“It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it
And that’s what gets results”
Props to those of you who got the reference in this blog title, before seeing the video – y’all are obviously as old and haggard as I am, lol. Well, maybe older but still in the same ball-park. I was 8 years old when my aunt (who was young and cool and really into pop-music) gave me ‘Bananarama’s Greatest Hits Collection’ on cassette for Christmas. I was totally psyched and played that album to death, either on the radio-cassette-player I had in my bedroom, or the ‘Sony Walkman’ I had practically glued to my hip wherever I went. I remember my mum telling me that this track was actually a cover of a much older song from back when she was a kid, but I didn’t care because this was new and cool and nothing like the music she and my dad listened to. It’s only as you get older that you realise how sooner or later everything comes back into fashion and what we think of as new and exciting trends really just wind up being updated versions of things gone by. My musical tastes have definitely changed since those days, but whenever I hear this song I’m back standing in front of my mirror, hairbrush in hand, singing along with all the effortlessly cool demeanour that 8 year old me could muster.
Anyway, what are we here to talk about today folks? Well, it’s something that I’ve touched on a few times before, but seems to be absolutely everywhere I look right now (always the case once you notice something, right?) and it’s people who seem hell-bent on staying in that yo-yo dieting mentality…despite trying to convince anyone who will listen to them that they’re:
“Totally about the lifestyle change – for realsies!”
Do people even bother to check that the shit coming out of their mouths is even remotely consistent with their previously spouted crap, anymore? Or are we all just hoping that in this internet era of stunted attention spans that no one’s gonna even remember anything a week or so down the line? Because there are SO MANY hypocrites, liars and self-contradicting BS-merchants out there right now, it’s a wonder any of us can keep track with reality at all.
First there are the “Flip-Floppers” who start off telling us how they could never give up sugar, then once they realise how much weight other people are able to lose by curbing the carbs make a sudden change to keto because it’s
“really so much healthier, once you realise how it all works”
…only to fail at it once they realise that it still takes quite a bit of dedication, before renouncing the entire low-carb ethos as something
“Completely unhealthy, actually!”
and declaring their return to CICO
“Because it’s the only thing that works scientifically, innit?”
Okay Karen, but excuse me if I don’t take any dietary advice from someone who changes their plan more often than they change their undercrackers. Call me old-fashioned but I like my advice to come from those with a little more experience than your average halfwit with a BTEC in ‘Home Ec’. If what you’re looking for is a “diet” then literally go pick any one of the myriad ones out there on the internet and if you follow it to the letter, it’ll work. They ALL “work” if what you’re looking for is a quick-fix; but if it’s life-long sustainable change that you’re after, then you’re gonna have to start looking to something you can actually implement for life. There are no short-cuts to sustainable weight-loss and life-long health – and flip-flopping certainly ain’t where it’s at bro.
Then there are the “All Or Nothing Over-Haulers”. These guys are always good for a laugh because you can see the inevitable car-crash coming from a mile off, but you still can’t help but stick around to witness the carnage. You know the type. Often seen making huge commitments around New Year (or after a milestone birthday or divorce) when they decide that they’re going to make the switch from being hugely overweight, eating nothing but junk-food, never exercising, drinking a bit too much booze, smoking, staying up late / not getting enough sleep, never taking their make-up off before bed, hoarding clutter, being glued to their phones for 6+ hours a day and always going overdrawn with their bank balance to…BEING ALL THE SUPER-HEALTHY, WHOLE-FOOD EATING, YOGA PRACTICING, REGULAR GYM ATTENDING, VEGAN, MEDITATING, NON-SMOKING, TEE-TOTAL, MARIE KONDO ORGANIZING, SKINCARE GURU FOLLOWING, 8-HOURS-OF-SLEEP GETTING THINGS!
Yeah, strap in baby ’cause these guys are going from 0-60 quicker than a Mitsubishi Evo with go-faster stripes. Day 1, they’re out of the starting blocks telling everyone how they’re so glad they made all these changes. Never again will junk-food pass their lips…in fact they’re never eating any animal products again and are gonna be plant based forever. Alcohol is just so bad for their skin – which they’re now looking after with a recently procured expensive and expansive range of balm cleansers, acids, serums and moisturisers (all totally vegan, naturally) – and they’re just sleeping so much better now that they knocked the evening glass of vino and all that screen-time on the head.
