Experiencing failure in weight management: Examining lessons learned in order to become successful
As the semester wraps up at the school where I teach, and I enter final exams into the grade book, I notice some familiar occurrences. Students figuring out the minimum work they need to do in order to maintain their current grade in the class and those who worked extra hard on the final in order to compensate for missing work earlier in the semester.
I used to be one of those students. In middle and high school, I hated turning in homework for many of my classes. It wasn’t that I didn’t love learning, it’s just that the process of doing homework seemed silly to me and I felt like my time was better spent in other areas like extracurriculars or reading some non-course literature. I always attempted to learn the material, often scoring incredibly well on exams, which balanced my grades much to the chagrin of my teachers and parents.
However over time those bad habits began to take their toll. Now as a teacher, I have come to realize that homework is an important component of learning, providing continuing opportunities to strengthen your knowledge and skills in an area. And I learned that lesson the hard way, when in one high school class I fell so far behind that I eventually needed a tutor to help me learn the material so I could pass the final exam.
Why did it take getting to near failure before I caught myself? It wasn’t until a recent HMR class, when an instructor said something relating to weight management, that I made the connection. I had become complacent in my success. With every slip in my grade, I would readjust my goals, lowering the bar to make the falling grade more acceptable. Until eventually it got so low, I couldn’t figure out how to do the work by myself to bring my grade back up to where it needed to be to pass the class.
As a teacher, I have made it a goal to ensure students I work with don’t fall into these same bad habits. And as a student entering the HMR program in 2013, I was determined not to let myself slip. I did every homework assignment. I studied my own behaviors as well as paying close attention to every lesson my teachers and fellow classmates shared. And I found myself excelling at something I had failed at so many times in my adult life. I lost weight. And a lot of it.
I had successfully practiced the behaviors of the Decision Free Diet to the point it had become second-nature. My brain learned to appreciate and thrive in this structured environment full of homework and accountability. And I eventually “graduated” to the next step, Phase Two. Managing my weight and maintaining my new lighter body.
It was in Phase Two where I met my own personal nemesis again. I found myself slacking off on healthy behaviors, choosing to skip a serving of vegetables and having a an unmeasured serving of fried rice instead. And as I saw small gains on the scale, I kept readjusting my healthy weight range. When I got worried about the gains, I found myself holding “cram sessions” where I would jump headfirst into weight loss behaviors in an attempt to adjust for gains, without making a plan to sustain that loss (much like a student crams for a test and then forgets all of the material the day after). And over time, I became complacent. Until I had gained so much of my lost weight back, that I felt like a failure.
This has not been an easy post to write. Nor has it been an easy lesson to come to terms with. Through my complacency with the ever-upward creeping scale and my desire to focus on “extracurriculars” instead of foundational lessons, I have found myself failing in weight management. I made choices to ignore the lessons I learned in Phase One and Phase Two classes that would allow me to be successful, and instead I felt shame and a loss of so many health benefits I had worked hard to earn, like climbing stairs without feeling winded or sleeping without feeling acid climbing up the back of my throat.
Maintaining weight loss is a course you cannot graduate from. It is a course you are enrolled in for the rest of your life. There isn’t a final exam you can hire a tutor to prepare you for, where you only need X% in order to pass your class and maintain your weight on your permanent record. And this has been a difficult lesson for me to come to terms with. In order to be successful in this lifelong lesson, I will need to be consistent in practicing my healthy behaviors. I will need to stop adjusting up what is a “passing grade” for a healthy weight range to justify continued weight gain. And I will need to stop being complacent in the world of the gap.
Much like a student who struggles in an advanced academic class, I am going back to my foundational coursework. I have accepted that I need to work on my relationship with fruits and vegetables. And I need to lose the weight that I have allowed myself to put back on my body. So I have started again as a student in the Core classes of Phase One, enrolled in Healthy Solutions this time from the beginning. I know this means I will be faced with making more decisions during weight loss, which I found difficult in my transition to Phase Two. So this will be important for me to focus on during the weight loss phase. It also will mean I am eating a higher calorie minimum prescription, which will mean I lose at a slower rate, but will also mean more time to practice these behaviors during weight loss. I am back in my late night Wednesday classes and surrounded by a number of new and returning HMR students. I am determined to be successful again, this time not just in weight loss but also in the lifelong class of managing that loss. I know the HMR Diet works. I just need to make sure I am also doing the work.
