Have I got the perfect weight loss plan for you: Exercise and eat like you would at your goal.
See ya next week folks!
Ok, maybe you need more than this. I guess I’ll explain: I’m not a fan of extreme changes. They’re inherently unsustainable, which is why the term extreme is used. People who are severely obese going after Biggest Loser-type changes terrify me. Up until recently, I didn’t like it because it didn’t seem sustainable (and it wasn’t). More recently, there’s evidence that it really screws with the metabolism of these individuals’ bodies.
And that’s terrifying. Not only did these people typically gain much of the weight back, but now their metabolism wasn’t even where it was at when they started, so they had to eat even less to maintain the same amount of weight. It’s a small sample, but it’s an important sample because it’s visible. It’s what people see when they are looking for an example. There aren’t any TV shows about moderately paced efforts to improve health, at least none that end up on broadcast networks during primetime. No, we want extreme as a country.
A cool little response article popped up not longer after The Biggest Loser article was posted. The gist of it is that people get disheartened when they don’t meet their weight-loss goals, but their goals are often unrealistic. He made a good comparison to running: If everyone’s goal was the qualify for Boston, most people would fail, get discouraged, and eventually stop running altogether. The same thing happens when people are shooting for six-pack abs. I joke fairly often that if I ever get a six pack, I’m finding every excuse to never wear a shirt. But at the same time, I know that’s not really a good goal for me. I was the same height I am now (5’9″) but almost 60 pounds lighter (125) 15 years ago, and I still didn’t have a six-pack. I was just skinny. It’s not realistic for me to expect a six-pack. I would however like to remain a functioning human being. When I was past 200, that wasn’t working out so well. At 180ish, things are better. I don’t feel discouraged when I step on the scale. Even when I was stalled at 190 forever, I felt ok because I was trending the right way and my behavior was sustainable, even if it was not perfect.
The Super Awesome Year of Me was actually built around the idea of sustainability. None of my goals were extreme. They were things I knew I should be doing anyway. While it’s difficult to do them every single day, I can accomplish my goals most days and see the benefits. I’ve dropped 10 pounds the past year and 5 the past six months. Not extreme changes but sustainable. I chose attainable but challenging goals. There was never a quick fix in either of the Super Awesome Years.
We’re a society addicted to quick fixes and extremes. We read clickbait articles about drinking alcohol to lose weight and 10-minute workouts that equal 50 minutes of regular cardio. A lot of it is just half-assed science journalism. As someone who works in communications and also works as a researcher, this just makes me angry.
Not gonna lie, I’d forgotten about the Credible Hulk until I went looking for a regular Hulk quote meme. But I digress.
The fact is that we generally know what we’re supposed to be doing. And it’s almost never the easy choice.
So think about the goal life you want to live. If you want that six-pack, are you willing to live that life 24/7, including watching your intake like a hawk? If you want to be a marathoner, can you live that lifestyle of seemingly endless runs? If you want to be 50 pounds lighter, what does that version of you need to eat and drink to stay that way? If you know what you want, then go after that, but don’t go crazy along the way. If you make an extreme change to get there that you can’t sustain, odds are you’re going to rebound back to where you were (and since a lot of studies show dieting actually leads to long-term weight gain after the rebound, I would avoid what we consider dieting altogether; just eat healthy sustainably).
If your goals involve some extreme shift, I’d rethink your goals. I ran a 10K this weekend. That was a real accomplishment for me. The Barkley Marathons will not be my next goal. That’s such a seismic difference that I would 1) fail miserably, 2) get discouraged, and 3) risk quitting the whole enterprise of running out of shame. And don’t underestimate my ability to feel shame. Instead, my tentative goal is to chase a 25-minute 5K. It’s ambitious, but it’s doable (8-minute mile, 3 times). And I’ve got incremental steps to get there. Basically, my goal is to train like I’m living 8-minute miles until I can put together 3 of them (this will be mixed with lighter runs to keep my mileage up). I won’t get there as quickly as I could on a more ambitious plan, but I also won’t run as high of a risk of hurting myself. I’d rather get there in a year or two than to break my foot and set myself back no telling how far.
But I’ve life-coached enough today. I’m tired, and I’ve got another day of moderately good decisions ahead of me (and maybe a couple of cookies).