I looked in the mirror, looked at the calendar, and knew it was time to lose some weight. The year was 2000, and I was working a new gig. The job entailed that I sit in front of a computer for hours at a time. My pants were getting tighter and more uncomfortable. It was time for a diet or a new wardrobe.
Time for a resolution.
The month was January and everyone was setting New Year’s resolutions. I created one in my head to lost ten pounds. Seemed simple enough. Just eat less. I had read somewhere that you could create a new habit by just doing the same routine for 21 days. This was going to be easy.
For the next twenty-one days, I ate mainly salad and oat bran muffins (oat bran was the miracle food back then). I counted calories. 1200 on the nose. It was hard, but I figured that the new eating habit would kick in and I would be golden.
I’d love to tell you that on day 22 everything became easy. But that was not the case. Day 22 I was HUNGRY. I consumed over 5000 calories during the day and my diet experiment was over. I weighed in on day 25 and found my weight to be the same as when I started.
I was mad at myself at first, but all my friends were failing at their resolutions too. I soon came to the conclusion that New Year’s resolutions don’t work. This failure message made me happy. Weight gain wasn’t my fault.
I gained over five pounds in 2000, but I bought a new wardrobe, so I really didn’t notice. This time when I bought pants, I bought ones with a relaxed fit and expandable waistline. I was styln’ new clothes and my pants weren’t tight. I was in a good place.
Let’s set a weight loss goal
Fast forward to January of 2001. Resolution time again. I knew resolutions didn’t work, but someone on TV said that if I just set a weight loss goal that they would work like magic. The key difference between a resolution and a goal was simple. I just needed to write down what I wanted.
My scale revealed that I now needed to lose fifteen pounds, but that was way too much for a new goal. I decided to make things simple this year. I would set a five pound weight loss goal. I wrote down the goal and posted it on my monitor at home. Five easy-peasy pounds. I bought some Slim Fast weight shakes and started on January 2nd.
Unfortunately, I hated the protein shakes after awhile. This diet goal lasted about a week. I soon took the five pound goal card off my monitor. I was a failure, but heck, resolutions don’t work. Goals didn’t seem to work either.
By the end of of the year 2001 I had gained another five pounds around my waist, but thankfully my expandable waistline still provided comfort.
Let’s try S.M.A.R.T. Goals
The year 2002 was the year of SMART Goals. I had picked up a SMART goal setting book at the bookstore and starting in January, I was prepared. I had my smart goal ready to go on January first. Here is how I laid it out. . .
- Specific: I will lose ten pounds
- Measurable: I will weigh in every day
- Achievable: Ten pounds is easy. Everyone is doing it.
- Relevant: Losing ten pounds will improve my health
- Time bound: I will lost ten pounds in five weeks. 2lbs/wk
SMART goals started off good. I did a calorie restriction diet and for the first two weeks, I had lost four pounds. I weighed in every day and counted my calories diligently. This SMART Goal thing was working.
Unfortunately, week three brought a setback. I actually gained a pound. Why was this? It might of had something to do with the company party that week with brownies and cake. But I was determined and I kept at it. Week four brought another half pound off. Week five and I had lost a total of four pounds.
The goal was over, I was somewhat successful and I congratulated myself for setting a SMART Goal. Unfortunately, I soon forgot about SMART Goals with the busyness of life, and went back to my usual routine.
By the end of 2002, I had been on three diet plans. One with a resolution, another with a written goal, and finally some success with a SMART Goal.
However, my sedentary job had taken its toll. January first, 2003 I weighed in over fifteen pounds more that when I started my new job in 2000. My pants didn’t fit, I felt sluggish, and I was really frustrated. Nothing seemed to work. I was on upward trend with weight gain. The only saving grace was that many of my co-workers were gaining weight too.
I did a wardrobe refresh, next belt size up. I had been on a diet for three years. Unfortunately, the only thing I lost was three years.
Can you relate to this? So many people I know face the same frustrations. As a personal development blogger, I’ve talked about goal setting and habit change for years. I’ve had some success with them, but a whole lot of frustrations.
So what works, if anything?
I’ve taken a look back at my life, compiling the successes and failures. I’ve found something interesting.
Let me explain with how I finally found weight loss success.
In the summer of 2003, I attended a Toastmaster’s conference. One of the speakers talked about the power of 90 day goals. Sounded interesting. I picked up the speaker’s book and left the conference ready to try this longer term approach.
I wanted to try a 90 day weight loss plan, but I wasn’t sure what to do. I went to the bookstore and thats when I found a book called Body for Life.
This book had pictures of people that had gone on the program and had completely changed the way they looked by losing weight and gaining muscle in only 12 weeks. The pictures looked like complete BS. I didn’t think it was possible to change anything so drastically in that length of time.
But the pictures and the testimonials were compelling.
I thumbed through the book, but kept coming back to the pictures. Both men and women had toned their bodies and lost not only weight, but gobs of fat around their midsections.
On a whim, I picked up the book, took it home and read it cover to cover.
I decided to give it a try.
That’s when I realized something very important.
- Body for Life was not just goal setting solution
- Body for Life was not just a habit change book.
- Body for Life was a complete system.
Body for life included:
- Before and after pictures of real people on the program
- Realistic food choices and no calorie counting
- Weight training program three days a week
- Aerobic exercise three days a week
- Supplements and food bars
- Support system
Here is what I can tell you. Because BFL was a complete system, I needed to get some additional things to complete the system. I purchased
- Home weight bench
- BFL journal to track items
- A few BFL protein bars
- Workout clothes
The system cost me a few hundred dollars to setup. After a week of organization, I was ready to go. My results were stunning. In twelve weeks
- I lost 26 pounds and over forty pounds of fat.
- I gained muscle and felt so much better.
- I created new, easy to follow, eating habits
- In 24 weeks I actually looked like some of the people in the book.
Why this System Worked.
BFL worked for me because it was a complete solution. I definitely had setbacks during the program, but with their support team, I was able to stay on track.
Here are the parts of the System that really helped.
- Weight training exercises were fully diagrammed and had options
- The pictures of real people’s results added motivation
- BFL protein bars made eating on the go easy.
- The eating plan was simple to follow
- The journal tracked results
The great part of the BFL system was a maintenance plan after the initial session. This helped me keep much of the weight off for years to come. I had built muscle on the program which helped me burn more calories.
This system stopped working years later when we moved to a smaller house and I had to sell of my home exercise equipment. For me, going to the gym was not the same as having equipment at home. That small but significant change broke the system for me,
What I Learned.
This post is not a place to brag about my results, but rather to illustrate what the difference was between a goal and a complete system. In looking back, my greatest successes in life have come from systems that have moved me in a positive direction.
I’ve had good results from some different systems including
- Toastmasters: Their proven system of public speaking really works.
- Dale Carnegie Sales System: Great program for overcoming objections
- Automatic Savings System: Painless way to save money from each paycheck
For me I visualize a system like a goal in a box. Everything needed for success is included, and support is offered when things go wrong. Most goals fail because something is missing. One thing goes wrong and the whole goal process stops. Systems on the other hand have safeguards to keep you going and automate many of the processes to keep things working like a well oiled machine.
I visualize a system like a goal in a box.
In my next post we’ll take a look at how we might create a workable system, by examining the pieces and processes we need to insure success.
Other posts on the LIST Manifesto and systems