THE FIT EXECUTIVE CHRONICLES - #5
DON’T QUIT JUST YET
Many of us have been there before. You walk in a gym shortly after New Years’ Day, and it is packed with new members working hard to lose a few pounds – carrying their New Years’ resolutions through. In a fitness center I was working at while finishing my bachelor’s degree, nearly half of the yearly memberships were sold in January alone. Sadly, by March 1st, most of the new members where nowhere to be found.
RIDE OUT THE STORM
During the first eight weeks of your weight loss effort – exercising regularly and eating better -- you're not going to lose much weight; and your body is not going to change significantly either. It's like that for most people -- except for a few genetically gifted individuals. You're going to feel frustrated, disappointed, and powerless. You're going to doubt whether you can really achieve your goal. You might even throw in the towel, resigning yourself to go back to your old habits. Those first eight weeks are when most people quit. This is the toughest part of the weight loss process; because even though you feel that you are doing everything right; you don’t see any apparent results. That is exactly why most gyms are full in January and empty in March.
To succeed you will need to ride out the storm; to keep going no matter what happens. You will likely become very emotional about weight loss. Your mind is going to scream at you to quit; that it is too hard, that it takes too long, that it is too frustrating. Unfortunately, 80 to 90% of the people who try to lose weight quit during those first two months.
What you can do to alleviate the frustration is to think of that seemingly unsuccessful period as an unpaid internship. You know that the work that you do now is not going to result in a paycheck at the end of the month. However, it will surely help you build professional connections, learn new skills, and build your resume. The internship will help you get a job afterward and you will finally make money. Losing weight follows the same principle: You must go through the “unpaid internship” to reap the benefits later. Therefore, you need to trust the process and understand that the daily actions -- however small --that you take will pay off someday.
The few people who ride out the storm – those disheartening 6-8 weeks with little results – often wake up one day having lost 5 or 10 pounds overnight; or so it seems. “Wow, I don’t know what happened, but I’ve lost 5 pounds, just like that!” You haven’t lost the weight “just like that”. Your body is simply slow to adapt; and adaptations often come in bursts, not progressively. Weight loss is such an adaptation.
The human body is a smart machine; and it seeks homeostasis or internal balance. Before it lets go of its fat reserves, it needs to understand that it is not needed anymore; that there is no famine around the corner. It sounds funny, but our body is made for survival, in case it needs to deal with food scarcity for example. Thus, our body fat is key to survival. The body will let go of it eventually; you just need to give it some time.
Many times, throughout my career have I had a client calling me in tears after a few weeks of training, telling me that they wanted to quit; that they were through with trying to lose weight and exercising. In fact, it is so common that I ask new clients not to hop on the scale before the 8-week mark; so that they don’t get completely discouraged from the apparent lack of results. Ironically, by not allowing daily weigh-ins, I completely change their focus from the actual weight loss to correctly implementing the daily steps and actions that will help them the most. I know something from experience something that they don’t know just yet; the results will come soon.
YOUR BODY PLAYS TRICKS ON YOU
Exercising regularly and changing nutritional habits is what most people do when they want to lose weight. They are indeed the best things that you can do to achieve that goal. The idea behind them is to create a caloric deficit and thus force the body to rely on another source of energy to function – the fat stored on the body. Thus, consuming less calories than what you expand daily, and creating a training-induced caloric deficit should be all you need to do to lose weight. However, there is a third item critical to success that is often overlooked: patience.
As I have mentioned before, the body is slow to adapt and to “accept” the new reality brought about by a change of habits; it takes 2 months on average. It takes that long to see noticeable changes on your body. It doesn’t mean that your body is not changing inside, you just don’t see it with your naked eyes. For example, when your fat cells are emptied of their content – meaning that the fat has been used for energy – the body will fill them with water to protect their structural integrity. For that reason, some people will even gain weight instead of losing it. But that an illusion, it’s mostly water weight. It the what the body does to cope with the disruptions brought about by training. The body will “understand” eventually that it can let go of the old fat cells and empty them for good. That is when you will see the results. When you don’t understand what is going on however, it can drive you completely nuts: You train hard and eat well, and instead of losing you gain weight!
What the weight loss industry and supplement companies don’t tell you is that you need to be patient. “It takes some time” and “trust the process” don’t sell very well. Nonetheless, they are true statements. The promise put forth by many companies that you can lose 30 pounds in 30 days does not reflect the reality. It would be so nice if it was true though; that’s what makes it so tempting to believe. But it is not real.
Losing weight or getting back in shape is possible for anyone, no matter what your current fitness level is. I want you to know this. And if you ever feel like quitting a few weeks after you started because you don’t see your body change, at least now you understand that it is perfectly normal. What you need to do is to take a deep breath and to hold on for a few more weeks.
If you decide to get back in shape and lose weight, build your plan, and start implementing it as best as you can. Do not weight or measure yourself in the first two months. Keep your focus on what it is that you need to do every day. Trust the process and keep your mind free of any thoughts regarding the outcome. Now is not the time for that. Your body will change, just not now. Remember that your body will play tricks on you during those 8 weeks. The best things you can do are to keep going and stay calm; and you will get where you want to go.