Why there’s no finish line when it comes to losing weight.
When I was little, we used to drive north for the holidays, all the way from the Manawatu to the Coromandel. It’s about a seven-hour drive. But, when you’re six years old, seven hours is an eternity! Every small town we drove through, I was asking, “How much further, when are we going to get there, can we stop now?”
Mum would usually tell me it’s not much further and we’ll be there soon, but Dad was more of a realist: “Why don’t you just enjoy the trip, because we’re not stopping”.
More and more people know me because I lost a lot of weight. With that, more and more people ask me how long it will take them to lose weight. The reality is I can’t answer that question, but to be honest, there’s a bigger issue here: You’re still thinking there’s a finish line. There is no finish line, there is only today.
Losing weight, getting healthy and staying healthy doesn’t have a finish line. The ‘journey’, as so many like to call it, is nothing like reality TV, where after 12 weeks there’s a big finale, someone wins $50,000 and it’s all over. Also, getting healthy isn’t like a hire purchase – there are no ‘12 easy payments’ before you own it for life.
You need to stop thinking there’s a finish line, because getting healthy and staying healthy simply doesn’t end.
Believe me, I understand the mindset, and in many ways, we’ve been trained to think this way. The weight-loss industry is worth billions of dollars and the promise of a short 12-week investment helps sell books, DVDs, programmes and diets. But, it’s a dangerous headspace to be in. Your focus is always on finishing, and never on what you’re doing right now.
My advice is to stop thinking about when you’ll lose weight, and shift your focus to the little things you can do every day that will slowly start to build a healthier lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle isn’t something you gain overnight. It’s the culmination of hundreds of tiny decisions that eventually become habit. These aren’t ‘big ticket’ decisions, like motivating yourself to go to the gym, going for a run, adopting the paleo diet, or going vegan. These are much smaller actions like taking the stairs, going for regular walks, choosing black coffee, and cooking your meals instead of buying takeaways. When you adopt a few of these tiny changes every few weeks and they remain as part of your everyday life, you’re slowly crafting a new, sustainable lifestyle for yourself.
If you don’t enjoy today, it’s unlikely you’ll do it again tomorrow
We often focus so much on finishing because we really don’t like what we’re doing. Whether it’s the food the diet is telling us to eat, or exercises the programme expects us to perform, if you don’t like it, there’s very little chance you’ll keep doing it. Let alone actually make it to the supposed finish line.
When I first set about losing weight, I took up the challenge like a man possessed! I set myself one GIANT goal to lose more than 40kg and ripped into it. I ate nothing but salad, I was doing something that loosely resembled running 4 times a week and a mixture of other workouts in-between. I thought I would maintain this until I’d reached my goal.
Turns out, I hated it! I resented the workouts because they robbed me of time I needed for other stuff, and there’s a limit to how much salad one man can eat. After a few weeks, I’d slipped back into my old ways. Whatever weight I’d lost, I put right back on.
I didn’t know it at the time, but going all-in and failing is a pretty common experience. It wasn’t until I found ways to make tiny improvements to what I ate and how much I moved every day, that I started to see real, sustainable results.
I stopped torturing myself with exercises I hated and I stopped depriving myself of all the foods I loved.
Instead, I started to build routines that I could sustain and these routines slowly became habits. Habits that translated into a healthier lifestyle. I gave up on my huge goal that seemed so far away, and just focussed on what I could do better every day.
When you finally realise there’s no magical finish line, but you know you did, or at least tried to do better today than you did yesterday, well, you’ve kind of already made it.
Turns out my dad was right, you might as well enjoy the trip because there’s no stopping!