Why do most people fail to lose weight or get in better shape? They go all in.
Losing weight is hard. Millions of people try and fail. So it stands to reason the only way to lose weight and get in better shape is to follow a comprehensive, complicated, life-changing program.
So you do. And within a few days it starts to suck. And you start to fail.
First you slip in small ways, like when you’re running behind one morning and don’t have time to cook egg whites, so you scarf down a couple of Pop-Tarts in the car. Or you have to pick up your kid up after school and there goes Pilates. Or you have to bring a little work home so there goes your run.
Most comprehensive weight loss and fitness programs work. The problem doesn’t lie with the programs. The problem lies in the fact they require such major changes to your daily activities and lifestyle. Unless you’re incredibly driven it’s impossible to make every change overnight, so when you miss a workout or screw up a meal it starts to feel like you’re failing completely.
Soon your comprehensive program is in tatters and you think, “If I can’t do it all… there’s no sense doing any of it.” So you quit.
Here’s a better approach. Don’t go all in right away. Don’t waste your time with a fancy new diet or the latest fitness fad. No matter how groundbreaking the program, you won’t stick with it.
Instead just start with making a few simple changes to your day. You’ll lose a little weight, feel a little better, and then it will be a lot easier to incorporate some other healthy habits. If you build slowly over time you can create a new lifestyle you will be able to stick with.
So for now just make these five changes:
1. Drink eight to ten ounces of water twenty minutes before every meal. We all need to drink more water. That’s a given. Plus when you drink a bottle of water before you eat, when you sit down at the table you’ll already feel a little more full and won’t be as tempted to eat past the point of hunger.
2. Eat one simple meal. For now, you only need to change how you eat one meal: lunch. Eat one portion of protein that fits in the palm of your hand, and a vegetable or fruit.
I know that’s not a lot of food, but it’s healthier than what you’re eating now and just as importantly lets you take baby steps towards better controlling your portions at every meal.
Pack a can of tuna and two apples. Or bring a skinless chicken breast and two cucumbers. Prepare your lunch ahead of time and make sure it’s easy to eat while you’re working, because you will then…
3. Do something physical at “lunch.” You already ate, and you’re definitely not full, so make your lunch break productive. Go for a walk. Stretch. Do some push-ups or sit-ups. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something. You’ll burn a few calories, burn off some stress, and feel better when you get back in the work saddle. Just as importantly you’ll start to make fitness a part of your daily lifestyle without having to add to your already busy schedule.
4. Eat one meal replacement bar. I know; almost all protein bars taste like sawdust. But most are also nutritious, low in calories, and make it easy to stave off the mid-afternoon hunger pangs you’ll inevitably feel after having eaten a light lunch.
Don’t get too hung up on nutritional values; just pick a bar that includes ten or fifteen grams of protein and you’ll be fine.
Eating a mid-afternoon meal replacement bar doesn’t just bridge the lunch and dinner gap, it’s an easy way to get in the habit of eating smaller meals more frequently.
5. Do something physically challenging once a week. It would be great if you can hit the gym four days a week, but if you’re starting from zero instantly transforming yourself into a gym rat just isn’t realistic. Instead, pick something challenging you’ll do every week. Hike to the top of a mountain. Ride your bike to the next town and back.
Just make sure you pick a goal and not a yardstick. Don’t decide to walk five miles on a treadmill; that’s a yardstick goal. Walk five miles to a certain location instead. Don’t ride twenty miles on a spinner; ride your bicycle to a friend’s house and back. The activity should be based on a goal or accomplishment, because it’s a whole lot more fun to say, “I hiked to the top of Reddish Knob,” than, “I walked eight miles on the treadmill.” Accomplishments are fun. Yardsticks are not.
In the process you’ll burn calories, up your fitness level a tad, and start to remember that you are still capable of doing some really cool things. Once you accept that-- and no matter how much you’ve let yourself go, it’s true -- you’ll find all the motivation you need to make a few other positive changes.
And one day you’ll realize you have gone all in… and you didn’t even notice.