This is the tale of two women facing the same problem in two very different ways.  Both busy working moms in their 30’s,  they are now starting to put on some extra weight, and both decide it is time for a change.

Meet Harriet

Harriet wants to lose weight fast for a friend’s wedding that is coming up.  While she says she wants to be healthy also, her thoughts are really on whether old friends she hasn’t seen in years will judge her weight gain.

So, she decides to try one of those 10 day juice detoxes, and follows that (miserable experience) with removing all grains.  She follows advice off the internet, because coaches are expensive, and really, all the information is out there, right?

Harriet is thrilled when, by the time of her friend’s wedding, she has lost 15 pounds!  She puts on a dress she hasn’t fit in in years, and danced the night away, smugly knowing she looks so much better than Laura from high school.  She is on top of the world!

After the wedding—oh who are we kidding, AT the wedding—Harriet goes back to her old ways of eating.  A week later the scale is up a little.  Two weeks later the scale is up a little more.  She starts gaining and gaining, and is soon 5 pounds OVER her starting weight!  So she goes back to the detox, and cuts out grains again, but this time the weight doesn’t fall off as easily.  Plus, Harriet has really low energy, and when she finally makes that doctor’s appointment she has been putting off, he is really concerned about some of her health numbers.

One year later, she is still 5 pounds above her starting weight, and has developed a very unhealthy relationship with food and exercise.  Her family is getting concerned that she isn’t taking care of her body.

Meet Tory

Tory has also been gaining weight, but decides not to put off seeing her doctor.  She does get a scary report at her visit, but it motivates her to lose the weight so that she can be her best self for her kids, and also be a good role model for them.

Tory does some research and finds a healthy habits program.  She goes through the program, and loses 5 pounds just working healthy sleep, stress management and eating habits into her life.  She is so motivated by this first small step, she decides to start “running” (that is, walking with a little bit of running at first) two times a week.  Once this becomes part of her routine, she finds a personal trainer to work with twice a week also.  She continues to lose weight, and though it comes off very slowly, she loves how strong and energetic she is feeling!  She can finally keep up with her kids!

One year later, Tory has lost 20 pounds, and has gained a ton of muscle.  She looks great, feels great, and her health numbers have improved dramatically.  Even better, her kids are eating better foods and becoming more active on their own, and the whole family is enjoying running 5k’s, hiking and taking bike rides together.

Thus concludes the story of Tory and Harriet.  Like in the old fable, Harriet rushes through, making unwise decisions, and paying the price.  Tory takes her time, plods along her fitness journey to make real, lasting changes.  Who would you rather be?

Why is it better to be the fitness journey tortoise?

  • Physiologically, going slow allows your body to adapt to and accept the changes you are trying to make.  As I mention here, making nutrition and fitness changes can actually be perceived by your body as a stressor, and cause more problems than they may solve.  And, as I have written about repeatedly, but mostly here, our bodies do not like quick changes because they see these changes as threats to their survival, not trying to make our bodies healthier.
  • Psychologically, we are more likely to accept and stick with smaller changes over time rather than sweeping restrictions, and exhausting exercise regimens.  Making smaller changes, having a good solid “why”, and having the motivation and accountability a coach or trainer offers will not only help your reach your goals, it will help you keep up a good relationship with food and exercise that will cause you to easily keep your healthy habits for a lifetime.
  • Finally, on a purely logistical note, it is going to take time to figure out what actually works for you.  Cutting grains may not be what your body needs, so if you mindlessly follow that route you may miss out on what your body actually needs.  One size does not fit all in nutrition and exercise advice, so there may be some experimentation needed.

While short term fitness or nutrition challenge programs may help you jumpstart making changes, remember that the end of the 30 days or 6 weeks is not the final goal, and then you give up.  Make lifelong changes your goal, and take your time building up to them!