We all know that getting started is the hardest part of anything. It takes time to build some momentum, to feel secure in what you’re doing, even just to learn your way around the block, so to speak. Most of us are looking for a quick fix, too, so waiting is really really hard! We want instant results! I love the quote above from Carrie Fisher because it is so true! We want what we want and we want it NOW! Most of us have grown up in an “instant” society. When I was a kid, microwaves were the “new thing” (yes, I am that old!) Most of them were the size of compact cars and they cost just as much, and everyone thought they would give you cancer or kill people with pacemakers. But it was the beginning of “instant” everything. We could get our popcorn and burritos and tv dinner right now instead of waiting 20 minutes or an hour. Anything you ordered took 6 to 8 weeks to come in the mail. Now we get impatient if it takes more than two days! “What do you mean it’s arriving Monday?? I ordered this on Tuesday!!”
We do the same thing when it comes to weight loss or fitness- especially weight loss! If we don’t see results in a week, then “there’s something wrong this diet!” In fact, advertisers specifically state, usually in a loud voice with descriptive graphics, “get results fast!” They not only know we don’t want to wait, they are counting on the fast results pitch to sell you their program! What most people don’t realize is that it’s easy to drop a few pounds really fast if what you are losing is water weight. Basically, if you dehydrate yourself or flush all the sodium and electrolytes out of your body, you will lose a few pounds of water and the number on the scale will go down. Is it healthy? Oh definitely not! In fact, flushing out your electrolytes can cause some serious reactions (like a heart attack). This is why athletes get muscle cramps after strenuous exercise: they have lost significant electrolytes through sweat, ergo sports drinks were invented. However, the heart is also a muscle and when your heart ‘cramps,’ that’s not a good thing!
One of the arguments often made against the Paleo diet is that it eliminates most starchy carbs (bread, rice, pasta, etc). Carbohydrates are little water-retaining sponges, so the more carbs you eat, the more water you hold on your body. People arguing against the Paleo diet say that yes, you lose a lot of weight fast because once the carbs and the water they hold are gone from your system, “it looks like you’ve lost weight, but when you go back to eating those carbs, you put that weight back on.” The part after the ‘but’ is the key part of their argument for me: why would you go back to eating those carbs if they weren’t really good for you to start with? Some people can go back to eating them in limited amounts after they’ve repaired the insulin resistance those carbs have caused. But, if you don’t go back to eating them or eating them as much as you used to, then the water weight associated with excessive carb consumption is pretty much gone for good. [FYI: your muscles will also store water to repair themselves after you’ve exercised, so if you do weigh right after working out, it can look like you’ve not lost weight or even gained.]
There are other diets out there that are formulated to give you ‘fast results,’ but fast does not always mean sustainable. A lot of times these are what we think of as ‘fad diets’ because “everyone is doing them and they are losing a lot of weight super fast.” But do you really want to eat only cabbage or grapefruit all day every day? You think you’re going to get all your vitamins and nutrients from eating one thing all day every day? This is what makes fad diets and other quickie diet promises not only unhealthy but possibly dangerous. Eating only one or a few foods can cause malnutrition (another argument leveled against the Paleo and the ketogenic diets!) Also, any time you have rapid weight loss, it can cause problems with your gall bladder, which can mean painful gallstones or gall bladder removal. Unless your weight is endangering your life, as is often the case with Dr. Nowzaradan’s patients, it’s healthier to lose weight slowly and steadily while maintaining good nutrition.
It’s not fun and it’s not fast, but it has the advantage of being permanent. Essentially, it took you some time to put the weight on and it will usually take a little longer to take the weigh off, but if you do it right (slow, steady and sustainable), it won’t come back. This is because it isn’t a temporary fix. We have all done the ‘temporary fix’ where we don’t eat anything for two weeks before the special occasion so we can look great in the photos. It was really hard and we were starving most of the time but one of the reasons we were able to stick with the torture is because there was an End Date! We only had to last until the day of the event and then we could go back to ‘eating normally,’ which usually meant the weight came back on!
When you take the time to make sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle, it’s more of an adjustment, because there is no End Date. It takes longer to make the changes part of your routine and longer for the results to show up, and just to rub a little salt in the wound, the discomfort is Johnny-on-the-Spot! You are usually craving whatever it is that has been ‘adjusted’ out of your diet or you are sore and uncomfortable because of the workouts you’ve added to your routine. Everyone around you is probably eating what you used to eat and the time that you’d spend scrolling through Facebook or something else more sedentary is now spent being uncomfortable, embarrassed and sweating in a gym or some other public place. Oh yeah it’s giggles galore!
So, why am I doing this again? Because even though the changes are permanent ones, it’s the discomfort that is temporary this time! Yes, in a quick fix, the discomfort is temporary but so are the results, and we end up doing repeated ‘quick fixes,’ hoping for something permanent. Once we begin earning the results from our slower sustainable cbanges, the discomfort begins fading. Then, we begin picking up momentum as the changes become part of our new normal routine and less of a struggle. The workouts not only become easier, they actually become fun! The cravings go away and if we should eat something that used to be ‘so yummy,‘ we’re usually surprised to find it’s not as yummy as we thought it was! It gets easier to say no to foods and behaviors that aren’t as healthy and easier to say yes to those that are. It’s a triple win: the results are coming faster, the work is getting easier and the weight isn’t coming back!
This is what makes instant gratification so insidious and so tempting: we don’t have to wait for the results. We fool ourselves into thinking that ‘this diet is the right diet,’ and that the temporary fix really isn’t temporary ‘this time.’ But unless the changes you are making to your eating and activity are permanent changes, odds are the results will also not be permanent. These ‘instant result’ diets have still more fallout: disappointment and the toll that takes on your self-esteem. Remember the last time you tried one and how happy you were to see yourself losing weight? Now remember how crushed you felt when you realized you’d gained it all back, and maybe more? That crushing sense of failure and disappointment also weigh on you. Truly it does, because it makes us feel hopeless, like we are failures, like we are destined to be fat forever, that there is something inherently wrong with us either physically, mentally, or morally because we “just can’t lose weight!” Are we broken or are we just gluttons? How many times have we cried ourselves to sleep because another instant result diet wore off as soon as we stopped following their unsustainable program?
Slow and sustainable isn’t definitely isn’t glamorous. You aren’t going to meet your friend for lunch after a two week absence and have them oohing and ahhing over your dramatic weight loss. Heavens knows that’s always fun! You will probably have to wait a couple of months before they notice you’ve lost a little weight, but the great part is that four months down the line and six months down the line and longer still, they will notice that the weight has not come back and that you are looking, feeling and acting so much happier and healthier! The instant gratification will be instantaneous but it will only last an instant. If you want real success, it’s going to take a little longer, and it will last forever!