07 Sep Long-Term Weight Management: Why True Transformation Takes Years
While physical transformation can be achieved through various different avenues, how can you ensure that it is lasting? And by lasting, we don’t mean in time for your next holiday abroad, the upcoming Summer months, or even the next few years, we mean lifelong transformation.
Thousands of people train, diet, and push themselves to the extreme to lose weight or get the six-pack they have always wanted, but struggle to maintain this shape, and before they know it they end up in a worse position than before they started!
So why does it take years to get in the shape of your life when a fitness programme can promise that in 12 weeks?
While that quick fix programme can promise instant abs in such a short period of time, the gains are merely physical, and the effects wear off. Whilst true transformation comes from within – it is mental, it is habitual, it is behavioural. These elements take time to manifest properly, but these are the key difference between physical regression and progression.
If this is the case, then why do so many people still keep going back to the same old 12-week programme or jump from diet to diet? This can be one of many reasons:
I’m too busy to go to the gym every day.
I don’t want to be on a diet for the rest of my life.
I’ll be able to keep the weight off once I have lost it.
To this, we refer to the old cliché, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Lifelong changes cannot happen overnight, they require time, education and a changed mindset. These are all factors that likewise cannot be built in a day (or 12 weeks, depending on how long until your next trip to Ibiza!).
Although you may achieve your physical goal, without sufficient time to receive the right education, instil new, positive behaviours and habits and adjust to a performance over an aesthetic mindset, this goal will be short-lived. While the intention is there to keep on top of it through exercise and diet, without the right transformation protocols and lifestyle solutions in place, changes will never be set in stone. The diet will eventually fizzle, the cravings will multiply, the running shoes will gather dust, and the weight will creep back on. This could take months to even years depending on your genetic make-up, but it is an inevitability.
A quick fix solution does not breed long-term transformation. A true, lifelong transformation requires tenacity, commitment, structure and a lifestyle overhaul.
Short-Term Solutions = Short-Term Results = No Transformation
Hall and Kahan write in their paper Maintenance of lost weight and long-term management of obesity that “several studies show improved weight loss outcomes in patients receiving weight maintenance-specific training, compared with those who only receive traditional weight loss training.”
This is the difference between quick fix plans and long-term lifestyle solutions.
Joanna Huang, PharmD, senior manager of health economics and outcomes research at Novo Nordisk Inc. in Plainsboro, New Jersey, presented her team’s findings at ENDO 2016, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, that long-term weight loss management is essential to maintaining shape, and preventing the probability of relapse.
Joanna said: “Achieving and maintaining weight loss has proven to be difficult. Many patients regain weight after their initial loss; and even after a period of weight loss, most people become ‘cyclers’ who regain weight or experience inconsistent losses and gains.”
What Joanna states here is what we at RNT refer to as yo-yo dieters, those whose weight fluctuates as a result of inconsistent dieting.
A common mindset that frequent dieters have is that once they have achieved their goal weight, they think they can ‘reward’ themselves, or overeat because they can now afford to. However, this is not the case, certainly not to facilitate a long-lasting transformation.
Short-term dieting is often relatively extreme, such as cutting out carbs altogether for instance. Sure, the weight falls off, but not without repercussions, because when the diet ends the body is in calorie deficit and the cravings become insatiable. This makes the desire to eat greater than before the diet started, resulting in a greater weight gain.
Although short-term solutions can facilitate quick changes, in the long-run these methods are in fact counter-productive. This is proved further through Joanna’s findings of the effects of short-term solutions over long periods of time.
Joanna said: “Over the two years, fewer patients maintained their weight. In the modest, moderate, and high weight-loss groups, 40.0 percent, 35.9 percent, and 18.6 percent of patients, respectively, regained over half of their lost weight during the maintenance period. And most patients in each group experienced weight cycling or weight regain.”
Without the right ingredients, the formulae will gradually disintegrate. But with the right rules, structures and learned behaviours in place, weight management and maintenance is much more sustainable. Long-term lifestyle solutions, such as nutrition education, structure, accountability strategies for handling those lifestyle curveballs, will create a greater understanding of weight management and physique maintenance, and preventing old habits from resurfacing.
Addressing The Big Issues
Making modest changes to your diet was once considered by physicians as a sufficient way to control weight gain. Although this has since been disproved, this method is still not wholly absent. While diet is still a key contributor, it is not solely responsible for obesity and rising weight levels.
This is what we mean when we say ‘long-term lifestyle solution’, because there is so much more to consider to weight management than simply diet, it is a holistic approach that tackles every contributing lifestyle factor leading to the cause of the issues.
Diet and training are usually the only two factors addressed in quick fix programmes, but these are only two pieces of the entire transformation puzzle. This is why quick fixes aren’t lasting, because several pieces are still missing. Long-term lifestyle solutions however address an entire checklist of transformation protocols, each one a contributing factor to facilitate successful lifelong transformation, such as sleep, water intake and accountability etc., and each one of these factors is addressed and mastered.
Should just one of these factors be missed, the entire foundation of long-term transformation could collapse.
