I met recently with “George and Diane” and they both looked defeated.
The last time we met, two years ago, they were both gushing with excitement and bursting with energy
For many years George and Diane had struggled with their weight. They had both crossed into the obesity category and were beginning to experience the health ill-effects that accompanied their constant weight gain.
They had made several attempts at weight-loss with limited short-term success until a friend recommended a local program that had worked for her.
To their absolute delight this program seemed to work wonders and within fifteen months they had shed a combined 290lbs.
And that was when we last met.
Their happiness was contagious and they spoke with endless passion of their newly discover joie de vivre.
A very different meeting from the one we had a few weeks ago.
We met in a restaurant and, as soon as they sat down, they spoke of the disappointment they felt in themselves.
They explained that the weight they had been so proud of losing has slowly started to creep back. The new lifestyle that had seemed to be working so well was gradually replaced by the old habits that had caused them so much pain and heartache.
And the question they asked was, “Why is long-term, sustainable change is so difficult?”
I believe I know the answer. For many of us who can relate to George and Diane’s plight and, who too have experienced frequent short-term success, the difficulty of long-term change is exacerbated by not learning from the lessons of our own personal history.
So let’s begin by talking about what doesn’t work.
Whenever we set out to bring about some kind of change, the default method for so many of us is to outline the new behaviors we will adopt in the belief that by so doing we will soon begin to enjoy the benefits those new behaviors will bring.
Our focus therefore becomes solely behavior-based and we even go so far as to make some type of pledges to ourselves along the lines of, “Starting tomorrow I’m only I’m going to follow a high protein low carb diet and I’m going to lose 20 pounds, or, “I am going to join a gym today and I will go after work three times per week and work out rigorously, push myself hard and soon enjoy being in the type of shape I have long dreamed of.”
So, how well has this worked?
If you ever watch commercials on television for weight loss programs – Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Dr. Bernstein and the many others that pop into our living rooms from time to time – all of them portray the same thing.
They all trot out their success stories – this is Robert he lost 97 pounds, here is Brenda she lost 164 pounds.
These people look fabulous. They look healthy and vibrant, they are all smiling, they feel really good about themselves. Truly remarkable accomplishments no one can dispute.
But here’s what they don’t show. What they don’t show is Robert and Brenda from five, seven and ten years ago.
Why not? The answer is simple. It is because they have very few Robert’s and Brenda’s who have been able to sustain that level of weight loss for that period of time.
In fact, studies of the human capacity for achieving change and maintaining and sustaining it in the long term shows very demotivating conclusions.
The data suggest that only 3% of people will succeed in maintaining large personal change for a period of five years or more.
In fact, the odds are so heavily weighted against long-term success that many industries that need to boast of their success in order to attract new customers – for example, some smoking cessation companies – declare success at the six-month mark which is far too soon to make the bold statement that the person who has quit for six months is now a life-long non-smoker.
There must be a reason why traditional methods produce such dismal long-term results.
Perhaps that’s a topic for next week’s discussion?
Till we read again.