Some thoughts on "Starting Over"

kcd1961 Posts: 126 Member
edited November 2021 in Getting Started
Starting Over

Since starting to use MFP – I have noticed a steady stream of people writing “starting over” posts. They tell the age old story of “I tried and failed, now I'm trying again”. There is often an unhealthy dose of self-flagellation – as if beating up on yourself is actually going to help. There is often the plea of, “Help, I need motivation.” I've wanted to respond with something more helpful than the useful mix of “Welcome back, you can do it” and “Tough Love” meted out by the majority. So this is my attempt to answer the “starting over” post.

But first some background. I've always struggled with weight – not in the supersize category – but enough to be unhealthy. I'm now 53 and have had ME/CFS for almost 25 years. My worst weight gain actually started in the lead up to ME/CFS and peaked at 109kg – maybe higher – I didn't weigh at that stage. At that time the mantra was “exercise” - which is a bit of a problem with ME/CFS. But with Atkins I managed to reach 92kg – but it was not sustainable for me – and I crept back up to 103kg. Interestingly the increased protein and vegetable intake did seem to improve my capacity a little. Several years later I saw Michael Mosley's “Eat, Fast and Live Longer” documentary – and it made sense – especially as hunger and insulin resistance were big problems for me. The maths convinced me that while exercise is helpful, it's really primarily about the intake. It also offered the opportunity to “eat what I like”, most of the time. I got back down to 91kg fairly easily without tracking, but got stuck for a year despite switching to 4:3. However, I did maintain for a year and that alone was a huge success. It was then that I “bit the bullet” and started tracking using MFP – and sure enough the weight loss started again and I switched back to 5:2. My day job is as a counsellor, so I work with people struggling to overcome all types of lifestyle issues – and “starting over” is normal. So for all you “Starting overs” - here's my perspective. I hope you find it helpful.

Relapse is normal – The average person making a serious lifestyle change, will fail around 7 times before succeeding. When you fail, you can berate yourself for being weak and stupid, or you can use the “failure” as an opportunity to discover barriers that need to be overcome. Actually you can do both, just don't omit the second.

Write Down What Works – Each time you have a period of success, even briefly, it shows that you can actually do what is required. When you start over – make a list of the things you KNOW from your experience, work – even if only for a limited time. They are clues for how to proceed.

What DOESN'T work
– Also make a list of the things you have tried that DON'T work. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But be careful about what you define as “not working”. For example – aiming for 1kg of weight loss per week – means a very restrictive calorie intake (around 500 calories less – every day of every week) compared to 0.5 kg weekly. Many people simply cannot sustain that. But that doesn't mean deficit eating doesn't work. It means a BIG, SUSTAINED deficit does not work for you.

What derails you?
For every failure, there is usually a small range of events that lead to abandoning a plan that is working. They may be external – e.g. Walking past the Krispy Creme shop. They may be internal events, thoughts or sensations– i.e. the thought, “This is too hard, I can't stand it” the sensation of hunger, or the feeling of low mood or motivation. Succeeding means finding a way to address these barriers. If you know – write a list – in two columns – one for external events and one for internal events. If not...

Get better at noticing
– Part of overcoming barriers is learning to spot them before you actually commit to an unhelpful response (like placing the apple pie with cream in your mouth). A helpful skill is “Mindfulness” - being able to tune into the present moment without judgement. Being able to STOP, step back, observe your thoughts and feelings without impulsively reacting is critical to success. Most people fail because of an impulsive response to a trigger, and the chain of self-defeating behaviour that follows. I have included some examples of potentially helpful Mindfulness exercises.

Mindfulness of thoughts -
Mindfulness of emotions -
Mindfulness and weight loss -

If you don't like the voices, then keep Googling until you find a script and a voice you feel comfortable with. Mindfulness requires regular practice to develop the skill, but the real power lies in being able to apply the skills you learn in practice, to the real life situation when emotions, sensations or thoughts start to overwhelm your resolve.

Minimise the damage – One “failure” is never a cause for serious concern. Even if you eat 3000 calories in a sitting (pretty hard to do) – you will gain .5 kg and delay your goal by one week. It is the ongoing overeating and avoidance of healthy activity that leads to “square one”. So if you fall off the wagon, get back on NOW – not tomorrow.

Face your demons – At some stage in your journey – it is helpful to mindfully expose yourself to the “enemy”. Train your “willpower” in small steps. So try a day of not eating (but drink water). Mindfully observe your body and record your hunger out of 10 every hour. What did you notice? What thoughts showed up? Go into the bakery and buy your favourite treat. Cut it in half, throw half in the rubbish bin and eat the remainder slowly and mindfully. What did you notice? Spend some time each day paying attention to your thoughts and feelings about food and weight loss, writing them down in a journal or on a scrap of paper. Start with small, manageable exposures and build up. If you don't trust yourself, do it with an accountability buddy.

