Hi friends, it’s Elizabeth here, and I am so excited to share Episode 810 of Primal Potential with you! Today I am joined by the Chief Operating Officer for Primal Potential Suzie Barbour, and for the first time on the podcast, we are pulling back the curtain on why I have my coaching clients focus so much on mindset when many of them sign up for the 12 Weeks to Transformation with the goal of losing weight.
You’re not going to want to miss this conversation! Listen or read on as we do a deep-dive on my #1 coaching strategy for achieving any goal—transforming your mindset!
Why Not Weight Loss?
Several months back when Suzie started working for Primal Potential one of the first things she noticed was that everybody wants to hear strategies about fat loss.
From her perspective as the COO who is trying to grow the business, it would be a natural move for us to come up with a food plan or make content surrounding the typical themes that people associate with weight loss, like exercise and food, but I always say no. No to food plans and no to new products based specifically on the theme of ‘weight loss’.
Suzie says that people are inspired by my weight loss journey, having lost and successfully kept off well over 100 pounds, and this is what customers are saying they want. So she kept asking me, why not weight loss?
It’s not that I don’t want to help people with that goal, it’s that I want to help people with that goal in a different way that is going to be far more effective than a list of foods or a rule book.
A few years ago I did address weight loss directly. We had a program called the Fat Loss Fast Track that helped hundreds of clients lose weight. But we changed that program. We reshaped it into the 12 Weeks to Transformation and the reason I did this is because client after client was coming into the 12 weeks with the goal of losing weight, but they weren’t just doing that. They were transforming their finances, relationships, and fitness routines. They began taking better care of their homes, and becoming more organized.
We realized that it’s not about weight at all but what it really takes to create change.
(4:19) Why Not Create an Eating Plan?
In the Primal Potential Facebook group, someone wrote a post asking others to share what types of eating plans they are following. This person said they want to eat less, cut portions, but are feeling anxious and doubtful about the level of strictness to their diet, so they will probably revert back to a food plan they’ve tried before like Weight Watchers.
I hear this from podcast listeners all of the time who have had some success with a previous food plan, but can’t stick with it now. And let me tell you, I tried this for decades.
Anyone can follow a plan for a little while, but then stress, vacation, or illness occurs and people get derailed and think to themselves “why can’t I make myself do it” or “why can’t I get back on the imaginary wagon?”
All of this is a result of the way you think.
The idea of being ‘on the wagon’ is a start-tomorrow mindset and it stems from the way that you think—the way that your mind generates excuses. At Primal Potential we want to help people become better thinkers and problem solvers so that our excuses won’t keep holding us back.
I very strongly believe that there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of ways to lose weight. There is no one food religion we need to subscribe to. Success in this area is not a matter of routine but a way of thinking.
Suzie and I both know we could make a ton of money with a 30-day plan for fat loss that tells people exactly what to eat but that’s not what we do. We create lasting results for our clients. The way we do that is through mindset.
People find our program because they are seeking weight loss solutions, often having spent money on other programs. A lot of those people feel a sense of shame because they have invested time and money in weight loss solutions that worked for them in the past but don’t work in every season of their lives. There is no reason to feel shame around that. Before I lost my weight, I didn’t have the tools I have now and you don’t know what you don’t know.
But as Suzie explains in this episode, we see this all of the time in the 12 Weeks to Transformation. Once our clients have a grasp on this toolbox, they use their tools to create sustainable change in areas of their lives that they didn’t know they wanted to improve.
(10:34) If someone really wants to drop 20 lbs, should they focus on losing weight or only mindset?
I am not telling anyone not to focus on weight loss. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel great in your body and get rid of excess body fat–either for cosmetic or health-related reasons. I’m also not saying that instead of focusing on weight, people should focus on mindset. What I am saying is that when you upgrade the way you think, you come at our goals in a way that is much more sustainable.
When we focus on mindset, we slowly take power away from our doubts and bad habits. I eat better now because I am a more well-rounded thinker. My old pattern was that I would get super stressed or have a bad day and tell myself that I didn’t care, I was going to eat ice cream and—whatever—I’ll do better tomorrow. That pattern only changed because I became a better thinker.
So if you say you want to lose weight, I want to help you help yourself, but in a way that addresses the real problem. The real problem isn’t that you don’t know what to eat—that doesn’t have anything to do with it! The real problem is that you aren’t following through on the things you already know will work. And that is happening because of the way you are thinking about it.
