Weight-loss Setbacks Will Happen. Learn From Them.

Photo by Francisco Moreno on Unsplash

On March 2nd at 1:11 PM CST, I weighed 213.4 pounds.

On March 5th at 6:30 AM CST, I weighed 220.1 pounds.

On March 12th at 9:51 AM CST, I weighed 214.6 pounds.

Weight loss isn’t a straight path. You don’t wake up one morning, completely remake the entire fabric of your existence, and then jauntily strut down an obstacle-free road towards your ideal weight.

Weight loss is packing all of your fears and dreams and hopes and wishes into your stomach instead of junk food and barreling through the thorny brambles of reality towards a goal which may not even be there.

You are going to get it wrong. A lot.

You’ll step onto the scale after a hard-won week spent adhering to your new eating and exercise habits (created in tandem with your doctor) and find that your weight has gone the wrong direction.

Or, like me, you wake up one morning and find an entire month’s worth of work washed down the drain in three short days.

You can’t control setbacks. You will experience them, no matter how bitterly I wish you didn’t have to.

What you can control, however, is your response to the inevitable scale fail.

It takes a lot to master yourself in that moment. Believe me, I know exactly how steep an ask I’m making of you. I’ve been at this for over a year and I’m still trying to get a better grip on my reaction when I stare weight-gain in the face.

When I saw 220 staring back at me on March 5th, I was very upset about it. Outrage, defeat, betrayal, panic. Pick your preferred mode of distress and chances are pretty good I went through it whilst trying to bore holes into the scale using the maelstrom within.

It’s an experience that each of us will react differently to. You cannot possibly know who you’ll be in that moment until you’re fully within it.

As someone who’s been through the mill more than once, I’ve pieced together a few habits that have allowed me to cope with the need to step back and reassess.

Step One: Don’t Panic!

The first thing I do in these situations is to conjure a mental picture of the advice printed on the front cover of the famed interstellar travel-aid in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Don’t Panic! (Just pretend that’s written in large, friendly letters)

There are a million and one reasons why you’re standing upon Benedict Scalenold. I have shared an account of just how much you’re fighting an uphill battle, but the reality of it bears repeating.

Your body HATES losing weight.

It hates weight loss even more than you, if you can believe it. Every single day, with every single meal, it is hatching scheme after scheme to put those pounds back where it thinks they belong.

It’s why weight loss is so infrequently permanent. It’s why this is my third and final attempt at it. It’s also why I try every trick in the book, including sharing my progress very publically; it helps make those moments easier to bear.

So the first order of business is to make sure you step back from the edge of any rash decision making. Take a few deep breaths, sing your favorite song, imagine defeating Emperor Palpatine.

You know, the basics.

.

You need to have a plan in place that’ll get you safely out of the bathroom and on with your life.

Then, and this is where it really gets tough, you have to go about your day like it’s business as usual.

You’re not going to be making your best decisions after a moment like that. You might, for example, attempt to bury your grief by covering it with food at the buffet line.

I have done extensive experiments on this, and I am sad to report that it doesn’t work.

If you start making hasty decisions, you’ll get hasty results. Then, before you know what happened, you’ll be back to your starting weight all while wondering how the heck things went belly-up so fast.

Do not repeat my mistakes. I’m a slow learner. It’s taken me three weight-loss journey’s for all of this to crystalize and make sense to me.

Don’t. Panic.

That leads nicely into the second difficult thing you must do:

Phase Two: Assess Your Situation With Brutal Honesty

You’re fighting against your metabolism, your age, your physical limitations, as well as all of our bodies natural inclination to slam the panic button with each pound lost.

There is no place for lies on this battlefield.

An ounce of painful reflection is worth a pound of weight-loss.

Did you,truly and sincerely, stick to your new meal and exercise plan?

The one you set up with your doctor?

Did you, to pull a completely random example out of a hat, secretly sneak chocolate, honey, and peanut butter into your unsweetened oatmeal on March 4th just to feel alive for once? Maybe you snagged a candy bar out of the vending machine because it’s been one of Those Days and that candy bar is the thin chocolate rope tethering you to the last shreds of your own humanity?

Maybe it’s all of those things. Maybe it’s (likely) none of those things. Regardless, you have to be unflinchingly honest with yourself when it comes time to assess the situation.

If you find yourself on the losing end of the argumento de escala frequently, then it’s time to shake things up and try new approaches.

It may even, and this is the good part, be good weight gain.

When you start making gains in muscle mass, you’ll see that at the scale. You might even be losing inches on your waist while gaining at the scale.

If that is the case, the absolute last thing you want to do is panic and pivot away from what is obviously working.

Occasionally, you’ll run into obstacles which only rear their head once you’ve traveled a sufficient distance.

I’m lactose intolerant. That’s always been a thing, apparently, but it’s not something that was really ‘An Issue’ until this last hurrah. Once I started getting my gut bacteria sorted out, I discovered that they have quite the virulent loathing of cheese, milk, and their ilk.

If I have more than a handful of cheese every other day, I am painful bloating given flesh and form. It’s awful for everyone involved.

I used to upend entire bags of shredded cheese into my cheese-maw on the regular, but now I have to build up the enjoyment for each handful like a five year old hoarding their Christmas buzz.

The only reason I came to that realization is because of the unforgiving mathematics of the morning weigh-in.

Once I had addressed the situation, I went from 240 to 220 in a little under two months.

It’s remarkable what you can get done if you’re willing to face the problem squarely.

Lies do not help you deal with your weight-loss issues; they just make them harder to deal with once the excuses dry up.

You’re better than that. You deserve better than that.

Know Thyself

I know that the slog towards your ideal weight can seem endless.

So now, when the setback-man cometh, step back from the precipice of despair by refusing to panic. Don’t, for the love of everything scared, abandon your routines point-blank while under the influence of the scale fail.

Then, after you’ve taken sufficient time to cope, gather your heart and your courage and assess what went wrong (if anything did!) so that you don’t have to repeat your mistakes.

The whole secret to weight loss is refusing to give up.

I’ll reach my goal of 200 yet, even if it means losing more than a hundred pounds to make it happen.

Stridefully,

The Unsheathed Quill

The Quill is the brain-child of Justin Wallace, an author, producer of podcasts, DM to an unruly crew, and nerd with a family of more other different nerds.

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