Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Mindset of Losing Weight: How Do You Keep Going?

Over the years, especially during months where I was losing weight really well, people would email me and ask me: what's the secret? how do you stay motivated? how do you keep going? how do I get my head in the right place? And my answers were pretty much: I'm not sure. I just keep trying. Never give up. Fake it til you make it. And that *is* what has worked for me. Setting aside all our differences in weight loss plans and methods, the mental aspect is very much the same. Somehow, we have to get it together enough to start, and keep it together enough to keep going. *That* is the key. But HOW?

Even after losing 100 pounds, I struggle with this. How do you get into the mindset... the dedicated, going-to-do-this state of mind... to stick to whatever plan you are using long term? Sometimes I get into stretches where it's easy, and other times it seems almost impossible. But it all goes back to the same answer, for me: keep trying, fake it til you make it, never give up. Eventually one of the 'tries' sticks long enough to see results. The results are motivating. And it snowballs from there.

How about you? What gets you started, and what keeps you going? No matter what your plan is, there is that mental aspect... some call it motivation, some call it commitment. I would love for the comments of this post to be filled with the wisdom and insights of all of you who can share what works for *you* mentally, to get you going and keep you on plan and still working at it when the going gets tough and you feel like giving up. What helps *you*? What do you tell yourself when it gets hard? What can you share with people who are reaching out asking for help and guidance, trying to find something to help them stay on track? What's your best advice for staying mentally on track, motivated, committed?


Beyond Willpower said...

I got to the point in my life where I realized that I want to be healthy more than I want to abuse myself with food. When I have slower losses, or am having a TOM craving, I just have to keep in mind that I've undone the progress I've made so many times over the years, and I am just at a place where I'm sick of it and not willing to let myself do that again.

Therapy has helped a lot. Blogging helps, I blog everyday on spark, for accountability alone, and then I keep my beyondwillpower blog for the 'big things'.

When I ask myself what it is, it's just that I'm fed up. I'm 31 and still morbidly obese. This will only get more difficult the older I get. My real dad died at 47 from diabetes complications and he pretty much died in pieces, I have high sugar, I'm not WILLING to go out like that.

Even when I don't have motivation, and when I feel less than comitted, I have a fight in me, and it keeps me going. Find your fight. That's my advice. What are you just not willing to stand for in yourself any more? Excuses maybe?

Oh, and also, forgiveness. No reason to throw in the towel for one mistake, you tap into that fight instead, and you let it carry you over the hump. We can all do this.

Candy kankles said...

Im only on day 2 of my journey so far.I dont know advice yet except to say Day 2 is better than Day 1 and I bet Day 3 will be even better just keep trying :)

Jesse said...

I've struggled with this -- both during the times when it's working and the times when it's not -- and I'm still not 100% sure I have the answer. I think part of it is learning to be okay with that uncertainty: because change won't happen overnight, cravings and habits and patterns don't change overnight, weight doesn't disappear instantly, and no matter how fit or how skinny you get, there will always be days when you struggle. So for me, a big part of it is learning to accept that I am still okay and still successful when I'm struggling.

Something that has helped me has been to think about my Future Self, the one who has gotten to my next goal, or who no longer struggles with something I'm working on. What does she know? What would she tell me if she could send me a message of love and support and advice from the future? I journal about this and think about Future Me a lot, actually. Sometimes she has vague advice ("tell your story differently") and sometimes she has really specific advice ("what would happen if you let go of this fear not forever but just for an hour?"). I find it really helpful.

Even though I have a pretty concrete structure that supports my weightloss (Weight Watchers), I still struggle with trusting that structure, and trusting that my body will actually change if I apply myself. So part of it for me is also engaging with those fears and finding out what I need to feel safe...because I know forcing myself past my fears is not the right approach. The more I acknowledge my fears and uncertainties, the easier it is to feel comfortable experimenting (new exercise class or what have you) as opposed to sticking in a rut out of fear or inertia.

Me said...

