I’m ready for winter to end. I’ve reached that point in the calendar where even commercials that are set in warm weather grab my attention if for no other reason they’re selling something I want.
But, others may feel differently. For them, winter is a time to layer up and not worry about wearing shorts or far worse, bathing suits. Let’s be honest…losing weight can be a big motivator for exercise. But, exercise alone is a tough way to lose weight.
Here’s the math. Experts tell us we need to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound. That means if you change NOTHING in your nutrition and use exercise alone to lose weight you have to burn an 3,500 extra calories to lose that one pound.
If you are walking for exercise let’s drill down further. The average person burns about 100 calories for every mile walked. That means this average person will need to walk 35 miles to lose one pound. If this average person takes about 2,000 steps to walk one mile the math indicates they will need 70,000 EXTRA steps to lose just one pound.
If this average person wants to lose one pound a week they will need to walk an EXTRA 10,000 steps a day. Again, this is assuming no extra food is consumed. But, I’m also guessing this average person may feel a bit hungrier walking 10k steps more each day and will have a tough time not throwing a few more chips on the plate at lunchtime. Just saying.
It’s hard losing weight. Whether you are focused on exercise alone, nutrition alone, or the better a combination of exercise and nutrition. That’s why it’s hard to successfully reach the finish line. It’s even harder to stay there.
How about a different approach?
But, first…I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, nor certified personal trainer. I’m just a guy who loves walking for fitness. If you want to lose weight talk to an expert who can help you design a plan that’ll work for you.
That said, I do know a thing or two about pursuing a sustainable fitness goal. I also believe this is a framework that could be applied to any long term goal…like losing weight.
WHEN NOT TO START
Don’t start a new weight loss journey today…or tomorrow. Way too often we feel the urgency of needed transformation and desire to start RIGHT NOW. That highly charged emotional motivation isn’t going to last. It might feel like it will. You know, “This time is different!” But, it’s not. It never is.
I’ve learned the worst time to start pursuing a new goal is when I’m feeling super motivated. I have a history of Goal Fails when I’ve done this. Instead, it’s much more effective to let the emotion pass or better yet…actively drain the emotion!
START HERE INSTEAD
I recommend giving yourself at least 30 days before starting to lose weight. And, this isn’t so you can have one last hurrah eating whatever you want and not exercising.
Instead, use this time to do your research. What kind of eating plan is right for you? What kind of exercise will work for you. If it’s walking, how much more do you need to do? Using the earlier math (if you’re The Average Person) how many more steps do you need to get each day? If 10,000 extra steps are needed to lose a pound a week, then 5,000 are needed to drop a pound every two weeks.
Do your own math and then spend the next 30 days thinking through the obstacles you’ll encounter to reach that goal. How will you get those extra steps on days you’re super busy, the weather sucks, or you just don’t feel like it? This is how you actively drain the emotion and plan for success.
SET THIS KIND OF GOAL
With weight loss, we almost always focus on the number. How many pounds do I want to lose? Success hinges on reaching THAT number. What, if like my friend Steve who once weighed 440 pounds, that number can’t be reached for years?
Or worse, you break it down to an amount to lose each week. The human body doesn’t like to play the games designed by the human mind. You do the exact same thing and one week you’ll lose three pounds followed by a week where you gain one! What is that? Discouraging, that’s what that is.
Instead, make weight loss a process goal. Steve’s DAILY goal was to follow his eating plan and do yoga for 30 minutes. Every day that he did those two things was a win. Even though he weighed himself every week, that was not the gauge of success. Success was simply measured by sticking with his eating plan and doing yoga. Every. Single. Day. By the way, four years later, you’d have no idea that Steve used to weigh 440 pounds.
Perhaps even more surprising, Steve says it wasn’t hard. He simply focused on the daily process and he just stacked victory on top of victory. In some ways it was actually fun because winning IS fun!
REMOVE THE FINISH LINE
How often have we seen someone lose a lot of weight only to gain it all back? Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself. The problem here is we can become so focused on the finish line that we’re willing to do whatever it takes to reach the goal. Sadly, what it took to get there is just not possible to keep doing. It’s simply not sustainable.
Instead of aiming for a finish line, why not find an eating and fitness plan that is sustainable and doesn’t come with a finish line? This is what Steve did. He removed the finish line and found two things he could sustain the rest of his life.
Put differently, why not START with what you’d be willing to do AFTER you actually lost the weight? Are you really willing to walk an extra 10,000 steps every day for the rest of your life? If not, don’t make that your goal now. What are you willing to do long term? That’s where you should start or gradually build to.
Does this mean it might take longer to reach your goal weight? Probably. I suspect Steve could have lost a lot of weight more quickly if he had done a more extreme diet. But, he also knew that wouldn’t be sustainable, so he found a plan that he was comfortable with for a really long time…probably even until the end of his life (and he’s still a young guy)
START SMALL. THINK LONG.
I’m a huge believer in setting small goals that are sustainable. That’s why I do the Walking Is Fitness podcast every day. I record it during the first ten-minutes of my daily walk. It’s a great way to start and maintain a long term fitness habit.
And, if you do the math…that ten minute walk may burn enough calories to lose a pound every 74 days. That might not sound like a lot, but after five years that’s 25 pounds. Imagine if you had started doing this five years ago? Would you even be reading this blog post?
Seriously, making small adjustments now that are sustainable can truly result in a big transformation if you stick with it. I believe listening to this podcast every day can help you do that. You can check it out HERE.