How to make weight loss progress you can sustain
If you plan to go somewhere you need to know two things:
- Where you are now
- Where you want to go
If I’m in Sydney (and I am) and I want to go to London (which I do, I do!) there are many ways I can make the trip. I can fly with Emirates via Dubai or I could go with QANTAS and have a stopover in Hong Kong. I could also take part of the journey by sea or even train if I needed or wanted to.
Understand that once you know where you are now and where you want to go, how you go about it is optional!
Now some options are faster than others. Some are more expensive. Some are more comfortable. And some are more fun.
The point is, the only options worth considering are the ones taking you towards your final destination.
In other words, if you are ever going to get there, you need to be progressing towards your destination.
Progression on a weight loss journey
The theme of striving for progression (not perfection) comes up regularly when I’m coaching my weight loss clients.
(And by regularly I only mean with every client!)
Some clients are more perfectionistic than others. Some are simply “black and white” in their thinking about how to lose weight.
Whatever the source, the tendency for people to move into an “all or nothing” mindset is usually driven by the desire for the fastest weight loss possible. Now I get it, I really do. Most of us would rather achieve our target weight sooner than later.
However, for a variety of reasons – some physiological and some psychological – slower, steadier weight loss is a better bet. Remember, burning excess body fat is what gives you the sustainably lean, healthy body you’re after; faster, indiscriminate weight loss won’t do that.
When it comes to achieving a lean, healthy body, you’d better believe the longer road is the way to go! Sticking to the longer road guarantees you’ll get to your destination. It also ensure you’ll enjoy the journey and exploring your landing-place.
Being able to stick to the longer road is what’s important. You’ll need strategies that ensure you stay on the right path and not get sidetracked so you end up off-track and overturned in a gutter somewhere.
Strategies for progression (a.k.a strategies to keep you out of the gutter)
Let’s say you have identified a weight loss goal for yourself and you already know where you are and where you want to go. Maybe you are measuring this in terms of weight or perhaps a clothing size or even body fat percentage. Whatever your metric, you know the way to get your destination is by consistently performing certain behaviours.
As an example, let’s say you’ve decided regular exercise will get you where you want to go.
Ever promised yourself you’re going to exercise every day even though the only sustained physical activity you currently engage in is pushing a supermarket trolley once a week?
If you’ve ever made that promise to yourself, how did that go?
I’m guessing maybe not so great – and I’m also guessing you can see the need to start with baby steps. Once you’ve created a routine with those baby steps (a habit) you can progress to something more substantial from there.
Setting baby steps – and then progressing
First, define your activity level with an upper and lower limit.
Staying with exercise, here’s an example:
“I’ll walk for at least 10 minutes and no more than 25 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.”
Setting this upper limit can be the thing that makes this new-habit-in-the-making one that sticks!
By staying within a safety margin of growth, you’ll avoid the pitfalls of going too fast.
Even better, every exercise session will feel easy! Do you think that might help you stay in the game?
James Clear put it like this: “The power of setting an upper limit is that it becomes easier for you to sustain your progress. And the power of sustaining your progress is that you end up blowing away everyone who chased success as quickly as possible.”
The difference between getting started and embedding a habit
When you start doing something you haven’t done before, any and every step is progression. That’s great. Give yourself kudos for getting started.
Once started, however, you need to keep repeating the action so you create a habit. You keep the steps small and achievable to ensure this repetition occurs.
Creating the habit is paramount. Without it, there ain’t nothin’ to progress from. You will always be starting from scratch – which is the same as standing on the same spot.
Once you’ve established the routine of doing your behaviour over and over again, you can raise the limit as required. Put simply, create the habit and then progress from there.
Progression, not perfection
It is better to make small progress every day than to go all out in a single day. You can keep going with baby steps!
Do things you can sustain.
Until next time…