Weight loss is a very personal journey, and people will have different rates of success along the way. For that reason, it is important to stay focused on your own goals and refrain from comparing yourself to others who are also working to lose weight.
“The first thing to remember is that everyone is different,” explained Laura Sebring, MS, RD, LDN, lead bariatric and weight loss dietitian at True You Weight Loss. “You only know yourself, so that is where you should focus. When you worry about the successes of others versus your own, it can actually lead to negative thoughts and be very demotivating.”
According to Laura, there are several things to remember when you start to feel frustrated or disappointed by your weight loss progress, especially as it relates to how you feel you are measuring up against other people.
Comparison is Not Healthy: In general, comparing yourself to others can be detrimental to your own mental and emotional health, and therefore, can take energy away from the work you are doing to achieve your goals. Laura often recommends to her patients a special TED talk by Dean Furness as a reminder of this important message.
Starting Weight & Percentage of Weight Lost: The percentage of weight lost, not the number of pounds, is what dietitians review when helping patients track their progress. This percentage is based on a person’s starting weight, therefore, it’s an individualized number and should never be used for comparison.
Metabolism: Metabolism is the chemical process your body uses to convert food into energy. Everyone has a different metabolism, and yours will even change from time to time. Because metabolism affects the way your body processes food, it affects how easily you shed pounds as well. Therefore, metabolism is an element of weight loss that is beyond your control.
Caloric Needs: Everyone has different caloric needs, which are based upon size, sex, age, and activity level. This is another factor of weight loss that is beyond your control and can make comparisons counterproductive and discouraging.
Genetics: According to research, obesity is a disease that often follows a family’s medical history. Therefore, some people will have a more difficult time battling the disease because they are genetically predisposed to it.
Other Medical Conditions: Along with being overweight, many people struggle with other medical conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, which must be managed carefully. These conditions can also affect weight loss progress.
Lifestyle: Many people enjoy different levels of activity and different types of exercise. Natural tendencies and preferences might make it easier or more difficult to lose weight when comparing to others. So, try to avoid making the comparisons. Your happiness should only be based upon what feels good and natural for you.
Schedule and Commitments: No two lives are exactly the same. Every person is dealing with different responsibilities, which can affect various elements of their weight loss journey. Maybe they have more or less time during the day to exercise, or maybe healthy cooking comes more easily to them because they have culinary training. Whatever the situation, remember that focusing on your own life and capabilities is the best way to stay on track with your weight loss goals.
The Highlight Reel: Especially when it comes to social media, people typically don’t advertise their failures, only their highlights. If it discourages you to hear about another person’s progress, remember that they, too, are probably facing challenges that they prefer to keep hidden from the outside world. But if looking at posts on social media becomes upsetting, it would be best not to look, as this can set you up for failure and derail your own journey.
Motivation: Everyone is motivated by different factors within their lives, whether it be the loss of a loved one due to unhealthy habits or the hope of being better able to keep up with their children. Because levels and types of motivation differ among people, so too will levels of weight loss success.
Misinformation: Many people use different methods to lose weight, and what works for someone else may not work for you. Additionally, other people may choose “quick fixes” or dieting fads that really don’t sustain in the long-term. This is another reason why focusing on your own journey and the methods that work best for you will make weight loss success much easier to obtain.
Non-Scale Victories: Remember that weight loss progress is not all about the scale. Looking at the non-scale victories can be helpful, too, such as inches lost, people noticing that your body has changed, your ability to do things that you could not do before, experiencing less pain, feeling more comfortable overall, easier breathing, and health improvements, such as resolved diabetes, sleep apnea, or hypertension.
“Big things can happen with even a little bit of weight loss,” added Laura. “These accomplishments should be celebrated and acknowledged, while also serving as motivation to keep moving forward.” Finally, if you are continually feeling discouraged about your weight loss, ask yourself if your goals are realistic and achievable. Even comparing yourself to how you looked way back in high school can be unreasonable. Sometimes, just a change in mindset and the ability to relieve some of the pressure you are placing on yourself can make a world of difference, while putting you right back on track.