I get it… You mean business.
I teach methods of habit change to people who have a wide range of weight loss goals. If you’ve read my posts here and see that I talk about changing one habit at a time, you might fear that’s simply not enough for you.
Maybe you think gradual habit change is okay for THOSE people – the ones who want to lose 10 or 20 pounds and have the luxury of being patient – but not YOU. If you feel like you need to lose a lot, and get it done yesterday, overhauling your life by changing a bunch of things all at once might seem like the answer. Promises of quick fat loss made by the pushers of fad diets can be tempting. They might even look like the only way to achieve your goal.
The problem is that changing too many things at once is more likely to lead to burnout than to any kind of permanent change in lifestyle and the results you seek.
Don’t let that discourage you. There’s a better path, one that isn’t a yo-yo diet trap, one that takes into account your whole quality of life.
The process of forming habits that support gradual (yet permanent) change might look like a road that’s too long. It might not seem like enough for the big changes you want. If you’re thinking that your weight loss goal means you need something hardcore, keep reading.
Perhaps you feel if you can just make one of those drastic plans stick, then the transformation will happen, instead of stalling out with a small weight loss and rebounding. I’m here to tell you that so-called failure on those kinds of plans is not your fault. They are not designed for success. They simply don’t work.
“But I lose some weight when I diet, why are you saying it doesn’t work?”
As I detailed in my post about carbohydrates and weight changes, How Do Some People Eat Carbs and NOT Gain Weight???, the deceptive results of “being good” by following the typical rules of a diet for a few days or weeks can really mess with your head. Since cutting way back on things like carbs or restaurant foods will manipulate water weight and result in temporary changes on the scale within a small range, this can reinforce the belief that those kinds of diets work. If “work” means actually reducing body fat, there is only one solution – maintain habits that result in eating and activity levels that support the fat loss you desire, while still keeping your energy and satisfaction at a level that allows you to enjoy life.
This is true no matter how much weight you want to lose.
The important thing to know here is that the actual process of losing weight is the same for everyone, no matter the starting point. Those who are more overweight don’t benefit from unhealthy, unsustainable, drastic measures any more than other people. If anything, the more overweight you are, the more it benefits you to narrow your focus. Forming and keeping new habits that support the weight you want to be requires focusing on the process. Without the process, there are no results. It takes more work to lose 40 pounds than 10 pounds, this is true. But because of that, you can’t afford to struggle to build momentum by trying to do too much at once, and then burn out one month in, ending up back at square one. If you’ve spent much time in your life dieting, you’re probably very familiar with that frustration.
So how do you prevent that? Don’t hyper-focus on the desired outcome. Think instead of making the process easier to sustain and more workable within the context of your normal life. If your current behaviors have resulted in a weight that’s a lot higher than you want, this is even more important. It needs to fit into your life, your preferences, your schedule, or it will be a constant struggle, generating frustration and resentment.
It can be very easy to get hung up on outcomes (current weight vs desired weight), so putting in more energy to focus on the PROCESS of habit change will be more important the more weight you have to lose. Outcomes are out of our direct control, so putting the majority of our focus there is a recipe for failure. The BEST way to create success is to focus on behaviors. And the best way to focus on behaviors is one at a time.
In all areas of life, focusing on the process is what makes people successful in the long term. If you’re getting overwhelmed by your current weight and all of your focus is going towards outcomes because you want results now, that’s a distraction from the daily habits that are the building blocks of change. If your eyes are on the prize, they’re not on the path in front of you. It’s that path that will get you where you want to go, so it needs cultivating.
How do you move away from being too fixated on outcomes?
Things to DO:
Learn about the steps needed to get to your goal. Create a list of every behavior you want to change, circle the one you want to work on now and then put the list away. Really, ONLY ONE. Do NOT try to incorporate them all at once.
Then create or choose systems to monitor your consistency in practicing that change. For example, use an app like Habit Bull, or a calendar with smiley faces or gold star stickers, or even simply check marks on a piece of paper.
Next, decide on a period of time to commit to practice this skill/habit (typically 14 days) and how many days in that time period you want to do it (every day; X days each week; weekdays only).
And then, create a version of that change that you’re 90-100 percent confident you can succeed with. Not “I think I can make that work” or “I might be able to do that sometimes.” Don’t settle for anything less than true 90 percent confidence.
Complete the process of bringing each new habit into your normal routine before you start a new one.
Things to STOP:
One big thing is to stop weighing yourself too frequently. You might think weighing is needed. After all, how else will you know you’re succeeding? But I recommend against it because fixating on that number is a distraction from both reality (since small weight fluctuations are a normal part of life that don’t necessarily reflect changes in body fat) and from the process (since your habits are related to a trend over time, not daily ups and downs).
If you’re going to keep weighing for now, it’s important to create clear boundaries for when you will do so and how to use that information. You can read my recommendations for how to set those boundaries in my recent post How the Scale Can Sabotage Your Success…and How to Fight Back.
Stop judging yourself for “failing”. The fact that drastic diets don’t work in the long term is not your fault.
Stop thinking big changes in body composition require a punishing routine that makes you hate life.
What’s the bottom line?
It is NOT faster to adopt some kind of “fat-blasting super plan” because those plans don’t work. They don’t bring lasting change and they make your life miserable. The way that’s truly faster is deliberately building and maintaining the habits that create the life you want.
Focusing on everyday behaviors that support the desired result (in this case, fat loss) means adjusting what you do in the course of living your life, forming permanent habits that help you feel happy and fulfilled, not deprived. You know, normal life. Not diet life.
One habit at a time, you can build a lifestyle that brings you both contentment AND the changes in body composition you want to achieve.
If you’re looking at what seems like a mountain of habits that need changing, it can feel overwhelming and discouraging. Having a guide and expert support to help you know which behaviors matter most and how to achieve each change in a productive way can make all the difference.
In my group support and coaching program The Habit Project™, you will gain mastery over the most important skills and habits for losing weight, keeping it off, and improving your health.