When we make the commitment to start a weight loss journey, even the most realistic lot amongst us have a very unrealistic picture of what it’s going to look like. Most have at least the basic idea of what a healthy diet and exercise lifestyle contain, but few correctly visualize all three phases.
We all know the BEFORE part and the behavior it took to get us there. Sure many of us come up with a thousand reasons why our poor eating or physical lethargy are an acceptable lifestyle, but, whether we choose to admit it or not, we know how it happened. Many choose to blame every thing and every one in their life for getting there. Still others don’t think they have a problem at all and even go as far as to claim the “healthy fat guy” excuse, though even that has recently been somewhat dispelled. Truth is no one has ever really committed to a long-term weight loss goal and dedicated legitimate effort to it without at least taking an assessment of where they are at that moment and, at least to an extent, how they got there.
Since an astronomical number of “diets” fail – the latest data says over 80% of lifestyle changes don’t make it to three months – most people have tried multiple version. Those experiences give most of us a pretty solid grasp on what the DURING phase looks like. While I won’t dwell here for long and attempt to intelligently pontificate on “fad diets” versus “healthy lifestyles”, whether you’ve been looking to lose two pounds or two hundred, you know what that phase looks like. You’ve fought that battle with yourself. You’ve fallen off the horse and, hopefully, gotten back up. You’ve cursed the existence of kale and swore that these three weeks were the longest in your life and were convinced that it felt like this hell was going to last forever.
As someone who has been through that war… I feel you… but it doesn’t last forever. The next phase does.
That’s the tricky part about AFTER.
Maintenance is the crazy Uncle that you hide in the basement when it comes to weight loss. You know he’s there. You don’t talk about him. But, eventually you’re going to have to deal with him… and it’s hard to predict where it’s going to go. Oh… and he’s never leaving.
Look at the average book in the $61 billion weight loss industry. 200 pages plus about the DURING part. Diet. Recipes. Exercise. Various tips and shortcuts. Pages and pages of “evidence” to back up why it’s the best one on the market. But, how much of that same book is dedicated to maintenance? 3-4 pages if you’re lucky?
It’s like someone spending three years showing you how to meticulously build a helicopter, but never teaching you how to fly it. They just toss you the keys when you’re done and wish you luck. How’s that going to end?
The AFTER phase lasts for the rest of your life. Why do so few people ever talk about it? Most of us go into it completely unprepared and unrealistic. So many people view a weight loss journey as having an exit strategy. They expect to get to a certain point on the road and go back to, at best, a modified version of the BEFORE phase if not back to their old ways completely. That’s simply not reality.
The AFTER phase should look strikingly like the DURING.
I know you don’t want to hear that, especially if you’re in the DURING right now. But, that’s why losing weight the right way is important. That’s why fad diets don’t have long-term success, because that lifestyle isn’t realistic for the long-term. That’s why patients who get weight loss surgeries often gain the weight back, because eating a cup of food isn’t a realistic lifestyle.
While you’re losing the weight, you need to make choices that you can live with for a long time. Don’t try to cut out… learn to cut down. Find exercise or an activity that you love. It doesn’t have to be the treadmill or cross fit. It can be basketball, tennis, or even walking… just make it something that you love to do. And, most importantly, accept the fact that it won’t always be perfect. Maintenance isn’t a straight line.
AFTER is the rest of your life. It doesn’t stop and it doesn’t have a finish line. Good news is, that means it’s not a race and it can’t beat you unless you let it. Find the balance that you can live with and keep running.