Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Emotional Stages of Success

I'm sure most people have heard of the Kübler-Ross Model, more commonly know as The Five Stages of Grief (my first introduction was as a kid watching The Simpsons). Anyone experiencing a big emotional loss will often go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (in any order and sometimes skipping or re-visiting the stages). But what about when something good happens to you?

Well duh, you'll just be happy and go on with your life. No one needs a psychological theory to figure that out.

Except wait - I do.

After I hit my weight goal, I should have just been happy and moved on with my day with a little extra bounce in my step. As you could probably tell from my posts, I had a little trouble getting there.

Then over the next few days I found myself quickly jumping through some random emotions - until I stopped to think about it and realized they weren't quite so random after all.

Doing this challenge and succeeding was a really big deal for me. I hardly ever push myself, I'm pretty lazy and avoid doing any kind of stuff or things because dude, that sounds like work, and I pretty much tend to avoid competition as much as humanly possible. I feel bad when I lose or can't reach a goal, and I only feel a mild sense of relief when I win or achieve. So most of the time trying doesn't really seem worth the effort.

But this time I tried really hard, had a great environment and support system, didn't give up, and guess what? I SUCCEEDED! Enter stage one.

1 - Denial.
Seeing that long sought after number actually appear on the scale didn't feel real. It felt like a cheat, a random data error, a product of circumstances and not really a result of anything I consciously did. I had many excuses for why reaching my goal wasn't really succeeding - intestinal issues, water weight, etc. This feeling stayed until I weighed myself a couple days later and... the scale went down again! Hmmm, then the next day it was still the same. Maybe I really am that weight after all...

2 - Elation.
Even though I was still in denial, my first workout after hitting my goal was the MOST EXCITED I HAVE EVER BEEN TO WORK OUT. All those hours of exercise finally felt like they were worth it! And even though my measurements weren't quite where I wanted them to be yet, I no longer needed to worry about gaining too much weight in muscle that was going to inhibit hitting the number goal I had set with the scale.

My thought process was pretty much, "Okay, go time! I really, really, really, really, really want to flatten and tone up my abs so it is totally going to be an awesome sit-up and side-bend weight day! Time to do forty pounds for side-bends, even if I end up dropping the weights on the wood floor or my ankle! Why bother with the ten pound weight for sit-ups when there's a fifteen pound one right there? Go sit-ups! Feel the burn! Harder! Work for it! Just ten more... no, fifteen more - no, just keep going 'til I'm about to drop that weight on my face - YES! Weight induced face bruises so would have been worth it for another couple reps... Maybe next set!"

This stage was very short lived. Although my workout enthusiasm is no longer quite so intense, I'm still dedicated to improving with weights and trying some new routines to tone up faster. On to...

3 - Bargaining.
The following is what I experience Every. Single. Day.

Sensible Me: "I should just keep eating like I'm dieting. I need to give my body time to stabilize and make sure I don't bounce my weight right back up again. Being able to lick the yogurt spoon without counting the calories or having five mini eggs or a drink on the weekend is enough of a reward."

Carefree Me: "What, I'm not going to indulge myself at all? Relax for a day or two! Have dessert, eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch! I can probably add 400-500 calories a day and still be fine!"

Sensible Me: "It's a slippery slope. Once I stop eating like I'm dieting it'll be so much harder to go back. I learned to like all this healthy food. Just keep up the good habits!"

Carefree Me: "I am so sick of saying no! I'm damn well taking the delicious food that is offered to me."

Sensible Me: "Working out is not enough to cover fatty foods and dessert every day. Go back to diet food! And I need to use some of those extra calories on more protein shake so I can build the muscle toning I want."

Carefree Me: "I will - but tomorrow."

The debate continues on into...

4 - Resolve.
This challenge was a lot of work. I'm so glad I did it, but I don't want to have to do it again any time soon. That means eating healthy forever, having small portions of dessert and infrequent alcohol forever, and working out forever. This IS my lifestyle now. It is worth it to be healthy and fit for the rest of my life. I WILL NOT go back. Barring truly extreme circumstances (like my thyroid exploding or a piano falling on my spine) I will never allow myself to buy a bigger pant size EVER AGAIN.

Which leads us into...

5 - Acceptance.
I finally realize there are no "buts" or "excepts" and it's not a statistical anomaly. The numbers don't lie. I reached my goal. I did it through dedication and my own hard work It is an achievement to be proud of. And hells yes, to brag about.

When people say "congratulations" and compliment me (I had three people completely independently of each other tell me I should look for a job in modelling in the same week), I can now respond with a smile and a "Thank you!" No more excuses or immediately pointing out my remaining flaws.

So what if I still have one or two things to work on? I'm still in the best shape of my life and feeling better about my body than ever. Truthfully, when I see women on TV in their bikinis, there's maybe one in a hundred who I'd actually switch bodies with. Sure many have higher boobs or flatter tummies, but there's always something I like about myself more and wouldn't be worth losing. I think, "I'm taller than her," "I have a better smile than her," "My arms are better toned," "A great ass doesn't make up for her wonky nose or snaggletooth." Or simply...

"I wouldn't trade for her looks because overall I love my face and body - they're mine and I'm beautiful." Well, that's the definition of acceptance right there, isn't it?

So, on an end note, I'm not totally done with the emotional stages of success yet. I'm still stuck on the bargaining stage with food, even though I'm resolved with exercising and accepting of my success. That's just the way emotions are - malleable, overlapping, and unpredictable. And maybe I'm weird for not simply being able to be happy. But hey, in the end it was still definitely worth it to taste success and share it with this group of friends.

I wish all of you, those with the challenge completed, in progress, or not yet started, the best of luck and the dedication for continuing success.


  1. Oh how I hear you!! Although I am currently experiencing secret stage 6, PANIC!! What if I can't maintain this? Am fatter today? CAN I eat this cookie? Gah! I am so afraid of sliding backwards that I can't enjoy my success. Sometimes I make myself crazy!

    However I love the way you write about how you feel about yourself. Makes my heart happy!!

    1. Ha! Can I have some stage 6 please? It would really help Sensible Me win the food arguments. It seems I can only really do all or nothing with food, grr 3lbs weight gain.

      Thanks! Glad you made it to the good stuff at the end!