Have you ever wondered why losing weight is so hard?
There is a cycle that everyone goes through when making the kinds of lifestyle changes that result in permanent weight loss. I made a drawing for you. (Up there. )
The chart explains one reason so many people struggle to lose weight and keep it off.
On the left hand side, notice the vertical axis is labeled Emotional State, with the top half being a state of optimism, and the lower half being a state of pessimism. The horizontal axis on this chart represents Time.
Whenever we start something (a new diet, for example), there’s a period of time when our enthusiasm and optimism is high. We’re excited about the new "thing” and we feel hopeful. Starting new things is easy. You’ve probably experienced this with lots of things, not just with your weight loss goals.
This phase of the process is Stage 1: Uninformed Optimism. When we’re in this stage we feel hopeful, but we don’t yet fully understand the kinds of challenges that are likely just around the corner.
As we keep going, we experience the difficulties of making changes. It’s turns out making changes requires more work and energy than we had previously imagined. This is where we enter into Stage 2: Informed Pessimism. Now that we know more about what’s actually required to make the changes we seek, we become less optimistic. We may even start to feel discouraged.
But because this new thing is still pretty new, and we don’t like the idea of failing, we keep going, convincing ourselves that we just need to muster a little more willpower. But things get harder. We start to feel even more pessimistic. We begin to question whether we have what it takes. We begin to doubt ourselves.
This is when we enter into Stage 3: The Valley of Despair.
Here’s the most important part, so slow down and read this carefully:
The Valley of Despair is where most people give up. When we experience the hard stuff, and we can’t see the path forward, it’s our natural tendency to quit and look for some other path to solve our problems.
This explains why so many people have trouble losing weight and keeping it off. Whether you are following along with me in the More Heart, Less Body program, or making health and lifestyle changes on your own, there is always some kind of valley of despair. Everyone experiences it. in fact, it’s actually a necessary part of the growth process. (More on this in next month’s newsletter.)
The Valley of Despair happens when you hit a plateau and feel frustrated because nothing seems to be changing. It’s when you lose confidence and begin to doubt yourself. It’s when you get bored and feel uninspired or unmotivated. It’s when you lose your mojo and quitting seems like the only option.
If you’re like most people, you’ll give up on yourself and start looking for a different, better solution. This is how so many people end up bouncing from one diet to another, never seeing lasting results. The problem with this is that it changes the way we perceive our situation. Repetitive quitting leads to a lifetime of pessimism. (Which is not fun!)
The Valley of Despair is the most critical stage of the process. When you get to the Valley of Despair, the key is to find a way to keep going. When you're able to do this, all kinds of wonderful things start to happen.
As you continue through the Valley of Despair, you gain critical insights. You prove to yourself that you can do hard things and that you have the skills to figure stuff out. This increases your confidence and gives you forward momentum. As you learn to take small steps, you experience small wins. These small wins change the way you see the world around you. This is how you get yourself out of the Valley of Despair.
Soon, you find yourself in Stage 4: Informed Optimism. (Heck Yeah! That’s the sweet spot of life, right there.) Now you know enough about what’s required to reach your goals, and you feel hopeful about the path you're on. From here, you just keep learning and growing. Before you know it, you’ve made remarkable changes in your life and are feeling great in your body.
Eventually, you get to Stage 5: Hell Yes! This where you can look back at the journey and know that it was totally worth it. It's when you know you've leveled-up specific areas of your life and you can't imagine going back to the way things were.
Of course, none of this happens overnight, which is why diets typically don't work. There's always a Valley of Despair with any meaningful endeavor. The way to get want you really want is to keep going through the valley.
Think about where you are right now in terms of your health and weight loss goals. What phase of the change cycle are you in? Are you starting something new and feeling optimistic? Are you stuck in the Valley of Despair? Or are you noticing a pattern of walking away when things get tough?
The good news is there are several things you can do to get yourself through the Valley of Despair without quitting on yourself. I’ll show you exactly how to do that in the next issue of Notes From the Heart.
In the meantime, let me know how you’re doing with your weight loss goals? Simply reply to this note and tell me what’s going on with you. I personally reply to every email. I’d love to hear from you.