Attacking your health challenges as if they are a foreign invader to be vanquished in a day of battle is not a healthy thing to do. As much as some folks in the health and fitness field love to promise easy, overnight fixes, the fact is that long-term success is going to require that you sustain healthier practices for a long time. And why hurry, anyway? Getting fit and losing weight can actually be a rewarding journey; something to savor with each new milestone achieved.
If you need more convincing, please consider these surprising benefits of the slow and steady approach.
You Won’t Burn Out
Let’s pretend your existing health habits are a favorite piece of music. You are comfortable and familiar with it but do you really know it in detail? Do you know why the melody is so appealing and how the structure of the song makes it all fit together?
You can ask the same question for most of your lifestyle habits. Take your diet: do you understand why it evolved the way it did and what needs your particular eating habits fulfill? When I talk to clients, I focus on understanding the underlying drivers of their eating habits. Why, for example, a client ends up just grabbing a quick bite rather than preparing a healthy meal at lunch time. Just as trying to improve a song without understanding the music isn’t likely to succeed, trying to design a new behavior without understanding the context that drives their current behavior is a sure recipe (pun intended) for failure.
People often sense this intuitively and try to “shake things up” by adopting a starvation diet to quickly shed weight. But what are the chances that you can really recompose your entire lifestyle around that such a drastic change? What are the chances that the weight you lose will stay off when you “bounce” off of that deprivation diet and back into normal eating? When put that way, it should be obvious that there is little chance that such a diet will “fit” into your lifestyle or be effective in the long run.
Thus, deprivation diets aren’t known for being a feasible strategy in the long-term because they turn healthy eating into an act of punishment. That is why success is just far more likely when clients strive for moderation, take the time to understand the triggers behind their overeating, and redesign their entire food environment to remove cues and foods that sabotage their success. These folks succeed simply because they don’t burn out.
You Will Make Steady Progress
Assuming that you have your physician’s blessing to start a fitness program or to ramp up your current program, the second key to health is simply improving your strength and cardiovascular fitness.
Here again, though, the key is really patience and persistence. You simply cannot rush the process of becoming truly become fit and strong. In fact, it is counterproductive to annihilate yourself when you go to the gym because your results are going to be determined primarily by the consistency of your workout program over time.
So, first, be consistent. Second, always strive to push yourself a little harder with each succeeding workout. If you work steadily toward well-defined goals and track your progress in the Alliance, you will find it easy to “stretch” a bit each time; achieving steady progress. Keep in mind that your fitness doesn’t improve during a training session; it improves during the recovery process that follows a training session. Indeed, you will find it difficult to improve your strength and fitness if you do not let your body recover. An inability to add weight to your lifts or miles to your run is very likely a sign of over-training.
In the end, taking your time and adopting a steady pace is guaranteed to help you make steady progress.
Do you have any experience with crash diets or extreme fitness routines? If so, I would be curious to hear your story in the comments. Please share this post with any friends you feel would be helped by it.
About the Authors
Daniel Wallen is the CEO (Chief Empowerment Officer) of the Wallen Way. He is a personal trainer, Lifehack contributor, and author of, “The Busy Woman’s Guide to Getting Fit, Fierce, and Fabulous”