Nobody will ever coach you like the voice in your own head. Your outcome hinges entirely on the quality of the voice in your head. When the alarm goes off, and you hit snooze, you are actively being coached by the voice in your head. Make that coaching better and you get better in every way. (Read that again or listen at 13:20).
This is not about ignoring the science of weight loss, but the science alone is not enough. You won’t get results without changing your mindset to address inconsistency, bad habits, or an excuse-generating inner dialogue.
This is especially true in a challenging year like 2020. Hard times are when we need mindset the most. When life is bonkers we are going to grow so much more. If we wait for a season of life that is settled, then we will have missed a huge opportunity to learn, to be in the trenches with the tools.
(18:41) What about people who don’t believe that mindset is actually what they need?
I was that person for so long and I wish I could go back in time and talk some sense into myself. People told me for years that weight loss was all in my head. But I thought they were saying that it wasn’t a weight issue and I was sure that it was. I was defensive because I was scared that focusing on mindset meant not focusing on weight, and I wasn’t willing to not focus on weight. It was only when I took this other approach that I experienced lasting effects.
What I’m telling you is the way to get results with your physical body is by changing the very decision maker in your life. It’s not that we don’t know what to do, it’s that we don’t hold ourselves to the standard of doing it.
Plenty of people have the approach of body acceptance or health at any size and that is not my personal standpoint. If you want to reduce your body fat and feel better in your skin, then I want to do it alongside you. I am connected to that outcome and I recognize that the thing that keeps us from those results is the way we think, make decisions, and talk to ourselves.
When you start the day fired up to make healthier choices but, the next thing you know, you blow the first opportunity you get, that’s mindset. This is what we have to change.
(21:52) The Myth of “I Don’t Care” & Defining Mindset
People tell themselves that they don’t care but that’s not true. People with weight loss concerns care deeply. But when you try diets and programs that don’t work, no one is hearing you say “I don’t care” and challenging you on that idea.
You get a craving for junk food and the coach in your head starts talking to you, saying it doesn’t matter, you’ve failed before, start tomorrow, this one thing won’t hurt. People say they aren’t consistent, but they are. They are consistent with skipping workouts, hitting snooze, or being disorganized. This kind of thinking is what we upgrade in the 12 Weeks to Transformation. We work on shifting the voice in our own heads because that’s where the magic is.
People tell me that they are apprehensive about signing for the 12 Weeks because of a fear that they will disengage. They say, “Elizabeth, I really want you to hold me accountable and prevent me from drifting.” And I say back, I want them to hold themselves accountable and that I will give them the tools to do it.
I’m not always going to be there but the coach in your head will be. And we have to make that a great coach. We are all capable of being great, passionate, purposeful coaches—that is the work we have to do!
I don’t want to create codependency with my clients. My goal is for you to not need me. I want to set all of us free. We have all that we need (and then some) to create change in our lives.
Okay, maybe your mindset needs to change a bit, but I can give you the tools to trust yourself. This is totally possible, especially for those who think it isn’t.
(36:48) My Final Words on Mindset
There are only a few tools that we need. We don’t have to first master weight loss, then finances, then relationships. The reality is that as we use these tools on repeat, every aspect of our lives begins to shift.
No matter who you listen to, gurus, influencers, or trainers, nobody will coach you more than the voice in your head. As you interact with your spouse, when your alarm goes off, when you stand in front of the fridge at 10pm, everything gets easier when you upgrade to the right tools and that’s what we focus on in the 12 Weeks to Transformation.
To learn more about the 12 Weeks to Transformation visit primalpotential.com/transform. For a limited time, anyone who joins the waitlist for the 12 Weeks to Transformation will receive totally FREE access to my new Client Preview Series with me where we tackle topics like consistency, resilience, goal achievement, fat loss, and more!
I think you’re doing too much. Maybe its more clear to say I think you’re trying to do too much. I think you’d get more results, better results, if you focused on doing less. I’m talking specifically about your attempts to lose weight. You’re trying to do too much and you’re setting yourself up for failure in the process.
If someone had told me this a couple years ago I’d have told them to jump off a cliff, so I get it if you’re not on board with me yet but please: keep reading. After all, if I’m right, you can do less and get faster/better results. If I’m wrong, you can go about your merry, frustrated way.
There are 2 primary arguments behind my assertion that you’re trying to do too much. First is the 80/20 rule which I wrote about several weeks ago. The bottom line is this: 80% (or more) of your results come from a mere 20% (or less) of your efforts. So you don’t have to identify EVERYTHING that could help you lose weight and do it all! You just have to identify the MOST impactful 1-2 elements and focus on mastering THOSE. Anything else is going to waste your time and energy while NOT delivering the results you’re hoping for.
