Too many people undertake a new diet or exercise plan (or both!) only to fail within three months. Worse, most people who fail end up right back to where they started +3-5 lbs. How is it that people who have high school diplomas, college degrees, have served in the military (and got past boot camp, OCS, and MOS schools), or people who achieved certifications, completed apprenticeships, or reached other lofty goals can’t lose weight or get fit? These people surely know how to persevere, how to set goals, and how to do the work required to reach them. Or do they?
Improving your health and fitness, and in turn losing weight, is not the same as finishing a degree or passing a certification exam. In both of those examples, there’s an end; a very tangible and hard stop where the accomplishment has been reached and the work toward it can stop. The problem most people have is that they look at weight loss, health, and fitness as the same thing: a goal to reach. They couldn’t be more wrong.
If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’d recognize that I refer to my health and fitness journey a lot. I also refer to my Paleo lifestyle. Two words are key here: journey and lifestyle. I will break them down individually because they are very important.
Journey is defined as “something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another.” In our case, the place we want to get is good health and better fitness. How is that a place? Is it a destination we can reach? Therein lies the problem, because the place we want to get to (good health and fitness) as amorphous and nebulous. It’s not a firm time or place. It’s not a singular achievement. It’s an idea, or a state of being, that is relative and subjective. Therefore, it’s a place we can never truly get to, yet the work to get there is what keeps us healthy and fit.
Lifestyle is defined as “the typical way of life of an individual, group, or culture,” and “associated with, reflecting, or promoting an enhanced or more desirable lifestyle.” The lifestyle I lived before adopting the Paleo lifestyle was one filled with a lot of carbs and a lack of exercise. That lifestyle led me to being Type 2 diabetic with nerve damage, circulation issues in my lower extremities, and fatty liver disease. If I didn’t change my lifestyle, my health would continue to deteriourate and I would eventually die well before my 60’s. I investigated different healthy lifestyles and settled on Paleo based on my genetic heritage and my body’s reaction to carbs (swelling and rapid weight gain). To give myself the best chance to succeed on my journey, I needed to completely change my lifestyle and adopt a healthier, more desirable one. For some people, that’s Keto, Intermittent Fasting (IF), or counting calories (aka Calories In/Calories Out, or CICO) among others. For me, it was Whole30 and the Paleo Diet.
For me to succeed in the journey, I had to make a lifestyle change. I had to reframe the goal in my mind as not a stopping point, but an ideal to strive toward. This, for me, was the key to my success. I’ve said it many times over the years that it’s mostly a mental game. While receiving support from my wife has been one of the most important factors to my being able to get healthy and fit, none of that support would have mattered if I didn’t change the way I looked at what we were looking to accomplish.
My wife and I had tried many times in the past to improve our health, get fit, and lose weight. None of the plans we did in the past worked for us, not because they were ineffective (we did lose weight every time), but the way we thought of the process was wrong. When we’d either get close to a goal or reach it, we would fall back into old habits thinking that all was good. All was, in fact, not good, and we’d find ourselves in a worse position than we started in. We repeated this process of failure many times before coming across the mindhack of being in this new lifestyle for the rest of our lives.
Temporary change will yield temporary results. Going back to the old habits will bring back the old results. To achieve permanent, life-long results, you must make life-long changes and commit to them. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the occasional pizza, cake, or ice cream every now and then. It just means you have to have them on very rare occasions and find new foods to fuel your body on a daily basis. Fortunately, the Paleo Diet isn’t nearly as restrictive as some people make it out to be, and Sherry and I have found ourselves very comfortable with our Paleo foods. In fact, some are so good that I prefer them now over their non-Paleo alternatives!
Improving your health and fitness is all a mind game, but it’s not all perseverence, motivation, and struggle. A bigger part is that you have to make sure you set your goals appropriately; in this case, seeing the destination as an ideal and not a specific weight, speed of run, or amount of weights you can lift. The goal should be continuous improvement, or once you reach a comfortable health and fitness state, the goal should be maintenance. Maintenance requires continuous work as well, but it also demands avoiding the old habits and lifestyle. The old habits and old lifestyle will bring the old results, and why give back all that work? In the end, that’s one of my motivating factors. I hate doing work without reward, and I dislike work even more if it’s for nothing. If I lost 150 lbs and then gained it all back, that would mean all the work I did to lose the weight was for nothing. That’s untenable to me, so it helps keep me motivated on this healthy journey.
Temporary change will yield temporary results. Going back to the old habits will bring back the old results. To achieve permanent life-long results, you must make permanent life-long changes and commit to them.E.J. Hunyadi