Every new project—like a resolution or a hobby—starts out exciting and fun. Of course, then it gets harder and less fun... until it hits a low point that’s really hard, and not much fun at all. This is when you find yourself asking if the goal you’ve set is even worth all the hassle.
This is the rough patch.
You pretty much always have to get through one of these before achieving a goal, like losing weight. The natural reaction to hitting a rough patch is to run away from discomfort, but the truth is that all discomfort really means is that we're doing things differently. Nobody makes progress without hitting some turbulence.
If you quit, sure, you’ll feel more comfortable (in the short term). Doing something new and different is, by nature, uncomfortable—simply because we're not used to doing it. This is why so many people hop from one diet to the next, without ever sticking with anything. Unfortunately, results don’t come from trying everything. They come from sticking with something.
It’s easy to give in to the voice that says, "I'm quitting," especially when that voice tends to come up with endless justifications for doing so. See if any of these excuses feel familiar to you:
- I have to get my life in order before this can work.
- I'm not motivated.
- I'm tightening up my budget.
- My schedule is too hectic.
- I'm not committed.
- This is stressing me out.
- I don't care about my goal anymore.
But if you’ve really committed to achieving something, then excuses are all just code for "this is getting uncomfortable."
So often, people start off extremely determined to lose weight but stop caring the moment the process gets uncomfortable. Then they rationalize the decision by saying stuff like, "This is stressing me out. I don't want to worry about what I eat. I guess my weight isn't that important to me."
And this avoidance can seem reasonable at first, largely because it’s easy to justify quitting anything. But it’s important to remember the reasons why you committed to your goal in the first place. For instance, if you've decided you don’t care about weight loss anymore, ask yourself, What about your health? You might not care about a number on the scale, but you can't fake your health. I know this intimately, having seen my father's health deteriorate throughout the years.
Rationally, we know that we committed to our goals for good reasons. If we’re trying to lose weight, we know that our health and well-being is everything. But we're not rational beings, and it’s human nature to seek pleasure and avoid discomfort.
But fighting human nature is silly. Instead, gain awareness of what we do: It’s the key to progressing. Better awareness leads to better decisions, and better decisions lead to more progress.
The secret—if there is such a thing—to accomplishing any goal is learning how to get through the rough patches and learning to ask for help with them. This way, you’ll never give in to the voice that says, "I’m quitting. This isn’t worth it."
Here are some ideas for getting through the rough patch:
1. Wanting to quit and actually quitting are very different.
Any worthwhile journey will have ups and downs—this is inevitable, and you should accept from the outset that there will probably come a time when you’ll want to quit. Here’s a secret: Every single one of these success stories wanted to quit at some point during their journey, but they understood that the relief they’d get from quitting would be temporary. (That’s why having support and accountability is so important.)
2. Just because we feel like something doesn’t mean we have do it…
and just because we don’t feel like doing something doesn’t mean we can’t do it. If you’re not in the mood to do anything, focus on the smallest possible task. We’ve all heard of K.I.S.S, right? (Keep It Simple, Stupid.) Well, let’s focus on M.I.S.S.: "Make it Small, Stupid."
3. Question your reasons for wanting to quit and poke holes in their logic so you can remove their power.
A. "It’s not a good time."
When is life ever not busy? When life feels like it’s too much, we often stop taking care of ourselves. Unfortunately, that only perpetuates those feelings of being overwhelmed. When you take control of what you’re able to, you can deal with everything else better. Clearly, there’s a part of you that wants to improve your health and fitness. There’s a reason you’re reading this. The truth is: There’s never a great time to focus on your health. There’s always something going on.
B. "I’ve been giving up a lot of my favorite things."
You don't have to give up your favorite foods. Deprivation is not sustainable. You can enjoy your favorite foods while losing weight—the key is to be selective of what, where, and when you indulge. Focus on all the reasons you want to improve your health and fitness. Too often we only focus on what we’re giving up. We forget about all that we’re gaining.
C. I’m not seeing results anymore.
The No. 1 reason why we stop succeeding is that we stop doing what made us successful. Perhaps the way in which you got results at first was unsustainable, so it’s worth finding a plan you can actually stick with.
Embrace the discomfort. And if you need help getting through a rough patch, get some. It’s important to remember that what’s uncomfortable now will soon be comfortable. Just like what's easy now was once hard.
Recoiling, running, and hiding when you face a rough patch is like kicking the can down the road—eventually, you're going to have to face and embrace the discomfort. And when you do, it'll change your life.
Adam Gilbert is the founder of MyBodyTutor.com, an online program that offers daily support and accountability. Sign up for his free mini course on weight loss, and follow Adam on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.