The longest continuous period I've lost weight in my whole life is 6 weeks. That's not too long is it? I've realised what you need to successfully lose weight. There are about 5 things. They are: the belief that you'll succeed, you need to sacrifice things, choose a reason to lose weight other than health, losing weight has to be in the top 5 things in your life, and finally: obsession. You need to be obsessed about losing weight. Doing something hard hundreds of times requires some degree of obsession. Someone calling you 'obsessed' is an acknowledgement that you've reach a point where you are ok doing the same difficult thing over and over again.

All in my opinion of course.

Forty Pound Sack said...

I wish I had wisdom to share with you but I've been struggling with this myself. I had just hit the 30 pounds gone mark last summer and was highly motivated to keep going to goal when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My weight loss was on hold for several months while I underwent treatment. Now, cancer free, I'm struggling to get back to it. With extra weight being a risk factor for breast cancer, you'd think that would be motivation enough but sadly, it's not.
Thank you for your blog ~ it helps to know I'm not alone in my struggles.

~ Lyndsay The Kitchen Witch said...

I have come to realize that the whole thing is cyclical for me. Some months are good, others, not. I've learned that the root of my problem isn't really about food - but about the choices I make during those times when I'm not feeling as well. I like your advice of fake it till you make it and will remember that during the tough times. I also find blogging about this in a very honest fashion to be helpful to me. I fully intend to run a 10 k next year and have my mind focussed on who I am becoming as well as where I have been.

xoxo to you for being such an inspiration. I'm new to your blogs, but I love them!

Karen@WaistingTime said...

I struggle with this so will be eager for some great advice in your comments. I think momentum builds, both good and bad. One great day can more easily feed into the next and the next. What has truly kept me going this past year has been the blogging community. Both knowing I had my own in which I wanted to someday write more about success than struggles, and then reading other blogs that continue to motivate me.

Anonymous said...

hmmm how to stay motivated... good question. I started this process at 40 lbs overweight, or if you prefer 60 over the low end of the 'right' bmi range. The first 10 were easy. The next 10 took 6 months. Then I couldn't lose a pound if I wanted to, and at times I'm not sure I cared all that much. I was looking good, feeling good and so on. I maintained for 16 months. Now I'm back trying to drop a few because I'm thinking being a size 10 might be pretty cool and because my knees need me to do so.

Motivation for me is pain avoidance and being ready to move out of the maintenance holding pattern.


Anonymous said...

No real wisdom or insight here. For me, VANITY keeps me going, plain and simple. I spent ten years (ages 28-38) being obese (212 lbs. or so on a 5'4" frame). Three years and about 65 lbs. later, sliding comfortably into size 7 pants from the junior department is a lot more important to me than that pizza or pastry. It may sound shallow; I don't care. At almost 42 yrs old, I am in the best physical and mental shape of my life and the tags on my clothes, the # on the scale and what I see in the mirror is how I keep going.

C. Dudley said...

I really like, and relate, to your comment, "Eventually one of the 'tries' sticks long enough to see results. The results are motivating. And it snowballs from there." My weight loss journey to lose 60lbs in 2011 was motivated to not inherit the various diseases that run in my family. That alone made the first 2 months easy. Not to mention that I was doing P90X which gave me more stamina and strength and endurance for everything. But then I got a bad cold and couldn't exercise. Well the numbers on the scale crept up a few pounds sparking a bit of depression...which led to eating junk. That lasted for two days then I had to give myself a reality check. Just because I fell off for a week or two with my eating, and exercising was almost unbarable, didn't mean I had to continue there. I remembered why I began my journey. I took a look at my results, and I got back in the saddle. I also think an important thing to do is not rely on the scale so much but use tape measurements to chart inches lost or gained. It's much more accurate. Good luck to you and all of your followers.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Lyn! Just wanted to say THANK YOU! I tried Medifast after your blog inspired me -- I'm on day 17 and have lost 14 pounds already! It's the first diet that has worked for me, and I could cry with happiness. I have an endocrine disorder (caused by a tumor that damaged my pitituary), and my doctors have warned me that likely nothing would work. They did OK Medifast -- and it is working!!!!!!!!!!

