Friday, October 30, 2009


Despite my progress, and continually improving habits, I’m finding myself depressed and disheartened at this stage of the game. This is because I’m making progress, but I’m not looking much better. From a psychological behavioral model viewpoint, this is because I’m no longer being rewarded in a tangible manner for my behavior.

At first, the reward was the achievement itself. Each day that I successfully ate at my caloric goals and exercised was like a mental gold star. Since I started out calorie counting only one day, then added two, then three, and am now at the point where I count everyday, the newness of the experience and the impact of achieving each daily goal lasted for quite some time, but has been blunted now. Success no longer feels like an accomplishment. It’s simply what happens everyday and will continue to happen pretty much to the end of my life (with some modifications).

Given my current lofty weight, viewable progress has been slow in coming. I tend to notice progress in leaps after a month or two rather than in steps after a week or two. I’m also very cognizant of the fact that my stretched out skin is going to sag even when the weight that pulled it into its current shape is reduced. I may not look as good as someone else at my weight because the skin won’t retract fast enough (if ever).

This is a stage which I call “fat without benefits” or “FWB” for short. I think that this is one of the many reasons people often fail at diets. Being fat itself has no benefits, but the actions that lead up to it are gratifying. You have freedom to eat whatever you want and the pleasure of the food you’re consuming both physically and emotionally. You avoid the discomfort and stress of hunger and aren’t having the mental battles that go along with scrutinizing and censoring your food choices.

If you are very overweight, you’re going to spend an appreciable amount of time being in a state of “FWB”. You’ll be getting incremental improvement that is too small to be seen (and possibly too small health-wise to be palpable for quite some time) punctuated by bursts of reward occasionally.

I’m pondering now if this long, tedious slog is going to be harder than the acutely uncomfortable initial phase of a lifestyle change to lose weight. While it’s very hard to get started, it’s difficult in a different way to keep going. The fact that you were sick of being fat is what drove you initially to change your lifestyle, and now that you’ve changed it, you’re still fat and will be for the foreseeable future.

I expect to spend at least 2 years in varying points of this phase given my current weight. That being said, I am not finding the food restrictions or the exercise particularly oppressive or restrictive, but I’m just frustrated and occasionally depressed by the lack of noticeable progress. I guess that this might be a time to turn to a scale so that I can get numerical feedback that will be symbolic of progress, but I’m concerned that the sometimes impatient and compulsive nature of my character might make that a poor option for me. If I have those numbers, I might become frustrated if they aren’t moving as I expect they should. For now, I’m going to just simply be aware of how I feel and try to accept that this will be my reality for awhile and I need to make peace with it as best I can.


dlamb said...

Hi Girl,
First, thank you for your reply. I am moving forward through the readings and I was happy to be able to link to another one of your brilliant, touching subjects, this time with permission. I hope it makes a difference to those who may benefit from a different perspective re. certain issues.

I feel a bit silly commenting on these old posts, since I assume you are in a completely different "place" at the present time. I think your issues are so universal however, that if somebody else reads from the beginning, your experience and the way it affects us, readers, is applicable today.
I found that my own motivation, being somewhat different from that of some people who also try to achieve a certain weight, kept me content every day. Yes, I wanted to lose weight but what really scared the crap out of me is that I simply could not stop the binges. I had lost and gained a considerable amount of weight several times, by doing the starving/binging dance and this time around I could not get back to the starving "intervention" that had always worked for me. I used to lose somewhere around 10# a week (and I DID NOT CARE if that was in the form of h2o and muscle mass). I just wanted to see the numbers go down and they did; ALWAYS.

This time around, I was up by 70# again and my "trick" stopped working. I'd starve myself for a day or two and I'd lose a couple of pounds. My compass was broken, I was desperate and with each measly loss, following a couple of days of starvation, I'd end up binging for days. Eventually I strung together day after day of binges. I was completely out of control. I went to a site I used to visit when I was successful and presented my plight. Some of the members made a suggestion that fit into my problem resolution intervention and then I lucked upon ONE SINGLE comment that a blogger made and that stopped my binge habit. It was my very first weight loss blog and I was fascinated. I spent days reading through the archives of a woman I grew to admire and respect for many reasons. I admit, I was simply lucky but others may find that reading of somebody's struggles, internal dialogues, insights and self analysis, may touch a nerve, a memory, lead to introspection that will change their lives radically.
Anyway, following that epiphany and suggestions from fellow food addicted individuals, I knew I had to find another trick, as age and the extra weight were finally starting to affect my formerly perfect blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Like you, I started out by putting away the scale and focusing on a number of calories and making my priority, not losing weight at that time, but stopping the binges.

I understand your experience: you stop having fun with food, a situation that should lead to an observable physical change, but that is slow in coming. You also know that if you veer off course, you backtrack and the consequence of THAT behavior WILL be noticeable. Also, you think back to the "missed fun" with food and feel that it was all for nothing. Such a horrible cycle!!!
When I got the binge behavior under control, I took two weeks each, at different calorie levels, in order to find out out which one would allow me a one pound loss/week. This necessitated an enormous attitude adjustment. All the years I had dieted I considered 1#loss/week a waste of time. Yes, I knew that in one year I would be at goal, but I chose to starve myself for a couple of months and get it over with. Of course, in most cases, by the end of the year I arrived and my goal weight and binged my way all the way back where I started. Clever, clever girl!!!
Anyway, this is by way of introducing myself to a fellow professional and food addict and to thank you for the wealth of information you provide, the kindness and lack of judgement that is more often than not counterproductive and the courage to touch upon subjects that some would eschew.

dlamb said...

oops, forgot to enable "e-mail follow up" and I'm too old and addle brained to remember where I am leaving a comment, especially since I am gorging on the archives. Better to binge on reading, you will probably agree?

screaming fatgirl said...

Thanks, dlamb. I really appreciate your sharing your experiences and I'm gratified that you find my back posts so helpful. Yes, I'm in a very different place now, but I can still remember where I was. It's important to me to know how I got here in case I lose my way and need a roadmap back.

I also think that, depending on where people are in their efforts, going from the beginning may be quite useful. I think people who are starting really can't relate to where I am now (I know I couldn't have back in 2009), so I can see your point.