Be prepared to fall before you fly
The line from start to success is not a straight one.
It’s a harsh reality, but the sooner you know – and accept – this, the easier it will be for you to deal with the disappointment that accompanies what you may perceive as failure.
There’s a meme I’ve seen on social media that compares what people think the path to success looks like with what it actually looks like. The former is an unhindered ascending graph, while the latter is a graph with an initial upward trajectory, followed by a mid-section that’s a tangled mess, finally followed by a line steadily moving upward.
When I’m invited to speak about my weight loss journey, I always make sure to include this image or something similar in my presentation because the stumbling blocks we encounter as we try to meet our goals, often throw us off course or put us off completely.
Dealing with disappointment
Recently I’ve had at least two people contact me, lamenting having gained some weight after having lost steadily over a period of months. Their deep disappointment was palpable and at least one needed a lot of support and reassurance that they would get back on track if they just did not give up.
When I started trying to lose weight in January 2017, my stumbling block came far earlier than I expected. Less than a month into my journey – and just days before I was to begin my Sleekgeek eight-week weight-loss challenge – I fell over my own feet in our company garage, suffering a severe sprain to my right ankle and less severe injuries to my left knee, shin, face – and ego.
On crutches for two weeks and with an expected recovery time of at least six weeks, I was very close to throwing in the towel. I got closer to breaking point when the physiotherapist warned that I might only gain full function within three to six months.
It was, however, enjoyment of my new way of eating – I had switched to the Paleo diet by then – and the support of an experienced physio-friend and kickboxing instructor that helped keep me on track while I literally got back onto my feet.
Of course, it was frustrating having to take things easy when all I wanted to do was give it my all and get the weight off as quickly as possible. But when I look back on that experience, I realise the value of the lessons in patience and tenacity it taught me.
Adapt to your changing circumstances
The trick was to find the motivation to keep going and to acquire the knowledge needed to adapt to my new circumstances.
This involved being very strict about my calorie intake, and finding exercises I could do without hampering the recovery of my foot. Initially this meant swimming rather than doing any exercise that required me to be on my feet for long periods of time; and later progressing to static boxing. This was incredibly frustrating, but well worth it because now, despite still having a very tight ankle joint and feeling slight pain every now and then, I don’t have any serious mobility issues.
The same strategies can be applied if you gain weight or plateau when you’re desperately trying to lose the kilos. Your body changes all the time, and part of those changes, includes adapting to your new eating or exercise programme. This means it’s important to change things up every now and then. After having been unable to lose any further weight for about eight months, changing my exercise programme to include road running three times a week has brought about the change I was after and finally my plateau is broken.
You should also not expect change to come quickly. Many people ask me what my secret is and my answer is always the same: There is no secret. It is documented on social media. Small steps taken every day over a period of two years – so far. In a word, consistency.