Cognisant self-sabotage - how to avoid it...

Folks, I'm seeking your wisdom and insight.

Though I'm probably a year away from needing to worry about maintenance, I'm already putting a lot of thought into my maintenance strategy/plan, because I've been down this road before (at least 5 times). I'm a very successful loser, and an even more successful rebound gainer.

This time around I'm formulating a maintenance plan, and I think it's a pretty good, balanced one. It includes goals for tracking, nutrition, exercise, NEAT, mindfulness, sustainability etc., and tactics for addressing and hopefully ameliorating the psychological, metabolic and physiological challenges that I'll face as someone who will have lost over 40% of my starting body weight. I have some confidence in the plan (though of course only time will tell).

Back in 2012/13 I lost 40% of my body weight (from 100kg to 60kg), to reach the top of the healthy BMI range for someone of my height. It took me 18 months to lose the 40kg - I lost 35kg in 12 months at a rate of 0.7kg a week, and the remaining 5kg took the next 6 months. It was a long, disciplined, sustained effort. I was proud of myself, and was sure that I had all the tools to make maintenance a breeze. Hmmm. Pride comes before a fall. Within 2 years I'd gained all but 4kg back.

I regained with my eyes wide open. Pretty much every morning I'd sit on the edge of the bed poking my ever-increasing fat rolls, and say 'you've got to stop this! You're so going to regret regaining all this fat, after all the effort it took you to lose it!' I'd open my wardrobe and sigh at the clothes that were getting tighter and tighter. I'd notice myself getting breathless when walking, and my knees hurting when I walked upstairs. I'd remind myself that I'm in a high-risk group for diabetes. I was aware that I'd restarted snoring, and sleeping poorly.

My weight didn't creep up without me noticing - I noticed fully. I just felt like I had no volition. I felt almost detached from the process, as if I was watching someone else's meltdown. I abdicated control, self-discipline, self-esteem, responsibility and accountability - fully recognising that I was doing so, and that I'd bitterly regret it further down the road.

What I wouldn't give to understand why that happened. I know regain is a common problem, and I've done my research about the various physiological, metabolic and psychological reasons why that's the case. But I'd really like to understand why my brain detached itself from taking responsibility for the issue so completely, when I was fully cognisant and aware of what was happening.

Can anyone explain it?
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Replies

  • wunderkindking
    wunderkindking Posts: 1,615 Member
    scarlett_k wrote: »
    To be blunt: are you really successful at losing weight if you're putting it all back on repeatedly? Losing that much that fast is probably where you're going wrong. What's the rush?
    Can't disagree with you. This time around I'm going slower, planning in deficit breaks at regular intervals, eating 20% more calories than I did last time around. I'm also putting LOTS more thought into maintenance, and trying to work out a rough framework maintenance strategy that I think will keep me accountable but at the same time be sustainable and fun.

    My issue was with my total abdication of accountability last time around. I know there were bad habits to unlearn, and physiological, psychological and metabolic adaptations to further complicate matters. But those things don't explain (to my satisfaction) why I abdicated responsibility so spectacularly. My own psyche remains a mystery to me where rapid weight regain is concerned - and I hate being a mystery to myself!
    rabatin1 wrote: »
    So in summary, I think it is *very* though to lose weight and change a lifestyle - note that nothing of above had to do with willpower or calorie counting. Willpower is a finite resource and I do not think it's the right model for lifestyle change.The food environment is really stacked against us and real food is in my opinion the answer, not calorie counting on processed food.
    You made some very valid points, but to a large extent they were invalidated by the fact that my diet (even while rapidly regaining) was healthy, nutritious and balanced, with zero fast food and alcohol and very little (under 5%) refined or processed food. I didn't binge, gorge or crave. I just ate too much of some healthy but calorie dense foods (e.g. nut butters, cheese, nuts, olive oil) on a daily basis, and didn't do anywhere near enough exercise/NEAT burn to justify the calorie input. I ate like an athletic, active 6'3" young man, not a sedentary 5'1" middle aged woman.
    39flavours wrote: »
    I think, for me, the psychological reason I allow myself to regain is a fear of failure and a fear of change. When I'm overweight I have an excuse to stay inside my comfort zone, I don't attempt new challenges and don't seek opportunities. I avoid social situations, never dress up or put myself out there. Because i feel like I'm not good enough to try so why bother. When I've lost the weight my main excuse for not trying anything new has gone and it scares the crap out of me. I feel like an imposter and fear that I will find myself out of my depth and humiliated so I run in the other direction.
    I definitely think fear of change has self-sabotaged me during the weight-loss phase in the past, but I'm not sure if I can hold that responsible for the self-sabotage during the period when I should've been maintaining. It's definitely something I'll need to ponder on...
    I have a tendency to decide I'm going to do the thing, and do it. This is all well and good but even when it's something I want to continue, once I've 'climbed the mountain' to accomplish that goal, ESPECIALLY a big one, some part of my brain decides I have Achieved The Thing and therefore I Am Done. I experience a "WHOO" did it, followed by feeling let down because now there's No Goal and I just ... wander off and cease being able to REALLY care about it (even if I mentally recognize I SHOULD). Then I have to fight to care again and it's a whole mess. I honestly think I'm happier in pursuit of a goal than the achievement.