But more importantly, willpower is not an unlimited resource. The more you try to draw on it, the less there is for you to access. If you’re expecting to leverage willpower dozens of times a day to achieve success, you’ll be sitting disappointed in front of an empty box of cookies in short order.
Think of willpower as a cell phone battery. The more you use it, the more you drain it. The less there is to draw upon. Your willpower battery might start out fully charged in the morning, but as the day goes on there is less and less available. Have you ever experienced this before? You wake up pumped for the day. You go to the gym and have a killer workout. You make your healthy breakfast and you’re feeling super proud of yourself – all before 8am! You know you’re going to crush the day. This is the beginning of something different. You’re on your way. But then around 2pm you start talking yourself into a little treat. I mean, you’re hungry, you need some energy, you did get a workout in so you kinda deserve it….you start that negotiating process and before you know it you’re eating a candy bar. And since you did that, you might as well save the healthy food you had planned for dinner and pick up a pizza on the way home. You’ll do better tomorrow.
What the heck happened? You were doing so well and your head was in the right place and all of a sudden all hell broke loose. Again. You were so sure you’d be stronger this time. You exhausted your willpower. The battery ran out.
So what can you do about it? Well, the first thing is to try to do less. When you decide that you need to drink more water, exercise daily, avoid sugar, get 10K steps each day, not eat out, avoid processed foods, and whatever else – you’ve taken on too much. You’re asking too much of your willpower. I’m not saying that those aren’t great things to eventually work up to, but in order for them to not draw on your willpower they’ll need to become habitual and that takes TIME.
That takes us back to my first point that you need to focus on the MOST IMPACTFUL elements for YOU. Identify for you 20% (or less). What are your big rocks? What are the 1-3 activities that set you up for success OR the 1-3 activities that set you up for failure?
For example, if you don’t pack your lunch do you inevitably end up going out with co-workers and being tempted by fries and cookies? Then maybe one of your big rocks is to always pack your lunch.
Maybe you know that if you don’t have healthy, easy to prepare options in the fridge you defer to carry out because you’re tired at the end of the day. Then perhaps a big rock for you is to stock up on groceries each week and cook a couple meals ahead of time for nights when you’re too tired to cook.
Everyone’s big rocks will be different but you need to identify yours and focus on that. Practice, practice, practice until it becomes a habit. THEN, and only then, add more.
The other important component for success is to tackle your big rocks as early in the day as possible. If working out is a big rock for you, get it done in the morning. If prepping food is yours, do it first thing. Since willpower is exhaustible and we draw on it during the day, you’ll have far more success if you knock out your big rocks as early as you can.
Finally, you want to automate everything that is NOT a big rock. Willpower isn’t just exhausted by activities that require willpower. Willpower is exhausted by activities that require our mental focus, attention and deciding. Decision making, planning, problem solving – all these things zap our willpower reserves. The fewer decisions you have to make, the less you draw on your willpower battery. Here are some examples of how you can automate to conserve willpower:
- Plan your day’s meals the night before. Don’t force yourself to make these decisions on the fly. Extra points if you plan your meals an entire week in advance
- Pick out your outfit before bed
- Establish a morning routine. When your mind follows a routine without decision making it will conserve your willpower.
Why waste your willpower battery on silly decisions like what to wear, what to have for breakfast or whether or not you should hit snooze. Don’t. Automate. Make it simple and stick to your choices. Don’t waste your energy second-guessing your good choices.
The other essential components of conserving your willpower for when you really need it are getting enough sleep and eating well. You need to be well rested and adequately fueled for your brain to function efficiently.
Do less. Automate more. Experience significantly more results!!
I’m so excited!!! I’ll be taking on a very small group of women for one-on-one fat loss coaching in 2015! This is totally different from every other program out there! Why? Because it is TOTALLY based on YOU and your unique needs. It is not a one-size-fits-all program or plan. I will be working VERY closely with these women for a full year. We will create a CUSTOMIZED game plan every single week based on your preferences, your lifestyle, your goals and your pace. We will talk on the phone every single week. You will have unlimited email access to me. I want you to reach out when you’re struggling, stuck, have questions, need a friend or have something to celebrate! You will get regular motivational and informational emails and we’ll have 2 webinars each month. I’ve created customized tools to help you track your progress so we can perfect your approach as we go. It is going to be absolutely incredible and I cannot wait! This is not about dieting. It is not about restricting or being hungry. Its about overcoming your emotional eating. Tackling the root of your weight issue. Balancing out your metabolic hormones. Conquering your goals. Transforming your life. I’ll be taking applications through December 10th and notifying all applicants by December 15th and we’ll kick this thing off on January 5th! For all the program details, click here. Get your application in before the 10th!!!!!
Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle? Maybe you’ve heard it called the 80/20 rule. I heard about it years ago but it wasn’t until I applied it to my weight loss journey that it really transformed my life. I’m not kidding. This one principle has changed the way I look at just about EVERYTHING! This simple truth allows you to DO LESS yet YIELD MORE.
So this guy named Vilfredo Pareto once observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by only 20% of the people. It was quickly realized that most things in life roughly mimic this ratio:
- 20% of the people generate 80% of the wealth
- 20% of the plants in a garden produce 80% of the bounty
- 20% of employees are responsible for 80% of the workload
Essentially, it boils down to this: 80% of your results come from only 20% of your actions. A powerful 20% of your inputs will generate 80% of your outputs. Read: We are wasting much of our time doing frivolous crap that doesn’t produce the results we’re after!!!
Think about the 80/20 rule in your own life:
- 20% of your household chores make 80% of the difference. Vacuuming the floors + cleaning the bathrooms + wiping down the kitchen counters = 80% clean. Sure, you can spend your time doing the other 80% of stuff but you won’t feel like it is clean unless you’ve tackled that omnipotent 20%.
- 20% of your problems account for 80% of your stress. Its the big rocks that keep us stressed out, right? Job, money, etc. Yes, there are lots of little stressors but its those couple biggies that cause the problems.
- 20% of your projects take up 80% of your time. At home or at work, there are most often a few key things that seem to take up the majority of our day.absolute
Here’s where the powerful part comes in. When you identify, in any area of your life, which activities fall into that 20%, you can focus on those things, de-emphasize the time you’re spending dealing with the rest of the stuff, and see DRAMATIC improvements.
I have applied this to my fat loss journey and I’ll tell you, it has been transformative. You can read fat loss tips all damn day long. Everyone has an opinion and you can create a huge list of all the things that will help you burn fat:
- Eat more vegetables
- Eat less sugar
- Focus on protein
- Watch your fat intake
- Avoid gluten
- Count calories
- Measure portions
- Don’t eat out
- Prepare your food ahead of time
- Do lots of cardio
- Lift weights
- Get enough sleep
- Limit your stress levels
- Avoid chemicals
- Take leisure walks
- Balance your hormones
- Take specific supplements
- Drink protein shakes
- Blah blah blah
It can quickly become overwhelming. It can make you feel like its completely impossible to keep all those balls in the air. Oftentimes, the 100% view can keep us from acting AT ALL because it seems so impossible. But there is good news!! 80% of your results will come from only 20% of your activities! You can pick the most impactful 20% and those big rocks will generate the majority of the success you are after!!!
Now, keep in mind that those 20% activities won’t be the same for everyone! You need to figure this out for yourself. Don’t waste your time and energy watching what other people eat, how often they exercise, what type of exercise they do, what supplements they take, etc etc. Invest your time and energy monitoring what works for YOU and then focus on those activities. Identify which activities have the most pay off for YOUR body.
Though I don’t want you to assume that they are YOUR 20% activities, I’ll tell you what I’ve found mine to be. These are the big rocks I focus on. Sure, I might throw in other stuff from time to time, but I know that my results are going to come from these things, so they become my non-negotiables. Anything else is gravy.
- Documentation. I write down my goals and I write down everything I eat. If it goes in my mouth, I write it down. This not only helps keep me accountable, but it allows me to go back and troubleshoot. Keeping my goals in front of me helps me stay focused and motivated.
- Lifting heavy weights. Sure, I do cardio. But I know that my results come much more from challenging my body and the hormonal response generated when I lift heavy weights. I lift a minimum of three times each week. Sometimes 4.
- Emphasizing non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats and protein at every meal and limiting my carbohydrates to my evening meal. Its not complicated. I don’t count calories. I don’t measure portions. I don’t have a strict eating pattern. I eat when I’m hungry. I eat foods I love. Before dinner I enjoy non-starchy veggies, fats and proteins. At dinner, I do the same, but I’ll often include a clean carbohydrate like sweet potato or apple.
