Little by little - to keep the results

So for my first blog post I thought I would stay on theme and start slowly and ‘little by little’ by building your knowledge base up over time, until you are fully able to hold a discussion about the pros and cons of sugar and your metabolic rate. For now though, we are going to focus on an approach to weight loss, that I believe will help you start to steer yourself slowly to a more healthy lifestyle. Let’s not go crazy, seeing as we have only just met!

No one likes huge, rapid change because it forces the fear of the unknown or the undesired, to come rushing towards you like a bull approaching a matador and that is just too scary. This is the reason that many people who try to make major changes in habits, that require will power to see through, tend to give up and go back to old, unhealthy ways. Have you ever tried to go cold turkey on giving up cigarettes or sugar? If so you can relate to what I am saying – it is just much easier to give up, on giving up.

So when someone says that you can have no more chocolate and that you have to go to the gym 8 times a week and you will get the body you have always dreamed of, in just 2 weeks, you are filled with thoughts of just ‘no!’How about if someone told you could still eat chocolate but only after you work out and not after a big meal? Could that be something that you could work with? These sorts of small changes that mean you do not feel that someone has stolen your favourite toy, are the ones that you can make with ease. A series of small changes will start to alter your beliefs about what is possible and you build your new beliefs from there.

In 2010 Dave Brailsford was given the role of Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team) and was widely credited with using the concept of ‘marginal gains’ to create hugely impressive results, that ultimately led to the GB cycling team winning nearly 70% of the gold medals available at the 2012 Olympic Games. His concept was such that if he could make improvements of 1% in a number of areas, those 1% gains would all add up to meaningful difference in total performance. So let’s take the same approach and apply this to lifestyle differences? If it was good enough for the Olympic team then it is good enough for us!

How this looks on a practical level is that if you take the lift to your 2nd floor office every day, when you know you could take the stairs. So rather than one day deciding to run up to the 4th floor and come back down again, 4 times a day, to get extra exercise, start with taking the stairs once a day when returning from lunch. Do that every day for a week and very soon you have done it enough, that it starts to become a habit and no longer will you think you should ‘maybe’ do it but just something you always do. Soon enough doing those stairs once a day is easy so you move it to twice a day and so on so forth from there.

These small changes will start to build momentum, which is a powerful force in change, also in your attitude to how you now feel about making changes in physical activity and in the concept of making any changes at all. Momentum is a strange thing in many areas of life because once you start moving more quickly with something, it becomes both harder to stop but more importantly it becomes much easier to keep moving forward with. That momentum can then also be transferred to other areas involved in your lifestyle make over.

It is not so terrible to have to choose a different type of crisps, which has fewer calories but has the same cheesy taste, that you love so much. To pay a small amount of attention to the sugar contained in your breakfast cereal and make a choice on that basis, is not tragic.

So often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it. This is simply not the case.

To go from not training in years, to hitting the weights with your friend 4 times a week and training to failure because ‘bro-science’ dictates that is the best way to get big guns, is not marginal gains! It is this type of need to make huge changes that leads, in this case, to extreme short term muscle pain, followed by a lack of desire to repeat the torturous gym session and thus in the long term, no health benefits.

So instead of thinking big in this instance, think about how you can make a series of small changes to your lifestyle, to get the ball rolling, to snip off 1% here and there, and start getting some sustainable momentum going. This will lead to more changes and before you know it you are starting to feel like those skinny jeans, that you used to wear, are very close to you being able to do up. But start today with your marginal gains and we can make Dave Brailsford proud all over again!


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