When bad and sad things happen on your weight loss journey
Below is an email from Trudy (not her real name), a client I see once a month, who was going through a pretty rough patch.
The aim in my reply is for Trudy to feel okay taking her time to sit with and process her uncomfortable feelings yet not to wallow in them unnecessarily. Ultimately Trudy decides the balance that serves her best but sometimes part of deciding that balance involves gathering external support and understanding when you need it. And that’s exactly what I believe Trudy is doing here.
HELP!! I am going through a bit of a down phase.
I injured myself a couple weeks ago and haven’t been able to exercise as much. I was okay about it but over the last couple days, I’ve been feeling blah and criticising myself. I’ve been trying to think more positively but I just feel stuck.
I also found out today that a friend of mine died last night from cancer at 44 and this hasn’t helped my mood. I noticed as soon as I heard the news that I felt kind of heavy-set in my body!
I want to move to the next level with my weight loss but am feeling negative again. What can I do to get back on track?
(In saying that, I haven’t gone on an eating spree, apart from 3 little biscuits at coffee this morning.)
Sorry to dump on you but I’m hoping you can help with some insight.
My response to Trudy
Yes, it sounds like you’re having a bit of a down phase, Trudy. A down phase isn’t fun but it doesn’t ruin everything – and it won’t last.
Remember, just as life’s up phases last longer when you feed them with positive thoughts (such as focusing on what you want), our down phases last longer if we feed them with negative thoughts. But our down phases will also come back with a vengeance if we push them away without taking the time to receive the message they are trying to communicate.
Trudy, you’ve lost a friend. It is entirely appropriate to acknowledge your feelings around this. Grief is often a sneaky thing, not always what you expect. It is realistic and totally appropriate to take some time to deal with the sadness, shock and other aspects of your loss. It’s okay to be a bit blah or even a lot blah!
Gently accept all your feelings and look for and receive their messages. Be kind to yourself and try not to hurry yourself through this very natural process. Accept and respect your grief for what it is. Allow yourself to grieve in whatever way you need to. Rather than denying those uncomfortable feelings, aim to be conscious about what you are feeling and why.
It is okay to get on with other things and other feelings when the time is right too. You’ll know exactly when the time is right for you if you allow rather than resist your feelings.
Regarding your injury, it may also take a bit of time to come to terms with the frustration you have around this. In addition to frustration, many people with a weight loss goal are scared of putting on weight when an injury stops them exercising at their usual intensity. The mental challenge of having an injury can be bigger than the physical one!
The best thing to do is accept that being injured sucks and at the same time look for the positive opportunity your change in circumstances brings. Be curious. There will be something, I promise, so keep looking until you find it.
The good news is – in spite of these very real setbacks – you are feeding yourself with enough positive stuff to reach out for support, which is resourceful. Trudy, you have also managed to find comfort in just 3 little biscuits! That is a huge change from the extended eating frenzies you used to have when you felt upset. You have come a long way and having a down phase as described does not erase that.
I understand you are feeling overwhelmed with your blah-type feelings. This worries you because you know feeling empowered and energised keeps you moving towards your weight loss goal – and you don’t feel empowered and energised right now. Given the circumstances, that’s completely okay. You are not wrong or bad and you haven’t failed. Also, you won’t feel this down forever, unless you feed down feelings unnecessarily. Since you know how this works, why would you do that? I know you want to do things that serve you. It serves you to look after yourself – and that includes allowing yourself to grieve, giving yourself enough comfort and maintaining your health. These things are not mutually exclusive; they can all be done together.
Some positive points to focus on:
- You can be curious (and impressed!) that you haven’t resorted to pigging out to express just how blah you feel. Instead you are allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions and yet continuing to eat in a healthy way? How are you doing that? Because you are, aren’t you?
- You mentioned that you noticed suddenly feeling a little heavy-set in your body. If this feeling came on suddenly, it can go just as quickly – so don’t be fooled into thinking it’s permanent.
- You are going through some discomfort, a moment of self-doubt, a moment of fear. A wobble. You are human so you must expect to have wobbles. They let you know there is something to learn. This is an opportunity to evolve in some way, develop your wisdom, your life experience.
I still have wobbles at times but I know what they are and I know they don’t mean everything is ruined and I have to start all over. They also don’t mean I have to have a massive binge.
Feeling down – even grieving – does not have to have any impact on your progress in terms of losing unwanted fat.
And if you decide a little indulgence is comforting, then so be it. (That’s indulgence – not hissy-fit over-indulgence. There’s a difference!)
Be super kind to yourself tonight, Trudy. Try telling yourself something like:
“Even though I feel pretty crappy right now because my friend died and I’ve also injured myself and I feel (…just say it all like it is…), well even though all of that, I choose to be kind to myself and believe I will feel better soon enough. So, even though there is a lot going on for me right now, I choose to have some compassion for myself and to know I’ll find my ‘up’ again when the time is right even if I can’t see how to right now.”
I’ll call you tomorrow morning at about 10am just to check in and see how you are doing.
Until next time