These contributing factors include:
- Emotional state
- Sleep quality
Each body is different biologically, and each is affected differently by lifestyles choices. This is why a successful long-term transformation requires specific tailoring to accommodate these factors and enable an effective solution.
For instance, if someone travels a lot for work, do they have a plan on where or when to train, or does their entire system go out the window for that week?
If someone must attend frequent networking events that requires eating and drinking, do they really know what they are consuming? Are they aware of the ingredients used or the calorie intake?
Likewise, there is a relationship of disrupted or decreased amounts of sleep with obesity levels. While someone’s training and diet might be in order, unbeknown to them their sleep could be having a direct effect on their health and fitness levels. How do they plan on resolving this?
These are just a few examples of situations that short-term programmes do not prepare you for and must be addressed to facilitate a real lifelong change.
Education is paramount within all of these contributing factors to, not only understand how they impact you, but to instil positive learned behaviours to ensure that ‘life’ doesn’t get in the way of progress. These lessons are all taught throughout the RNT transformation journey, starting from phase one, Clean the Palate. After all, what’s a successful tower without a strong foundation?
Peer pressure, poor underpinnings, the wrong environments, and old habits can be the devil on your shoulder tempting you to let inhibitions down, but quality education and enforced structures, strategies and systems can teach you how to handle such situations when they arise.
As the saying goes, old habits die hard, and it is stated that it can take anywhere between 18 to 254 days for new habits to form (and more to the higher end in something as vast and holistic as a body and life transformation) . This predicted time frame will more than often exceed any short-term fitness programme, spelling disaster for when that devil starts whispering in your ear. Therefore, to enable a successful lifelong transformation, it is essential long-term solutions are sought to engrain positive habits and coping mechanisms to overcome these challenges head on.
We live in a fast-paced world. From fast food to get rich quick schemes, contemporary culture has bred a nation of impatience and instant gratification.
Consequently, people don’t want to work hard to get results, instead they would rather take the fastest route possible. We want to see immediate change, and when we don’t, we move onto the next shiny, new thing that can promise them. This is the same with health and fitness programmes.
This mentality is a huge downfall when it comes to maintaining and improving your physique. This is what RNTers often must battle during the investment phase of their transformation journey.
It’s long, it’s boring, it’s intangible – but it’s imperative to ingrain the essential skills and behaviours of lifelong transformation.
In the early stages of the journey, the process phase yields instant results. These results are what motivate you to keep pushing. The weight drops off, the abs start to show – this is the instant gratification you are looking for. Because changes are not so instant or obvious during the investment phase, it can feel like a slug. This is when the motivation to keep pumping starts to dip.
Hall and Kahan say: “People tend to focus on what they haven’t achieved, rather than what they’ve already accomplished. Unlike with weight loss, during which the external reward of watching the scale decrease and clinical measures (e.g., lipid levels) improve can increase motivation, the extended period of weight maintenance has fewer of these explicit rewards.”
Due to this lack of an immediate solution, the grass starts to look greener on the other side. People think they have reached their limit and hop the fence. This is where support and accountability play an important role.
By holding yourself accountable and continuing to weigh foods, take progression photographs and remain faithful to your structures, strategies, systems and non-negotiables, you become the facilitator of your own progression. Ignoring all accountability means these structures slowly begin to loosen and gradually fall apart.
As Hall and Kahan agree within their paper, taking photos regularly to show physical progress and having a powerful support base can be the impetus needed to continue with the transformation journey. Short-term plans lack these valuable assets, resulting in the towel being thrown in a lot earlier than it should.
These are success drivers that RNT hold close, with the combined support of the RNT family community, the objective accountability of the RNT coaches, and the ability to remain accountable to yourself throughout the journey, progress maintains its course.
A Deeper Purpose and Self-Awareness
What is lacking from quick-fix solutions is the stimulation of purpose and self-awareness, which is only gained from introspection and identification of the long-term vision. These are mental facilitators of self-evolution, after all, how can someone transform themselves if they don’t know what they are transforming from?
Hall and Kahan state: “Long term management is improved when motivations are aligned with personal values and preferences. Helping patients shift their locus of motivation from weight loss alone to intrinsically meaningful areas, such as health improvement, can improve long term weight and behavioural outcomes.”
This is why addressing your ‘why behind your why’ (and so forth) is so vital, to remind yourself of why you started your transformation journey in the first place and give you the power to go on. Gaining this greater sense of self-awareness plays an integral role in the success of long-term transformation.
More often than not, reasoning for seeking quick fix fitness results is strictly physical, while those seeking lifelong transformation have a much deeper purpose that transcends the physical. Using the physical as the vehicle to improve their lives for the greater good, they aim to enhance their health, confidence, self-esteem, mental health, and so much more.
Those already striving for long-term transformation begin to experience the many benefits that the physical unearths whilst on their transformation journey, and so their why behind their why evolves and expands, powering them forward to a greater goal of holistic transformation. Quick fixes stop at the physical, and while they haven’t given their transformation time to really experience these greater benefits, there is no reason to continue beyond their ‘end’ goal, and so their journey ends prematurely.
