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Weight Loss Groundhog Day

Weight Loss Groundhog Day

A Recent Conversation

Here’s part of a conversation that I had recently with a woman (SR) who had just fallen off the weight-loss merry-go-round for the millionth time – or thereabouts. She had started a new exercise program and eating regime on New Year’s day this year. As she does every year. (I’m CH below).

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    CH: “So how’s your eating going?” (I didn’t know the answer at this stage)
    SR: (drops head and avoids eye contact with me)
    CH: “Er, hello?” (trying to make eye contact)
    SR: “Don’t ask?”
    CH: “Why not?”
    SR: “I f***ed up – again.”
    CH: “What happened?”
    SR: “I was going great, I hadn’t eaten anything bad since before New Year and then last Saturday night I blew it all.”
    CH: “You blew five weeks of great work (diet, exercise) in one night? That’s quite the achievement. How did you do it?”
    SR: “My husband and I had a fight, he went to bed and I ate a whole block of chocolate.”
    CH: “And?”
    SR: “What do you mean… and?”
    CH: “Well, after you ate the chocolate, then what did you do?”
    SR: “I felt physically sick and mentally disgusted with myself, so I went to bed.”
    CH: “And when you got up on Sunday, what did you do then? Did you do your exercise and eat a healthy breakfast?”
    SR: “No.”
    CH: “Why not?”
    SR: “I was depressed and angry at myself.”
    CH: “So what did you do?”
    SR: “I ate shit all day because I was mad.”
    CH: “Did you exercise?”
    SR: “No, I was too grumpy.”
    CH: “That’ll help. So the girl who desperately wants to lose weight, eats junk food all day and does zero exercise because she’s mad at herself for eating junk food the night before? Your mind is a strange place.”
    SR: “Well, what’s the point when I had already blown all that good work?”

    An All-Too-Familiar Dialogue

    Now, I know this sounds like an unlikely conversation but it’s actually not; it’s absolutely true and much more common than (some of) you might imagine. But then again, it may seem very familiar to others. I have had this conversation many, many times, with many people. And yes, mostly women. Don’t shoot the messenger ladies, just relaying the facts.

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    What Logic?

    The irony of someone choosing to eat junk food on a Sunday because they are depressed about eating junk food on Saturday night is kind of amazing, but not altogether rare. When it comes to maintaining our fitness regime, our diet and our commitment to changing our body, it seems that many of us are fragile at best. Some of us have a default switch that’s permanently set to junk food, laziness, self-pity and excuses. It’s what we fall back on because we haven’t actually made those healthy behaviours non-negotiable habits in our life.

    If you identify with the above story in any way, here’s a few things to consider and a lesson or two that you might find helpful.

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    1. The woman I was speaking with had lost 7 kgs (15.4 lbs) since New Years day 2009. Now… in order to regain that weight eating chocolate only, she would need to consume 53,900 calories of milk chocolate (her preference) and that would have to be without expending any energy – which is obviously impossible. How many calories did she actually consume on her Saturday night choc binge? 625. That is, 1 x 125 gram block of milk chocolate. How many of those 125 gram blocks would she need to eat to regain all of her weight? Eighty six – and that would be on top of her normal daily (healthy) eating – because her normal healthy diet would take care of her energy requirements for the day and the excess cals from the choc would provide the additional energy for the weight gain. Do I need to say any more? So was her “I blew it” response something of a ridiculous and inappropriate over-reaction? And then some.

    2. It ain’t about about the chocolate anyway; it’s about the reaction to the chocolate. “Oh well, I blew it, I may as well eat everything that isn’t nailed down!” People respond like this all the time. I’ve watched it for years. People over-react, they create problems, they turn a minor hiccup into a major melodrama and they look for an excuse to throw in the towel. Then they wake up six months later, bigger, fatter and more miserable than ever. And so the very predictable and familiar cycle starts all over again. And again. Their life is like a weight-loss version of Groundhog Day. Some people have been losing and gaining the same weight for years.

    3. Of course one block of chocolate can’t make anyone fat but constantly surrendering to destructive behaviours can. For this lady, her problem is largely emotional and psychological, while the consequences are largely physical. Whenever she has a set-back – a normal part of the human experience – she has no coping skills, so she goes back to what she knows; food. A little instant pleasure and comfort… but ultimately an abundance of long-term pain; a life in a fat body that she despises. Her propensity to lose and gain weight is merely a by-product of what’s going on in her head. Does this sound familiar? Very familiar perhaps? The good news is that anyone can lose weight and keep it off. Forever. Is it easy? Not often. Is it possible? Very. Just because you haven’t done something to this point in your life doesn’t mean you can’t; it just means you haven’t. Yet. As I’ve said too many times, take your mind there and your body will follow.

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    4. Setbacks are not a sign of weakness, they are a sign of humanity. Things only have the meaning we give them and if we decide that eating a block of chocolate is the beginning of the end, it will be. Or we could simply choose different to create different. Next time you mess up – and you will – don’t over-think, don’t self-destruct, don’t beat yourself up and don’t seek sympathy. Instead, refocus, acknowledge what you’ve done, do different and get back to work. Princess. Sure I could fluff this message up a little, make it more feel-good, perhaps explore the psychology of it all and possibly talk about your triggers for reactive eating… but that’s really not me is it?

    Okay, do what you need to do.

    More by this author

    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2020

    7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

    7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

    Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

    Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

    1. Exercise Daily

    It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

    If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

    Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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    If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

    2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

    Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

    One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

    This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

    3. Acknowledge Your Limits

    Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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    Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

    Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

    4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

    Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

    The basic nutritional advice includes:

    • Eat unprocessed foods
    • Eat more veggies
    • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
    • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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    Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

      5. Watch Out for Travel

      Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

      This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

      If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

      6. Start Slow

      Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

      If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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      7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

      Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

      My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

      If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

      I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

      Final Thoughts

      Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

      Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

      More Tips on Getting in Shape

      Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

      Reference

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