Slow progress toward big goals

As I wrote in my “fat pants” post a few weeks ago, I am deep into the project of trying to lose the last 10 lbs of baby weight. At least it is no longer the last 15 lbs of baby weight. I am making progress. But it is slow progress. The thing about losing 0.5-1 lb per week is that the scale can refuse to budge for days. And if it budges, it can go up, since a person’s weight can fluctuate within a few pound range based on time of day, how much water you’ve just drank, etc. It is frustrating to watch what you eat faithfully for days in an environment of constant temptation, only to have the scale register a 1 lb gain.

But after two months of this, of weighing myself daily and recording the numbers, I can see that the numbers that appeared frequently six weeks ago no longer appear. Numbers on the bottom of the range where I was, say, three weeks ago, start appearing more frequently, and then once a week or so I see a new low. Looking at the numbers, I see that I have definitely lost 6 lbs in 2 months, which gives me a spark of motivation to keep going. Most likely, in another 2 months I’ll be down another 6 lbs, which means that in 3-4 months, I’ll be back where I wish to be. Do I wish it could have happened over night? Of course. But big goals seldom do.

I’ve been thinking of this in the context, also, of a number that many of us hope will go a different direction than our weight: our net worth. As with weight, the temptation is always there to bring home shiny baubles and spend mindlessly. You can be diligent about not spending mindlessly for months, invest that cash, and still see your net worth go down because the market has. This is just as frustrating as passing up the pecan pie and seeing your weight go up. But, as the years stretch on, you start to see that the numbers that once occurred only at market peaks are now way in the rear view mirror. In good times, you reach new highs. In bad, the lows are no where near where they were.

The question with all these big goals is how to keep your motivation up when it may flag in the middle. I am a fan of graphs precisely because they make long term progress apparent. Some people also swear by external rewards until the intrinsic rewards take over. How do you keep your motivation up as you make slow progress toward big goals?


7 thoughts on “Slow progress toward big goals

  1. I find it helpful to either set up automatic systems (transfer to savings or 401k) or decide something is “not important”. Weight is currently in the second category for me, because I’m working on potty training twins and getting them to sleep at night. For whatever reason, they were both up till midnight last night. That means sleep (not getting sick from exhaustion) is more important than exercise. (I have no childcare and picking up my house and putting laundry away from the potty training is more important than exercise.)

    Most of us find the bandwidth in life to do what is important to us- we just value different things.

    1. @Twin mom – I agree on the idea of deciding, sometimes, that things are not important. I have had boxes in my office for the past 6 months now. It has taken a backseat to work, kids and other things. I’m finally getting to it now because Ruth is sleeping more. It is amazing how much more energy one has when you get enough sleep!

  2. Laura, I don’t know if it applies during postpartum weight loss, but losing more than a pound/week is tough if you’re female and less than obese. Like between calories and working out, if you could lose 500 Kcal in a day, then you’d lose one pound every week. Losing more than a thousand calories a day is something a lot of doctors/fitness people do not recommend.

    1. @Nadia- oh, I know. The first 3 weeks you lose a ton of weight because it’s fluid — like your weight can drop 3 lbs in a day. But then it stopped, and the next pounds came off at the pedestrian 0.5-1lb rate. Which is fine over the long term, but my point was that you don’t see it in the short term. Losing half a pound a week does not look like anything for several weeks due to weight fluctuations. So the question is how you stay motivated in the short term until it becomes the long term.

      1. What helped me keep going when the numbers on the scale weren’t falling was the commitment to be strong and fit regardless of my weight. Of course I wanted to lose weight, but by golly if I couldn’t lose weight, I was going to be the fittest chubby gal around. And the weight loss took awhile, but where I had always given up in despair when the weight didn’t come off before, my commitment to fitness kept me going this time. It took a long time for the scale to move but I kept moving! Over the course of a year I lost over 30 pounds. And I love looking better. But I also love being stronger and more energetic by far.

        Caution: If you’re going to start strength-training, keep waist measurements, because as you develop your muscles, this can add some weight or you might just stop losing weight, but if your waist-line is slimming to where you want to be, then you know you’re not adding fat, just lean muscle. Good luck with it and happy holidays!

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