I grew up being a very lazy kid. I didn’t want to do chores, I didn’t want to study, and I hated doing anything that wasn’t “Fun.” I know most of us don’t like doing anything that isn’t fun, but I vehemently resisted anything that didn’t bring me some kind of pleasure. It wasn’t until later in life that I began to appreciate doing work for the reward of a job well done, yet that never translated into my health or physical fitness.
I had dieted many times before finding Whole30 and the Paleo Diet. I tried low-fat, Atkins, South Beach, counting calories (aka Calories In/Calories Out, or CICO), and the “Exercise so much your entire body wants to die” plan. Repeatedly, I failed. Each time, I quit within 2 weeks or within about 3 months. Each of those plans left me feeling hollow, sore, or deprived. No matter what I did, I was met with failure. But, as they say, failure is the bridge to success.
When I was told about Whole30 and Paleo by my cousin Sarah, I was as doubtful as before I started any other program or plan, but one major thing was different. This time, I decided that I wanted to embrace the process. I wanted to embrace the new lifestyle. I had come to realize that my failures of the past were unacceptable moving forward. I was still doubtful that I’d see any real progress, but I was hopeful and open to it.
When I completed my first Whole30, I had lost 20 lbs in four weeks. I didn’t suffer, and to the contrary, I felt great. That was all the fuel I needed to push me to the next level, so to speak. At that point, I decided that I would detach my measure of success from the scale and add non-scale victories (NSV’s) to the metrics I use to determine my progress. I also decided that every NSV was a reward of my hard work, and I would celebrate with a ridiculous little dance. Down 2” on my waist and fitting into smaller pants? Little dance. Shirt size shrunk from XL to L, or L to M? That’s right; little dance. Down 10 lbs? Little dance for that, too.
I turned the lifestyle into a game, and each victory brought me pleasure which in turn fueled my desire to continue making progress. Of course, as I lost weight and got smaller, it got harder to make these victories. One would think that would demotivate me, but instead, it made the victories only that much more special. The harder the goal, the sweeter the victory. Perseverance keeps you going when everything your body and mind is saying is telling you to quit. “This is uncomfortable.” “That apple pie looks too delicious to pass up.” “It would be much more comfortable to sit on the couch than to run 3 miles today.” I get these thoughts as much as anyone else, but I decided long ago to ignore them, and to persevere. I got addicted to winning, even if it was in a race against myself and my internal voice telling me to take it easy.
I’m not a super-achiever. I am not one of those people who take on 22,000 things and accomplish them all. I try to take on a few and succeed in as much as I can. I do push myself to succeed and complete anything I set out to do, and I don’t accept discomfort as a reason to quit (the caveat to this is if I’m running and I feel like an injury is coming on, I’ll back off and error on the side of caution. I’ve pushed it too hard before and ended up hurt).
Want to succeed at losing weight or getting fit? Make it fun. Turn it into a game. Make hitting goals reward-worthy. Come up with a ritual to help you celebrate those successes. I will warn you, though; it is addictive, and you’ll find yourself working hard and gaining a single-minded vision to succeed. I guess that’s not a bad thing, though.