We are an instant society. We’ve got instant soup, instant pots, instant messages, and even Instagram. Our unofficial motto should be “instant gratification takes too long!” The problem with this Instant Philosophy is that while technology is instant, human beings are not. We can take a long time to absorb new information and learn new habits and procedures, and even if we learn things relatively quickly (as in a few days), we are frustrated with this seeming “delay.” We want instant results!
Learning anything new or even trying something different is difficult at first. It gets easier…. eventually. It’s that holding out until it gets easier that is the hardest part and until we reach that point, it just seems to take longer to do, and when we do it “wrong” we have to do it again, or it just adds to our delay and that’s when we start falling down that learning curve! We ask ourselves if this is really worth it? Is it going to do whatever we want it to do? How long do I have to wait until I know? Why does everything take so damn long?!
Welcome to the Human Experience! This is why we get so frustrated with ourselves and others when it comes to weight loss. We all know that– tragically– weight loss isn’t instant. There’s a long list of “isn’ts” when it comes to weight loss: in addition to not being instant, weight loss isn’t linear, it isn’t permanent, it isn’t easy! Weight loss is slow, difficult and full of ups and downs. That’s why most of us dread weight loss and making almost any kind of change to our eating and exercise. We go through the process of trying something new, learning a new habit or procedure, then we have to get consistent with this new process and then- only after we’ve been consistent for a reasonable period of time- we get to find out if it actually works! It’s an almost painful process of trial and error! It’s as far removed from Instant as it can get!
But the biggest stumbling block isn’t that our new eating plan is wrong or that our new exercise program is messing up our weight loss: it’s that we give up on the process out of frustration. There’s a learning curve that comes with making changes and being consistent with those changes. To be blunt, the Instant mentality is messing us up and until we get that mentality out of our head, we’re going to keep messing up!
This is why fad diets and food replacement programs work so well in the short term. They seem to give us the instant results we want. We do something drastic, as in fasting for X amount of days taking only XYZ supplement or ABC diet shakes, or we just switch out our regular meals for the diet food from the Weight Loss Company. Wow, we lose weight fast! …… At least until we stop with the fasting, the diet shakes, supplements and processed diet food and the weight comes back!
Making long term changes yields long term results, but it also takes a long time for the changes to show up. Making long term changes, even though they aren’t usually difficult, means we have to be consistent with them once we learn them, and that means changing our habits! Enter Frustration- the arch-nemesis of Instant! Let’s say we’re switching to a low carb breakfast, something fairly simple and easy to do! It’s one meal! So instead of having the bagel and cream cheese with a latte, we’re going to have string cheese and coffee with cream (some of us don’t do black!) Seems easy enough, but….. we’ve got to do it….every day… on a long term basis! So we start doing it and before we start seeing results, we start getting frustrated. For starters, we really really want that bagel and latte! Then, we ‘forgot’ our string cheese so we need to get something else so we get a breakfast burrito (it’s kinda low carb, isn’t it? Umm… NO!) Then we get tired of the cheese and the coffee: “I want something warm! I want something crunchy! This cheese doesn’t fill me up so I’m still hungry!”
This is why we aren’t losing weight: we aren’t being consistent. How often did we get tired of the bagel and cream cheese? Did that bagel fill us up? Think about it: we finished our bagel about 9:00 a.m. and then went for a snack around 11:00 a.m. Not really filling if you’re hungry in two hours! There’s a learning curve when it comes to new habits and new procedures. We not only need to be consistent with these habits in order to get any results but we need to be consistent to learn them! This means being patient! If we keep not-doing them, we’re going to keep not-losing weight and not-learning the new healthier habits!
When we talk ourselves into not doing the new habits, we are talking ourselves into failure again. We think that we can’t lose weight because weight loss is hard so we create a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s what turns the Learning Curve into a Slippery Slope! We try eating the low carb breakfast but we ‘forget’ and have the bagel or we ‘cheat’ and have a breakfast burrito and after a couple of weeks of ‘kind of’ having the low carb breakfast, we still haven’t lost any weight ( Burrito/Bagel: 8; Low Carb Breakfast: 6) and so we give up. “See? I told you I can’t lose weight!” Or we convinced ourselves that the low carb breakfast (or whatever) doesn’t work for us, because we ‘really tried it’. Really?? Consistently? Every day? “Ummmm…. kinda…?” Kinda doesn’t count!
The irony is that we want Instant Weight Loss Results but we talk ourselves into Instant Weight Loss Failure, because- again- we want Instant! Let’s face it: Instant is easy. How much work can there be when it’s instant? Instant oatmeal: just add hot water and it’s five minutes to yum! Old fashioned “quick cooking” oatmeal: heat up the water on the stove, add the oatmeal and stir and stir and stir for about 20 minutes. “You mean I got to wait for the water to boil and then I gotta cook it for 20 minutes? And stir it too?! OMG!! Oh hell no!!” (Let’s not even talk about stove-top pudding vs instant! )
Learning to do something differently takes work and patience. It means dealing with things that are frustrating and making mistakes and above all it means not giving up! I know how frustrating and confusing new processes are. One of my resolutions for 2018 is money management which means (cue ominous music) making a budget and sticking to it! After weight loss, this is probably the most frustrating, confusing and dreaded task in our lives. Not only am I counting calories now, I’m counting my pennies! After dinner, I sit down and log all my food, drinks and exercise, which is pretty much routine after a couple of years, but then I pull out my Budget Book, grab my iPhone and start going through my expenses, bank balances and any bills that have hit since yesterday **sigh**. Makes for a thrilling evening though, because my blood pressure and frustration levels definitely go up!! There were so many nights I just wanted to chuck the whole process and go back to living paycheck to paycheck like so many other people do. “It’s not a sin, is it? If I can’t go on vacation, it’s not the end of the world, but what happens when I need to replace my car?”
However-– and this is important– after doing this for a couple of months, I’ve noticed some important things, such as I’m spending more on impulse purchases than I thought I was and by monitoring a few important categories, I’ve managed to save twice as much money as before. (This is not unlike skipping the potato chips, choosing the spinach and losing a few more pounds. Score!) The frustration headaches and evenings spent covered in pencil shavings and eraser dust have actually paid off and I’m getting some positive results. It’s not magic (although looking at my bank balance really feels like it is!): it was consistency and hard work and climbing back up that learning curve. The end result is that if I hadn’t put in the hard work, all my frustration would have been for nothing and I’d be back to scraping up my change to get an Americano instead of watching my savings account get bigger. Or to put it in weight loss terminology: I’d be eating the bagels every morning, getting hungry before noon and wondering why weight loss is so hard for me.
[FYI: I chose the book You Need A Budget by Jesse Mecham; they have a free podcast, and a website, software and an app, which are not free, but they offer a free 30 day trial. I found they paid for themselves in a couple of months.]