Last week I shared a post sharing around my weight loss journey and some of the principles that have helped me lose weight, and the response from everyone was overwhelming. Of all the posts I have ever put up, this one was by far the most shared, liked and commented post. Some people were simply encouraging, while others wanted to know what I had done to lose the 42kg’s. If you missed my first post, you can access it here. In it, I shared the first three of six principles that I believe have helped me to stay on course with my decision to lose weight. These principles are of course not only applicable to weight loss but to any goal you find yourself undertaking. I would recommend you start with Part 1 of this series and then read on below. So, without further ado, here are the last of the 6 principles that helped me lose weight (and can help you too!)
4. Set REALISTIC goals
We’ve all found ourselves in that place where enough is enough. We are ready to tackle that goal that has long eluded us, and while we have never been able to accomplish this thing before, tomorrow is the day we jump in feet first. A wise person might decide to start slow, and build up from there, but not me! Tomorrow I will start eating not one balanced meal a day, but three, and I will not only exercise three times a week but seven. “You don’t know how determined I am!”, I hear you say. And I probably don’t. But reader, I know what it is to try and change our lifestyle, and this does not happen overnight or instantly, at least not for most people. We are stubborn animals, and it takes time and momentum to help us change years of habit and thinking.
Jon Acuff in his book Finish, speaks to the fact that as people we set highly unrealistic goals. In one of his coaching programmes called “The 30 Days of Hustle”, one of the first things he does is ask people to write down their goal, and then to halve it. Now, this may sound crazy to do, but as someone who is passionate about helping people reach their goals, he knows how important it is to build momentum as we head for our goal. Small victories along the way are key to us reaching the bigger goal we have set for ourselves. What he found is that those people who set a goal to lose 10kg’s and reduced it to 5kg’s, not only met their goal but exceeded it. Immediately, this meant they were motivated to keep going. So what would it look like for you to break your HUUUUGE goal up into a bunch of smaller more manageable ones? You could even reward yourself as you hit each milestone. For myself, I had managed to pick up an incredible amount of weight, but it took me 38 years to do so. So when I had to pick a goal and set a timeframe to lose the weight, I went for a long one. Not so long that I lose motivation, but not so short that I would never make it and lose all hope of doing so. So I said that I would give myself two-and-a-half years to lose the weight. I am still on track, I am not there yet, but the goal is in sight. I did however also set myself smaller goals, and I celebrated each milestone, and you should too! Which brings me to my next point, start SMALL!
5. Start SMALL, but be CONSISTENT
At a recent dinner we had for work, my boss got up to address us and said the following (more or less): “Small actions, taken consistently, lead to big results!” As a society, we have become impatient. We want everything now. We want to lose weight that took us 38 years to pack on, in 6 months. And maybe we can, but maybe doing it that quickly will change our body, but not our mind. So what happens after that? Because we didn’t change our lifestyle to something sustainable, in time, we lapse. We stop eating well, we skip exercising. Why? Because we may have reached our goal, but maybe our goal was the wrong one. Maybe our goal should be to find a healthier way of eating that we can sustain for the rest of our lives. Maybe it should be finding a form of physical activity we actually enjoy and can see ourselves doing regularly without it feeling like a punishment. These goals, if we start small, but tackle them consistently, can lead to lasting life change.
When I started out with exercise, I decided that I would do some weight training three times a week, I found a simple programme I could manage, and I gave it a go. No more than that, and if I could help it, no less. I did occasionally miss a session or two, but as I said in my previous post, this did not constitute failure, my next session went on as normal. In time, three sessions became five, then six. For a while, my wife and I even added in a dance class which was amazing for a cardio workout. Not only did I come to love working out, but because I had started small, with what I could do, I was able to build up to something bigger.
Eating was the same. We found an eating plan we liked, one that included Carbs (a Greek and an Italian would never be able to totally give up Carbs!) We started by implementing SOME of the plan: Cutting out oil and using a cooking spray to prepare our food instead. We changed up our plate ratio (50% vegetables, 25% protein, 25% (or less) carbohydrates. Simple things at the beginning that we could build on. We did not aim for perfection, we simply stayed consistent.
So what does this look like for you? How about starting with one of your eating habits? Start packing lunches instead of buying takeout. Start taking a twenty-minute brisk walk in your lunch break three times a week. Whatever it is for you, pick something small you can start with, stay consistent, and start turning it into a lifestyle, not just a temporary change.
You will note that we did not just take random actions, we had a plan which we started to implement slowly and consistently. But importantly, we sought out plans that were sustainable. My exercise plan was a seven-day plan, but I started with three. My eating plan had a guide for every meal, but we slowly phased this in. And because we were consistent, we started to see results, and this motivated us to do more. Finally, I had to come to a realisation that life is not so much like a box of chocolates, but rather like a bank account.
6. Deposits and Withdrawals
One of the most obvious (or not so obvious) realisations I had to come to was that every aspect of life works like a bank account. For every withdrawal, there must be a deposit. If no deposits happen, we get into debt, and all debts ultimately have to be repaid. Our bodies, our finances, our relationships all work on this principle. If I decide to eat take out every day, what I am doing is making a “withdrawal” from my body bank account. Without me making an exercise “deposit” to offset what I have eaten, the food will ultimately become fat stores in my body, or “debt” if you will. What that means is that in future, I will have to pay off the debt that I have accrued. But if I can figure out how to eat sustainably in such a way that the withdrawals I am making match my deposits of exercise, then I am starting to win. And even more so, if my movement and exercise in a day, my deposit, can exceed my withdrawals, then I can start to lose some of those fat stores and reduce my debts. What this principle did was teach me to make healthier choices. I started reading packaging before buying food. I started to ask myself: “Can I ‘afford’ this withdrawal?” And if I decided to eat some birthday cake at a friend’s party, I would know that I may need to make an extra “deposit” this week, either by eating slightly less at dinner or by adding to my next exercise set. This was never a punishment though, this was simply me staying out of “debt”.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I never felt guilty when I occasionally ate something calorically “expensive”. I never wanted food to make me feel guilty, and it doesn’t. And eating something outside of my eating plan does not constitute failure. But what it did, was give me a new respect for the cost of what I was putting into my body. This meant that maybe I only had half a slice of cake. It meant that I used the scale as a tool to see how on the mark I was with my eating. If I picked up weight, I knew something was off. Either I was consuming too much, or I was not exercising enough and I could then start making adjustments in the fun experiment entitled “Taiki’s Body and How it Works!”. I also had to learn that not every weight fluctuation meant I had picked up weight. Sometimes I was dehydrated. Sometimes I had more carbs the day before and retained water. And in a day or so my weight would come back down. Ultimately, I learned that I am able to experiment with my lifestyle and learn what I can and cannot do, what works for my body, and what does not. And you can too!
And that is that, 6 principles that have helped me on my journey to losing weight. I truly hope that these thoughts have been helpful, and if they have, please consider leaving a comment and sharing this post with a friend or two. If you have any practical questions, please also feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to get back to you.
But more than anything, know that YOU’VE GOT THIS! I believe you can do it! I believe God wants to be intimately involved in your goal. And I believe it’s never too late to learn a new way of living. So what are you waiting for?