Weight loss is a process. In my book Foodaholic: The Seven Stages to Permanent Weight Loss, I have identified what I think are the psychological stages one must go through, not only to lose weight but to keep it off. I have done for weight loss what Elizabeth Kubler-Ross did for death and dying. I thought I'd share the stages with you here.
1) Denial. This stage is the same as Kubler-Ross's first stage, only in weight loss terms it applies to being in "fat" denial. I was 50 pounds heavier than I am now and have maintained that weight loss for 23 years. When I was gaining weight I was in denial about it. I'd wear stretchy clothes, avoid the scale, avoid photographs, etc., all in an effort to deny the problem. The first stage of losing weight for good is coming out of "fat" denial.
2) The Decision. Once you realize there is a problem, whether it be 5 pounds or 105 pounds, there is a period of time that most people go through where they are deciding to do something. Of the 300 people in my research for the book, 87 percent took some time to gear up to lose weight. Only 13 percent jumped right from coming out of denial into action. During this phase people were coming to terms with their weight, researching different weight loss methods and getting ready to change.
3) Action. This is the weight loss phase. I cover it extensively in my book on how to accomplish this in the best way for you. I never, ever tell people what to eat. I help people become very self-aware via food records and mindfulness. This phase is individual. Some people do best in a group program, like Weight Watchers. There are many online programs now as well.
4) Getting to Goal. Though it seems like reaching your goal weight would be the end, it isn't. Sometimes the goal needs to be changed as the initial goal may not have been realistic. That can be a process. If one does reach the initial goal, it's a psychological mine field. The feelings need to be worked through or many will regain the weight. If one does reach the initial goal it can be disappointing. No band plays, no fireworks go off when you step on the scale and see that number. It's a quiet thing. It helps to be prepared for that before it happens.
5) Learning to Stay There. In out diet mentality culture, there is the entrenched idea that we go on a diet, get to goal, and then we are done. Not so if you want to maintain that loss. In fact, even after 23 years of maintaining my weight, I still have to work at it. I still keep records, weigh daily, exercise, etc. All the behaviors that got me to my goal need to continue or my weight starts to creep up. This can be shocking for people. If you know this going in it can really help to keep you going when you get here.
6) Accepting That This Is a Lifelong Journey. The reason many people regain weight is that they don't expect it to be so much work to keep it off long term. Weight maintenance is the same as the action phase of weight loss, it's just smaller amounts of weight. What I mean is that no one stays exactly the same weight, everyday, forever. We actually gain and lose small amounts of weight all the time. It's learning to work with that long term that allows people to keep it off for good.
So those are the psychological stages of long-term weight loss. I hope knowing that is helpful. You can lose weight and keep it off. It's a process. It takes work. And even though it does get easier over time, the work continues or the weight returns.
That's it for now. Good luck and let me know how you're doing.
For more by Irene Rubaum-Keller, click here.
For more on weight loss, click here.