It’s like, they’ve become a whole new person overnight. Only they haven’t. Because whilst they’re starting out with the best of intentions, all the changes they’ve made are really just superficial and they haven’t done any work on addressing why they had accumulated all those bad habits in the first place. So little by little, the enthusiasm starts to wane as the enormity of all these readjustments to their lifestyle really hits home. First they might admit to maybe letting one or two of these changes fall by the wayside because “just so busy with work and kids and life” and maybe they’ll get a little less frequent with the status updates about how “green tea really is tons better than a venti hazelnut latte” until eventually they just sort of drop off the radar. Their “life journey” channels suddenly go dead and their Instagram has been relegated to the odd photo of the kids, the dog or some re-blogged vague quote about how “you have to find inner peace before you can bring peace to the rest of the world”.
Yep, they crash. Crash and burn. And why? Because despite them having all the best intentions regarding a complete overhaul of their lifestyle, they jumped in the deep-end before they’d even figured out how to swim. Change is hard. Making changes that last a long time is even harder; it requires a lot of self-awareness, an understanding of why you need to change a thing and a realistic plan for how you intend to implement said change. Trying to do this for more than one area of your life at a time is even harder. It involves twice the amount of inner work, twice the amount of planning and twice the amount of commitment and accountability. Suddenly attempting to change MULTIPLE areas of your life and going from a fat, lazy, junk-food eating, messy, disorganised nightmare to a 100% zen, plant-based yogi, is virtually impossible. None of us got to being hugely overweight, replete with a multitude of bad habits, overnight; we picked them up and allowed them to get worse over time. So it’s going to take a lot of time to undo all those learned behaviours and fix all the areas of our life that we’re desperate to change.
I’m not saying you can’t overhaul your life completely and become a better, fitter, healthier version of yourself. But when you try to “do all the things” at once, you’re setting yourself up for failure. And that failure will not only weigh heavy on you – either making you feel desolate and unmotivated to try again, or doomed to return to that hamster-wheel of craziness, time and again, because you “ain’t no quitter” but you also never fricking learn. It’s dull and it’s unsexy and it’s not what anyone wants to hear, but you have to be willing to take the time to address each change you want to implement on its own, and get to a point where it becomes second-nature to you, before you move onto the next issue.
Thirdly, we have “The Ratcheters”. These specimens are also real impatient, but unlike the “All Or Nothing Overhaulers” they tend to take just the one aspect that they’re hoping to change and slowly but surely, they ramp up the intensity with which they approach it. They’ll tell you
“It’s absofrickinglutely a lifestyle change!”
but what starts out looking like a sensible, long-term plan soon morphs into some hyper-wargamed need to cross the finishing-line, FAST! Of course, they’ll be saying all the right things about how much they “love this new WOE!” and that they “really do want to” do this new thing for the rest of their lives. But if you pay enough attention to them you’ll notice a bit of ‘mission creep’ start to emerge. Maybe they’ll start off by upping the frequency or intensity of their exercise regimen. Of course this alone isn’t a bad thing – progressive overload is the most popular strategy for those who want to attain continued fitness goals – but unless this new uptick is a permanently implemented change that someone intends to stick with going forward, all they’re doing is making a big push for faster results; results that won’t necessarily be something that they can expect to last once they hit goal.
Or perhaps they’ll start to shave off extra calories or carbs from their intake, not because of any natural reduction in hunger, but because they know it will help them reach their goal quicker. Maybe they’ll suddenly declare that they’re going to go zero-carb / carnivore; but not for the actual lifelong health benefits – no they just want those faster results on the scale. Sure, eating less will probably lead to faster weight-loss, but at what cost? First there’s the problem with prolonged restriction and its propensity to lead to moments of weakness and subsequent bingeing. Newsflash! Your body doesn’t like being starved and if you try to do so, it’s gonna do everything in its power to thwart even the most strong-willed dieter. And even if you DO manage to stick to your heavily restricted plan, your body will respond by lowering your metabolism so it can get by on whatever meagre rations you allow it to consume. That metabolic change isn’t just a temporary glitch either; those maladapted biological responses can stick around long after you decide to ditch the diet, potentially leading to a permanent tendency to gain weight easily and a life-long struggle to lose weight. Talk about a literal prescription for a lifetime spent yo-yo dieting.
