One of our dieters, Rose, has lately been having a tougher time sticking to her diet and exercise plan. She’s about 2 ½ months into her diet and for the first time is really starting to struggle. For the first two months things were relatively easy for Rose – her motivation was high, she was losing weight, and generally nothing was too difficult. But a couple of months in and her motivation started to flag, her rate of weight loss slowed down slightly, and Rose suddenly found herself having to exert a lot more effort to stick to her plan. Rose was extremely worried that things would continue to be really difficult and was having strong doubts as to whether or not she could really keep this up.
The first thing we did for Rose was to normalize her situation and tell her that this is exactly what happens to everyone. No one, not a single dieter that we’ve worked with, has had a consistently steady and easy weight loss. Every single one has experienced exactly what is now happening to Rose – in the beginning it’s easy, and then at a certain point things get harder for a period of time. But the good news is, they always get easier again. And although hard times will continue to crop up, they do become fewer and farther between as dieters go along. But dieters really need to know ahead of time that the high motivation and ease of loss that they experience in the beginning of a diet won’t last, that they will definitely encounter a harder time, and that the hard time will also pass. If dieters aren’t prepared in advance for these hard times then when they come up they’re likely to get very discouraged and are at risk for abandoning their diet altogether.
We discussed with Rose the fact that she needs to think about the bigger picture. Things were easier for a while, then they became harder, but they will absolutely get easier again. We also helped her put her week in perspective. Rose initially said that she had a “really tough” week. We asked her if every hour of every day was difficult, and she said no. We then asked her if even most hours most days were difficult, and again she said no. On further reflection, Rose realized that all in all, she probably had struggled, at most, for a couple of hours several days, but had let the tougher times tinge her memory of the whole week. Once she was able to put her situation in perspective, Rose realized that a momentary struggle was definitely not a good reason to abandon her diet, and like everyone else who is ultimately successful, she just has to plow through until the difficulty lifts. We also reminded her that this is not the last hard time she will encounter, but Rose now feels much more confident that she can deal with the next one when it arises.