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Weight maintenance is the hard problem.
How do you keep it off? So you can move on to other things.
Weight loss is accessible
A lot of us want to lose weight. Either we understand we feel better when that happens, or we have a certain expectation of how we should look. Whatever the reason, weight loss is by far the #1 goal for people.
First up, we want fat loss and not weight loss. What's the difference?
Our body stores fat as an extra source of energy, in case times get hard. Due to the abundance of easy calories today, most of us end up eating more than we need and this gets converted into fat. Our body weight is made up of muscle, our organs, our bones and all that, plus the fat. A bunch of this fat is needed - the brain, for example. Most of us are referring to the excess fat we hold - that's the weight we want to lose. It is an important distinction.
Second, like money or shiny objects, this can take a bad turn real quick. We want more. More. MORE. We thought things would feel different once we got there. But it is harder than expected and not that different. We don't stop. That mindset needs to change.
What I am talking about is "reasonable fat loss."What does that mean? It depends.
On a few objective measures and a few subjective measures.
The objective measures can be your:
blood work (your lipid profile, your blood sugar markers etc)
visceral fat (the fat around your internal organs that we cannot see)
resting heart rate (RHR)
heart rate variability (HRV)
waist: height ratio (WHR).
Your body weight is also one but be cautious that it doesn't bother you.
The subjective measures, well, this is about what's important to you. "Can I eat socially without worrying much", "Can I travel without it requiring intense research on where to eat", "Can a jolt or 3 not affect things in my life" etc
Trial and error
Over the years, I've seen our students lose weight. And almost anyone I interact with outside The Quad community, as the subject will inevitably turn towards fitness and weight loss, they've successfully lost weight. No one has been stuck with zero success. It might've required trialling out different diets and lifestyle fixes but something would've worked that got the scale moving.
But keeping that weight off for the long term...
The complication though, more than 80% of them fail in keeping the weight off. The lifestyle didn't stick. The habit didn't form. It was not sustainable. It was not what they thought it'd be.
Something didn't click.
The goal or the expectation or the subjective outcomes were not a right fit. Or the objective outcome included a number on the weighing scale which was not the right one.What happens is a never-ending and annoying battle. Of losing weight. Putting it back on. And then losing the same weight again. And putting it back on. Sometimes it stays off for a few weeks. Maybe for a few months. But it comes back on.
There is a limit to how much time we can hold our breath underwater. We need to come up for air. There's a limit to how much time we can do something unsustainable.
Do something else
Having gone through this many times, it is necessary to step back and change tack.
THAT has not worked. We need to have the courage to do something else this time around. We need to believe that this is the FINAL time. This time, we are going to go on a journey that will escort us on the path that works for us.And once we go over that small hill yonder, we will chart our next path.
Right now, the only path in our heads is "I will do <insert unsustainable short-term stuff> and lose <unreasonable number in the short term>". We need to think beyond that. And a lot of us still think, yep, makes sense. And "I will do this right after I lose these pesky few kilos doing the unsustainable and then jump to the sustainable."
But that's ignoring the lessons from prior times. The unsustainable makes it hard. Micro-level changes that work for you will do better in the long run.
You are over-valuing the 1-2 month results and not looking at the 12-month horizon.
My challenge to you is to aim for 12 months of "doing pretty good" instead of a few weeks of holding your breath.
A 12-month focus
How might a year play out? Let's hypothesise.
January is a time to tighten things up. All of us have ambitious resolutions and more reserves of willpower. Let's definitely use it. We can do something unreasonable/unsustainable but with two important shifts in mindset.
One, focus on the effort and not the results. What does that mean? Follow the process. You have a clear plan. Now, do it. Expecting a certain timeline for results to follow is not in your control. It will cause you to second-guess the plan. Instead, just clock in and clock out.
Two, have the plan for February ready and it should not be the same plan as January. Why - changing it up helps. Plus, it should not be that difficult.
Building on this, here's a plan I have drawn up for a student who is willing to shift out of their yo-yo and see-saw. This is based on conversations, on figuring out what has worked and not, on where slip-ups happen and on understanding their year.
4 weeks of the D9, aiming for >90% compliance.
You can replace this with any diet of your choice but we designed the D9 to lead you into better long-term habits and so that's why that's the plan.
Take the last weekend in January off. It doesn't mean polishing off 3 cakes over the weekend. But chill. Relax. Quit thinking about weight loss.
Focus on sleep, activity and your biggest issue.
For me and my student, that's sugar. So, we will ensure over Feb that
We will sleep at least 7 hours every night.
We will get 45-60 minutes of activity every day. Most days, it will be a walk.
We will avoid sugar 6 out of 7 days of the week.
Why 6/7 - I've found that being in the 85% range works to show positive progress while being sustainable.
Again, take the last weekend in February off.
My student is a Chartered Accountant, which means March is a silly time at work.
Sleep is going to take a hit. In the past, I've attempted to force sleep as a condition, only to see things unravel even more, as it raises anxiety levels. Solving work-life balance, having considerate bosses etc is a hard problem that I as their coach have less control over. So, while sleep will be tracked, it is only there as a nudge.
Over March, the goal is to
Track sleep. And have a 30-minute NSDR every day. NSDR means non-sleep deep rest. Yoga Nidra is the perfect example. It is a nervous system reset of sorts. It will help to paper over the cracks of not getting enough sleep and the inevitable increase in stress.
Eat protein and vegetables in every meal. An increased focus on the quality of nutrients over this stressful period. Having protein and vegetables in every meal ensures satiety, a better nutrient supply, and reduced cravings.
Avoid sugar and alcohol for 6 out of 7 days of the week. With reduced sleep and more work stress, the inevitability of reaching for easy comfort is a pattern we've observed before. And so, we will be disciplined and not give in here, and recognise it for what it is. After a stressful day, it is easy to slip into "I need some cake in me", or "I need a drink to settle down". Nothing wrong with it, as long as that voice does not own you.
Over conversations with my student and going over their journal, both of us know that this is something we'd rather tackle head-on. We know this is going to happen. We know why. Hence the yoga Nidra is in the plan. And based on how much/often these cravings occur, we will have other things going on as well - breathing, meditation etc
And again, take the last weekend in March off.
Rest of the year
You can see how the rest of the year will play out. Focus on a few things (I like the number 3) for ~8 months of the year, and tighten things up with the focus on all aspects of the Daily9 for ~4 months of the year.
And of course, measure your weight and waist every week.
If possible, have someone else note this down for you so that you don't spend any time thinking about it. Remember, it is a tool. It is an objective measure that's telling us whether things are working.
But the bigger tracker is the effort we are putting in, after having designed a sensible plan for ourselves.
Over the course of the 2023, you will find that:
you will break through plateaus in your health and fitness.
you will find you've accumulated a lot of new sensible habits.
your new lifestyle will take hold and maintaining your "new" weight and habits is easier and simpler.
you are in a different place about how you view your health and fitness. And how you approach life.
Think different. Think long-term.