bed. That's a dark place and it's not always easy to "pull it together" and snap out of it. But I have become better and I think I'll continue to get better with time. So, if your past efforts have failed, even if it's been a dozen times or more, don't give up on yourself. With some work and a lot of self-reflection, you can take control and change your destiny.

My husband snapped this as I was writing this blog, so I thought I'd add it in. He's says I look both pensive and peaceful when I'm engrossed in something. I guess I can see what he means here.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Always such a pleasure to read your thoughts. I seriously relate to your "Christmas-time" syndrome. Canadian Thanksgiving is in October, and I've found historically that I gain about ten pounds between then and the New Year. I'm both nervous and excited about meeting the challenge this year of eating smart, and saying no to seconds. We'll see how it goes, but I feel confident at least that if I do gain weight, that as long as I don't stop living my new normal every other day apart from the holidays, I should be able to at least maintain. Great picture :-D Hope you have just an incredible day today.
    1675 days ago
    I totally agree; and the older I get the more I realize that what worked before doesn't work now, change and adaptation are needed for the long term.
    This path feels right now, and the 'LIFESTYLE' is developing constantly!
    1676 days ago
  • BRADMILL2922
    The answer is absolutely yes! The answer I think is that we HAVE to if we are going to have success. We didn't have the motivation before so it has to be developed! We are always a work in progress! Great blog!
    1676 days ago
    emoticon emoticon
    1676 days ago
    1676 days ago
    Keep up the good work!
    1677 days ago
    I never fail to find the exact wisdom I need in a particular moment when I jump on SparkPeople. Your post was that wisdom in spades. Thank you.
    1677 days ago
  • GEORGE815
    Very perceptive.
    1677 days ago
  • KONRAD695
    Earlier today I saw the statement "Knowing yourself is the beginning of wisdom".

    Then you have to be one of the wisest people I know. I wish I could have met you earlier.

    This was going to be a very long comment, but then I deleted it. Sorry, but it was mostly about me. You did propel me to write a new blog myself though.

    Thank you for all your thoughts and writing. It's more helpful than you can know.

    emoticon Konrad
    1678 days ago
  • AUNTB63
    First of all....I love the picture. You look great and DH is right you do look pensive and peaceful. I am a maintenance newbie (7 successful weeks) and I appreciate your honesty in your blog and how you are overcoming those dreadful unhealthy habits. It's Sparkers like you that give me encouragement and hope that I too can continue maintaining. emoticon
    1678 days ago
    Such a thoughtful and encouraging blog. And I'd add beautiful to the descriptions of that pic!
    1678 days ago
    Thank you for this wonderful insight. I too have often thought I was "broken", perhaps beyond repair, but maybe that is NOT TRUE and I can actually push through and learn from my inability to lose these last 15 pounds...thank you for giving me a lot to think about!
    1679 days ago
    Motivation and resilience are like muscles that need to be flexed on a regular basis or else they atrophy. Thanks for sharing!
    1679 days ago
    thank you for sharing - you put into words so well what so many of us have gone/go through.
    1679 days ago
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    1679 days ago
    What a super blog: I "liked" it!! You look peaceful and pensive and also strong and beautiful. There is no question that resilience and motivation are skills we learn -- if not as children, then it's still possible as adults. I agree with you that inability to cope with the ordinary (and often painful) exigencies of life have the potential to trigger excessive eating in many of us. But we can learn to "roll with the punches" and to "stay the path". You have!!
    1679 days ago
  • RUDITUDI2000
    You are living proof it can be developed. Thanks for sharing your musings! I am working hard to lose this weight, then I will continue working hard to maintain it. I know the personal growth is the hardest part, and ongoing, layer by layer. We are worth the effort. Have a fantastic weekend!
    1679 days ago
    Great thoughts. I think a big key to weight loss and maintenance success is realizing that off-days are okay as long as they don't evolve into more than that. Thanks for the thoughts.
    1679 days ago
    1679 days ago
  • POPSY190
    Very pertinent. So much of life is made up of habits which can be altered but it takes effort and dedication to do so. Great photograph.
    1679 days ago
  • SWIM53055
    AMEN! You are very wise, along with inspirational!
    1679 days ago
    Yes, Tina yes! You are the epitome of resilience and motivation. You have honed these skills over time and are such a model for how to be balanced, enjoy life, and keep your weight/health in check. I'm so proud of you!
    1679 days ago
    Believing it can be acquired seems to be the secret to acquiring it. Though I think that also means it can be unacquired. Not only do I have to get up every day and keep paying attention to my eating and fitness, I have to get up every day and remember that I wanted to. I think there are rewards for doing so, but they are not as immediate as the reward for eating cake! And I mean reward on the brain chemical level.
    1679 days ago
    very nice
    1679 days ago
    I've been following your blogs for a long time, but haven't said anything! speaking up today to say your blogs are always spot on. i think introspection is a big piece of this journey, and you seem to be peeling away at the onion and really figuring out how to make this healthy life journey sustainable. emoticon
    1679 days ago
  • DALID414
    I've started saying it out loud (I want to eat a whole chocolate cake), then I sit there until I find the answer to: Why? Rather than heading to the bakery for the cake!
    1679 days ago
    So much of your blog rings true for me. It makes this journey seem all that much more true and real when I hear it from you. We all have our monsters to overcome. It is in the doing of it that so many of us fail. Hearing from you gives me and I'm sure many other Sparkers the strength we need to build upon.

    Thanks for sharing emoticon
    1679 days ago
    I concur, although I too might not have thought so a year ago....

    Way to go Tina...onward we go...

    1679 days ago
    You seem to be doing really well now. :)
    1679 days ago
  • BEE2LE
    Thank you for this blog! As I look at how long I've been on sparkpeople w/o reaching my goals, I've been re-evaluating my plans. This post has been very helpful. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
    1679 days ago
  • KANOE10
    That was an excellent blog. I also consider myself a work in progress. You are right about developing resiliency and motivation being so important. For many years I have yo-yoed and regained my weight..letting the non motivational times overtake me. Now, like you say, I may not be perfect but I am staying on track and not giving up.

    We are heading closer to two years. We can do this. We can control our destiny. I do think a family pattern of addiction..which I have also..influenced our lives.

    1679 days ago
    I see repeatedly in the writings and musings of successful long-term maintainers a) a recognition of our personal cycles of motivation, b) an acceptance that this doesn't mean we're broken, and c) getting back on the horse we fell off because we're worth it!

    It truly is LIFE that many of us have used food to cope with. Learning better ways to deal with LIFE and its natural challenges and triumphs helps us overcome that unhealthy tendency with food.

    Well lived, well analyzed, well written! emoticon emoticon emoticon

    p.s. and I also see that this all develops over time, and sometimes several cycles of success/failure at weight loss / maintenance!
    1679 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/20/2013 7:43:57 AM
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