If you need to – log it. For a long time I believed, “It is too hard to lose weight – every time I get to 90kg, my body rebels, my metabolism shuts down, and the cycle begins again”. The promise of 5:2 was that by fasting, I would adapt to hunger and actually eat less on my non-fast days. Non-fast days would prevent my metabolism “shutting down”. Well that worked for a while, then stopped. I thought it was my metabolism – but then I started logging. What became crystal clear, was that I was a victim of “behavioural creep” - or cheating. A gradual increase in portion size and between meal snacks and a shift to higher density foods. I only started to lose weight again when I logged accurately and weighed my food. Fortunately, MFP makes this as easy as it is going to get. But it is still a pain. You will need to allocate 2-10 minutes a day entering your food and exercise. Every now and then, you will need to enter a recipe and calculate portions. Your mind will say “It's too hard. Do I have to do this for the rest of my life? I can't stand it”. Thank your mind for those thoughts, and get logging.

Replace rather than eliminate – Rather than focusing on “getting rid of” - calories, or specific foods, think in terms of replacing. Ask what would be a healthier choice...based on your experience, not some guru, academic or author with a book to sell...remember, a smaller portion is still a healthier choice. Delaying for 15 minutes is also a healthier choice.

Let experience be your guide – There is a raft of controversy about calories in/calories out, the relative merits of fat/carbohydrate/protein and the complex relationships between food, neurobiology and behaviour (

By all means, read the various theories, but base your beliefs and plans on your experience. What foods genuinely satisfy you? Which ones just lead to hunger and overeating? What pattern of eating works best for you? Don't be surprised if something works for a while and then something changes and it stops working. However there are some things that seem more helpful than others Try them and see if they work for you.

My journey is not yet over, and I might need to start over, once again. If I do, then I have learned a few more helpful things like - “I can stand hunger for a day”, “The sensation I often interpret as hunger is not satisfied by eating” and “Logging works”. If I do slip up and need to reboot, I might use my favourite motivational saying. “You don't have to get it right, you just have to get it started” (Mike Littman). Maybe that will work for you too?


  • mamadon
    mamadon Posts: 1,422 Member
    Very well written and thoughtful post.
  • tiptoethruthetulips
    tiptoethruthetulips Posts: 3,365 Member
    Thank you for the great post..
  • dylangrrrrl
    dylangrrrrl Posts: 64 Member
    Excellent post! I'm not sure about the not eating for a day, then eating half of your favorite treat but otherwise appreciate the advice. :)
  • lcantrell65
    lcantrell65 Posts: 228 Member
    Thanks for your great reminders!!!! ;)
  • sassyjae21
    sassyjae21 Posts: 1,217 Member
    Nice post.
  • Amberella_Angel
    Amberella_Angel Posts: 14 Member
    Thank you for the great post!! :)
  • Cathalain
    Cathalain Posts: 424 Member
    I've been "punishing" myself the past couple of months, but everything you've written makes sense. No more of that.

    I needed to read this today, so - thanks.
  • VeryKatie
    VeryKatie Posts: 5,953 Member
    I like this.
  • luluinca
    luluinca Posts: 2,899 Member
    edited January 2015
    I've been here since Sept/2013 and I think a lot of what you say makes sense and may be helpful to people. What bothers me is that so many people here don't really seem to be trying. They string a couple of good days together, call it success, look for approval, and then go right back to the habits that got them in trouble in the first place. And then a week, month or year later, they realize what they've done and do the same thing all over again.

    I'm not sure most of us are as reflective about our behavior as you assume.

    It scares me a little when I read all the starting over threads. I'm hoping it's scared me enough that I won't have to start one myself in a year or two.

    Good luck on your weight loss and health means the world to be healthy and fit. That's enough for me right now.

  • hulietta
    hulietta Posts: 19 Member
    Love it! Thanks.
  • caddir
    caddir Posts: 150 Member
    I'm a newbie here but not to weight losing. What the OP says makesa lot of sense, especially the paragraph about relapse. I appreciate reflective posts, they are so much more help to reader and poster alike. Thank you.
  • swoledier_em
    Very well written. Thank you so much. This is so helpful for me.
  • AllTheNoms
    AllTheNoms Posts: 135 Member
    Love this post - it is a great reminder that even our failures can provide a valuable stepping stone toward our future success. The introspection described in your post is something that I think most of us could/should improve upon in order to increase our odds of long-term success.

    (I'm not skipping eating for a day though!)

  • rosebette
    rosebette Posts: 1,659 Member
    This post was just what I needed to read after a discouraging holiday gain.
  • bimpski
    bimpski Posts: 176 Member
    bump to save for later