Weight and Mental Health

How to Lose Weight When You Feel Hopeless

Max Carmody, MSc

To lose weight when you feel hopeless, you can identify the root cause of the hopelessness, which may involve seeking professional help, take the process one day at a time, and not beat yourself up for backslides.

I certainly know what it feels like to be hopeless. There have been multiple times in my life where I felt absolutely and completely hopeless. I was in so much agony that I did not know how I would ever come out alive, or have anything resembling a life again. Sometimes, I still feel a bit hopeless at times. But I think that I have gotten through the worst of it, I have a little bit more hope now. There have been times when I felt hopeless about losing weight and was really struggling at it. If you’re feeling hopeless, I will do my best to help you regain hope along your weight loss journey.

Identify the Root Cause of Hopelessness

The first step to take, I would say, is to try to become aware of why you’re hopeless in the first place. Have you tried many times before to lose weight, unsuccessfully? Are you so high above your goal weight that it seems a daunting prospect considering all the work that lays before you? Are you simply depressed?

Depending on the severity of your hopelessness, and the reasons behind it, you may be able to work things out on your own. Or you may not, if the situation is looking pretty dire, you may want to enlist professional help.

Before you go for professional help, consider what your main issue is. Is the issue purely related to weight loss, or is it a mental health issue you’re facing? Probably either way it would be helpful to talk to a therapist to work some things out and talk things through. If the issue is related to something like depression, than you will definitely want to see a therapist. If you think the issue is more clinical, than you may want to see a psychiatrist as well. Personally, psychiatry has helped me enormously, and saved my life. 

If the issue is more related purely to weight loss, and you don’t think that depression or related mental health issues are behind it at all, than you may want to see a nutritionist or trainer. This can be expensive, so it’s completely understandable if you can’t afford this. However, if you do have the resources to do this, it could make a big difference. If you’ve been struggling up until now and nothing else seems to work, than perhaps a nutritionist could help you work out the best diet for you, or a trainer could help to hold you accountable.

If you decide to try to work things out on your own, then try to think about when you first became hopeless. Is it relatively recent, or has it been going on for years. Then think carefully about what other things you feel hopeless about. Do you purely feel hopeless about your weight loss, or do you also feel hopeless about your financial situation and your love life? If your hopelessness extends beyond purely weight loss, than you will definitely want to seek out professional help. For your hopelessness about weight loss, really try to drill down to your exact experiences that may have caused it, so you can learn to deal with it better. If you are struggling with hopelessness due to mental health, I wrote a post about losing weight when you have a mental illness that you can find here.

Take it One Day at a Time

One thing that I enjoy is watching motivational videos. The tough love, hypermasculine kind. I know that this strategy certainly doesn’t work for everyone, but it works very well for me. It really does motivate me. I’m not going to recommend that you go and do this (unless it happens to work well for you too.) But there was one of these motivational videos that I watched recently, entitled “one day at a time”. Obviously, it was about how you should take things one day at a time. 

The guy who made this video was a soldier, or former soldier, a navy seal I think. And navy seals have incredibly intense, brutal training, that most people just cannot handle, I know I couldn’t. But this seal was talking about how all these guys on the team would say “How am I going to continue doing this training for 6 months? It’s so hard”. A lot of those guys ended up dropping out he said, because they were looking so far ahead.

One of the reasons for his success in training, was breaking everything down into tiny, bite sized pieces. He just looked at the immediate tasks in front of him. I think that this strategy also applies very well to weight loss. If you think to yourself “I’ve got to lose 100 pounds, and that’s going to take grueling months and months” then it’s going to be very difficult for you. If however, you think to yourself, “I’ve just got to make my next meal a healthy meal, and exercise for 20 minutes after” then it all becomes much more manageable.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up When You Have a Backslide

It’s easy to be hard on yourself. I often am harder on myself than I probably should be. But slip ups happen, and they happen to us all, no matter how great we are. I’ve read before that something like 99% of people, or maybe it was 99.9% even, have slip ups when dieting. Food isn’t an addiction for everyone who wants to lose weight, but for some it is, and almost everyone battling an addiction, whether it is substances or gambling, relapses at some point, it is part of the process.

It can start to feel hopeless if all you can see is your failures. You may eat a couple cookies, and then figure, “why bother, it’s useless, I can’t do it, I’ve already failed”. But rather than have that attitude, you’ve got to get straight back on the wagon. I admit, when I slip up, I usually just pig out for the rest of that day. Although I actually have been getting better about this lately, for example recently when I had wine when I was dieting, instead of just gorging myself after, I cut it off at just the wine. But even if you eat a lot the rest of that day, the next day get straight back to it.

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