Lynn, I'm so happy and excited. THANK YOU!

Hugs, Maria

Pretty Pauline said...

Sadly, it was prizes that finally got me started. Not huge things, but some thing. LOL! I think that the encouragement of other weight loss bloggers is a huge key for me, as you so need support! LOTS and LOTS of SUPPORT! And finally accepting that this is a life-long journey. I could give you both happy and sad faces at that one...

han said...

Great post Lyn!

Reading your blog helps.

Tracking calories and exercise on "Lose It" (iPod app - FREE) is a huge motivator. Keeps me honest, helps with learning portions and calories and if I know something I'm craving is going to cost me an hour on the elliptical, it gives me pause for thought!!

Exercise helps. And not just with the metabolism, but with the feeling positive. If I feel happy and positive, all endorphin'd and upbeat, I'm way less likely to cave in and eat garbage.

Vanity -- yes, oh yes. I've given all but my biggest pair of pants away. Shirts, jackets, etc. GONE. And when you're down to a smaller size or feeling comfortable in non-stretch jeans, that is a shot in the arm.

Writing helps. I write 3 pages/day, regardless. It is sometimes illuminating and gives me great insights into weight and eating issues. Often it's "today it is grey & cloudy..." Doesn't matter. My emotional sh*t makes its way onto those pages instead of into my mouth!!

Seeing physical changes helps too, which sorta connects with vanity. But watching muscles work or running up flights of stairs or racing your toddler can really help keep one focused on the WHY you're doing this.

Treats help me. Dark chocolate squares and a mug of hot vanilla milk are a huge treat...and so I don't have that "shalt not" mindset. I know I can have small treats, I savour them, they lose their 'power' over me.

75 pounds lost in 9 months. About 10-15 more to go. WOOT!

(thank you for your blog -- it's a great help...and I've learned so much from you!)

Lyn said...

Great insights so far!

Anonymous (Maria)~

I am really happy to hear that! Congrats and GOOD HEALTH to you :)

Anonymous said...

Hello Again Lyn,
For me he key was to learn WHAT to eat--basically, what you call "eating clean." Since I learned to avoid the foods that triggered binges, I have been able to stick to my eating plan for about 9 months now.

Before that I was a Yo-Yo dieter whose thin years were white-knuckle-hungry all the time. THEN, I had to use willpower and be committed 24/7 or the BED came back with a vengeance.

Since last June, I have had (maybe) five binges and only one lasted longer than an hour. NOW,
I have so much peace, I never want to give that up.I finally feel like I have a way of eating that will work for me for the rest of my life.

I hope this comment is of some use to you. The bottom line is that for me, it was less about willpower/commitment and more about finding a way to eat.


Dawn said...

I see myself as 2 of me ( well, physically there still is) There was the fat me that overate and didn't care and didn't try. ...and there's this new me, and I've a long way to go but I'm getting there and I so want to be the new me. When temptation strikes and when the going gets tough I ask myself which me do I want to be and not to keep on going means going back to the old me and I don't want to

LHA said...

Wow....thanks for this post and also all the interesting and helpful comments. This is a big question in my lifelong struggle with weight and fitness. Here is what I have found that works (most of the time) to keep me going:

1. Ditch the scale. I weigh once a month or less. It is so discouraging to see a gain or come to a standstill and it hampers my progress. Weighing daily or weekly is very harmful to my weight loss efforts.

2. Get help. I have a nutrtionist who has been working to help me for the past two years, as well as a therapist to help with emotional issues. I realized I couldn't do it alone.

3. DO NOT BERATE OR BELITTLE YOURSELF FOR GETTING OFF TRACK. This has helped me more than anything. A bad meal is just a bad meal, not a character flaw. Overeating one night, even if it is an all out binge, is just one night...not your whole life. All the self hatred and loathing I punished myself with over the years has only kept me overweight, not encouraged me to lose. A good website I found on this subject is It has nothing to do specifically with weight loss, but is a general site for help with being kind and compassionate to yourself.

