You Can Persevere Through Discomfort, But Not Pain
This is #5 of the “top 10 lessons that becoming an athlete have taught me about weight loss” that appeared in the “Building Sweat Equity” blog.
“You can persevere through discomfort, but not pain.”
Seriously, I am the biggest knucklehead in this regard. I pass along this advice now only after making this mistake time and time again. I have a pretty high pain threshold; this is a good thing, and a bad thing. When you’re a runner it can be a good thing; you need to be able to run through the everyday discomforts that come up: side cramps, blisters, running uphill. Ugh! It has a downside though; you train yourself to objectify discomfort. As in: “Gee, that really hurts. If I stopped I’d probably double over in pain right now.”
Like I said, I’m kind of a knucklehead in this regard.
Running through discomfort into pain has meant I’ve been seriously injured several times. These injuries forced me to stop running altogether for a period of time and then rehab until I got better. I finally got the message when I had to have knee surgery after shredding my cartilage. Did it hurt while I was shredding it? Yes! Should I have stopped or backed off when it was more than discomfort but actual pain? Um, apparently so.
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Because I tried to push through pain my goals came to a screeching halt.
Weight loss is no different. As you adjust your portion sizes and change the foods you eat there will be discomfort. You may get hungry sooner than you’re used to. This can be frustrating and uncomfortable. There is the “discomfort” of having to find new recipes, work with different ingredients, maybe shop at different stores than you’re used to. And what about the “discomfort” of listening to your family’s grumbling as you dish up quinoa instead of mashed potatoes for dinner? All of these discomforts are good!
Changing the status quo can be unsettling, but that’s where success lies so we persevere.
Pain is different. “Pain” in the realm of weight loss can mean letting your hunger get out of control because you’re trying to stick to your (way too restrictive) diet. (You’d better not be eating just celery and carrot sticks!) “Pain” can also mean choking down foods you feel you should because you read somewhere they were good for you, but you don’t like them. (Ahem, kale.) Forcing yourself to eat things you don’t like – even if everybody says they’re God’s gift to the known universe – is a recipe for failure. Remember, if you don’t intrinsically enjoy it, it won’t last.
The difference between discomfort and pain in weight loss is that discomfort is a short-term adjustment. You’ll get used to your new habits and be better off for them. Pain, on the other hand, will undo you.
I made this mistake in running enough times that I now have quite a collection of crutches, braces and other rehab equipment. I made this mistake in my weight loss efforts thousands of times before I got it right.
Having a high pain threshold is a blessing and a curse. When it comes to weight loss though, we want to slowly adjust to new changes, not grit our teeth and endure “pain”.
C’mon, we got this!