    I have had to work very hard not to make weight loss a Hobby, A Goal, An Achievement, or any other really particularly big deal in my life, but rather the reflection of small life changes that Aren't A Big Deal. We'll see if that works for my brain, but it is a strategy that works for me better than "I AM ACHIEVING A THING I AM DOING A THING I AM GONNA DO THE THING THERE IS A GOAL" None of that for my brain. NONE. Just "Yeah I eat a lot of cottage cheese now."
    Your response was all very valid to me. I do definitely think there was an element of 'well that's that done, time to turn my attention to the next challenge'. I've realised that I'm DEFINITELY happier in pursuit of a goal than in its achievment, but I'm planning the opposite remedy to the one you're working on. The exact opposite, in fact. I've decided that one of my maintenance planks will be to CONTINUALLY have goals to strive for, and to make improving my health a broad-ranging hobby. So, in maintenance, I'm planning to set myself nutrition challenges (try a different fruit/vegetable every day this week....); exercise challenges (improve my time cycling up Alpe Du Zwift; get a personal best time on every route on Zwift etc); lifestyle challenges (plan a bikepacking trip that will push you out of your comfort zone; take up yoga...etc.) I figure that if I constantly have goals to aim for, I'll keep engaged and stimulated, and not zone out on myself like I did last time I hit my weight loss goal.

    Just be careful with that opposite thing.

    I actually did consider it, but the truth is - I cannot make diet/nutrition/stuff like that the center of my life. I already have an active life style (I do competitive sports, I have five high energy dogs, I have a day job and professionally dog train). I have 2 (adult) kids and elderly family members. I travel a lot. I... need this stuff to fit into my life as it is, because my life does not have room for 40 years of fitness/nutrition as a hobby.

    Also, practically speaking and more generally instead of 'why I'm not doing that': How long can continuous challenges really last? Aren't you going to run out at some point? what happens if you're sick or injured? what happens when you hit the top of your performance and have eaten all the new things you can get?

    Not saying it's not a good plan - it is if you enjoy stuff. But you might want to have some kind of background plan for those times those thigns are not possible or an exit from nonstop progression, because nonstop progression is NEVER sustainable in ANYTHING.
  • cmriverside
    cmriverside Posts: 33,931 Member
    It sounds to me like a typical Tye A response - Keep Achieving! I agree with wunderkind, that kind of self-pressure wouldn't be helpful to me.

    I have to give myself grace. I have to be able to eat the food l love. I do track it, and I do make adjustments to my weight if it goes over or under my five pound maintenance weight range. Other than that, I step on the scale almost daily.

    For me logging food and logging my body weight are the two most essential things. When I stop doing either one of those things I get off-course pretty quickly. It's just a life-maintenance thing for me that takes a few minutes a day. You've probably read on this site, "It's like flossing and brushing my teeth." Has to be done, takes just a couple minutes, the payoff is huge.

    With that said, the first year post weight-loss for me was hard. I bounced around with my weight. Part of that was because I lost 80ish pounds in a fairly short time frame.That created a rebound hormonal response and that urge physiologically to regain some weight. I tried to do Maintenance intuitively without tracking. I added back in too many treat foods. I slacked off on my exercise. I found that was a problem and so I returned to what I'd been doing.

    I suppose s o m e people can do intuitive eating. I would suggest you may not be one of them since you've struggled so much in the past.

    Keep logging. Keep stepping on that body weight scale. Life maintenance. :)
  • Bella_Figura
    Bella_Figura Posts: 3,699 Member
    Just be careful with that opposite thing.

    I actually did consider it, but the truth is - I cannot make diet/nutrition/stuff like that the center of my life. I already have an active life style (I do competitive sports, I have five high energy dogs, I have a day job and professionally dog train). I have 2 (adult) kids and elderly family members. I travel a lot. I... need this stuff to fit into my life as it is, because my life does not have room for 40 years of fitness/nutrition as a hobby.

    Also, practically speaking and more generally instead of 'why I'm not doing that': How long can continuous challenges really last? Aren't you going to run out at some point? what happens if you're sick or injured? what happens when you hit the top of your performance and have eaten all the new things you can get?

    Not saying it's not a good plan - it is if you enjoy stuff. But you might want to have some kind of background plan for those times those thigns are not possible or an exit from nonstop progression, because nonstop progression is NEVER sustainable in ANYTHING.

