One small step — for man, and woman

21 Aug

I started dieting yesterday. I’m going to drop 10 pounds in 10 weeks. I’m not following any particular diet. I’m just eating less, eating more sensibly, and making sure I get  a bit more exercise each day.

It’s hard not to notice the number of people who have jumped onto the nutrition shake band wagon. The shakes are pretty low-calorie and while folks are using the shakes they drop weight really fast. That surely excites them, so they stick with it a while and lose an even more remarkable amount of weight (I won’t go into whether they are likely losing mostly fat, or losing too much muscle as well). So, I see some such folk after six weeks and see a remarkable change.

Skip ahead two months. I see the same folks, with the extra weight back on.

Why does this happen? It’s simple: They don’t just eat an apple.

I’ve learned/am learning the hard way that small changes maintained over time have a much bigger and lasting impact than crash approaches. Big diets rarely make it a month. Even if they last longer, one’s return to regular eating is, well, a return to regular, not-so-good eating, which leads back to square one.

I’ve generally stunk at push-ups. When I’ve tried to work them hard in certain rep/set schemes, I never got better at them. Do you know how I got better at them? Just doing a few here and there throughout the day. It started with five: before breakfast, after lunch, returning home from an errand, during a commercial. Never more than that. Easy. Just frequently. Then it was ten at a time. Then sometimes more. Even though I never pushed it hard, it helped me to be able to do an easier twenty, and then past that to twenty-five or thirty. Just a gentle, regular pushing(up) forward.

What do most people get with a big, hard exercise push? A crash: overdoing it, then too many recovery days, then no habit, then stopping. Maybe injury, which postpones everything. Usually discouragement.

Back to eating that apple. When folks have asked me what I suggest to eat better and lose weight, I tell them two simple things:

1) If you tend to eat french fries (or potatoes/hash browns/whatever), don’t. Just don’t order them. Substitute fruits or vegetables if possible. Nine out of ten times is fine.

2) Eat an apple. Get in the habit of eating an apple a day, anytime, but particularly with good timing, such as a between-meal snack when hungry, rather than eating some crap, or before a meal, to help avoid eating more of other stuff that’s probably not as good for your waistline. Heck, eat an apple before a couple of meals.

I can guarantee that if you have some extra fat to lose, just doing those two simple things will take you there. Not overnight. Not this week. Maybe not a whole lot this month. But the small change of eating an apple (and not eating fries) will take hold. It will be a positive habit with good LASTING effect and benefit for months and years.

Whatever you’re thinking you want, or need, to do for betterment in your life, don’t go crazy for a big, immediate sea change. Just take one small action, on a day-by-day or instance-by-instance basis. Let it develop and work its magic over time. Once that small change takes hold, usually after a month or two, then make another, and keep at that one. Over the course of a year, that’s anywhere from six to twelve changes that are part of your life that weren’t there before.

As I’ve matured as an instructor, I don’t tell students more things to work on or change; I tell them less. Often it’s only one thing. Until they start to get that one thing, I resist telling them a different thing.  It doesn’t overwhelm them or make their head spin. It helps them focus. It teaches patience. It makes it do-able. It helps them improve and succeed. That one thing, combined with the multiple other one things I tell them over time, gradually and eventually lead to the most remarkable change.

Just eat an apple.

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