Complexity: is it really a necessity? Or do we just seek it out? The veneer of complexity often masks far simpler truths hidden beneath.
Over the years, I have developed my fat-loss routine down to a fine art. However, to my shame, it became tainted with complexity bordering on superstitious ritual. For my weight-loss challenge 2012 therefore, I decided to throw it all out the window along with the cupcakes and ice cream, and focus instead on truths infinitely more crucial.
On May 6, I laid down the challenge on this very page, and 13 weeks later I’m chuffed to report my lunge for leanness has resulted in a total drop of 17.5 kilos. The plan? Cut out sweets and junk food, eat smaller meals consisting of natural foods and vegetables, and keep that sweat flowing in the gym.
For me, this meant a bowl of bran flakes with milk in the morning, a large mixed salad with a protein source for lunch, same again for my late afternoon meal, a pint of milk in the evening, and plenty of water throughout the day. Not perfect, but it’s a little less than I was eating before, and far healthier.
In the gym, same exercises but less rest. Simple. “But, in reality, it’s much more complicated than that!” I might hear you say, “But for you it’s different! That doesn’t work on me!” If you believe that, then yes, indeed you are correct. The deeper truth is, however, that by those very statements, you have already shot yourself in the foot.
Today I offer perhaps the most valuable advice I have ever put down on paper for those wishing to drop a few kilograms. In conversations I have with those wishing to lose weight, there are four ‘red flags’ which tend to pop up, signalling almost certain probability of failure. Avoid these red flags and you can savour the sweet taste of success, far sweeter than any naughty treat.
First red flag: desperation. Avoid desperation like the plague. If you feel desperate to lose weight, then you may need to re-evaluate your motives. Unhappiness with yourself and fear of remaining in your current state are negative motivators.
By striving for a more positive outlook towards your goals, you will find enjoyment in your new healthy routine for the intrinsic rewards it offers now, instead of chasing a carrot on a stick you never seem to close in on.
In this way, you can break free of tension and enjoy the rewards as they come, almost as a bonus. Desperation also suggests that the situation is somehow slipping out of your control, but losing weight is simple and totally within your own control.
Second red flag: talking about how difficult it is to lose weight. Whenever I hear people talk about how hard something is, I know they are doomed to fail or at least their success will be shortlived.
This is just like laying down an insurance policy in case you fail. You are warming yourself up to the idea, and setting a stage upon which failure is completely understandable and acceptable. Also, if you find yourself seeking pity, you may again need to re-evaluate your motives. Do not even entertain the possibility that you will not lose weight.
Third red flag: focusing on the problems. Here’s that insurance policy again. Whether it’s a thyroid issue, slipped disc, asthma, amputated limb, paralysis of the lower limbs, or something far less debilitating consider that yes, life is full of challenges, but we are defined by the way we face these hurdles.
You can lie down in front of them, or try your very best to jump over. By frequently talking about your individual problems and dwelling on them, you are buying your insurance policy, and getting your excuses in early. Don’t give yourself an escape clause. Remember that for every challenge you face, history is littered with people who faced the same challenge or bigger, and overcame it.
Fourth red flag: dwelling on sacrifice. Passing up on sweets, alcohol, or junk food is not a sacrifice but a choice; a few minutes of pleasure associated with immediate gratification, or the long-term pleasure associated with achieving your goals.
Seeing these things as sacrifices suggests that in your current mindset, eating such things is normal, while abstaining from them is abnormal. If you sincerely believe this, then you will soon revert back to normal and give in to ‘temptation’. In constant defensive mode, it is only a matter of time before you give in, while in constant attack mode it is only a matter of time before you score.
In sacrificial mode, we are much more likely to have that little treat because we’ve ‘earned’ it, or go to that party where we know we will end up drinking too much and eating the wrong foods because we can ‘make up for it’ the next day.
Your weight loss descends into a constant game of sacrifice and reward, going round in circles always ending up where you started and never getting anywhere. In truth there is no compromise in a successful weight-loss programme: no sweets or junk food, period.
Next time someone offers compassion for your obvious dieting-related suffering, say: “Oh it’s not that hard for me, I feel great, better with each passing day, and I’m getting into the best shape of my life!”
Observe how such positivity quickly becomes infectious and habitual.