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"Results Rebellion" & Other Psychological Derailing

Consider this - a client gets on my program and has weight loss success. Eventually, the "newbie gains" and week-to-week scale victories start getting smaller and smaller, or even come to a complete and utter halt (more on true plateaus here) - and the client panics.

Shaken, they turn to me for advice - "do I need to change it up with my program," they ask, "what more can I do to keep making progress?" And depending on the client (remember, every single one of my LIFTING WOMEN clients are at different stages in her journey), the answer might be anything from switching up the macros to adding more Zone 2 exercise minutes to just staying the course with their current program a bit longer.

But for some, this panic over the natural state of progress - that it isn't linear, and that it will have periods of stall/discomfort/fatigue - leads to what I now call "results rebellion."

Results rebellion can only happen after you actually DO the things you need to do to get initial results - but when the going gets tougher, or the ongoing demands to make progress get a bit more intense/boring/repetitive - you "rebel" against your proven-effective habits by skipping workouts, eating off-track, or sort of just ignoring the process altogether (like, ahem, NOT communicating with your coach).

This period of self-sabotage after a successful weight loss phase is more than just discipline fatigue, which I address in a separate blog - it's a purposeful, directed, almost diabolical act of "proving" to oneself that "see, I always fall off the wagon" or "yeah, this just isn't sustainable," reinforcing scripts of failure, spiraling, or self-doubt.

And here's the thing: your coach ain't havin' that.

Part of the psychology of weight loss is understanding that, along the way, there will be bumps in the road. But as we all know - a bump doesn't mean the road is closed, or worse, that the street is a dead end or a complete detour. Results rebellion is just another way of catastrophising the worst-case-scenario by actually making it happen by enacting deliberately poor habits.

So how to break out of this extremely unhelpful pattern?

One of the primary reasons for results rebellion (specifically after weight loss) is the fear of regression. This fear stems from the belief that strict dietary rules and deprivation are forever necessary to maintain results - and consequently, we revert to old habits, engaging in emotional eating or skipping workouts as a way to regain a sense of control.

But because longer-term weight loss journey can also be emotionally challenging, our habits often become too intertwined with our emotions. Stress, boredom, sadness, or even happiness can trigger results rebellion, with food serving as a temporary source of comfort or coping during times of emotional turbulence. Recognising recurrent triggers and finding alternative ways to manage, such as walking, meditation, or therapy, can help break the cycle.

Moving more into the mindset triggers of results rebellion, consider unrealistic expectations and the pursuit of perfection. After achieving weight loss goals, long-sought weightlifting benchmarks, or a successful personal event (like a wedding or marathon), we may feel pressure to maintain that level of body/performance/strength at all times. This "all or nothing" thinking can lead to feelings of guilt or failure when deviating from anything but the strictest version of one's habits - leaving no room for flexibility or fun. Accepting (and dare I say, welcoming?) occasional indulgences/lapses - and their deviation from perfection - is part of an actually healthy, long-term wellness lifestyle.

Even deeper; however, is the struggle with deep-rooted issues related to self-worth and self-esteem. Weight loss success may initially boost confidence, but feelings of unworthiness can resurface, leading to self-sabotage and, you guessed it - results rebellion. Consciously or subconsciously, clients believe they don't deserve to maintain their progress or that they will inevitably fail - which is why part of my LIFTING WOMEN process centers on developing a positive self-image and practicing self-compassion throughout life's (many; inevitable) transitions.

Finally, never forget to rediscover your "why" and restate your goals, especially if simple "weight loss" (the goal most clients come to me with) just doesn't hold that shiny-shine any longer. Reflect on why you began your wellness journey in the first place - was it to be able to wake up with renewed energy and strength? Play long and hard with your kids? Reconnect with your body after baby? Find a healthy outlet for stress or depression? Spend some time reprioritising these reasons and establishing new, SMART goals that go beyond the number on the scale. Try to shift some of your focus to true measures of well-being, such as better relationships, sounder sleep, a better work-life balance, or improved mental clarity.

Results rebellion after a period of success is an increasingly common phenomenon I'm seeing in my coaching - and I'm sure you might have seen at one point in your own journey. But by understanding the psychological factors that contribute to it, you can take proactive steps to nip it right in the bud before it throws you - and your progress - fully off track.

Embrace self-compassion, set realistic goals, find community and partner support, and practice mindfulness at all stages of the process. And if results rebellion is like the angsty "teenage years" of your wellness journey, consider the work of overcoming that urge to be a type of maturity worth developing well into your "wellness adulthood" - right now.

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natalie kassab
natalie kassab
Jun 18, 2023

This is so helpful! Thank you!

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