Perfection is an Obstacle to Progress

I see so many people give up with their weight loss progress because they didn’t hit their “goals.” As much as we talk about this, some people have unrealistic expectations when it comes to their bodies. And human beings in general!

If you haven’t taken care of your lawn for the past ten years and suddenly decide that you want a lawn that looks like a golf course, do you think your goal or wish is going to be realized in one season?  Even if you buy the best grass seed possible and you lay it down by hand inch by inch, and then water it every day, do you think that you are going to have soft, lush, perfectly manicured grass in 3 months?  Of course not.  Because there’s more to having a beautiful lawn than simply grass and water.  You have to fertilize it and aerate it and get rid of the weeds and rocks and areas of packed hard earth.  You have to winterize it and spot seed and overseed and then you have to wait.  And repeat.  And wait.  And keep tending to it.  Simply deciding you want a healthy lawn and purchasing the seed isn’t enough.  It requires time and patience.  And it won’t happen overnight.  

Health is similarly complicated. And progressive.  Once you change your behaviors, your body more than likely will still look the same.  For a long time.  It will probably feel better very quickly, but even if you eat the most perfect diet, in 2 months you won’t look and feel like you did when you were 16.  Odds are, even if you stay healthy, you will never look like you did when you were 16.  You will probably never feel like you did at 16.

Weight is the same.  When people get healthier, they typically lose weight.  Sometimes they lose a lot and sometimes they lose less than a lot.  Most people don’t lose as much as they want to lose.  Even with bariatric surgery, most people don’t lose all of their excess weight.   And it doesn’t happen on the timetable you set out for it.  I’ve been practicing obesity medicine for a long time and I rarely see people lose weight on a steady, consistent, predictable curve.  Weight loss is irregular – some months you lose a lot, other months you lose quite a bit less.  Sometimes inches peel off while the number on the scale stays the same and sometimes the scale budges and the body doesn’t look any differently.  

Health tends to improve on a J-curve.  It compounds.  Most of us understand this when it comes to finances.  Save $20 every month into a retirement plan beginning at age 16 and by 50, you will be a millionaire.  Because of compounding interest.  It grows slowly at first – very slowly – but that slow pace slowly increases and gains momentum and by the time you retire, it’s worth way more than the sum of the individual deposits.  Contrast that with someone that dumps $100K into a retirement plan at 40.  Ten years later, at age 50, it’s grown, but not nearly as much as the other person’s account that has sat there, year after year, growing slowly. 

I never try and dissuade people from dreaming big. I’m a dreamer and most of the time I dream really big. But, I’ve also learned the hard way that “go big or go home” isn’t the way to approach most difficult things. In fact, “go big but take it in baby steps” is probably a much better saying when it comes to weight and health. Think about it – we all love to watch the big huge health transformations, right? Why? Because they are the exception to the rule. They are uncommon. They are the equivalent of winning the lottery – which is also uncommon.

Think about healthy weight loss like putting money into the 401K every month, year after year. Slowly, progressively, predictably successful – every time.

Every time.

If you need help, reach out. Let us help you find your path.

Courtney Younglove, M.D.