The biggest mistake we all make when trying to lose weight or get in shape (and why less is truly more)
"Starting on Monday I'm going to workout at least 45 minutes every day and limit my calories to 1400 a day. I'm going to drink 10 glasses of water daily, and avoid carbs after 11 a.m. and fast after 7 p.m., and eat sweets only on holidays that begin with a "C." I'm going to start meditating 20 minutes a day to reduce stress and get at least 8 hours and 20 minutes of sleep a night. I'm going to stop drinking alcohol, and get in at least 15,000 steps a day, and..."
Perhaps I'm exaggerating a little here, but even though I am not a gambling woman, I would bet a lot of money that just about 100% of us who have tried to lose weight or get in shape have played the ol' "I'll start on Monday" game (or the game with very similar rules called "I'll start on January 2nd"). We create a long list of habits we intend to immediately change or adopt once Monday comes, and by Thursday (or Wednesday, or sometimes even Tuesday), we throw in the towel because we can't stick with the numerous rules we created for ourselves. And so we wait for another Monday or another new year to arrive, at which time we've gained even more weight or gotten in even worse shape, and the vicious circle continues.
You have probably heard (or experienced yourself) that "most diets fail." In my experience, however, (and I am a prolific reader and dedicated student of all things diet and nutrition), just about every single diet I have ever studied will absolutely help you succeed in losing weight if you follow it as prescribed. Whether it is a diet that promotes counting Points or counting carbs, avoiding animal products or following a Paleo-style of eating, cutting out sugar or adding in protein shakes - all of them ultimately are designed to tilt the energy balance to more calories out than in and will promote weight loss.
The problem with - and failure of - most diets and the "I'll start on Monday" mentality, is that they are not sustainable. Once we go "off" the diet and return to our regularly scheduled programming (i.e., our regular lifestyle and way of eating), the scale starts to creep back up...and up...and up.
The #1 mistake we have all made when trying to lose weight or get in shape is to take on too much at one time, to adopt an "all or nothing" mentality, and to go "all in." Because if we do not adopt healthy habits that are sustainable for the long term, how can we possibly think we will have results that are sustainable in the long term?
I decided to write about this topic after several friends contacted me over the past month asking for help in their weight loss journeys. All of them listed a litany of healthy habits they were striving to adopt, and just reading their emails and listening to them on the phone made me exhausted. They felt overwhelmed, and I felt overwhelmed by their overwhelm, and overwhelmed is not a feeling any of us want to have for very long.
If you are someone who is struggling to lose weight or get in shape and the "all-or-nothing" mentality has not served you in the past, I challenge you to trust me and my training and spend a little time exploring the world of "less is more." Pick one fitness habit you wish to adopt that you are 90+% confident you can accomplish (e.g., working out for 5-10 minutes, 3 days a week), and pick one nutrition habit you wish to adopt that you are also 90+% confident you can accomplish (e.g., drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning), and only focus on those 2 habits for 2-4 weeks. Make no other changes. Create no other fitness or nutrition rules for yourself and go on with your life just as you are doing so today. Once you nail those habits on a daily basis, add just one more fitness and nutrition habit to the mix - both of which you are almost 100% positive you can accomplish and that seem so easy you wonder if they could possibly make any difference in your weight or fitness level - and follow those for a few weeks. Rinse and repeat.
As you gradually build tiny but sustainable habits into your life, you will be amazed at the results over time. You might not lose 20 pounds in 20 days, but you may just lose 20 pounds for life. What do you have to lose (besides a few unwanted pounds)?
To learn more about the power of one change at a time, I highly recommend checking out the writings of Leo Babauta - blogger, journalist, author and minimalist guru. His book The Power of Less completely changed my philosophy on life - and my philosophy on fitness and nutrition - and helped me get into the best shape of my life by doing less. Additionally, I highly recommend checking out the articles on Precision Nutrition's web site - the company through which I have both of my nutrition certifications. PN is one of the most successful nutrition coaching companies in the world, and they have built their business on helping clients make one small habit change at a time.
Finally, if you need help deciding what small changes might have the biggest impact on your health journey, please feel free to reach out to me for guidance and direction. In the meantime, take a breath, give yourself a break, and enjoy the power of doing less.
Until next time, be happy and healthy,
Hello, friends! I’m Kathleen, the Kettlebell Mama. Welcome to bells & peppers – a blog dedicated to all things related to fitness, nutrition and healthy living. As an athlete, trainer, nutritionist, cooking instructor, attorney, senior executive and new mom, I have learned how to balance my personal health and fitness goals with paying the bills, spending quality time with family and friends and pursuing a demanding career – without losing my mind! My goal is to inspire, empower and provide you with simple strategies to help you become your healthiest self in a balanced, realistic and sustainable way. Feel free to read more about my story here. Thanks for visiting bells & peppers!