    You're right, of course. I can't argue with any point you've made. And I don't intend to make a prison for myself from continually pursuing goals ad infinitum, with ever diminishing returns and ever-greater demands on my mental and physical reserves. Balance is key. I think the first two years of maintenance - while my metabolism, hormones etc will be in upheaval and my body will be continually trying to regain its lost mass - will be the critical period for still having new and interesting challenges to aim for. I'm hoping that having FUN challenges loosely based on health improvement will keep things interesting for me, and stop me putting health on the back burner as a 'done job'.

    I think I can come up with enough fun challenges to last me a couple of years, around improving my nutrition (I love to cook, and I've lots of cuisines still to try, and I'm just beginning to explore vegetarianism/veganism), around improving my fitness, strength and flexibility, and around following a healthy active lifestyle that involves the activities I already love, such as cycling, bikepacking, hiking and camping. The challenges should make it fun, and stop it all being about weight. But hopefully weight maintenance will be a by-product.

    Incidentally, while I don't want to become obsessive about health, and I recognise there are other things in life, I've just retired so I have some time to devote to myself as a hobby. No kids, one husband, one dog, no job, lots of other hobbies and interests including creative writing, gardening, reading, travelling. Hopefully those other interests will stop too much obsessiveness and prevent me from falling down the rabbit hole of obsessive behaviours.
  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 27,881 Member
    Heather covers why maintenance can be such a struggle and what to do about it in depth in the Kristen coaching call part of episode 499 of the Half Size Me podcast:

    https://www.halfsizeme.com/hsm499/
  • Cheesy567
    Cheesy567 Posts: 1,186 Member
    Why are you breaking it into “weight loss” and “maintenance”? That’s allowing you to succeed at one and fail at the other. Change your mindset to one of changing your life’s habits. There’s no longer a phase one and phase two. Anything you change to lose the weight will continue lifelong, smoothly and continually into maintenance anyways. You’ve proven you can succeed at that phase.

    I second @kshama2001’s recommendation, Heather’s take on this is spot-on for you.
  • callsitlikeiseeit
    callsitlikeiseeit Posts: 8,627 Member
    while i gained back some of the weight i had lost when i was in maintenance (about 20 from 150 lost at that point in time). what i learned during that maintenace phase it that I can maintain without tracking/logging food *IF* I workout regularly (3-5 times a week/medium intensity). And eat mindfully, not whatever whenever, right? If I am NOT working out, I absolutely HAVE to log everything. there is not another option. I also HAVE to weigh myself and log it regularly. it doesn't have to be every day, but at least once a week.

    While I am in a loss phase now (probably the last one, but I may break it up, I haven't decided yet), I think what I may do is as I approach the 'end' view it more as a 'new beginning' and decide what kind of fitness or health goals I want to target, and begin working on a plan for those. That way my focus and mindset can begin to change and I can let my OCD tendencies (and I hate to say that because it has such negative connotations) but I can let them switch gears into a new direction. I do a lot better mentally, if I can have something to focus on in a constructive manner (if that makes any sense at all). I think between not having that focus, and not working out regularly, and not tracking food - the combination of all of it, was why I had gained back weight. I did a little of it, which is why I didnt gain back any MORE than I did, but not enough, and not consistently, and really, i just got lazy and had no focus on anything.

    I dont know if any of that helps or applies to you at all, but I know that is what I have learned about myself and maintenance and what works (for me).
  • Duck_Puddle
    Duck_Puddle Posts: 3,224 Member
    Did you attach any kind of expectations to your life after reaching a healthy weight? Even subconsciously?

    It could be expectations that you would be happy, feel successful, be treated differently, better romantic/career prospects, or any number of things you expected (even subconsciously) to improve?

    It could be expectations you have of yourself-that now you’ve lost the weight and gotten Healthy so you’re going to also get your finances/life/relationships/career/etc in order, or possibly begin pursuing more adventurous things or long wished for travel or …. Anything that you’d set aside (again-possibly subconsciously) until you were “worth” it?

    If you had expectations in either or both areas and they didn’t come to fruition, that could be a part of what allowed you to regain. It would be almost a relief (again-subconsciously) to avoid the fact that either (or both) sets of expectations didn’t happen if the simplest fix is to remove yourself from the circumstances where those expectations would be in play.

    Discomfort with change is also a real thing. As mentioned above-being in 2 phases, the weight loss “phase” is temporary. Again subconsciously-those are permanent changes. You’re just doing this to lose the weight. Now that it’s lost and you’re confronted with the reality that these changes are permanent, it’s going to be uncomfortable. And the quickest way to ease that discomfort is to remove yourself from the circumstances where those changes are permanent. Gain some weight and now you’re back to just temporary weight loss. Which would be a huge relief (if there was discomfort with the idea of permanent changes).