I could generate a long list of other things that support my fat loss like sleep, walking, interval training and a million other things. Sure, they’re great. But they also take time and effort. If they happen, awesome. That’s fantastic. But I invest my energy into my 20% because I know that’s where my results come from.
Your 20% will probably be different from mine! Do you know that you’re much more likely to stay on track when you plan out a weekly menu? Maybe that’s one of your big rocks! Are you someone who really notices a MAJOR difference when you prep your food a few times a week? Make that one of you 20% items. Maybe you know your success relies heavily on getting enough sleep. That should be on your list. At the end of the day it comes down to this: become a student of your own behavior and motivations. There is more learning that can come from knowing yourself than from any blog or expert out there.
What’s your 20%? Find it. Focus on it. That’s where your energy should be spent.
I was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast recently while I driving home from Asheville, NC. I don’t remember who he was interviewing but they talked about a concept that really resonated with me and I wanted to share it with you.
The concept was that of pursuing 1% improvement. What if you could improve yourself by 1% every month? Where would you be in 1 year? How would your life be different in 5 years or 10 years? 1% improvement seems very manageable, like something you could work towards in just minutes each day.
Though I wasn’t actively working towards a specific 1% improvement, its this “baby step” approach that I used to help me achieve massive weight loss. I knew I couldn’t do everything all at once. I had tried that before. I would quickly become overwhelmed and feel like a failure and give up. I took an incremental approach to my weight loss and it made all the difference. I’d work to adopt one small change, practice it, master it, become comfortable with it and then move on to something else. Over time it resulted in a complete, radical transformation.
It was late September when I first heard this concept and I decided I’d do an experiment, taking it quite literally. I decided to pursue a 1% improvement in my body composition each month for 3 months. Every morning when waking up I’d write down the one or two things I was going to do that day to push towards that goal. Some days it was a workout. Other days it was a commitment to avoid specific trigger foods that were challenging me (nuts is a big one for me!). I am determined to reduce my body fat by 1% each month in October, November and December.
What if you decided to improve your mindset by 1% each month. Let’s say that this month you decide to work on eliminating all negative self talk. Each day when you wake up you write down 1 thing you love about yourself. Every time negative thoughts come into your head you replace them with the days one positive affirmation. Think about how much improved you’d better and happier you’d feel after one month!
What if you decided to improve your health by 1% this month. To do that, maybe you opt to cut out artificial sweeteners. Every morning you take a minute to think about why its important to you and how you’re going to go about it. I recently did this and I was surprised at what a positive difference it made in my cravings and hunger. Until I removed the artificial (and natural) sweeteners, I didn’t realize how much they were increasing my hunger and cravings! When I stopped putting stevia in my coffee and drinking naturally sweetened diet sodas my sugar cravings virtually disappeared. There’s no question that this improved both my health and my physique.
Sure, 1% is a little arbitrary and requires some estimation, but the bottom line is this: when you constantly strive for very small, manageable improvements, the effect is exponential. A year or two from now you’ll hardly recognize the healthier, happier you!
I get emails and private Facebook messages every single day with people asking the same type of question: “Is fruit OK to eat for fat loss?”, “How many calories should I be eating?”, “How many times each week should I workout?”, “Can I eat peanut butter and still lose weight?”
I do not have the answers to any of those questions. No one can answer those questions except YOU. There are lots of people in the diet and fitness industry who will take your money and tell you exactly what to eat, when to exercise and how. They’ll tell you what’s off limits, what’s fair play and answer the above types of questions all day long. I have an issue with that.
Have you ever used a GPS system to get some place? You diligently follow the prompts – the automated voice directing your every turn. Get off course? No problem. You keep going down the wrong road until you’re rescued by “recalculating!” and then you obediently turn and merge only as you’re told. You arrive at your destination and have little idea how you got there or how to get back. You hardly noticed the scenery or the road conditions; you were too busy focused on the careful turn-by-turn directions. You certainly couldn’t get back without similar assistance.
Following someone else’s food and nutrition rules is a lot like that – you put your head down and follow someone else’s rules. Unfortunately, you don’t have the benefit of “recalculating!” to save you if you get off course. Sure, there’s benefit to basic guidelines for fat loss nutrition. But they are only a benefit if you realize they are just that – guidelines. They only “hard and fast” fat loss rules are the ones you create as you learn your body and how you respond to different types of food. Following someone else’s prescription can backfire – it can prevent you from developing the awareness of your body, your hormones and your needs that is ESSENTIAL if you want long-term success.
