Motivation is a tricky thing.

I started Weight Watchers online under their Flex Points plan back in May of 2005. Tracking food intake was new to me and the online tools like recipe planner and Points calculator were fun to play with. I enjoyed entering all my food and viewing my Points totals. Planning meals to fit into my program was new and interesting. I’m a nerd. The kind of person who loves filling in surveys. This was like a game to me!

And so I lost a whopping ten pounds during the first week. Holy shit, I thought. This really works. I was excited to continue because, of course, success fuels motivation. Week after week I dropped pounds and I kept tracking and planning and adding little paper clips to my weight loss paper clip chain reflecting each pound lost.

But, of course, the weight loss slowed from two pounds a week to one pound a week to a fraction of a pound a week…and horror of all horrors – sometimes the scale even showed a gain. There became months when I didn’t lose anything at all. Suddenly tracking my food became a chore. I balked at preparing my lunches and planning my meals. I cursed the scale. But I persevered and eventually hit the 100 lbs lost mark.

I was proud and excited – I could list numerous “non-scale victories” that I’d enjoyed along the way. Somebody on the WW online community posted their congratulations, and more than 100 people added theirs. I printed off that thread and still have it to this day. My mum sent me a card. I felt great – even at 220 lbs, most of the time I was no longer the fattest person in the room.

But I was so tired of tracking and watching everything I ate all. the. time. I had lost 100 lbs, but I still wasn’t light enough to go sky diving, and I was too heavy for my then-boyfriend to belay me while rock climbing. I still had so far to go, and god was that ever depressing. I started to let some things slip. Tracking was first to go. Bringing lunch to work went out the window shortly afterwards. The number on the scale began to climb, and I was so furious at myself that I began to binge again.

Monday has always been my weigh-in day, and every Monday I would be determined to get myself on track again. But it never lasted more than the day – if that. I’d plan to have chicken and salad for supper, but by the time I left work, I’d compromised by stopping at Wendy’s for a chilli and salad. By the time I was in the drive-through line, I’d talked myself into a couple of full sized burger meals and maybe even a side of chicken fingers. And a Frosty. Or two. I’d take it home, shovel it into my gullet, and then hate myself for doing it.

As I gained back more and more weight, I was desperate to find that motivation again. What the hell had happened? For more than a year I had done so well, and now I was so far off the rails that I couldn’t even see them. I wanted to be eating healthily. I wanted to be losing weight. But when it came down to making nutritional choices, I chose very poorly every time.

Within a year I’d gained back about 60 pounds. Within another year, another 60 went on. Eventually I was 40 pounds heavier than I’d started back in 2005.

On the WW message boards we all talk about being on track, finding our mojos, being in the right head space, staying on plan. Whatever we call it, it’s motivation to make good nutritional choices. And often, regardless of how much we want to be living healthily, we find ourselves making unhealthy choices. Why does this happen?

cluelessI’ve tried and tried to figure it out, but I just can’t. I can’t seem to correlate my motivation to life events, or to how busy my life is. I do recognize that I have a problem with post-vacation blues, but even though my nutrition tanks during those times, it tanks plenty of other times too. I just don’t get it. Why is it that from 2005 to 2007 I was able to make good choices most of the time, but from 2008 to 2015 I couldn’t get it together?

Last year I found my motivation again and was able to make some excellent changes in both nutrition and fitness. Once again I was losing weight and feeling good about myself. But I was scared to death of the day when the motivation would disappear. When I’d go off the rails. Lose my mojo. Be unable to get my head back into the game. Because I knew one thing – that day would come. It was inevitable.

This time, though, I had support. I was seeing a weight loss doctor and a psychologist. We spent a lot of time discussing this inevitability and why I was so scared of it. My doctor told me about a lecture she’d attended by Dr. Michael Vallis from the Behaviour Change Institute who believes that it takes at least three years to be successful with making significant life changes. Within three years we’ll typically go through abnormal phases that we have to manage, major life events, holidays. It’s how we deal in these situations that determines our success, and if each time we encounter a difficulty we’re able to manage it just a little bit better, then that’s a success.

I began to wonder if perhaps I shouldn’t be focusing so much on preventing these incidents where I lose motivation, but changing my perspective when they happen. Typically when I binge (or, as my doctor prefers to say, “overeat”), I get angry and call myself a fat ugly lazy bitch. But the truth is – everybody overeats. What that looks like for me is different than what it looks like for you or anybody else – but we all do it. It doesn’t make me a fat ugly bitch (well, it contributes to my being fat, but let’s just remove the negativity). It just makes me normal.

So when I encountered the holidays, and then the post vacation blues, I did lose my motivation. I was overeating and making terrible nutritional choices. In the past, this would have completely derailed me. Instead, I tried to keep in mind that this period of no motivation would come to an end. Maybe not that very day, maybe not that week. But it would end if I didn’t berate myself and if I kept planning, because one day I’d end up following the plan, feel good about myself, and be able to stick to it another day.

It took a couple of months, but it worked. I did gain about 10 pounds during December and January, but when I began sticking to good choices in February, it came right off. And I was once again motivated.

I know this will happen again – like I said, it’s inevitable. But I’m not so scared of it anymore. Next time, perhaps it won’t take two months to find my motivation again. Next time I’ll be nice to myself, accept that this is just a facet of my life, and tell myself that there is an end in sight.

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