Retrofit Blog

Go Slow to Go Fast

September 19, 2013
Whitney's before and after

You have to go slow to go fast. It's an expression we've all heard a thousand times in reference to business. Executives tell their employees to plan and prepare for a meeting. They often say, "Spend time getting to know your audience before the big presentation. Taking the time up front will pay off in the long run." Going slow is also valuable in our personal lives, and offers important weight loss lessons.

Why Diets Fail

Despite its ubiquity, the concept of going slow to go fast is one we struggle to entertain when it comes to losing weight. We want to lose weight NOW. Maybe we have a wedding coming up or a reunion to attend where we'd like to impress. Maybe the doctor said, "It's time to lose weight - or else."

So many people jump into the deep end, feet first. They cut all the foods they love out of their diets. They sign up for the boot camp class that they remember enjoying five years ago. They vow never to eat another Chicago pizza again, claiming, "It's only side salads and grilled chicken for me!"

And guess what? It doesn't last. This all-or-nothing approach isn't sustainable.

It's not surprising that most people who start a diet program fail. They may lose weight initially. In fact, they may feel amazing about the progress they've made. People start telling them they look great, complimenting them by saying they haven't changed since high school. But while all of this is happening, the person dieting doesn't realize that the weight-loss strategy is not sustainable for the rest of his or her life.

The endorphins, pride, and relief you feel when you see progress and a lower number on the scale is powerful. It gives you the ability to overcome lingering hunger pangs or cravings and to kindly say "no" to your grandmother's insistence that you have a slice of that warm, gooey, blueberry pie. But this ability can't last, and the extreme deprivation is unsustainable.

You get tired and have to deal with stress. When this happens, progress slows down (as it always does as you get closer to your goal weight) and motivation starts to wane. You acknowledge that what you've been doing for the last eight weeks is hard. Really hard. You find comfort in the fact that you've almost reached your goal and think you can get back to eating like a "normal" person. One way or another, you start eating like that "normal" person and gain the weight back. That "normal" person's lifestyle is how you ended up here in the first place. And herein lies the problem.

You have to make the strategies you use to lose the weight into your new "normal" and maintain those habits for the rest of your life to keep the weight off. (Gasp!) Think about what that kind of consistency and commitment means.

This is exactly why extreme diets don't work.

Lifestyle Changes

This is where the concept of going slow to go fast comes in handy. Lifestyle change must happen for you to sustain weight loss for the long term. Lifestyle refers to the way in which you live. Lifestyle means the things you do, the habits you keep, the choices that you make day in, day out. If you try to change the way you live drastically, you're setting yourself up for failure. Ease into those changes; pick one goal and start small. Small changes will lead to big results. Before you know it, only eating sweets when you're enjoying them socially is second nature. Asking for extra cheese doesn't even cross your mind.

But you won't get there by cutting all cheese from your diet and vowing never to eat dessert again. You have to start off with an awareness of how you feel after eating or a goal of always having dinner at a table, with a plate and in a chair. They may seem small and your weight loss may feel slow, but if you focus on the behaviors and the choices you make, the progress will happen. It will start to happen faster and faster and you'll be prepared to handle the "life" that tries to get in your way. All of a sudden, one day you'll see a picture of yourself from a year ago and wonder, "Who is that person? Did I ever really look like that?" The changes happen slow, but the changes are BIG, based on the weight loss lessons learned by going slow and making sustainable lifestyle shifts.

My Retrofit Experience

I was a Retrofit client myself. My Retrofit wellness expert team helped me choose where to start. I didn't try to do it all at once. I didn't (and never will) cut French fries out of my life completely. I didn't even start exercising (truly heart-pumping, sweat-producing exercise) until I had lost about half of the weight almost six months into my first year. I took it slow and started with more movement. I tried to eat more fruits and veggies at each meal. I tried to ignore the painfully slow progress on the scale so I wouldn't get frustrated. I focused on active behaviors, the things I was changing about the way I lived every day. If I decided to have some French fries, I did. And I enjoyed them, purposefully and mindfully.

And guess, what? It worked.

I started the Retrofit program in June of 2011. It took me 12 long months to reach my goal. By June 2012 I was 34 pounds lighter. I had lost 19% of my bodyweight and had gone down four sizes in clothes. It was the first summer in my entire life I had put on a bathing suit without total shame and embarrassment.

This Retrofit experience has been a HUGE change to my day-to-day life, but I didn't notice the changes taking place. The weight loss lessons were subtle. I chose to enjoy the journey and find ways to make it fun. Allowing myself the occasional treat did mean that the weight loss was slower. But now, after more than two years, I am still maintaining my weight loss and even still enjoying French fries from time to time.

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Whitney Durbin VP of Product

Whitney is motivated by the joy she sees when people adopt healthy, active lifestyles. Before bringing her extraordinary powers of organization and guidance to Retrofit's clients, Whitney began her career in corporate finance at Merrill Lynch, then at the recruitment startup Strong Suit. She honed her project management and operations management skills at Allstate and MPC Group, respectively. She holds a BA in English from the University of Iowa. She loves to travel, dance and eat at new places. And if you see her wandering the city streets, don't worry. She likes to get lost on purpose.

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