A couple of weeks ago the scale said that I’ve lost 19lbs.
I didn’t really do it on purpose – I’ve been training hard, lifting heavy, and eating (mostly) clean because it feels good. I’ve also set some lofty performance goals and I’m having fun chasing them down. Fat loss has been a pleasant side effect but not the objective, because fuck that desperately-trying-to-take-up-less-space noise. It’s time to lift bigger, not be smaller – that’s way more fun!
A funny thing happens when you get to that point where you’ve lost a bunch of weight though: other people start to notice.
Sure, YOU noticed that your body feels different after the first five; maybe even less than that. People close to you notice little differences here and there too, but they also notice how hard you’re working. Then one day, a magic switch flips and suddenly the world sees you differently. You get compliments from random people – sometimes multiple times a day. You’re in the zone – this awesome little bubble that insulates you from the bad feelings that will eat you alive if you don’t eat them first. And it feels great.
Unless you’ve been there before.
Unless your weight has gone up and down by hundreds of pounds over the years and you know the drill. You know that the bubble could pop any minute and six months of hard work could be undone in a couple of weeks and you’ll go plummeting to the ground…and if that happens, if a really good case of crippling depression and self-doubt get the better of you, all the cheering will disappear, leaving in its place awkward silences where people give you the once-over with their eyes, wondering what happened but not knowing what to say.
Weight loss can be a mind fuck, and the ever-present possibility of losing control and spiralling back to where you were is terrifying.
Right at this moment I’m not there yet. I’m still in the bubble but I’ve hit a plateau and mentally I’m struggling. Crushing self-doubt is lurking around the edges, making me question whether or not I’m doing things right. Whispering that I need to cut more, work harder, that I’m just a ridiculous old woman with a point to prove. The trainer in me knows, of course, that in my case, slow progress is better. That trying harder to control more only leads to disordered behaviour patterns, obsession, and failure. That the primary goal here is beastly strength, not an aesthetic. But some days, the whispering is louder than the voice of reason. How do you deal when that happens – when progress slows (or stops), when that happy glow goes away and all that’s left is fear and doubt?
I’ll tell you a secret.
There is no bubble. Lasting change doesn’t depend on the structural integrity of a film of soapy water. You won’t go crashing down if you lose that buoyant, in-the-zone feeling. Be patient with yourself and you WILL get it back, I promise. I’ve been stuck in a rut more times than I care to admit or even think about. I’ve also coached countless clients through them, and I’ve learned that two things need to happen in order to shake things up and get moving forward again.
Self-acceptance, to be more specific. Who are we doing this for again? Why? Because we’re daring to imagine a better reality for ourselves, that’s why. But none of us are going to be different people if/when we get to where we think we want to be, so we’d better all make peace with ourselves and be happy with where and who we are now. Go toward the most awesome version of yourself. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Surround yourself with people who inspire you, who make you want to be the best possible version of yourself. Pick up a new project. Learn something new. Get out of your comfort zone. Do whatever you have to do to shake things up and re-ignite your enthusiasm. Stoke that fire!
What I do to keep things fresh is give myself one training day in the gym to do whatever I want. Four days a week I do what my trainer/coach tells me to do; the fifth day is play day. And lately play day means Olympic lifting – it’s something I’ve always wanted to be better at, but it scares me a little bit because it’s such a departure from anything I’ve worked on before. So I’ve enlisted the help of a friend who’s a competitive weightlifter and has ridiculous drive and focus, and I’m gonna damn well learn how to do it right. New skill + Inspiring company = reinforced drive to be better!
Here’s something else to chew on: think of someone you admire. What is it that you admire about them? Is it their focus? Commitment? Intensity? Exuberance? If you’ve recognized something extraordinary in that person, that quality is in you, too.
Above all, be patient. You may not be ready to re-commit to that goal just yet. Maybe you just need a break from all of it…and if that happens, it’s not a bad thing to just embrace it. Give yourself a set amount of time to let the bad feelings win, without doing anything to try and chase them away. Case in point: yesterday, I was done. I had nothing left – no fight, no will, no drive. I had lost control and I was terrified. So what did I do? I spent most of the day in bed, of course – I only got up to work and spend some time with my daughters. Here’s the thing though: that only works if there’s a time limit – I gave myself yesterday to wallow in self-pity; today it’s back to the business of smashing the shit out of my goals. Giddy up!