Our bodies are different. What works for me might not work for you. You might tolerate certain foods that I can’t. You might be able to enjoy fruit and peanut butter every day and lose fat while I can’t. If you have these types of questions let me answer you this way: I can act as your compass but not as your map. I can point you in the right direction based on my personal experience, education, and research but I cannot draw you a turn-by-turn map for your fat loss journey. That’s YOUR job. When you understand the general direction in which you need to go for both health and fat loss, you’re the one who has to see how the smaller details work, or don’t work, for you. You’re the one who has to pay attention to how foods, lifestyle factors and workouts impact your results, your hormone balance, your energy, mood, hunger and cravings. That’s your job.
To be successful in achieving fat loss that you effortlessly maintain for life, you need to pay attention. YOU need to chart the course. As you get further and further into your journey, it needs to become increasingly customized to what works for you. You want to follow a course by compass, not by map. Set out to find your own answers to questions like:
- What foods satisfy my cravings?
- What foods send me into a downward binging spiral?
- What foods keep me fullest, longest?
- What foods give me the most energy?
- What foods do I look forward to eating?
- What are the most manageable foods to prepare?
- What are the most convenient and satisfying snacks?
If we polled 100 people who have lost 50 lbs or more, I bet they’d all have different answers to those questions and guess what – none of them are wrong!
Here are a few things I learned about my own food preferences and unique fat loss factors that I really could NOT have learned if I had been following someone else’s plan.
- I am very sensitive to carbohydrates. Not only do they NOT give me energy, they do not fill me up and they make me retain a significant amount of water. I can eat carbohydrates, but my fat loss results are best when I only include them in my last meal of the day.
- Dietary fat increases my energy and keeps me full. Starting my day with fat (usually in the form of MCT oil in my coffee) satisfies my hunger, keeps me full for hours, gives me energy for my workout and improves my ability to focus.
- Volume is my friend. I eat a lot of green, fibrous veggies like brussel sprouts and cabbage. Its not uncommon for me to have as much as 2-3 cups at each meal. It takes me longer to get through my meal and fills me up.
- I need to limit my protein intake. Yup, I said it. For months I was overeating protein. Any food, in excess, will prevent fat loss. I was overdoing it with the protein. I have to be careful of this one.
- Bars are a major trigger for me. It’s hard to have just one. I’m better off avoiding protein bars completely and if I do have one I won’t buy a box, I’ll just buy one.
If I were to try to map out your entire fat loss formula, I’d be doing you a major disservice in the long term. The better you know your body and your individual response to food, stress and exercise, the more effective you will be at achieving your fat loss goals and maintaining them for life. Dig in, do the work, pay attention to your body and find those answers for yourself.
Back when I routinely yo-yo dieting and followed ridiculous weight-loss plans, being “on” a diet meant the end of my social life. I’d refuse to go out with friends or out to dinner with my husband. Not only could I not handle the temptation of the mixed drinks and bread basket, but I felt like making healthy, fat-loss choices would be nearly impossible no matter where I went. Fortunately, now I know better.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t go out to eat all that often but that’s really because I prefer the healthy, simple food I prepare for myself to that which is prepared for me at a restaurant. I don’t fear eating out and it I now know that eating out doesn’t mean having to take a night off from my fat loss goals. I can make great, fat loss choices no matter where I end up.
For example – a couple weeks ago I enjoyed dinner out at an Asian fusion restaurant. TONS of great fat loss options! I always avoid meats that are breaded or fried and look for baked, grilled or broiled proteins. I’ll usually skip the starch (potato, pasta, rice) and request double veggies, even if I have to pay a little extra. On this particular night, I enjoyed an insanely delicious dish of scallops with veggies over a corn puree. Corn is a starchy vegetable so I only enjoyed a couple of bites.
A couple weeks before that I was at an out-of-town conference and had to choose a restaurant within walking distance. I ended up at a cute little brew pub that had a fantastic burger menu. Right up my fat loss alley! I ordered a bison burger with avocado and bacon, asked that they hold the bun and substitute my fries for a side salad. It was absolutely delicious!!
Not long before that I went to a barbeque joint with my husband and his friend. Sure, the corn bread sounded good but it wasn’t more appealing than reaching my goals! I ordered a steak that came with a choice of two sides. I passed on the corn bread and mashed potatoes and instead got a double side of steamed broccoli.
