How’s that for a revelation? Massive weight loss, losing more than 50 pounds, is hard, but it’s not impossible. Plenty of people have done it, kept the weight off. What do they have that you don’t? Well, they have a deep understanding that: Massive weight loss is hard.
Figuring out how to lose weight is not difficult. Most of us know what works for us. We find a way to cut our calories, we move more, the weight comes off. What’s hard is doing that for more than two weeks. Now we’re talking about real change. Changing the way we live, building a host of new habits.
Even then, when faced with the alternative, the litany of diseases and disorders that obesity brings, the discomfort with a world designed for the thin minority, many of us can work up the gumption to stick to a new way of eating and moving for several months. We lose a great deal of weight.
And then, it hits us. The half-way-there blues. It happens so often, is such a common occurance, it deserves its own title.
The half-way-there blues comes when you’ve been working hard, seeing results, but then one day, you’re struck by how much farther you have to go. Maybe you hit a long plateau, and you lose heart. Or you catch a bad angle in a fun-house mirror while trying on interim-sized clothes in a badly-lit dressing room. You don’t like your body. You don’t like your new way of eating. You don’t want to go to the gym again. You don’t want to write down what you ate today. It’s been hard for a long time, and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Somewhere, deep inside you, there is a realization dawning: There IS no light at the end of the tunnel. Baby, there is no end. There is no tunnel. This watching what you eat and exercising? This is your new life. What you’re feeling, these blues, is the death-struggle of the old you, the birth of the new you. You are crossing over, and you’re scared.
Crossing over from morbid obesity is a scary prospect if you’ve been obese for a long time. You’re pausing at the gate, deciding which way to go. If you keep going, you lose your shell. You become vulnerable. You’re embracing living in a new way. You also give up life as a heavy person. Heaviness is its own club. If your family and friends are all heavy, it may feel as if you’re leaving them behind. Rejecting them in some way. (That’s nonsense, of course. But feelings are feelings, and must be acknowledged.) Maybe your people contribute to this feeling, whether they intend to or not. You may feel a daily pull away from some of these new habits of yours.
This can be awkward, this new life. You’re getting too much attention right now, and it’s all focused on your body. That’s temporary, but can feel just awful. Creepy. You can long to dive back under your fat blanket.
The half-way-there blues are real and difficult. From half-way the changes ahead look and feel like far more dramatic shifts than they really are. And all I can do is ask you to trust that not long after you reach your goal weight, when you’re still working on making these changes into habit, you will wonder why you were scared. Why you were thinking about dropping your diet and returning to your old habits.
Meantime, what to do about this?
*A little counseling right now can do wonders. Particularly if you have any trouble with depression. A visit with a family psychologist or professional diet counselor can do absolute wonders in a very little time. Just pick up the phone, tell your doctor about your blues and ask for a referral. Or try visiting a weight loss support group near you.
*Pull out old photos, from when you were heavier and lighter and consider what weight you want to be. What weight would feel good? Maybe your goals are a little too aggressive, after all?
*Consider whether you have the dreaded “all or nothing” virus. This is the inability to recognize that a little weight loss is better than none at all. Do you have to be supermodel skinny or it just isn’t worth it? If that’s where your head is, return to the list of diseases that too much weight and a poor diet bring on. This isn’t about cosmetics, friend, it’s about survival. Remember that you’ve already done remarkable things for your health by getting to the half-way mark. Giving up does not have to equal regain.
*Consider stopping for a while, working to maintain this weight. Sometimes the best way to cure the half-way blues is to try out maintenance for a bit. This means keeping up your new exercise habits, but giving yourself a few more calories each day to maintain this new weight for a month or two. This break will allow you to evaluate where you are, to see if you can maintain at this weight before trying to lose more.
*Take your measurements and study sizing charts before heading out to clothing stores. Or order your clothes by mail so you can try them on in your own home, away from the emotionally charged setting of a dressing room.
*Take a be-kind-to-your-body splurge to celebrate your half-way mark. Get a new haircut, a pedicure, a manicure, a facial, or a massage. Tell the person who works on you that you’ve been working hard at losing weight, and this is your reward for hitting your half-way mark. Let them tell you how wonderful you are. And smile. And say thanks. Don’t forget to reward yourself for each small goal from here on out.
*Pull out your body log and make a list of all the things that have changed about you and your body since you started this effort. Include everything. Climbing stairs more easily, finishing a workout video, eating more veggies. Has your hair gotten shinier, your skin clearer? Are you sick less, is your coloring improved? How’s your blood pressure? How about your cholesterol readings. Measurements? List it all, and then congratulate yourself for all these changes.
*Throw yourself a little half-way-there party. Invite your diet buddies and serve nothing but veggies and tea.
*Consider cutting back on sugar, or eat it only after a full meal. Sugar dips can really play havoc with your mood.
*If you have hit a plateau, recognize that your body is going through millions of tiny changes, adjustments, working very hard to respond to these new habits you’re forming. It’s tired. Get plenty of rest. Drink plenty of water. Be very kind to yourself.
Above all, remember that this is hard work. Losing a massive amount of weight takes real focus. It may be the hardest thing you will ever do. Reward yourself often. Develop patience as your greatest virtue. It will probably take a long time. It may take years. And it will be worth it. I swear it will. Even if it doesn’t feel worth it right now.
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