You start off a new diet plan with the best of intentions, you are motivated and determined you are going to reach your goal. During the first week people note and mention “the change in you” you’re fired up, you’re feeling great, and the scale is dropping like a boulder tumbling down a mountain. Then a weird thing happens, you get tired, you feel lethargic, you dread your next meal and you begin to develop feelings of resentment about the things you now feel like you have to do. You wind up feeling discouraged because your goal is in jeopardy, you started off so strong and felt so good, and even worse the scale is now coming to a grinding halt.
If this sounds eerily familiar I’m not surprised, I’ve heard this from countless people, and I’ve even experienced it myself. It’s a very challenging thing to go through, but reaching your goal and living and feeling the way you want depends on it.
Here’s some of things that are happening, knowing and understanding them may help you stay on track.
Blood Sugar Fluctuation – Whenever you change your eating habits you experience a change in your blood sugar fluctuations. Insulin is a super hormone; it’s involved in so much more than just the regulation of blood sugar. Changing habits for weight loss or better health generally produces smaller, less dramatic blood sugar spikes. These changes in turn not only have an effect on our immediate amount of energy but are greatly enhanced by the corresponding hormonal cascades which produce the corresponding feelings of elevated or decreased mood. From the jitters to anxiety anything is dramatically possible when changing daily nutritional habits. As personal trainers this is one of the reasons we really push for absolute consistency, meaning eating at the same time, eating the same or similar foods, in the same amounts for a duration. It may be boring but it eliminates numerous variables allowing for better management of the symptoms and a much increased chance of success.
Detoxification – Especially with a weight loss goal, change usually means more frequent or consistent exercise, a greater attention to the regular consumption of water, and regular food intake. All of these things are great at stimulating the metabolism. As you increase body temperature and circulation more fuel starts moving and burning throughout the system and much like chemicals or toxins in our environment as energy is released in your body so are the toxins that had been residually stored along with. These toxins once re-released within our body work their way through our kidneys and lymph system and ultimately out of the body through sweat and waste products. Unfortunately along the way they can exude their effects on our well being, the sluggish lethargy some people feel in the second and third weeks of a new exercise program can be the effects of toxins working their way out of the body.
North American Psychology – I wouldn’t know how else to summarize. We’re seriously wired in North America, every day we’re bombarded with carefully crafted messages, ideas, and social interactions. TV, radio, Facebook, billboards you name it, thousands of messages per day ultimately have shaped our culture and ideals. For example I remember once hearing that if a parent spoke to their child at every meal (assuming the standard 3 meals per day) a parent would have about 1000 opportunities a year to influence their child’s eating habits. Yet by comparison they would be competing with an average of 10,000 messages a week from fast food outlets alone. When our enthusiasm for a new goal wanes we may begin to feel self-doubt about our objective. A process of validation now begins because we’re so heavily bombarded with the message of convenience and instant gratification. The rigors of change to reach a weight loss goal easily translate to inconvenient, different, and restrictive. These three words in their very being carry a negative meaning or impact upon our subconscious mind. Even though you may wish to reach your goal more than anything it places our cultural ideal of instant gratification and convenience in jeopardy through your period of change. Because this translates to a negative message to the subconscious our mechanism of self-preservation kicks in leading that negative association to validation as to why you should return to old habits and abandon your goal. The same is true of anyone trying to overcome any form of addiction; the action of the bad habit is often associated with a positive feeling (take smoking for example, people smoke to take a break or relieve stress, a positive feeling), where the change initially feels negative by the way of hard, difficult, or restrictive (for example I “can’t” eat that pizza it’s not on my diet, it’s negative because you are actively avoiding something you enjoy.) In order to effectively change the behaviour you must deal with the subconscious perception of the action.
Each journey consists of numerous roadblocks, the greater your understanding and acceptance of them the easier they become to identify, navigate and avoid.