One last example for ya! I was visiting home and took my grandmother out for lunch. The menu was pretty limited but I knew I could find something that would work. I ordered a green salad with beets and goat cheese. I asked them not to include the candied nuts (packed with sugar!!) and to please add chicken and put the dressing on the side. I was satisfied and left without any guilt (or hunger!).
My point is this: do not stress about going out. Enjoy lunches and dinners with your friends. Let your spouse treat you to a nice evening out. But do not let every trip to a restaurant be an excuse to blow off your goals and go to town on the bread basket. You can enjoy great meals and feel totally satisfied without going totally off the rails. I promise!!!
I tried to lose weight for over 20 years. Sometimes I was able to but I inevitably piled the weight back on – always more quickly than I had lost it. I doubted my ability to ever permanently lose the weight and truly be healthy. I thought I’d always have to rely on gimmicks, tricks, crazy ridiculous diets or diet pills if I EVER wanted to get to a “healthy” weight and stay there.
In my late twenties I embarked on a totally different journey. I was determined to get out of debt. Between my husband and I, we had well over $100,000 in student loans and other small, miscellaneous debts – just over $130,000, actually. After reading a Dave Ramsey book, I focused on the goal with unrivaled intensity. We met, and surpassed, our goal in less than 2 years. Little did I know that the process of getting out of debt would teach me everything I needed to know to finally tackle my lifelong weight struggles. It’s true. The crazy parallels between paying off $130,000 and losing over 130 pounds are astonishing. Here’s what getting out of debt taught me about life and extreme weight loss.
Your habits catch up with you
Accruing debt is a lot like gaining weight or delaying weight loss. You figure its ‘just this one’ little expense you’re putting on credit. You’ll deal with it next month. You really need a new outfit for your class reunion so you might as well use the store credit card so you can save 20%. You’ll just use it this once. You go ahead and take out a little more than your financial needs for tuition – you’ll use it for books and maybe a plane ticket to visit your best friend. Just this once. Next semester you’ll save more and only take borrow what you truly need. You’ve exhausted your budget for the month but you really want to have a night out with your spouse so you put it on the credit card – its just one night – you’ll pay it off as soon as you get paid…
All those ‘just this once’ moments catch up with you. You can’t ignore them forever. They add up. In the moment, they seem like small concessions but five years later you’re looking back on a mountain of debt. Isn’t that true of how we gain weight or fail to lose it? We figure one cupcake won’t hurt. You’ll do better tomorrow. Then you go on vacation and you figure you might as well “let loose” – what’s a week? Your co-worker brings donuts in to work and you justify that one little donut won’t do much. Just like with debt, all those small concessions add up to years of damage to deal with. Your little habits DO count. Small concessions make all the difference.
A season of discipline doesn’t mean you’ll never enjoy your favorite things again.
We could not have paid off our debts without discipline. There was no way to have our cake and eat it too. We had to cut back. We had to temporarily pass up vacation opportunities or other fun things we might have otherwise been all about. But doing so for a season opened up many other opportunities that we wouldn’t have had if we were still in debt. The same is true of weight loss. Yes, you’ll have to be disciplined. You’ll have to be focused. You’ll have to say “no, thank you” to a few things. But it’s only for a season. Sure, you won’t ever be able to mindlessly indulge in anything and everything just like we won’t ever rack up 130,000 in debt ever again. But a season of discipline and saying “no, thank you” doesn’t mean you’ll never eat ice cream again or ever enjoy your favorite pizza. For years I quit diet after diet because I felt like I had signed on for a lifetime of deprivation and misery. It’s all in your perspective. A season of focused discipline opens all kinds of doors.
You can’t hit a target you can’t see.
Getting out of debt was a huge goal. We needed a plan and a timeline. It wasn’t going to happen overnight. We had to know where we were headed and what it would take to get there. I knew exactly what debt was getting eliminated next and approximately how long it would take to get there. I had to look at our budget and figure out what could be cut, what could stay and come up with creative ways to bring in more cash. Sure, the unexpected will come up but you must have goals. Without goals and a plan, not only would it have been hard to stay motivated, it probably would have been impossible to get where we wanted to go. Weight loss is no different. You’ve got to break it down into smaller parts. Establish small, short-term goals and focus your energy towards them. Have a long-term plan but feverishly pursue short-term targets.
Celebrate your progress.