With this in mind – I’d love to hear your favorite HMR Phase One recipes. Decision Free and Healthy Solutions. Please share or link in the comments!
Thank you for an outstanding and timely post! 2017 was a miserable year for me and I have also gotten “lost” in Phase 2 and gained some weight back. I know what I need to do and have decided to not beat myself up, regroup, and move forward. A favorite recipe from my Core days is my own Decision-Free Pumpkin Spice Muffins. The recipe is on the HMR site.
January 18, 2018 at 7:19 pm
Thanks! I’ll have to try these!
January 18, 2018 at 8:26 pm
ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (That is me screaming) This is a good post, HOWEVER there is a word in it that driving me absolutely NUTS!! (I know, short drive) Any guesses what that word is? You use it twice. Once in the body and once in the title. That word is:
For the love of god you have not failed!! You fail when you give up on trying. You fail when you give up on working towards the ultimate goal. You fail when you care no more and do nothing. DOES THIS DESCRIBE YOU? No!! Not at all. You have worked hard ever since the day that I met you. You have had your ups and you have had you downs, but you have never ever given up. You have kept trying all along the way! What you are doing now, going back to Core, is not a failure, but the EXACT OPPOSITE. You are going back to the place where you know you can be successful losing the weight. You are using the skills that you have learned last time, BUT you are doing something different this time to help augment those skills, you are doing Healthy Solutions right off the bat so you can increase your skills in fruit and vegetables.
Remember learning to eat well and managing your weight is a skill, just like lets say playing baseball. Imagine a professional baseball player who makes it to the major leagues and gets to play at the big AT&T park with the Giants. He is a good player, obviously because he made it up to the major leagues from the minor leagues. Then he plays a bunch of games for the Giants and starts to struggle. They send him back to the minor leagues so that he can work on some of his skills that need improvement and then get back to the majors.
Would you call that guy a failure? No, you would call him Buster Posey.
He is not a failure and neither are you. You just came back to the minors to work on some of your skills.
Ok I am off my soap box!!
January 18, 2018 at 9:13 pm
That you for helping me reframe/refocus my perspective. It’s tough to confront weight gain and *not* use the “F word” but you’re right. Thank you.
January 21, 2018 at 9:01 pm
In response to your request for recipes, I like salted caramel hot chocolates-chocolate shake, sugar-free caramel syrup, and sea salt on top. I also like “Mexican” hot chocolate with a touch of almond extract and cinnamon.
January 26, 2018 at 3:57 pm
I need to try your hot chocolate recipes – yum!!!
February 1, 2018 at 7:51 am
Today I started the HMR Decision Free program. I am excited about the healthy changes headed my way. Being the research-minded person I am, I came across your blog last week doing Google searches while I was in the middle of all my doctor appointments to get approved for the program. I devoured (haha) all of your blog posts through the last several years. Thank you for posting all of this and particularly this post – being honest about the struggles. It has helped me be more aware of the potential for sliding back at some point. Preparation is key and I hope it will help me to learn from others’ mistakes.
So again, thank you! I’m excited about your jump back into the program and that you are still posting amazing recipes I can’t wait to try. I was also inspired to start my own blog about my journey with HMR, mainly to keep myself accountable. If nothing else, you are an inspiration to me.
February 1, 2018 at 10:40 pm
Congratulations on starting out on this journey! If you ever want to share the link to your blog, I’d love to post it on the links here for other people. There aren’t a lot of active blogs sharing experiences – I agree! But it took me awhile to want to share in a more public manner so I totally understand if you want to wait 🙂
February 2, 2018 at 1:17 am
(And I am reading your blog now… I more meant permission to link to it here)
February 2, 2018 at 1:18 am
By all means, feel free to share it! I agree there aren’t too many HMR blogs out there from participants, which is one reason I decided to start one myself. I was very grateful to come across yours because it gave me a little more prepared confidence going in.
February 2, 2018 at 6:51 am
Pingback: An HMR Diet Review: Reflecting in my Twelfth Week of Healthy Solutions Diet | The Healthy Academic