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.