Long-Term Thinking

A common experience when striving toward weight loss, is a sense that you aren’t making any progress. It is hard to tell if what you are doing is making any difference. The scale isn’t moving, your buttons are about to pop, and all the while, you’re living as close to an ascetic lifestyle as you can muster. Frustration and despair set in. All the while, junk food is singing its siren song. One mess up and you abandon the entire enterprise as a hopeless failure. All this stems from a lack of appreciation for the crucial element of time. Nobody gains 20 pounds overnight, and nobody loses it overnight either. As with most other aspects of the process, you can use this to your benefit or detriment. It is a mighty double-edged sword.

I have found that using the knowledge that it takes a long time to lose weight, is a powerful way to stave off the crushing despair that sets in, inevitably, throughout the process. There is nothing quite like perfectly managing your calorie intake, and consistently hitting your exercise goals, only to find that the scale hasn’t budged. If you quickly catch that thought and interpret it through the correct lens, it can disintegrate the feeling of hopelessness. Many people (myself included) deny themselves the satisfaction of a job well done because they don’t allow themselves the time to see the results. If you expect to work out super hard and diet for a couple weeks, and see all the weight melt off, you aren’t going to. The body is not designed to lose or gain weight quickly, and if it does, it is often a sign of problems. Seriously, if you are losing or gaining weight quickly, you should see a doctor.

One of the frustrating things about this reality is that time moves much quicker when you are having fun. That is why it can seem like you blink and gain 20 pounds. So how do you hack this cycle? Find ways to look at it positively. Simple shifts in the way you look at the process can make this a very positive thing. There have been times where I know that I have been doing well and that I should see results. I would hop on the scale in the morning, and be consumed with rage that the scale didn’t move! I punched a hole in my bedroom door one morning that now serves as a handy reminder of this. Every time I see it, I become encouraged.

Weight tends to come on and off in a spectrum. For me, that spectrum can range up to nine pounds. I have literally dropped nine pounds overnight, all in water weight. Every time I hop on the scale and see stagnation or even a small drop, I remind myself that the nine-pound window may be traveling downward without me realizing it. I quickly assess whether I have been faithful to my routine, and rest easy in the knowledge that I am heading downward. This is an exercise in faith. If you have faith in the process and stick to it regardless of what the scale or your goal clothes say, you are going to see results.

Understanding and accepting the realities of weight loss is crucial to the process. Making time your friend is the only way to see lasting results. Part of this goes back to the hedonic treadmill concept. If you really want to make the process work, you must find ways to make it enjoyable. If you are forcing yourself to do what it takes, time is going to drag on and become your enemy. If you are depriving yourself of good food (the right foods prepared well) fun activities (whatever physical activities, you do enjoy) it’s going to seem like an impossible task. I can’t stress enough the importance of enjoying the process. Find ways to enjoy it and time becomes a wind in your sails. Instead of approaching the scale on “weigh day” with dread, approach it with confidence. I am always amazed at how the scale seems to surprise me when I do this. It has the added benefit of making you more faithful in the process which adds more wind behind the sails. Next thing you know, you’ve dropped a substantial amount of weight, and you feel “normal.” People will say, “good work” and I’ll immediately think, “what work?”

Compartmentalize your goals. I make my goals in five to ten-pound increments. This dispels some of the negative psychology that makes the enterprise seem impossible. Losing five pounds isn’t that hard at all. Run through that cycle 10 times and, voila, you’ve lost 50 pounds. It’s important to set realistic goals to make the time component a friend rather than a foe.

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