Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” ~ Abraham Maslow

Over the past three years I’ve lost 130 pounds. In the last six months, however, I’ve gained 40 of it back. I’ve been asking myself, ‘how in just a few months did I go from being 40 pounds away from my healthy weight goal to 80 pounds away?’ It’s extremely difficult not to beat myself up or feel discouraged. They say (“they” meaning those damn Pinterest quotes) your attitude determines your direction. So I’ve decided to see this setback as an opportunity to discover valuable lessons that will help me in the future when I lose focus and start to “step back into safety.” It is not an easy process to learn from the mistakes that we would rather just ignore, deny or blame on external conditions. It requires both honest reflection on what we are or are not doing to make progress AND constant evaluation of what we’re trying to achieve and why we want to achieve it.

I have struggled with weight my entire life, so when I made the decision to  become a healthier person I knew it had to be part of an entire lifestyle change. I didn’t want to follow a commercial weight loss plan because as most of us know, once you’re off the plan things seem to quickly return to “normal.” I was looking to create a whole new “normal” but understood it wouldn’t be easy given that 1) I had experienced only limited success in the past, 2) I was simultaneously working on other interconnected changes that would determine my success, and 3) I had some saboteurs that I could not easily, or in some cases, ever remove from my life.

I started by making a plan that worked around my workaholic tendencies. I sought out creative ways I could eat all my meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and an afternoon snack) at the office staying between 1200 and 1400 calories a day. The plan was personal to me and took into account both my strengths and weaknesses. I’ll be honest, from the start I knew I would never willingly give up beer or half ‘n half. I simply adjusted my consumption and built those calories into my daily or weekly plan. I truly believe that creating a process that was personal and accounted for both my behavioral tendencies and my dietary “deal breakers” is what helped me to succeed. Oh, and lots of patience.

So what happened? Why am I twice as far from my goal than I was a year ago? I’d like to blame it on anything but myself. I could attribute it to my brother unexpectedly passing away, followed by my cat becoming terminally ill and dying which coincided with starting a new job and on and on. Honestly, I would love to lay my setback at the feet of life and its unexpected events, but that would be a lie or an excuse. I know this because there were just as many times that I continued to make progress despite losing a job, having my car break down, experiencing a significant health crisis, my own or a family member’s, or while facing numerous other challenges. But the reason I’m not as healthy as I was six months ago is because I took a giant step back into the comfort and safety of old ways. I consciously or subconsciously decided that I wasn’t the most important priority in my life anymore and began to create congruence between how I felt inside and how I looked and behaved externally. I gained 40 pounds because I stopped exercising every day and eating right. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve been asking myself, ‘Where do I go from here?’ and ‘How do I get back on track?’ Well I recently convinced myself to stop feeling embarrassed and ashamed. I realized that this journey is mine, and mine alone so I’m the only one who has authority to set the course, the timeline, and the purpose. Next, I decided to acknowledge the situation openly, hence this post. I’m taking accountability and committing to each reader that I am re-energizing my plan and taking a first step forward into growth. Lastly, as part of the process of re-evaluating where I’m at and where I want to go, I’ve realized that I may be very happy and satisfied to lose 50-60 pounds instead of 80, but I’m not going to decide that right now. I’m just going to see how I feel along the way and continue to ask myself “what” and “why.” I’m also taking comfort in the wisdom of others.

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”  ~ Margaret Thatcher

2 thoughts on “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

  1. Great post! Very inspiring to me! I feel so much of what you’re saying here. I lost 40 lbs this past year and desperately want to keep it off. I seem to have an internal struggle happening and I find myself making things like homemade mac and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches etc. What am I doing?! So, I’m going to follow your blog, absorb the wisdom that you pass along and continue to allow your stories to inspire me while I fight through my own setback. Keep up the great posts my friend! 🙂


    1. Thanks Dawn. It’s hard when we know what has to be done, but can’t seem to find the motivation or energy to apply it. I’ve been reading some very inspiring posts on Zen Habits and decided to heed Leo’s suggestion to make a public proclamation of my intent. It appears you just took that step with me. It’s comforting to know we’re in this together. 🙂


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