Please excuse the artwork (above). I do not pretend to be an artist – I just wanted to illustrate my point visually. Are you familiar with the sports term “sweet spot”? Although this is a blog about food and eating, I am not talking about that little “hole” in our stomachs that we save for something sweet! I am talking about the spot on a tennis racket or golf club that is the ideal spot to hit the ball.
The way I want to use the term is to describe that ideal combination of what you are doing and what you are getting back for it – the spot where your perceived benefit (weight loss, sense of control, healthy feelings) are balanced with the effort you put in (the perceived sacrifice). This is a very personal thing! Let’s focus on weight loss, because that is what most people report as their goal. What you are willing to give up to lose 5 pounds and keep it off is very likely different from what a friend may be willing to do.
The “A” point on the graph above is at a point where the perceived effort yields a significant perceived benefit. It is on the steepest part of the graph, meaning that the connection between the two is very favorable. As you look at point “B”, notice that the graph is still at a fairly steep incline, but it is beginning to taper off a bit. This means that the amount of effort is higher than at point A, and the benefit is also higher than at point A, but the benefit is not continuing to increase at the same rate. The return on the investment of effort is beginning to slow down.
By the time you get to point “C”, there is a very obvious leveling off of the graph. In other words, you feel like you are putting in more and more effort, but the results just don’t improve much – or at least you do not feel like they are. As I have said before, perceptions are everything. This is not an exact science, because it is different for different people and it can even vary with time for the same person. The accuracy is not the important part. The important part is the conscious thought about this internal process. We simply like to get what we deserve – and we are very capable of derailing any healthy plan if we feel it’s “not worth it”.
If perceptions of your efforts are always negative (“I never get anywhere no matter what I do.”), it may be a good idea to ask yourself a couple of questions. First, “Am I really doing something different over the long run?” Secondly, “Am I expecting more than the laws of physics can deliver?”
Sometimes people try too hard, and there is no possible way they will get a result that feels worth it. In this case, maybe backing off a bit might help – don’t try so hard. Maybe the sacrifices are related to physical hunger, and you simply are too uncomfortable. Add food! Or maybe you haven’t had your favorite chocolate ice cream cone in too long. Have it! Then the results will come more in line with the effort, unless a reality check is needed on the basics of realistic weight loss.
The term “sweet spot” is appropriate. Life should feel sweet, and a balance of healthy habits and pleasure is important. With practice, you can actually feel when you hit the “sweet spot” – just like a perfect tennis stroke!