During the first year at JillFit, we took on a lot of 12-week Fat Loss clients. We’d write them a customized meal plan, an individualized workout program and we’d give them access to one of our trainers for ongoing coaching via email. This is a typical distance coaching model.
Now, as you know, I am not a fan of meal plans and strict protocols, but back then I was just getting out of the competition realm, and we still coached a lot of competitors. The idea was that without a plan, people would be lost. Of course now, I think that approach is bullshit and basically keeps us all dependent and stupid, and unable to think for ourselves. But back then, it made sense. And you know what? It still makes sense to many people. I once saw a competitor post that without a meal plan to follow (even in the offseason), she’s have no self-control. While I completely understand that, I am also sick of people not understanding their own body and trusting themselves to figure it all out.
The thing is this: we like meal plans and protocols because it gives us a sense of control and direction. Which makes us feel safe and taken care of. I get that. It feels good to have a plan.
But no one is talking about the dark side of meal plans and strict, rule-based protocols: they perpetuate a “good” and “bad” mentality. I’m good if I’m following it to the T. And I’m bad if I have any deviances. This is just the way the mind works when it comes to nutrition–black-and-white, on-or-off, all-or-nothing. How insane (when you actually think about it) is it to use one single deviance on a meal plan as a means to justify just throwing our hands up and saying, eff it all and then proceed to eat with abandon?
The dark side of strict meal plans is that they perpetuate perfectionism.
And when it comes to long-term results and sustainable fat loss, we can’t afford to be perfectionists. Why? Because we have to eat multiple times a day FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES, and the idea that we will get it right every single time is both an absurd notion, but also a common one. That we perpetuate! Ugh.
And when we deviate from the plan, we feel the only way to get back on the wagon is to start with a clean slate on Monday.
I once had this woman email me to tell me she was giving up all fruit and all dairy. She’s heard it was what competitors did and she wanted that body.
Understandable. Except that literally every single week, she’d make it to Thursday on the plan, and then Friday through Sunday, she’d eat a shitload of dairy and fruit, plus a million other sweets and treats way worse then either of those. And then come Monday, she’s put the no-dairy, no-fruit plan into place AGAIN and tell herself that she’d be better this week.
And then the same thing would happen. Of course it would. Week after week, for months, this same deprive-then-binge cycle. And it’s not really her fault from the standpoint of unrealistic expectations and the nature of willpower, but it was her fault for not trying anything else, especially in the face of an approach that was actually not working.
The reason we always feel as though we need a clean slate is because the approaches we are taking are too extreme.
You don’t “mess up” if there’s nothing to mess up. If what you are doing is so effortless and enjoyable and works with your natural way of being. Like Metabolic Effect says, “You don’t fit yourself to a diet, you create a way of eating that fits to you.”
Many of us learn this lesson the hard way, like this gal who emailed me. But we are stubborn and we want to fit a circular peg into a square hole. And week after week we try it. And months, years later, we feel defeated, hopeless, confused and ashamed that we weren’t strong enough. Which is actually a fucking lie. The problem is not you, it’s your approach.
3 Mistakes That Keep You Stuck In Perpetual Beginner Status
Are you sitting at the same place in your weight loss journey as you were in January despite having given tons of thought, energy, and effort to losing weight?
You aren’t alone.
I can remember wondering how I could put so much effort into losing weight and remain stuck at the same place I was when I started. Sure over the year I would lose a few pounds here and a couple of inches there but I was always pretty close to where I had started… FOR YEARS.
How does this happen?
Why do some of us set weight loss goals and crush them in what seems like no time at all while others of us work, strain, and struggle for years to get almost nowhere?
Is there some secret sauce that we need to discover?
Well kind of. The secret sauce is HOW we approach weight loss.
Those who manage to attain and maintain weight loss goals simply approach the game of weight loss a lot differently than those who stay stuck in the beginning stages. Here are three of the most common mistakes that I have made (and observed in others) that keep us stuck as a weight loss beginner.
MISTAKE #1: Completely overhauling the way you eat and move to lose weight.
We’ve all done this one. You know how it goes. You read a new book or hire a new trainer. You study the rules, muster up motivation and start. The foods on the plan don’t include anything you would normally eat and you go from barely exercising at all to hitting the gym five days each week.
While the program may be solid. The problem is that following it requires more energy than you have to give if you are going to maintain your other life responsibilities. You need a ton of focus and willpower to stay the course and when life happens (cause it always does), you have nowhere to fall back to except your previous habits.
Here’s the problem.
Overhaul leads to overwhelm and most often do-overs.
You stay stuck in the crazy cycle of getting motivated, starting the plan, getting overwhelmed, and reverting back to your old habits.
MISTAKE #2: Taking “baby steps” that completely ignore the basics.
First we need to agree that the term “baby steps” is kind of inaccurate. No matter what change you make- giving up soda or optimizing your protein intake- if the habit is new for you, it takes effort and it FEELS like a big step for you. Since some start up effort is inevitable, wouldn’t we want to focus that effort on cultivating habits that give exponential payback? Sure we would but that isn’t what we do is it?
Nope! I didn’t. You haven’t. Neither did any of us who got stuck in the beginner category.
When we spend our limited effort on taking steps that don’t really move the needle, we get frustrated by the lack of results produced. At some point we quit putting forth the effort and we get to stay stuck as a beginner.
MISTAKE #3: Prioritizing following a strict protocol over cultivating extraordinary consistency.
The hallmark question of someone likely to stay stuck as a beginner is “Isn’t THAT too easy to work”. We somehow believe that if something is hard or complex then it must be good AND it will work for us. But how well has that really worked for us? I really want you to stop and think about it. How long did you follow that last 80-step program? What type of results did you get or better yet KEEP?
The greater the difference between your plan and what you usually do, the harder it is to DO IT with any level of consistency. Unless your full time job is doing the program, you are setting yourself up for failure.
One of the hardest things I had to learn was to “embrace easy”. There is no medal being given for surviving the toughest weight loss program ever so if my simple steps produce significant and sustainable results, I don’t need to find something harder. Neither do you! You are actually better off with a more lenient program that you can do all the time.
Consistency over time beats perfection in a moment.
By now you may be thinking OK I understand everything that I have done to get stuck as a beginner but what can I do instead. What’s the answer to achieve significant, sustainable results?
The solution is to begin with habits that make a big impact on your weight loss AND other habits, making those changes in a way that you can consistently do them, and stacking habits slowly so that they actually stick. It is not sexy or hardcore and it may even seem “too easy to work” but that is how it is done. That is how you successfully move from perpetual beginner to weight management pro.