Thanks for a great blog and for all who share their experiences here. I appreciate it so much.

Julie said...

Recently a Biggest Loser trainer (in Aust) wrote an article about motivation in the paper, and said it is not motivation that gets her up every morning early to exercise as motivation is just an emotion you can't rely on. It is iron-clad decisions, much the same way as you said 'fake it till you make it'. Just do it until it becomes a habit and keep doing what is working for you.
I lost 20 kgs over 18 mths, but put on half when my son was having treatment for cancer last year, it took me many months to get back on the wagon. What got me back there? Seeing myself in the mirror while I was doing yoga and sweating and huffing and puffing while I was doing it. A diet journal has kept me accountable and I want to be able to wear all my sexy outfits (jeans mostly) again.
Love your blog

Mom to the Fourth Power said...

For me, once I found a program that has worked, it's about begin focussed on that end result!! I think my time in obesity has been SO awful and SO negative that the pull to dig myself out of that is stronger than my desire to more immediate gratification... that AND since my cravings aren't as strong when I am on plan.

I just cannot go back to the way I used to feel! It is like coming out of a horrible prison so the motivation to GET out and NOT go back is huge.

I think everyone's experience is different because I have friends who are heavy and even obese who haven't struggled the way I did - especially with the lack of confidence and huge self-loathing. So their journey isn't as intense because they like themselves already. For me, it's been about learning to love myself again and see the good in myself. And when I see the good in myself, I can more readily see the good in others and it's like the whole world opens up and becomes good.

Very life changing for me.
I actually think more people relate to your story, Lyn, because of your ups and downs and how you keep it so real. It's very relatable to everyone. I appreciate that you share your journey - the good and the bad. You are a strong woman!!


Barb said...

I've lost a little over 80 lb. in the past year on South Beach.
I was lucky enough to lose pretty fast the first couple of months but then it slowed down, and it slowed down a LOT starting last fall.

What kept me from getting discouraged is remembering something one of my cousins told me many years ago when I was debating about returning to school to get a different degree. I was complaining about how long it would take. She said "those 5 years will pass whether you do this or not... where do you want to be in 5 years?"

That made me see things differently then, and I still remember those words today. In my case, I've got another 35 lbs or so to lose, and at my current rate it will take me the better part of a year. Maybe longer and that seems really slow! But that year will pass regardless of what I do... Do I want to pass the year feeling healthy, eating food that tastes good AND makes me feel good, and getting steadily smaller? Or do I want to give up, eat junk that may taste good but makes me feel bad, and be back up over 250 lb by this time next year?

That's what I call a no-brainer! :-)

timothy said...

i guess in this my faults come to my aid, my mama called it bein stubborn as a once i make up my mind NOTHING will deter me. i do find that setting small term goals easily attainable make it go smoother. plus celebrate the small victories, i lost 3 pounds this week (i wanted 5) but you know what a loss is a loss and i am grateful for it. one pound at a time baby one pound at a time!

Diandra said...

I try not to think about it too hard. I've started keeping healthier food in our home, eating less, especially eating less junk, and I've changed cooking habits. Apart from that, I try not to obsess, because I know I am impatient and if the desired change doesn't happen over night, I am more than likely to throw in the towel. Thus, my weight changes slowly most of the time, but it has been going (mostly) in the right direction since last summer, and I am half-way where I want to be.

Claire said...

Having lost over 100 pounds and, at the moment, having to lose the same few stone over again thanks to failed IVF, here's my motivation. I'm bored. Utterly mind-bendingly bored of dieting. I have been on a diet for 5 1/2 years (I have incredibly slow losses thanks to a dodgy thyroid) and I am done, finished, washed out.

So my motivation is that the sooner I get this done the sooner I can move to maintenance - which will look exactly the same but feel very different. I am very determined to get this done.

