Put Life in Perspective
By Kalin Burkhardt, MS and Dale Veith, PsyD
What is it that helps some people get through trauma, stress, and disappointment, while still maintaining their weight loss, yet others gain weight? The answer may lie in the fact that some people have learned to develop a set of coping tools that they can use to overcome extraordinary setbacks.
Most people who have difficulty with their weight have a long history of dieting failures that often conditions them to believe that in order to be successful, they must stick to their plan perfectly. Setbacks, or deviations from the plan, have been “the beginning of the end” for their weight loss attempt. Sadly, they believe that there is no recovery. In reality, it is not the setback that caused the problem, it is the belief that it is necessary, or even possible, to be perfect that sets the stage for failed weight loss attempts. Believing or even attempting to be perfect in your adherence to your treatment plan is guaranteed to fail. It’s simply not possible. Furthermore, it is absolutely necessary for people to experience setbacks if they want to have any hope of developing a sense of mastery of the ability to achieve and maintain their weight and other health management goals.
So, what has to be present in order for us to become aware that we’re 'off track'; or that we are experiencing some sort of setback? Unless we have clear-cut goals in mind, goals that we want to pursue, there is no way to tell that we are off track. Losing sight of the goal, allowing something else to be more important than the pursuit of the goal is the first step toward a setback. Having goals that are important to you is the first step in surviving a setback because they are the things that you will use to redirect your efforts.
Make Constant Corrections
The next step in surviving setbacks is understanding that just as in driving a car, flying a plane, or riding a motorcycle, you need to make constant corrections of error to successfully navigating your way towards your weight and health management goals. When I’m riding my motorcycle, it might look like I’m driving in a straight line, or carving a smooth arc around a corner, but that’s never the case. I’m constantly making course corrections. Sometimes I’m drifting slightly to the left. Sometimes I’m drifting slightly to the right. The more in tune I am with what I’m trying to do, the more subtle the course corrections. If I become distracted I can find myself in big trouble and in need of huge corrections in a hurry.
The folks that I see that are most successful in managing their weight long-term are able to become as comfortable managing their treatment plan as I am riding my motorcycle. They’ve learned that the course deviations are absolutely necessary in order for them to become supremely confident in their ability to notice that they’ve started to drift one way or another., And those lapses have also allowed them to become equally confident that they know how to make the necessary course corrections to re-orient themselves toward their goals.