The ability to identify triggers, be they emotional, physical or locational, requires a level of understanding that isn’t attainable from a 12-week stint. It is after these 12 weeks (or whatever the initial deadline is) in fact when greater purpose begins to take form, and this is essential to give the perseverance and drive to continue. Identifying these triggers and addressing them (what we at RNT refer to as the ‘Muck’) enables you to implement strategies and systems to manage them. Rather than being blind sighted by a trigger, it has been identified, challenged, and a solution has been formed to divert, if not avoid, it thus keeping the transformation journey on track.
Short-term solutions do not challenge triggers or derive purpose. The aim is plain and simple: lose weight, get fit, jog on. As soon as a trigger rears its ugly head, or without a real meaning and purpose to continue, all progression is lost.
True transformation requires introspection. Introspection inspires action, and together they create total transformation.
Managing Unrealistic Expectations
As noted by Hall and Kahan in their paper, one study found that subjects entering a diet and exercise programme expected to lose 20-40% of their body weight. While some RNTers have managed to lose 20% of their body fat within the first initial months of their transformation journey, this expectation is on the whole is very high. As mentioned previously, living within an era of instant gratification has fed this and when wildly ludicrous expectations are not met, programme hopping occurs.
Long-term transformation training and increased self-awareness help manage these expectations. Long-term RNTer, Tom Hollis, discussed these initial unrealistic expectations within his latest RNT podcast episode. Reminiscing to when his transformation journey fist began, Tom discusses how his expectations have evolved with his transformation over time, having gained a greater sense of personal awareness and becoming increasingly satisfied and in tuned with his physique and setting achievable long-term goals. Tom said:
“My goal images have gotten progressively, as what people would describe as, more ‘normal’, so years ago it’d start off with this jacked-up dude, and I’m like yeah make me look like that. And now it’s more and more realistic.”
In a world of social media, self-comparison is inevitable – and destructive. We compare our everyday selves to celebrities in peak photoshoot condition, which is unhealthy and highly unrealistic. In seeking this idea of ‘perfection’, we lose grip on reality and sight of the bigger picture.
Negative thoughts trigger negative actions, and once we think ‘I’ll never achieve that goal, so what’s the point in trying?’ Or ‘I’ve failed time and time again, so I’ll just stop’, our actions follow suit. Learning to manage our expectations and setting realistic goals is a fundamental part of keeping motivations high and not being too hard on ourselves.
This negative mentality if carried over into the maintenance period, or investment phase when referring to the RNT transformation journey, can be again extremely damaging, effecting the outcome of the journey. Once physical results start to slow down, this type of mentality sees the process as not working anymore and if their reality doesn’t meet their expectations, the likelihood of their quitting the journey at this point is highly likely.
Those with long-term visions seeking the knowledge and capability to maintain being in their shape of their life for life, like RNTer Tom, embrace a shift in mindset from an aesthetic mindset to a performance mindset. Seeking to improve performance is likewise not a quick fix. This requires endurance and tenacity, and this is the difference between short-term ‘aesthetic-based’ plans to long-term performance driven visions.
These are the ones that succeed long-term, because they have the power to keep pushing, allowing the journey to really sink in and transform them from the inside out, not the other way round.
Consistency is key to maintaining physical shape. Programme hopping, yo-yo dieting and intermittent training are all elements that lead to failure because they lack the stability required to facilitate a real, lasting transformation.
While sticking to one strategy is clear, that strategy must be the right one: one that tackles each and every contributing factor that leads to weight gain. Short-term solutions do not consider these factors as they focus solely on the physical outcome. Eventually, these physical results will dwindle as lifestyle factors counteract physical progress. Therefore, long-term lifestyle solutions must be sought in order to achieve a lasting transformation, and the skills and education solidified along the journey provide the ability to maintain this shape.
Research has proved that adopting a long-term weight management solution is far more effective and lasting than short term fixes. Hall and Kahan state:
“Long term behavioural changes and obesity management require ongoing attention. Even the highest quality short-term interventions are unlikely to yield continued positive outcomes without persisting intervention and support.”
Lifelong transformation cannot be achieved without upkeep. That’s not to say that you must remain on a constant diet or work out seven days a week (which people often assume). Rather, by putting structure, strategies and systems in place, implementing positive long-term habits and behaviours to prevent relapse, and identifying potential triggers, you are equipped with the mental tools to maintain transformation in the long-term.
These mental abilities are not quick fixes, they require a great deal of time and application to really take hold and become second nature.
As the old proverb goes: give a man a fish and he will eat for a day – but teach a man to fish and he will eat for life.
- Hall, Kevin D., and Kahan, Scott., Maintenance of lost weight and long-term management of obesity (2018).
- Greenway, F L., Physiological adaptations to weight loss and factors favouring weight regain. (2015).
- Endocrine Society, Most people cycle and regain weight, and those who lose most are most likely to keep it off. The (2016)
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