|Every day, in newspapers, magazines, television, and
online, we are exhorted to lose weight. Alarming statistics
about our national overweight and obesity rates are
regularly revisited and the dangers of carrying too many
pounds are trumpeted by dietitians, nutritionists, medical
specialists, and the weight loss gurus on their talk show
They don’t have to keep trying to convince us that ideal
weight is healthier; we know that. No one has to point
out that life is more fun when our activities are not
hampered by fifty pounds of excess fat; we know that.
The joy of accepting that we look attractive and slim
doesn’t have to be hammered into our brains; we know it
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|We know the problem. We try to solve it by starting one of the thousand of diets
floating through the media. We shell out our money for supplements, pills,
support meetings, and online weight clubs. We know what we need to do and
desperately try to follow through.
None of us start a diet intending to fail. The money and time we spend is part of
a genuine effort to lose, not merely throwing away excess funds to assuage our
conscience. But why is the problem getting bigger all the time when millions of
us are following the advise we’re being given?
Losing weight is terribly hard. Even more difficult is keeping it off. So we yo-yo
our way through life, eagerly embracing every new program that comes along,
believing the promises and testimonials we read, and waiting impatiently for the
silver bullet we pray will appear.
After years of recurrent failure, we start to feel hopeless. Our dreams are
repetitively battered on the rocks of dozens of unsuccessful diet attempts. We
begin to wonder if all the effort is worthwhile. Before we throw in the towel and
surrender ourselves to a lifetime of fat, let’s look at the process of weight control
and see if it’s worth giving it one more shot.
“I want to lose forty five pounds.” A statement like that is usual at the start of a
diet. We are willing to take whatever action is needed to get started on our quest.
We may try a particular program or a pill or a general cutback in food intake.
Whichever approach we take, we are focused on our need to lose forty five
The first week we lose three to five pounds and we are ecstatic, smiling down at
our scale as if it were an ancient genie oozing out of its magical bottle. The
second and third week, the loss continues although at a slower pace. We’re still
happy and enthusiastic; it is all working as it should.
Somewhere around the fourth to eighth week, we hit the first major hump. We
are following our program religiously, resisting the temptation to cheat even
when alone, and keeping our eye firmly fixed on that forty five pound goal. One
or two weeks go by and the weight loss stops. We tinker with our program, cut
our intake to the bone, force ourselves to exercise. Nothing works – the scale
mockingly reflects the same numbers we’ve been staring at for three weeks.
The weeks of deprivation, physical pangs, and unfulfilled emotional cravings
appear to be worthless. A little voice starts babbling inside our head: what’s the
point of the physical and mental pain if it’s not getting us where we want to go?
Maybe it’s not the right time or the right diet. Maybe we’re destined to be
overweight and nothing we do is going to change that. Maybe our body’s quirks
will thwart any diet we try.
We’re on the skids, ready to fall off the straight and narrow. Feeling desperately
sorry for ourselves, we allow one little treat to ease the disappointment. One
treat leads to another, and another, and another.
Suddenly, we’re back where we started, with another two to three pounds to
boot. Frustrated, angry, and overwhelmingly guilty, we look at ourselves in the
mirror and bemoan our apparent destiny: to spend the rest of our lives fat.
What happened? We started out with such high hopes and strong motivation.
We played by the rules but the rules didn’t work. We tried, terribly hard, but our
bodies sabotaged our strongest efforts. We feel worse about ourselves than when
we started. Is another try even worth it?
Yes! It’s always worth trying again if we really want to succeed. It is the sum of
our efforts that counts if we are to reach our goal.
Remember that goal of losing forty five pounds? We still want to do it but we
need to modify our mental approach. Let’s put everything into a new
perspective. Let’s restate our goal as wanting to lose five pounds per month. That
equates to sixty pounds per year – fifteen pounds beyond our original goal!
Once our goal has been reframed, it lifts the pressure of “I’ve got to keep losing”
and reduces the burden to a mere five pounds per month, manageable by almost
all of us. Depending upon the kind of person you are, you can dive right in, jump
on the diet of your choosing, and lose five pounds the first ten days. Then you
just have to maintain for three weeks until the first of the next month. If you’re
a procrastinator as I usually am,don’t worry about anything until the 20th of
the month. Then take stringent measures to make sure you attain that five
pound loss before a new month dawns.
What typically happens is that you grow impatient with this rate of loss. You
decide to keep going and lose more. If that happens, so much the better, but
limit the mental pressure to that magical five pounds a month. If you end up
losing six or eight pounds over the month, don’t fret if the scale needle starts to
stick because you’ve already exceeded your goal by 20% to 60%! Celebrate your
victory with an ego-building (non-edible) treat.
The reframing of your weight loss objectives in this fashion has unbelievable
psychological rewards. You are no longer mentally beating up on yourself for
not moving fast enough towards that forty five pound loss elephant, but are
feeling so good about yourself for meeting, or even exceeding, that five pound
goal that you feel like bubbling over.
And make no mistake about it, feeling good about yourself is absolutely critical
in weight loss. We who constantly wage the battle of the bulge are famous for
our poor self-image and diminished self-esteem. We hate every roll of fat that
pokes over our too-tight waistbands. We wince when the mirror reflects flabby
arms and saddlebag thighs. We suck in our tummies until we can no longer
breathe, turn sideways, and are still uncomfortably aware that the image we
project bears little resemblance to the image in our minds.
We need, desperately, to increase our self-respect and our sense of self-worth.
We need to nurture our self-image and self-appreciation. We need to enjoy some
continuing successes that can rebuild our battered egos and keep that constant
guilt and self-reproach at bay.
Changing the syntax of your weight loss goals can lead not only to a more
successful weight loss campaign, but can restore your self-belief and heal the
psychological damage caused by too many diet failures over too many years.
Virginia Bola, PsyD - EzineArticles Expert Author
Virginia Bola is a licensed psychologist and an admitted diet fanatic. She
specializes in therapeutic reframing and the effects of attitudes and motivation
on individual goals. The author of The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment
Survival Manual, and a free ezine, The Worker's Edge, she recently published a
psychologically-based weight control e-workbook, "Diet with an Attitude" which
develops mental skills towards the goal of permanent weight control. She can be
reached at http://www.DietWithAnAttitude.com/index2.html. She provides
support and guidance in use of the workbook through her regular blog,
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