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We all know that the vast majority of people who lose weight, regain it. And while we know that nobody who loses that weight actually wants to put it back on, somehow we’ve become really good at it! Some of us have spent a lifetime cycling between the fit and fat versions of us. We even have the small, medium, large and industrial sections in our wardrobe. What a miserable and frustrating cycle that is. And I’m not talking about minor weight fluctuations here, I’m talking about a range of 10-50 kgs (22-110lbs) or more. We get on and off the weight-loss roller coaster for a bunch of reasons but here’s what twenty five years of working with people in this area has taught me. My top five observations anyway…
1. We don’t keep our head in the game.
For a range of reasons, somewhere along the way we lose it mentally and emotionally. And when the discipline, the self-control and the can-do attitude go out the window, so does the new and improved body. Pity. We know that what happens below the shoulders is driven by what happens above them (our physiology is a by-product of our psychology), so for most of us, mastering our mind is the key to mastering our body. Creating life-long change (in this case, weight-loss) ain’t about carbs, protein shakes, treadmills or pump classes, it’s about what’s happening between our ears. I know that this is a message I share regularly but it still seems to be missed and/or overlooked by the masses; fix the head to fix the body. Do whatever you need to do, to maintain focus, commitment and momentum over the long term. And as for that whole “it takes thirty days to create a new habit” thing… crap. As a rule, it usually takes much longer. Very few of us (okay, nobody) will undo thirty years of destructive behaviours, habits and thinking in thirty days. As is often the case, the theory and the reality don’t actually merge.
2. We do stupid things to our body.
Oh how we love extremes when it comes to weight loss. Four lettuce leaves, two carrots, some diuretics, a few fat-blaster tablets and three workouts a day. Great plan. If you’re an idiot. And if you wanna lose a heap of fluid and muscle. And energy. And health. Extreme never works. Yes we all think our body is special and unique but… it’s not. It amazes me how many ’smart’ people do stupid things to their body. Drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, excess food, no food, no sleep, poor hydration, over-training and under-training, just to name a few. Be emotional and silly about your football team by all means, but not with the decisions you make about your body.
3. We start things that we won’t maintain.
We know that diets don’t work but geeeeze we’re good at doing them anyway. For a week. Despite being more educated than we’ve ever been, we (our society) still embrace what we know doesn’t work; the watermelon and air diet. And the boiled egg and grapefruit diet.
4. We get in shape for events, but not for life.
Yep, I’ve said it before, we’re great at losing weight for birthdays, weddings, school reunions, big social events and even summer. And then we’re great at getting fat again. It’s what we do. Don’t get mad at me, just take a look around. If only life was one long birthday, we’d all look amazing 24/7. We change our behaviour for a while, but on a level below our conscious (and temporary) behaviours, we’re simply waiting to go back to normal. Normal being the same behaviours that lead us to obesity in the first place.
5. We don’t have a plan for life beyond the weight-loss.
Some of us are pretty good at the losing bit… but kinda crap at the maintaining bit. We arrive at our destination (Skinny Central) and start to eat. And eat. And eat. After all we deserve it, we’ve been ’so good’. And then we wake up six months later and realise that our trim body has well and truly left the station. Toot, toot. Losing weight is relatively easy. Maintaining habits, behaviours and weight loss for life is the real challenge.