The diet & fitness industry is fond of quick fixes and short, intense challenges. There’s this constant reinforcement of the idea that, if you can just be perfect for 21 days, all your problems will go away. You’ll train like a spartan, eat like a monk, and lose fat like a machine.
And to be sure, sometimes it works. Most people can work incredibly hard for 3-4 weeks and see pretty good results.
But what happens afterwards? If you’re like most people, the progress comes to a grinding halt. And then it reverses.
Many times, especially in the case of fads and so-called “detox diets” or “cleanses”, you finish with more fat than when you started!
Why Short-Term Diets Can Make it Harder to Lose Fat
When short term diets fail (yo-yo), it’s one of three things:
1 – It was a lousy nutrition plan, plain & simple. These are your “detox diets”, starvation diets, cleanses, etc. Usually these diets are low on protein, low on calories, and manipulate your weight simply by cutting carbs (thus dehydrating you for instant weight loss). That’s why they can guarantee that you’ll lose 3-5lbs in “just the first week”.
2 – It was focused on a complete dietary overhaul, rather than just one significant change. It demanded perfection, instead of meaningful improvement. In Leo Babauta’s book, “The Power of Less”, he shares research that shows the following:
- You have an 85% chance of success if you make just one change
- You only have a 35% chance of success if you make even two changes at once.
- You have less than 10% chance of success if you attempt three changes at once!
Based on that research, the best path is clear: make just one change at a time.
3 – It was too focused on making temporary changes and not focused enough on helping you achieve a healthier lifestyle. In my experience, and that of my clients’, lifestyle changes win every time.
The clients that do the best, year in and year out, have mastered a few key lifestyle habits. Most importantly, they’ve mastered the habits that address their biggest problems.
I’m going to repeat that: they’ve mastered the habits that addressed their biggest problems.
Honestly, one of the most common problems we see with new clients is that they don’t eat any vegetables. Talk about a simple fix!
Ready to Lose Fat? Start With an Honest Assessment.
I’ll tell you a story about one of my clients that was struggling to lose fat. This client did great on almost everything. She worked out hard 5-6 days a week. She ate plenty of protein, vegetables, and very little junk food or “empty calories”. But she wasn’t losing fat fast enough.
So, we made her workouts tougher. It didn’t work. She started to eat less. That didn’t work! In fact, that made it even worse.
Finally, I asked her how much she was sleeping and the truth came out. She’d been sleeping 5-6 hours a night and was incredibly stressed at work. We worked on a plan to get more sleep, and more restful sleep. Sure enough, the results started to trickle back in.
Lesson learned: if you’re already doing the right things, don’t make those things even better. Find your weak points and overcome them! If you haven’t picked out your first habit, it’s time to start thinking about it. I’ll help you decide. First: take an honest assessment of how you’re doing right now. Take out a pen & paper and answer these questions.
- How much are you sleeping?
- How much water do you drink everyday? (An easier question – are you thirsty right now? Is your mouth dry? If so, there’s your answer!)
- Do you eat protein every meal? If not, how many meals do you eat protein at? (For most of my new clients, it’s only one meal per day!)
- Do you wolf down your meals, or take your time and really, and I mean really, enjoy your food?
- Do you eat vegetables every meal? How about every day?
Get Started: Pick The Habit That Will Help You Lose Fat the Easiest
If you’re already doing 4 out of 5, it’s easy to spot your weak point. If you have to decide between 2 habits (or all 5), start by making it as easy as possible. Start off with a victory, right away.
For your first habit, I want you to have 100% confidence that you can accomplish it. I need you to be 100% confident that you can do this.
If you’re not, do one of two things: 1 – pick a different habit. 2 – make the habit smaller and easier.
For example: eating 7-10 servings of veggies is a lot! Especially if you’re only eating 1-2 a day. Make it smaller – aim for 4-5 servings a day. Sleeping only 4 hours a night? Shoot for 6. It isn’t 7, but it’s sure better than 4! You get the idea, I hope.
The 90/10 (Or 80/20) Rule for Success
One other important note: you’re going to fail. Maybe a little bit, maybe a lot of bit, but you’re going to fail at your new habit eventually. Expect it. Count on it. In fact, I want you to count on it 10% of the time. We call it the 90/10 rule. For some, it’s even 80/20.
You need a minimum of 80% success to see good results. 90% success leads to great results. Demanding 100% success leads to burn out, frustration, and fatigue. Shoot for 90%!
So, to recap:
- We’re in this to make lifestyle changes, not temporary fixes.
- Make just one small change at a time, and make it a lifestyle change.
- Take an honest assessment of how you’re doing right now. When you’ve identified your limiting factor, conquer it!
- Take an honest assessment of how confident you are that you can achieve your new habit. If it’s less than 100% confidence, pick something else or make it smaller & easier.
- Accept that 80-90% success is the norm. “Failures are only temporary setbacks”, and all that.
Have you made a decision? Let me know what habit you’ve decided to start with. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can help you whittle down a habit into easier steps if you need me to. Or just introduce yourself and let me know what your ultimate goal is.
If you know that you want specific guidance, you can meet me for a free Success Session where I’ll help you pick your first habit. You’ll work with me 1 on 1 to come up with an action plan to achieve your goals. Click here to get started.
Get Fit Today!
Meet with our head personal trainer and nutrition coach, Devin Gray, CSCS, for a free 15 Minute Phone Consultation to discuss your goals.
Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach
NSCA-CSCS, FMSC, Pn1 Certified B.S. in Exercise Science – Texas A&M University, Cum Laude Devin is the owner & head coach of Optimize Fitness & Performance.
He is an exercise geek, with a long list of certifications and coursework for personal training, nutrition coaching, and injury post-rehabilitation.