As a master trainer and nutrition coach, I talk to many people about their weight loss goals. One statement I always make is that I want this to be the last time they ever start a weight loss program. My purpose is to instill belief in them that they can be successful and lay the groundwork upfront that we want to avoid relapse.
Surely you’ve heard of someone who lost a good bit of weight only to gain it back a short time later. The problem? It could be many things; however, one of the biggest reasons is that “diets” don’t work. Counting calories or balancing macros or going Keto or Paleo or whatever may result in short-term success; however, these strategies can fail in the long run.
So, how do you achieve success in reaching your ideal body weight and then maintain it for life? There are several core skills and behaviors to adopt and master but first, let me say that my purpose in this post is not to focus on the nutrition and exercise part of weight loss. The following deals with the emotional side because, after all, how we think controls everything.
First, we need to consider the three levels of motivation that I learned from my mentor, Nutritionist Keith Klein:
Have you ever received a bad report from your doctor saying you need to lose weight? How about a friend or family member commenting that it looks like you’ve put on weight since the last time you’ve seen each other? As a nutrition coach, I regularly hear people complain that their clothes don’t fit and use this as a reason to lose weight.
While not positive, these can be great if they get you into action. The only problem is that this negative motivation can wear off without effort. It’s called the Law Of Diminishing Intent – the longer you put something off, the less likely you are to do it. So, if you receive any form of this fear-based motivation, my best suggestion is to get into action quickly before it goes away.
So, you get the terrible doctor report telling you to lose 20 lbs, and you take action. You change your nutrition, start exercising, and you’re down 5 lbs. after a couple of weeks. Now the next level of motivation kicks in. You’re thinking after 5 lbs that you just might be able to reach your goal because you’re getting positive results, so you’re all the more determined to move forward.
Two more weeks go by, and you’re down 10 lbs, and a few weeks after that 15 lbs, until finally, after a few months, you hit the magic 20 lbs. Now one of two things could happen. By the way, there’s no such thing as neutral or treading water in life. You’re either moving forward or falling backward…there is no in-between.
If the only thing you’ve been fixated on is losing the 20 lbs, you may find yourself slipping backward. This happens to many people because they only set short-term goals, and once achieved, there’s nothing left to strive for. The worst-case scenario is that you gain all the weight back, which sets you up potentially to fall into the “Yo-Yo” dieting syndrome.
If you’re unsure what I mean, it’s as simple as this. If you go on any diet plan and lose, for example, 20 lbs, some will come from fat, but some from muscle. Your best strategy for maintaining as much muscle as possible is to incorporate strength training with your nutrition plan. All the “cardio” in the world will not help retain the muscle that lifting will.
Let’s say you lose the 20 lbs, and the makeup is roughly 15 lbs from fat and 5 lbs from muscle. Then for some reason, you decide to give up on your diet and go back to your old ways…slowly gaining back all the weight you lost. The sad part is that most of the weight gain will be fat…with little muscle. The only way to regain the lost muscle is to earn it in the gym.
Repeat this “lose/gain” scenario a handful of times in your life and see the damage that can take place. Every time you lose and gain, you increase your body fat to muscle ratio. This is a bad thing you want to avoid at all costs because your metabolism will systematically slow down due to the lost muscle.
The key to avoiding the fallback is setting short-term goals like losing 20 lbs while building new and positive behaviors that you can effectively work on for the rest of your life. This is the necessary action required to transition to the third level of motivation. If you only set short-term goals, you will live your life in fits and starts. If you blend long-term growth with your goals, you will achieve far more, and the ride will be much smoother.
I wish there was a shortcut I could offer you, but unfortunately, it just takes time. From the results of focusing on long-term growth and building positive behaviors in your life, you will reach a point where outside circumstances no longer derail you. Your fitness journey becomes a way of life regardless of the curve balls that life will inevitably throw. The key is a continued focus on both process goals in the short term, all while keeping a long-term perspective. You simply move forward and persist without exception.
Focusing on small steps can add to significant change, and I learned the following two examples from my mentor, Darren Hardy. So, imagine standing at the bottom of a one hundred-story building with a spiral staircase going to the roof. Your task is to climb the stairs while looking at the top. As you can imagine, given the enormity of the goal, it could be pretty overwhelming.
Now take your eyes off the top of the stairs and focus them on the step right in front of you. Now take the step. Not too bad, right? Now, take the next step. Still not bad, right? In fact, it’s no more difficult than the one before. You can walk to the moon if you break your goals into bite-sized chunks and focus on one little piece at a time. The key is to simply not look up.
Imagine a 20′ plank on the ground about 2″ thick and 12″ wide. The offer is $20 to walk across the plank. Do you take it? Of course, it would be an easy $20. Imagine if the same plank was between two one hundred-story buildings, and I offered you the same $20 to walk across. Would you do it? Probably not, right?
What if your most treasured family member in life was on the opposing roof and the building was on fire? In fact, the fire is only a few floors below the top and moving up quickly. The only way to save your loved one is to cross over the plank and carry them back to safety. Would you do it? Of course, and without hesitation. The change in circumstances changed everything.
When your why is big enough, the facts don’t matter. That’s why it’s so important to identify your why. It could be one thing, or it could be several. It doesn’t really matter. The important thing is to really dig deep and determine your true reasons for going after your goals. People who go after their goals based on sheer grit and determination will often fail. It can be like pushing a piece of string.
If you have a piece of string on a table and you try to push it from behind across the table, it will bunch up on itself. If you pull it along the table with your finger, the string will follow along in a clean straight line. Holding your why out in front of you can act as a magnet to help pull you ahead and help keep you on track towards reaching your goals.
I read an article about Jerry Seinfeld a few years ago, and the author asked him to share one of the biggest reasons for his success. Jerry replied back that it had to be his wall calendar. The author, clearly confused, asked Jerry to explain. He said that when he first started writing, when no one knew anything about him, his goal was to write every day. Some days he wrote “gold,” and other days, he wrote “garbage” however the ultimate goal was to write.
Further, he had an extensive wall calendar where every day that he wrote, he would cross off the day with a big red X. Between the commitment to daily writing leveraged by the physical act of marking off his calendar, Jerry’s daily efforts produced the gold that we know to be the sitcom Seinfeld and beyond. Today the term is called gamification, and it’s a powerful tool that companies use to drive results both with their products and their employees to boost performance.
Closing remarks for my readers:
In closing, I have some concrete action steps for you to consider. First, you must determine your why or why’s along with your goals and write them down. I like sticky notes and learned this little trick from my long-time mentor, “King of Sales,” Jeffrey Gitomer. Also, determine the 2-3 key behaviors you will need to adopt in achieving your goals and write them down.
Now post them in the following places to help keep your focus laser-sharp on what you’re working to achieve and why.
- Bathroom mirror
- Bedroom mirror
- Front of your refrigerator
- Front of your microwave
- Front of your laptop or desktop
- Front of your steering wheel
Change in any area is never easy; sometimes, it can be challenging. If you surround yourself with your goals and reasons for pursuing them, they will help you stay the course, especially when the storms of life come crashing in.
And above all, persist without exception. I heard this phrase from another of my long-time mentors, Andy Andrews, over 20 years ago, and it’s become a part of me. Never stop pursuing your dreams. If you persist, without exception, you will reach them.
Best of luck in your journey.