And then there’s the “challenges”. Oof, lol. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a little gentle, supportive motivation from fellow travellers. But I don’t think that taking your own personal decision to implement permanent life changes, and making it competitive is a particularly good idea. Whether it’s something you publicly declare that you’re going to undertake by yourself, or a group-centric approach to doing better than others, by changing the focus from internal to external, you’re altering the way you view your goal. Whether you realise it or not, this shift in focus can actually cause a fragmenting of any solid mental framework you had previously worked so hard at developing. It’s no longer about you making gradual changes towards a better, healthier self for the long-term. Now it’s about making sure that you show up and provide some results (good or bad) for your audience or fellow competitors.
Whether you’re immediately aware of it or not, this level of performative success inevitably takes its toll on you, bringing about anxiety, stress, fluctuation in moods and an often subconscious adjustment to one’s eating habits in order to be seen to be doing the thing that you said you would.
“But Blue, this is what keeps me accountable, duh!”
Okay I get that you think that, but the actual evidence based studies surrounding the act of publicly declaring our goal intentions really doesn’t bear that out. In fact the research at NYU, led by Peter Gollwitzer, shows the opposite. In a research articled titled ‘When intentions go public: Does social reality widen the intention-behavior gap?’ (Psychological Science, 20, 612-618) Gollwitzer surmised that the simple act of sharing your goal publicly can make you less likely to do the work to achieve it. I know most of y’all aren’t going to want to read an entire research paper so here’s the abstract:
“Based on Lewinian goal theory in general and self-completion theory in particular, four experiments examined the implications of other people taking notice of one’s identity-related behavioral intentions (e.g., the intention to read law periodicals regularly to reach the identity goal of becoming a lawyer). Identity-related behavioral intentions that had been noticed by other people were translated into action less intensively than those that had been ignored (Studies 1–3). This effect was evident in the field (persistent striving over 1 week’s time; Study 1)and in the laboratory (jumping on opportunities to act; Studies 2 and 3), and it held among participants with strong but not weak commitment to the identity goal (Study 3). Study 4 showed, in addition, that when other people take notice of an individual’s identity-related behavioral intention, this gives the individual a premature sense of possessing the aspired-to identity.”When intentions go public: Does social reality widen the intention-behavior gap? Psychological Science, 20, 612-618.
In the results of this study and subsequent studies performed on other students, the experimenters found that the participants whose intentions were known tended to act less on their intentions than those whose intentions were unknown. The researchers concluded that telling people what you want to achieve creates a premature sense of completeness. While you feel a sense of pride in letting people know what you intend to do, that pride doesn’t motivate you and can in fact hurt you later on.
When you write down or think about your intentions, there’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be. The compelling need to close this gap helps you to act on your intentions. But when you let others know about it, the gap closes because you (artificially) feel the same way you should after completing your intentions. And we see this borne out time and again by those around us who exclaim year upon year that THIS time, THIS year, they’re totally going to get on that diet and lose all the weight…only to falter a week, month or 6 months down the line. So whilst you might think that by embarking upon a little group-challenge, you’re going to give yourself that extra push to meet your goals, chances are you’re really only going to a/ load yourself up with extra anxiety, b/ develop a sort of co-dependent relationship with your fellow contenders as the guaranteed commiseration and geeing up from them floods in any time you choose to go off-plan / fail to see a downward movement on the scale, or c/ really not get the success you want because of reasons outlined above.
“Yeah but Blue, isn’t all this ‘Intention Declaration’ thing exactly what you’re dong with THIS blog?”