My logic is do you rip a plaster off slow or fast? Fast every time for me. The more breaks, meanders etc off piste the longer this will take. Just get it done. x

Megan said...

For me what works is avoiding alcohol and getting enough rest. If I slip up on either of these, I tend to overeat. Then the "never give up attitude" that you and others have is very inspiring!

The Captain's Daughter said...

I am convinced (after too many years of practive) that weight has absolutely NOTHING to do with food. What I weigh has only everything to do with what's in my head and how I feel. Period.

You're right... It is progress that provides the motivation to keep going. That's why, when we slide back into old habits it's so easy to remain there. Seeing the weight pile back on depresses me and keeps me eating, leading to even more weight gain. It's a terribly destructive and abusive cycle.

I am down 112 pounds now since 06/01/2010, and have had PLENTY of slips; however, the one thing I do consistently today that I never did in the past is that I get back on, immedaiately after I go off plan.

I would love to get right back on plan at the very next meal, but for now, the next day is working just fine.

I have NO answers, I can only offer what is working for me right now. I read the book titled Eating in the Light of the Moon, which was recommended by a medical nutritionist I saw three years ago and while it took me a year and a half after I read it, the book changed my life and forever my relationship with food.

The CLEAN Program is how I have lost the most recent 112 pounds and I am thankful to both - and to your blog for the honesty you deliver about this struggle. I wish you for and for me to one day be free from it.

However... All that being said, I also say that aside from my weight, I am perfect - Therefore, if I were the perfect weight, sans the struggle, it just wouldn't be fair to the rest of the world. Ha!

Love yourself... That's the answer!

Sam's Minions (aka parents- Angie and Brian) said...

What gets me started, and what keeps me going?

- Definitely my son. I want to be here for him and be able to play and see him grow into a man.

Anonymous said...

I think for me the trick is not to think beyond the meal I am eating at the moment, otherwise all you do is think about food 24/7. That is not a way to live and anybody would get sick of it. Who can't eat one decent healthy meal, anybody can do it. The other thing is to finally grow up at my advanced age and say to myself "why do you have to fill every craving you might have"? People all over the world don't have enough food to eat and stay alive, and I think I'll die if I don't have some Cheetos? It's so utterly childish and ridiculous. The last bit of advice is to say the older you get the more things will start to go wrong with your body, excess weight only adds to the problem, whatever it is. Don't lose for looks, clothes, because your partner prefers somebody thinner, etc. Just do it for you.


Anonymous said...

Sounds cliche, but:

Persistence, not perfection.
Dedication, not motivation.

Some days are easier than others. That's just the way it is and the way it will always be. Accept that some days, "good enough" is "good enough" and move on.

Beth Ann said...

I'm 100% in the "Fake it til you make it" camp. I need positivity in order to succeed. So, if I'm feeling down, I pretend I'm not. Eventually, I forget that my smile isn't real and that's exactly what it becomes. When I'm happy, I do what I'm supposed to do. That's what works for me.

Anonymous said...

I construct a new paradigm. I keep going by accepting that I am not in control of this process, I am not in control of losing weight and not in control of creating reality.

I don't dictate what the outcome will be. I don't need to control the process because I trust that it is unfolding perfectly. I trust the power within to know and do whatever is *right* in the moment I need that power to sustain me. Each moment is renewel.

I have everything I need already. Thoughts about overeating are simply mental constructs that pass through my brain on their way to nonexistence. They are not gods. They have no power over me. There is no tension to resist--nothing to battle, nothing to fight-- because I have no need to dominate myself. I can relax. I can trust.

I am always okay.

The universe always does what it will. I am unbelieveably lucky to watch it unfold, to be alive in this moment, to share a small part of this vision with you, whoever you are, wherever you are.

We are not alone.


Hanlie said...

I think for me it started happening when I gave up being a victim, looking for someone to rescue me from my obesity (and my life, by extension). Once I truly got that it was only ever up to me, I started strengthening my resolve, setting and defining goals and I became an unstoppable force for my own good. This not only impacted every area of my life - weight, health, career, marriage, personal relationships, hobbies, etc. I am not only building a new body, I am building a new life.

