CHASING FINISH LINES
I used to be obsessed with finishing things: cases of beer, bottles of rum, family sized pizzas. The quicker I could finish them the better. The more often I could finish them, even better. You could say that I earned myself a heavyweight belt in poor health choices, with the key word being heavyweight. I stopped weighing myself at 120kg, and at some point I hit rock bottom and decided that I would never be able to lose weight. No matter what I did I just couldn’t do it.
Then a friend signed me up for a triathlon and crossing that finish line changed everything for me. I have lost over 50kg since I took up triathlon and I have managed to keep that weight off for over a decade. Chasing finish lines helped me to finally overcome whatever barriers were standing in my way to losing weight.
This is me before and after :-)
This article might seem confusing after me talking about how important finish lines were for me. I am here to tell you that it is time to forget finish lines if you want to have long-term, weight-loss success.
FORGET THE FINISH LINES
For most people who take up sports like cycling, running, or triathlon, it can be a combination of things that motivate you. For instance, you train for an event and along the way if you happen to lose some weight or get fit, awesome! If you train to lose weight and happen to get fit enough to run a marathon or ride a century it’s a bonus.
Often you can find that weight loss and events can become intertwined and before you realise it, the finish lines you come to crave become the thing that helps you to stay in shape.
Here’s the thing though, if you want to stay in shape you need to forget about the finish line.
Anyone who has ever wanted to lose weight has probably found it overwhelming. There are all sorts of contraptions, programs, diets, and procedures, all with the promise of helping you to lose weight. Some of them work, others don’t, and some are dangerous. The majority that do work are poor at setting you up to keep the weight off. If you sell something designed to help a person lose weight, you are going to want to keep selling it to them to make more money right? That’s why 8 week challenges or 10 week boot camps are problematic.
I hear you saying, ‘I am only doing them to kick start my weight loss’, and that might be true. But what I see time and time again are people repeating those challenges or courses because the weight creeps back on.
The hardest part about losing weight is keeping it off. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes. What will allow you to keep the weight off are habits.
If you have ever taken up an 8 week challenge, how hard has it been? Have you ever failed to make it all the way through? If you have made it through the 8 weeks, what happens when you finish the challenge? I see gyms take their members who have just paid them to help them lose weight for ‘end of challenge’ celebrations. Are these celebrations a continuation of the way they ate during the challenge? Probably not. Why? Because people have had to sacrifice so much and make so many changes to see those fast results that they cannot maintain the lifestyle.
The end of the challenge/diet/program becomes a finish line. Once a person hits that finish line, chances are they take up all of the things that they have missed. This is why it is important to forget about finish lines if you are serious about losing weight, and keeping it off.
FORMING HEALTHY HABITS
Understand that while the correct approach might not be as flashy or even as quick, it will ultimately pay off. The reason for this is simple. Habits take a long time to form. If you try rushing or overwhelm yourself by being super restrictive, you are more likely to set yourself up for failure rather than being successful.
The real way to be successful at forming habits is to start small and be patient. It might not mean you lose 5kg in a week or even 15kg in a month. Start by adding things rather than removing them. This can be like eating more types of vegetables every week or adding in some exercise. You might set yourself a target of how many litres of water you drink per day, or adding some snacks like fruit. I know these work because I have done them all myself. Some habits were hard to maintain at first but all of them became easier once I saw that they were helping.
Racing Triathlon helped me form some great habits.
Adding more things isn’t going to instantly lead to weight loss but if you do this alongside some of your other habits, they will have the opportunity to develop into habits, too. As you eat more vegetables or fruit and drink more water you may find that without even meaning to, you are eating less take-away or drinking less soft drink. The crazy part is, you never had to drastically make some pact with yourself to never touch them again. I used to drink coke with dinner every night and by simply adding soda water first then coke after, I naturally stopped drinking coke because I didn’t need it.
Without drawing a line in the sand, you have organically developed positive habits that will replace your bad habits. The best part? You just keep doing them!
The idea of no finish line can be problematic. People like to set specific goals. With weight, that is usually based around a number you want to lose or see on the scale. But by removing the need to hit a specific ‘thing’ you remove the end date.
Goals, like I want to fit my clothes better or I want to be able to run without being short of breath or I want to feel more confident in my body, are not the sort where you ever really ‘finish’ and instead you can just keep going.
It's about the journey not the destination
That’s not to say that there isn’t power in having specific goals. But it does mean that whatever you are trying to do, make sure you can always keep doing it. Think about the last time you did a race and crossed the finish line. Did you push so hard you collapsed? Did you breakdown with a huge sense of achievement and a high? Those feelings don’t last and it is the same with weight loss.
The old saying ‘it’s about the journey not the destination’ is exactly the take away I want for you all. To be successful you need to do it for the process rather than the outcome. By focusing on healthy choices that lead to weight loss rather than that finish line, which signals and end, you will have much more success...and feel better about it too!
Author: Tim Ford