I want to talk about the part of weight loss no one likes to talk about.
Let’s be honest: It’s more fun to read success stories and see drastic before-and-after photos. It’s more satisfying to see the numbers on the scale go down and the waists of our pants get looser.
But for most of us, weight loss chart isn’t a perfectly straight declining line. There are bumps. Ten pounds may get lost, then four pounds gained back, followed by another batch of six pounds lost, then two pounds back ...
Throughout July, I’ve been in a weight loss slump. Through most of June, my weight hit a plateau at 204 pounds. Now that late July has rolled around, it’s up to 207 pounds.
The reason is no mystery. My workout sessions were replaced this month with writing sessions as I worked to meet a deadline for a work-in-progress novel. Those writing sessions also included a lot of snacking and extra soft drinks.
Exercise went down, calorie consumption went up ... you can do the math. The equation doesn’t balance.
It’s times like this — when nearly a month has passed without a pound lost and there hasn’t been success in weeks — that it’s tempting to give up.
But it’s important to focus on a specific truth at a time like this: This is a setback, not failure.
Setbacks are when the journey takes a few steps back before continuing onward. Failure is where the journey ends upon giving up.
3 steps to getting
This week, I’m getting back on track with my diet and exercise routine. I’ve been weathering the setback in three ways.
1. Don’t panic. One of the chief pieces of advice in Douglas Adams’ zany novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is applicable to weight loss efforts — and, more specifically, to the days or weeks those efforts aren’t going the way we plan.
Characters in the book are routinely reminded, “Don’t panic.” The same applies here. Gaining back unwanted weight isn’t a catastrophe. So don’t panic. Take a deep breath and focus on getting back on track.
(Another main piece of advice in “Hitchhiker’s Guide” is to always carry a towel — although much less helpful in terms of managing weight loss, towels are handy to have around after strenuous workouts. Incidentally, strenuous workouts are helpful.)
2. Keep logging calories. Accountability is one of the keys to success, even if it means being accountable to missed goals.
In fact, I’ll wager it’s especially important to hold ourselves accountable when we miss the target.
On July 8 and July 11, I consumed nearly double the calories I’m allotted per day. That added up to almost nine days’ worth of eating in a single week. It’s discouraging to look at my daily chart from that week. But by continuing to log my calories and keeping my daily count in mind, I was able to keep the count lower other days that week. Although I confess: I went over calories by a couple hundred every day that week.
Even though I didn’t stay within my daily calorie count, my calorie trend since that week has been downward: I’m eating fewer each day and getting closer to my daily goal again. Continuing to track this, even when the results aren’t what I want them to be, helps me find my way back to success.
3. Focus on why, not what. In May, I wrote about finding the right motivation to carry me through the weight loss journey.
Months into the process, it’s all too easy to start focusing on the what — the numbers on the scale or the waist size of my jeans — rather than the why.
One of the leading reasons I started a weight management plan is to ease complications from polycystic ovarian syndrome. When I’m tempted to berate myself about the numbers on the scale creeping back up, I have to cut myself off mid-thought. Instead of focusing on the numbers, I have to remember there’s a bigger goal — one worth sticking to and working toward.
There’s a good chance you’ll feel cheesy the first time you give yourself a pep talk. As hokey as it sounds, it works. Remind yourself of your reason to manage your weight. Hold onto that. Grab a mirror, look yourself in the eye, and say, “I’m losing weight for [insert reason here]. I can do this.”
Because you can. So can I.
So let’s put the setback behind us.
JULIE BARICHELLO is an assistant editor at The Times documenting her weight management and health improvement journey. To share your own weight management story, contact her at 815-431-4072 or firstname.lastname@example.org.