Raising your standards (or lowering your threshold)

One of the good things about taking a long time to meet you desired goal weight is that gradually your threshold of acceptability changes.

Back when I weighed 232 pounds, it was enough to be the smallest person in my family.

For the longest time, after Weight Watchers, it was enough to have lost 50 or 60 pounds. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my threshold was 179. It was not acceptable to get above this number; to do so, in my mind, would have triggered failure. Whenever I thought that I was getting fat again, I thought of the 180 me, not the 232 pound me. The 232 pound me was so far outside of my threshold of acceptability (my new standard for myself) that I no longer even considered it a possibility.

Two and a half years ago, I was creeping back up to 179. I adopted an alkaline diet/lifestyle, did P90x with a friend, and dropped close to 30 pounds. Unfortunately, my standard didn’t change and in a moment — try six months!– of stress, I ended right back where I started: 179 pounds.

Essentially, my standard hadn’t changed. And, consciously or not, I knew that.

The following summer, I tried it again. That time, I started with Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, followed by P90x (twice). I got down to 141.8. But again, during the winter months, my resolve started to slip. But last March, when I crept past 150, I said: enough! My standard had changed. 150 — which used to be a goal — had become the standard — the threshold of what I was willing to accept for myself.

Now, you might be thinking that this is just yo-yo dieting, but if you look at the trend line, it’s been moving steadily down. Moreover, I really believe (in retrospect) that all of those starts and stops — not to mention the dreaded plateaus — were actually necessary in order for my standard to change.

When I think of myself as being heavy, I never think of the 232 pound me; I rarely think of the 179 pound me, because I can’t even imagine going back there! And if you can’t imagine it, it won’t happen. Think about it.

And whenever possible, in whatever domain of your life, raise your standards and, in the case of weight loss, lower your threshold!

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4 comments so far

  1. Patty on

    I go back and forth between accepting my curvier body at 130, because it looks fine with clothes on and wanting to be closer to 120, because it should help my running performance. Basically I will always be primarily a runner for psychological reasons, but it isn’t the most efficient way to work out, rather it’s the most pleasurable way to work out.

    I try not to judge myself based on weight. More on what size jeans I can fit into.

    But I’m not actually setting specific goals right now. Too much work stress to add stress over fitness goals. Bad excuse, I suppose…

  2. Patty on

    Did you see the list of automatially generated “possibly related” posts? One was about new roof crush standards in the auto industry. What search algorithm came up with that?! Sort of funny to imagine our heavier selves standing on top of automobiles crushing them.

  3. KJ on

    I think goals change as we change and it’s more important to be flexible than militaristic. My goal was to lose the fat; this summer, I would like to tone up and get stronger again. Like you, it’s in my best interest to weigh less — not because I can run a marathon (or two) but because it’s easier on my injured knee. I have no idea where I’ll eventually settle –weight-wise or jean-size-wise. My goal, essentially, boiled down to this — I wanted to create a body that would allow me to do whatever I wanted it to, without limits. I’m definitely closer than I was to that goal than I was two years ago.

  4. […] Posted May 12, 2009 Filed under: Uncategorized | In a response to one of the comments on the last post, I […]


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