Well I can see why you’d think that, but just take a minute to think over what exactly y’all know about me? Do you know my real name? Do you know what I look like? Do you know anything other than the carefully selected chosen fragments of information I’ve chosen to share with y’all on here? Yeah, there’s a reason for that. I’m actually a really private person. When I decided to lose some weight, the only 2 people I told were my doctor and my other half. Not even my family knew. Which is where the whole lockdown thing really played to my strengths, because when it comes to goal setting I’m very much a lone wolf. I set a target, figure out how to get there and then just do it. And I succeed at it. I’m not a team-player by any strength of the imagination, but if you want a task carried out to completion, then just give me a quiet corner I can sequester myself off in and I’ll do it. So being cooped up in the house and ‘socially distanced’ from everyone else was great. I could just get on with losing weight to the knowledge of virtually nobody. Which made it all the funnier come Christmas when I went to stay with my family for a few days and they were gobsmacked. The girl who had forever eschewed the idea of weight-loss suddenly turned up 40+ pounds lighter – and looking younger too, according to a couple of family members.
But yeah, I keep myself to myself for the most part. This blog isn’t a big public tell-all. It’s anonymous. It’s not connected in any way to any of the rest of my life or any of my other online activity. And that was entirely intentional. This blog is for me. It’s my way of recording my efforts and progress as I work my way towards my goal. Yes it’s out there on the internet for anyone to read – and I’m real happy if any of you find it interesting or entertaining – but I’m not remotely beholden to it. Yes I’ve “met” some really lovely other people and enjoyed the interaction, but I could walk away from this blog tomorrow, never even visiting it again, and it wouldn’t have the slightest impact on my life or my weight-loss. This blog is and always will be, primarily a place for me to record my progress and let off some steam with the odd rant ‘n ramble about whatever is currently grinding my gears. It’s not a place for me to report to anyone on how I’m doing, or somewhere I can use to compete with anyone else’s efforts. The only competition I’m in, is with myself – which is exactly how it should be when you’re undertaking a personal goal.
What appear to be very public ‘Declarations Of Intent’ are really just anonymous writings that anyone can stumble upon, without ever knowing who wrote them – or even if any of it is even true (psyche!). I have made zero public declarations regarding my weight or health in my real life and I think (for me anyway) it makes the whole thing much easier. I don’t owe anyone any updates, I don’t have to care about what anyone thinks about the reading on the scale from one day to another…plus the idea of just turning up to meet a friend once lockdown is over and blowing their goddamn minds with my how much I’ve changed, really appeals to my mischievous side, lol. So…no, I don’t have any of the baggage attached to making a public declaration of intent. Whether I blog all the way to my goal (and succeeding at that is a ‘when’ not an ‘if’) or if I just decide that I’m bored with the whole idea, it will have zero impact on the rest of my life or the way in which I achieve my goals.
Anyway, I’ve gotten a bit side-tracked there and this post is getting pretty long, but I guess I just wanted to have a little rant about the ways in which so many people seem to be hell-bent on pretending that they’re making a lifestyle change, when the reality is they’re only looking for a quick-fix. Cause that shit annoys the bejeezus out of me. I hate fakery and BS merchants and people who think that they can pull the wool over everyone’s eyes, while they try to do the exact thing they claim not to be doing. And the 3 forms of BS merchants I talked about today (‘Flip-Floppers’, ‘All-Or-Nothing-Overhaulters’, and The ‘Ratcheters’) are the ones I’m seeing the most all over the various weight-loss community. They love trying to up the ante in a desperate attempt to get faster results, which is in direct contradiction to a fundamental principle of obesity management: you do not do things to lose weight that you are unlikely to continue doing to keep the weight off.
Too many people seem to think that if only they could lose some weight now, they will somehow be able maintain that lower body weight in the long-term with less effort. “If I could just get thin I could totally then be and stay thin forever!”
Sure, Jan. That’s why it’s worked so far for you up until now, right?
If you take anything away from this post let it be this: dishonesty is a pretty shitty way to interact with other people and will inevitably, eventually lead to people losing interest in what you’ve got to say or what you’re claiming to achieve. But the person you absolutely NEED to be truly honest with, is yourself. People see whatever you show them, but you can’t lie to yourself. Not if you want to have any chance of succeeding with ANY of your goals.
Keep it real folks