    Just ideas. Not intended as anything beyond that.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 31,935 Member
    Cheesy567 wrote: »
    Why are you breaking it into “weight loss” and “maintenance”? That’s allowing you to succeed at one and fail at the other. Change your mindset to one of changing your life’s habits. There’s no longer a phase one and phase two. Anything you change to lose the weight will continue lifelong, smoothly and continually into maintenance anyways. You’ve proven you can succeed at that phase.

    I second @kshama2001’s recommendation, Heather’s take on this is spot-on for you.

    I agree with this. For me, it's been about experimenting, finding (relatively) easy habits that drive toward my goals, practicing those habits, and getting them grooved in as automatic (or as close to that as possible).

    Life is inherently challenging, at least in episodes. Getting healthy weight and reasonable activity on a near-automatic basis is pretty magical, IMO. Then, if I want (and have the emotional energy at the time), I can layer new goals or pursuits on that foundation of happy, easy habits. Motivation can be overridden by necessity if there are family health crises, financial troubles, or any one of a number of other things that happen during normal lifetimes . . . let alone just getting bored or burned out by continued striving. There's only just so much emotional energy in my supply bucket.

    I didn't do anything to lose weight that I wasn't willing to do long term to stay at a healthy weight, except for the calorie deficit . . . and that shrank, intentionally, as I got closer to goal (off ramp!). I don't think that's necessary for everyone, to take that approach the whole time during loss, but I do think it's a really good idea for most people, h in the last few months if not before.

    That makes maintenance just a matter of increasing calories a bit, no other big transition to worry about. In my case, I even chose to add back calories incrementally, a hundred or two at a time. Knowing myself, if I added 500 daily calories all at once, I'd be more likely to allocate that to a daily routine mega-treat. Though that's not necessarily a bad thing for all, it was better (preferable) for me to add 100 or so at a time, and make those mostly pleasant tweaks that also improved nutrition.

    I'm in year 5+ of maintenance now, have been at a healthy weight since (though up and down a bit within the healthy range), after about 3 previous decades of overweight/obesity. I'm not saying it's the right approach for everyone, but it's working so far for me.
  • Bella_Figura
    Bella_Figura Posts: 3,699 Member
    Thanks for the input, folks. Lots of wisdom here.

    In terms of making a differentiation between the weight loss phase and the maintenance phase, I know that's not necessarily a helpful way of thinking about it, but it is also a reflection of reality; the healthy, sustainable, undemanding behaviours/habits I'm trying to embed now - combined with a moderate deficit - are currently assisting me to lose excess weight. The deficit will narrow as I approach a healthy weight, and eventually will become so small as to make the transition into maintenance almost seamless, but I'm hoping by that time the behaviours/habits will be second-nature and will be sustainable indefinitely. Like Ann I'm not doing anything now that I don't enjoy; I'm eating food I like (essentially unchanged from how I was eating before March) just in smaller portions; the exercise is moderate and enjoyable (walking and cycling, both of which I find mood-enhancing, meditative and good for both my mental and physical health). So I'm doing all I can to make the changes sustainable so that they take no mental effort to continue once I've reached a healthy weight.

    Trouble is, I thought they were embedded last time around, so my complacency is shot....
  • Bella_Figura
    Bella_Figura Posts: 3,699 Member
    @wunderkindking I love how people are so diverse! There's no way in the world that I could sustain a commitment to go out at any time of the day and run four miles. I'd do it twice then never do it again...

    Luckily, the things I enjoy doing are also easily sustainable for me - though not necessarily for other people. I'm retired so my time is my own. I live in a tiny English village surrounded by quiet lanes and farmland criss-crossed with bridle/foot paths and public rights-of-way, so I have plenty of places to walk and an energetic dog that would demand to be walked twice daily in all weathers, whether I felt like it or not.

    Similarly with the cycling. I have the aforementioned quiet lanes and bridleways to cycle on when the weather is good, and when it's blowing a hooley I can stay indoors and get in a workout on the turbo trainer that's permanently set up in the spare bedroom. All I need to do is switch it on, fire up Zwift and hop on the bike. It means I can get in a quick workout even if I only have a spare twenty minutes. It's not as much fun as being out in the fresh air, but I do enjoy it...

    I realised that the only way I was going to continue with an exercise plan was if I didn't see it as exercise. I've been mad about cycling since I was a tiny tot, and I'm never happier than when I'm on a bike. And planning bikepacking trips for the forthcoming year is one of my favourite winter hobbies.

    So, yes, I agree that enjoyable doesn't always equate to sustainable, but luckily in my case it does. I realise I'm fortunate - that's why I get so mad at myself for squandering all my good fortune!