I can’t tell you how excited I would get when I reached one of my small goals. I’d look forward to it for weeks and be over the moon to pay off a small student loan or get a car title in the mail. It was empowering and such a great symbol of the hard work and discipline it took to get there. It’s easy, however, to get caught up in how much further it is to go. Yes, the journey continues; the journey always continues, but you need to stop and take a moment to celebrate how far you’ve come. There’s no question that this is also true of weight loss. It can be easy to overlook your victories because you feel frustrated and discouraged by how far there still is to go. I get that. But I can also guarantee you that if you don’t celebrate the little victories along the way, you’ll really wish you had. You’ll look back at those moments you brushed right past – fitting into those jeans you love or getting under 200 lbs for the first time in years – and you’ll see how major they were. Celebrate your progress. Be proud of yourself. Allow other people to celebrate you. It all matters. It’s all a big deal.
Removing major stressors transforms your entire life.
When we were in debt, I can’t say that it was particularly stressful – we were able to easily pay our bills – it just frustrated me that so much of our income was tied up and we were unable to enjoy it. It was more of a nuisance than a stressor. However, the process of getting out of debt was incredibly stressful. At the time, my husband wasn’t really on board with the process. He didn’t like not having all the extra cash at his disposal to go play and have fun. THAT was stressful. When we paid off our debt, not only was that stress gone, but it eliminated countless other pressures and stress. Being unhappy with my job was suddenly far less stressful because financially, I didn’t need that job anymore. It was amazing how removing one stressor truly transformed so many other areas. This truth is magnified when it comes to weight loss. Being unhappy with your weight impacts every area of your life – your professional life, your social life, your marriage – you name it. Your confidence and your happiness is paramount. When you finally tackle your weight struggles once and for all it will transform your entire life in ways you could never anticipate.
Progress isn’t linear.
Yup, I’m a planner (everyone who knows me is reading that sentence laughing at what a massive understatement it is!!). I’d like to say that I laid out my plan and everything went smoothly from there. Of course that’s not how it happened. Things came up. Unexpected tax bills, medical bills, home repairs, etc. There will always be setbacks. There will always be things that happen and you can use them as an excuse to throw in the towel and say “well, this isn’t going to work afterall” or you can embrace the opportunity to get creative and find a work around. There wasn’t a single month in two years that went exactly how I planned but you know what? We reached our goals anyway. Progress is not linear in any area of life. Not finances and certainly not weight loss. The same thing happened while I was losing weight. I had a plan. I thought I knew how things would play out. But there were injuries, bad weeks, periods where my body just seemed to not respond to what I was doing. Yes, sometimes I wanted to quit. Sometimes I felt like it just wasn’t working and I questioned the point of it all. But that’s the way ALL journeys will go. Progress isn’t linear so don’t expect it to be. More importantly, don’t use that as an excuse to give up on yourself or your goals.
It’s a lifestyle
If I were to return to the same habits I had when I was in debt, I’d pile the debt right back up. If I were to stop using a budget, even now that I’m debt free, it would be pretty hard to avoid spending more than I make and I’d definitely have trouble setting aside extra cash to save and invest. Getting out of debt fostered habits that are now so deeply engrained in me. It is a lifestyle. Financial responsibility, spending less than you make, and assigning every dollar that comes in is a way of life. I will never go back. This is exactly what is required for lasting weight loss, as well. Sure, I can enjoy ice cream from time to time, just like I can splurge on a vacation or beautiful handbag. But those occasions are the exception, not the rule. Losing weight is about so much more than shedding pounds. It’s about adopting healthy habits that increase your energy, improve your move and prolong your life. It’s not a temporary way of eating. It’s a lifestyle. You can’t ever go back to old, unhealthy habits and expect to maintain your results.
Help yourself and then help others.
As we got out of debt we found that many of our friends and family members were also struggling. We have had countless opportunities to share our story with others and encourage them to do what it takes to pay down their debt. We told them what it had done for us and how we made it work. We shared the hard parts and the great parts. I know we helped a lot of people. I think we still do. The same thing has happened throughout my weight loss journey. As people saw changes in me, they wanted to know what I was doing and how I was making it work. I started to share bits and pieces of my story, offering whatever I could to those who asked. Now, sharing my journey is my life. I don’t want anyone else to struggle the way I have. I know that the more I help myself, the more I have the ability and the opportunity to help others.
Change is hard. Extreme weight loss is rare. Whether its getting out of debt, losing weight, breaking an addiction, changing jobs….its hard. It takes work. It takes discipline. It takes endurance and perseverance. But the skills you’ll learn along the way will be catalysts to achieve absolutely ANYTHING you can dream of.