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Why Slow & Steady Wins the Race

You see all of the social media posts for 10-day, 14-day, and 30-day major body transformations. You think, “Wow! What great motivation! I can do that, too!” You get on the scale every day; sometimes twice a day. You celebrate the small wins like weight loss after a great workout or how well you stuck to your diet. The small wins propel your journey further. 

While many people can lose a large amount of weight in 10 days, 14 days, or 30 days, is that really what you want? Before you say “yes,” or “no,” let’s look at elements that might influence your decision. What happens when we select quick-weight-loss versus slow-weight-loss plans? 

Physique 

Quick plans are not designed to spare muscle and decrease fat. Quick plans decrease the body’s fat, muscle, and water. Decreasing muscle mass decreases the resting metabolic rate. Over time, this means you have to decrease calories more and more for sustained weight loss. Eventually, you hit a plateau; you cannot reduce calories anymore. You become ravenously hungry and quit your strict quick-loss plan. You go back to your old nutrition habits and gain twice as much weight as you lost since you’ve decreased your resting metabolic rate by losing muscle. 

Quick plans may have a time and place, depending on what you want to achieve and how long you want to achieve that goal for. For example, when I compete in physique, I use a very specific one-week plan to drop water weight. This leads to a temporary physique transformation, peaking just in time to reveal a 6-pack on stage. That 6-pack, however, is gone 24 hours later because it was created by a certain degree of dehydration. Prolonged dehydration is not safe for the body, making the physique temporary as well. 

Habits

Weight loss depends on the willingness to learn new habits that create change. Most clients and patients ask, “What happens when I go back to my old lifestyle?” Your physique reflects your lifestyle habits. Most quick weight loss methods eventually lead to feelings of restriction, punishment, brain fog, difficulty focusing, fatigue, and difficulty showing up for others in the way you hope to. Eventually, you become too tired to get your workouts and work in. You begin noticing gastrointestinal difficulties. People may start avoiding you because you are cranky. You think, “I just need to try harder. I just need better willpower.” Then you join a weight-loss challenge to temporarily fill what superficially appears to be a motivational problem. 

The reality is that quick weight-loss programs don’t provide lifestyle change skillsets that you need to embrace for sustained benefits. Without the skillsets, you start feeling quality loss in other areas of life. This continued quality loss will eventually lead you to quit your quick weight-loss plan. When you return to your old lifestyle, your previous physique (the one you were trying to change) returns, too. 

Instead of entering into this quality of life drain, start with examining why you want to change your lifestyle, and what areas you are ready to change. Find one small change that you are willing to make consistently most of the time. 

For example, perhaps you start with adding a double serving of veggies to your lunch so you will not be hungry for a post-lunch donut. Every week, grade yourself on consistency. Once you can achieve all “As and Bs” for 2 weeks, add another small consistent new habit. If you find that you have all “Ds and Fs,” consider trying a different new habit first. Over time, you will find the habits that are sustainable for you; this consistency will compound into long-term success while honoring the fact that successful lifestyle change takes small steps over time. 

Self-Esteem

Take a moment to ask yourself why you really want this weight-loss change. Is it a lack of self-esteem? Is it a comparison to others? Is it a perception that lighter or thinner people have more confidence, happiness, make more money, have a better life, have better intimacy with their partners . . . ? 

Whatever the underlying driving factor is, why can’t you have these coveted perceptions now? The reality is, most of the time, you can. Perception is up to you. How you show up in your personality is up to you. If you let a number on a scale dictate how you feel, you may be chasing something that will never fully satisfy you. 

As someone who has lost 40 pounds and kept it off for over a decade, I can honestly say my self-esteem drove my change. My perception was that fitness competitors were very confident people, and I wanted to feel confident, too. Instead of setting out on a quick weight-loss goal, I set out to become a fitness competitor. 

The journey taught me nutrition, mindset, fitness program design, lots of fun new fitness skills, and how to process rejection and placing last in far more competitions than I’ve won. Those life skills are the ones that built confidence, a sustained physique, and self-esteem that no quick weight-loss journey could have taught. 

Social Factors 

Are you ready to find a new set of friends and set boundaries with your family members? Unless you live on a desert island, if you want sustainable weight loss, your relationships with your friends and family will change, too. 

In a short-term plan, you will likely find yourself surrounded by cheerleaders. They will ask what you eat; they will seek your advice; they will praise your social media weight-loss progress posts. 

After a month or so, your friends and family will start to show their layers. Soon, it isn’t praise. Instead, friends stop inviting you out for happy hour. Your social media friend count is likely to go down as people start unfriending you. Family members tell you how unhealthy your new habits are. Co-workers start sabotaging your efforts by surrounding you with treats you’ve been restricting yourself from. Family may start sneaking extra ingredients like added sugars into your foods or making dishes to share but not fully divulging the ingredients. 

They might start telling you how unhealthy your new habits are. While your new habits may, in fact, be healthy for you, your friends and family may not share your perception. They may compare themselves to your efforts and take their frustrations related to their own journeys out on you and your journey. At this point, you give in. You miss the relationship you had with friends and family, and you succumb to your old lifestyle and previous physique. 

This does not have to be the outcome, but you are the one who has to accept the responsibility and fact that most of your friends and family relationships will change. You are the one who needs to initiate conversations in those difficult moments, indicating that you still love those around you. You have to set the boundaries and let others know how it makes you feel when they overstep their boundaries. You may lose friends, and being prepared for that is tough. Over time, your journey (if sustained) will lead to new fulfilling friendships of mutual support. 

Key Takeaway

In conclusion, if your weight-loss journey is about winning a 30-day challenge, testing your willpower, or dropping water weight for a few days to peak a competition physique, a quick weight loss plan might be right for you. 

If your weight loss journey is about confidence, self-esteem, self-perception, your relationships, health, and feeling better in your own skin every day with longevity, slow and steady will help you build the environment and skills to succeed.  

About the Author: Dr. Meredith Butulis is a licensed Sport/Orthopedic Physical Therapist, Certified Exercise Physiologist, Strength & Conditioning Coach, Personal Trainer, and Yoga/Pilates Instructor practicing since 1998. She is the creator of the ISSA Fitness Comeback Coaching Certification, author of the Mobility | Stability Equation Books, and host of The Fitness Comeback Coaching Podcast. Learn more on IG @Dr.MeredithButulis or visit Http://MeredithButulis.com.

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