I’ve referenced the fact that I’ve lost a significant amount of weight more than a few times on this blog. I use “significant” a bit loosely, because I’m very short and was never overweight in the first place, but what I’ve lost ultimately adds up to about 16% of my original body weight, so it’s no small matter. Anyway, clarifications aside, there has been a significant improvement in the way that I look and the way that I feel about myself this past year.
Most of the time, I feel awesome. It sound silly to say, but I will freely admit that I’ve spent a bit of time admiring my smaller stomach in the mirror, particularly once the two-pack I’m currently rocking started to show and I got a few new muscle lines I didn’t even know I could have. I feel more comfortable in my clothes – I started wearing tighter shirts and shorter shorts and dresses, and I didn’t think twice about it (when before I absolutely hated shorts because I felt like my legs were too fat).
However, it’s hard to feel good about the way that you look 100% of the time, particularly in today’s society, and I am no exception to that rule. Occasionally, even though I know with every bit of logic available to me that I am perfectly healthy bordering on fit, I still feel fat. And that can be really difficult to deal with when you’ve worked so hard to get to where you are.
So what can you do when, despite progress and a lot of time feeling really good, you start to get discouraged?
It helps a lot to have a goal that’s not related to your weight. In my case, “maybe my stomach looks a bit pudgy today, but I can run 13 miles straight now where before I struggled to do even one.” Other possibilities include things like, “so I don’t feel so great about how I look in these pants, but I can bench twice as much as I used to,” or, “I’m not feeling the best about my weight today, but I took the stairs at work and wasn’t even a little bit winded.” It doesn’t really matter what that goal is, what matters is that it’s distinct, measurable, objective progress that has nothing to do with how much you weigh or how you look.
But sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes you can feel really great about what your body can do, but still really bad about how it looks. Then what?
One thing I would recommend is finding a picture from before you started losing weight and comparing that side-by-side with a picture of how you look now. We see ourselves every single day, so it can be hard to think big-picture losses when all we notice are the really tiny ones. Putting those pictures side-by-side can help you clearly see how far you’ve come. If you don’t have pictures available, consider trying on clothes from before you started losing weight and seeing how much better they fit or how much extra room there is now.
Although it sounds strange, another thing that can help is weighing yourself. You may feel fat, but if you step on the scale and see that that number has either stayed the same or decreased, you have empirical evidence that you look just as good as you used to feel – or maybe even better!
Another thing that helped me, although it may not be possible for everyone, was figuring out the total number of calories I have burned through exercise (because I use MapMyRun to track this, it automatically gives me a lifetime count). Since a pound of fat has 3500 calories, I was able to calculate that approximately half of the weight I’ve lost has been due to exercise and the other half due to counting calories. Seeing that it took an equal amount of effort on both fronts to lose the weight made me feel much better about continuing with each.
If none of those things work, you should consider rethinking your plan. Don’t give up, of course, but it may be that the sacrifices you’re making are no longer worth the gains you’re making. Maybe you can slightly reduce the amount of time you spend exercising, or decrease your calorie deficit by just a bit. You could also find (or make!) healthier versions of foods you may have given up to support your weight loss so that you still feel like you get to treat yourself every once in a while. Whatever you decide to do, and I have done all of the things mentioned above, make sure that it will still help get you to your goal (although progress might be slower) and that it’s something that feels worthwhile to you when you consider the costs against the benefits.
Finally, remember that there are a lot of companies out there with a whole lot of money invested in making you feel like you aren’t good enough the way you are. Truth is, you probably look fabulous. Own it!