It might seem a bit odd to be discussing New Year's Resolutions in May. But the way in which your resolution panned out is very important to us, especially as the weather starts to warm up or we start to think in the direction of events later in the Summer such as holidays, weddings; or even just getting into shape for Summer.
Many people will start to think about the changes they want to make to get into better shape or to try and lose a bit of weight.
Firstly, we need to understand the basic premise of losing some weight. To achieve this we need to create an energy deficit. Energy is measured in Calories so, to achieve an Energy Deficit we need consume less calories than we burn or expend through daily living and activity.
Most of us know this and it makes sense. To make something bigger we have to add to it, to make something smaller we have to take away from it.
Now to achieve that deficit we have a number of options. Say we are currently in an isocaloric state, this means that calories in equal calories out and we are maintaining weight. Not losing or gaining.
From this point we can do one of three things to achieve a calorie deficit.
- We can increase the amount of calories being burned by becoming more active.
- We can decrease the amount of calories being consumed via our diet.
- Or we can do both of the above.
Any of the above will put us into our desired calorie deficit. As I said, most of us know this and understand how to lose a little bit of weight.
The reason I ask about your New Year's Resolution is that when many of set ourselves a weight loss goal we take option 3 and make very aggressive changes to our lifestyle.
We go from a relatively sedentary lifestyle to smashing ourselves in the gym or running around the local park...
We go from eating our favourite foods as and when we like to eating salads and foods we are not familiar with. Spurning alcohol and treat foods, swapping tea and coffee for water.
We have achieved our target of creating a calorie deficit but it is HUGE, and probably too big.
We WILL lose weight in this instance but, ask yourself, how do you think you are going to feel?
You have taken away all of your energy and you have massively increased the demands you place upon yourself.
Now ask yourself, how long do you think this is going to last?
Can you see why people drop out of diets, quit the gym and cheat with their favourite foods in desperation?
Can you see why people suddenly walk around feeling terrible all day? Or walk away from it all with the perception that fitness is TOO HARD?
Many people want change but they overestimate their state of readiness. They don't fail because they "Couldn't hack it" or "Weren't dedicated enough". They slip up because they try to change too much too soon.
You live your life the way you live it because you that is the way your life has evolved. Your social circles, your family routines, your activities. Too many people essentially scrap their lifestyle and try to take on one that is unsuitable.
But it is not about scrapping your lifestyle. Chances are you enjoy your life! You just want to look and feel different to how you do right now.
So if this is what so many people do year after year, what should we do instead?
Let's wind it back to the point where we are in an isocaloric state. Calories in are equal to calories out. We are overweight but our weight isn't going up dramatically, although it is coming down either.
So we can take option 1 or option 2, we can introduce some activity or we can cut calories.
Let's say we take option 1 to start with and we introduce some activity. We start to park the car further away from the shop door in the the car park so we have to walk a bit further. We get off the bus a stop earlier so we have to walk a bit further. We commit to taking the dog out for a walk.
We have now introduced some more activity and increased the amount of calories being burned. This is great and will make us lose weight even though we haven't touched our diet yet.
Then after 3-4 weeks of this we have lost a bit of weight and we are feeling good. We feel a bit fitter, we are not as out of breath as when we started, our legs aren't as sore after walking.
Now we are at a point where we can start to make some changes to our diet. And we are not talking drastic changes, we are looking at small tweaks to keep this momentum going.
So we look at the low hanging fruit. What is easy to tweak and to change? Think about the perpetual packet of biscuits passed around at work. Think about that huge pizza on a Friday night after a night out. Think about that big fry up on the weekend.
Take one thing and tweak it. If you eat five biscuits a day at work, drop it to two. If you have a large pizza on a Friday night have a smaller one instead. If you have a huge Fry Up every Saturday morning, just drop it to a Bacon Sandwich for a little while.
Look at the easy ways in which you can make changes, ways in which you will barely even notice that change is occurring.
If now at two months in, you are a lot lighter, you feel fitter you are eating a bit better. You are now going to be in a position where you can start to think about making some more changes.
NOW look at introducing some gym work or go swimming, or get a bike and start cycling.
NOW look at introducing a bit more veg into your meals and trading out some of the foods which we know are going to help us back.
Changes are easier to make here because we have momentum. We started slow and saw results so we now have something we buy into.
This going to make our habits easier to stick to in the long run.
In summary, have the big vision, set your long goal but start slow. Build long term habits that are going to stick and you will succeed in the long term.