blog small changes

Here’s a word problem to start your day.

Scenario: It’s December 25th. Christmas Day. Less than a week until the New Year. Kim has been eating and indulging in all the eggnog, ham, cookies, and more nog that comes with the holiday. Other than running from party to party or the occasional frantic present wrapping, she has done next to nothing in the way of exercising. Her pants are feeling a wee bit tight. (Okay. A lot bit tight. But hey! It’s the holiday!) On December 26th she makes a New Year’s resolution: She is going to lose fifty pounds by exercising six days a week for an hour and reducing her calories to 1,100 a day. She is going to start on January 1st. (Which means that she continues to eat and drink like a drunken sailor for the next five days.)

Question: How many days does Kim last before she declares that she is a total failure and that she’ll never succeed because she has no willpower or self control?

Answer: Not many.

…come to think of it…I have always hated word problems.

Here is the real question: Why didn’t Kim succeed?

Sure, the question seems pretty easy from here: She bit off more than she could chew. Even the most resolved of us simply can’t go from zero to 100 mph and sustain that without burning out quickly. We live in a world that delivers such instant gratification – and all or nothing mentality. Unfortunately, that is not how the body (or most things in the world) works. The key is small and simple changes that can be built upon: Sustainable changes that lead to a shift in habit, not starvation and medieval torture designed to abuse the body into losing weight.

So, let’s talk about Kim’s fifty pounds. Her goal was to lose fifty pounds in a year. Let’s get those pounds off her in three easy and small ways that can be built upon.

• Kim drinks three cans of soda a day. One can of soda is roughly 150 calories. For the first four months, she will replace one soda a day with water. The next four months she will replace two cans with water. The final four months of the year she will eliminate the soda all together. Small steps. Not cold turkey.

Number of calories saved: 81,000.
Number of pounds lost: 23

• Kim currently does no physical exercise. In order to best build endurance and to reduce the risk of injury, it is best to slowly build your physical activities. Kim will start by walking briskly twenty minutes a day, three days a week. The next month she’ll walk twenty minutes a day four days a week. The next? Twenty minutes of walking five days a week. Then she’ll start adding five minutes to her walk every month. At month twelve she’ll be up to an hour of walking five days a week.

Number of calories burned: 35,484
Number of pounds lost: 10

• Kim has NO idea what her BMR is. After calculating her BMR, she discovers that with her light exercise, she should eat 1,800 a day to maintain her current weight. She reduces her caloric intake by 200 calories a day, about the equivalent to a granola bar.

Number of calories burned: 73,000
Number of pounds lost: 21

Total Weight Lost in 12 Months: 54 lbs.

Now, mind you, these are just simple back of the napkin estimates. But, it does make the point, doesn’t it? Small changes add up to big results, and most important still, is that it creates lasting habits. Small changes don’t require perfection, they require attempts. You will fall off the horse, and that is okay: Show yourself grace. No one is perfect and there is no perfect way to get it done.

Okay. One more word problem:

Scenario: It’s January 1st and Kim has resolved to drink less soda, walk more, and eat a little bit less. She starts by reducing her soda to only two a day, walks for fifteen minutes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and is a little more mindful about what calories she’s taking in. Each month she tries to do a little better by drinking less soda, moving more, and focusing on what she eats. By December 31st of that same year, Kim is down fifty four pounds and looking forward to what changes she’ll see in the next 365 days.

Question: What is the difference between Kim and you?
Answer: Nothing. Nothing at all.

It isn’t about motivation, it isn’t about willpower, and it certainly isn’t about self inflicted torture. It is about taking that first teeny tiny step.

What is the one small thing that you can change today? Leave a comment and let me know.


3 thoughts on “Weight Loss Word Problem of the Day.

  1. So true! Small, sustainable changes are the key to long term success! I recently started going for power walks with another mom while our kids are in taekwondo on Fridays…fresh air and some extra cardio!! 🙂

    • Nice! I love walking with my friends. 🙂 I was just talking about making small gradual changes with my client. She went from zero to 60 with her exercise, and then felt bad because she was tired and took a couple of days off. We came up with a more reasonable exercise routine that she can sustain right now but can also increase over time.

      Thanks for commenting, Linda!

  2. I remember you telling us to give ourselves at least 12 weeks and to break it down in small goals. That makes me feel better because I can take my time and do this the right way. I don’t feel as much pressure which is helps alleviate stress.

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