Anonymous said...

When I'm successful it's about 1) planning 2) scheduling and 3) a trigger to remember to remember.

1) Planning: Planning meals for the week, shopping the plan, packing the planned foods to take to work for breakfast, snacks and lunch, keeping the plan simple to prepare but tasty, including planned food I like. (I don't want to say treats because that's often interpreted as off-plan).

2) Scheduling: Scheduling time to plan meals and shop, putting exercise time of the calendar, scheduling it with other people if that makes it easier for me to do it, and then sticking to the schedule.

3) A trigger to remember to remember: I eat fast, I don't think about eating slowly and enjoying what I eat until the last bite unless I plant the idea in my head. Remembering I don't want to snack on unplanned "found food" (think office leftover pizza, cookies, homemade goodies, etc.) when I encounter it - that I want to eat healthy food. When I see it, I need a trigger to remember I don't want to eat this. If I can remember I don't want to fall into an old bad habit, I can change my behavior. This is one I'm still working on.

Also the idea that the second I finish eating something besides the calories all I have left is the memory of the taste and texture of it. That's no more than I have of the experience of eating the same thing in the past. I can just remember a past experience and in five minutes the experience is the same.


Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog so much. I don't blog myself, but have received a tremendous amount of benefit from reading those brave souls who do.

I have lost weight and regained it all back and more too many times. The last time I lost around 80 pounds and thought that I would NEVER allow myself to regain, but I did. Now here I am again. I've lost about 65 pounds and I'm still going, slowly chugging along. Like Barb, I think that time will pass not matter what I'm doing. Summer will be here and what will I have done with that time between now and then? If I practice "clean" eating to the best of my ability and keep focused on what my goals are (a more healthy me as I approach 50), then I have my answer. This is what I need to be doing.

One thing that has also helped is to read food blogs by those people who aren't trying to lose weight, but are nutritious, healthy eaters. The are doing this by choice for their health. Yes, maybe they don't have food issues, and yes, maybe they are addicted to the fat/carbs/sugar cycle, but they make choice about what they eat. It's always and great metabolism that keeps a thin person thin. Sometimes it's the salads for lunch, the exercise and the limits they put on desserts.
When I'm eating without care, I have not limits. I have dessert every evening even though I may have had donuts for breakfast and McDonald's for lunch. I have to create awareness everyday. And, when I do choose to eat something that's "off plan", I try to do that with awareness. To truly savor the experience and enjoy the taste. And to perhaps even notice when I've stopped tasting...and maybe I don't need to eat the whole thing. I struggle, I try to stay aware, I try to move forward, I try not to use food for a crutch.

Hopefully, I will get to that place where I'm not trying to actively lose, but there must always be a level of awareness. How many times did that spoon dip into the almond butter? Are you even tasting it? Put the lid on. Enough. That was today....

Katie said...

As someone who has lost 70 lbs in 14 months, I definitely see it as a commitment thing, not a willpower or motivation thing. There are definitely days when I have zero willpower and zero motivation, but I do what I have to because I made the commitment to myself to be healthy. I take it as seriously as I take my marriage vows. Also, I don't see any other way to be. Going back to being obese is not an option for me. I didn't like how I felt, I didn't like how I looked and I was not healthy. It is one day, one workout, one meal at a time. I have bad days, like everyone else, but that's ALL it is - a bad day. The next morning is a new day. Shake it off and make today a good one. That's all any of us has.

Darcy Winters said...

Thanks for some really great advice in these comments! I've decided to try Weight Watchers again and I'm determined this time I am going to do it. I think having an actual goal both long term and short term can be great motivation. I have a family reunion next year and I know that I do not want to have my aunts (and a couple of cousins) making the weight remarks as they have done in the past. I don't know why people feel such a need to tell you that you are overweight (like you didn't already know), but I want a firm plan in place by then and I'm hoping this time I can stick with it!