Why is change so slow?

Recently in my city there has been a surge of people participating in a brand new MLM company.  I’ve been approached by these types of people many times over the years, and to a number they have all been exposed as companies that are not at all interested in your health, they are interested in your money and taking it from you while promising that you are going to be wealthy and have an amazing life if you just work for them and get all of your family and friends to participate.  I’m not totally against MLM, because some companies are more ethical and provide some really good things, while others simply are a method for some good salespeople to make a quick buck and then move onto the next company they choose to represent.

The most recent one has you taking two shakes a day and then eating a small meal for dinner, and promises that you will lose weight, feel amazing and totally transform yourself – all in only 90 days.  I can digress quickly and ask what these people are supposed to do after the 90 days are up?  Go back to their previous eating habits and lifestyle?  In fact, on some blogs for this company, their representatives actually state that “exercise is NOT required to lose weight on this program”.  To me this is completely ridiculous, and just feeds into the idea that you can have a quick fix and get results (while also parting with about $200 a month) and not have to worry about establishing a long term healthy lifestyle.  Digression over.  I’ll rant about that at the end.

So when I see things advertised like this or hear people talk about it, it makes me cringe, and then it just pisses me off.  95% of the time, these quick fixes do not work, and the poor people who have fallen for a line from a salesperson just lose their money, maybe some water weight and then gain it all back plus a bit more.  I have dozens of examples both personal and professional of people losing weight rapidly and then gaining it back just as rapidly (if not faster) plus a few reinforcements just in case that ever happens again.  I’m sure you have too.  One of my clients recently told me of a friend who actually did the Bernstein diet – three times!?  And now her body is still obese because she gained more weight back each time and as an added bonus her kidneys and digestive system are constantly in turmoil and discomfort.  Go figure.

Here is the funny thing about your body.  It doesn’t like rapid change.  There is something within your body called homeostasis.  It is the way that your body regulates everything and “tends to maintain a stable, constant condition of properties”.  In a nutshell, when something changes within your body skews it one way, under the condition of homeostasis your body will do what it can to skew it back.  For example, when we get really hot or exert ourselves, our body kicks in and starts to sweat as a cooling mechanism.  If we exert ourselves too much and drive blood away from the brain, our body makes us fall down (fainting or passing out) in order to put blood back to the brain.  Blood clotting, metabolism regulation, and insulin/glucagon balance are all examples of positive and negative feedback loops.  In a nutshell, your body likes to stay stable as much as it can, even to the point of simply shutting you down if it needs to.  Your body isn’t stupid.  It is a massive supercomputer that deals with trillions of chemical interactions every minute.  You can’t expect it to be happy when you suddenly make a radical change.  If you suddenly decide to go outside and run for 20 kilometers when you never do it you are likely to have a heart attack or get hurt also.

So what happens when you go into caloric deficit like in these diets?  Well, you lose weight.  Of course you do.  Typically on diets like these people are dropping their caloric intake by up to 1000-1500 calories a day while also greatly reducing the amount of crap they are eating on a daily basis.  Then they get where they want to be (or “finish the challenge” with lots of pictures and raving fanfare) and simply change back to what they were doing before.  Most people under report how much they eat and over report the amount of exercise they actually do.  So the weight comes right back to where it was before, and you typically gain more because you feel like you deserve more after all of your hard work.  By the way, the whole “starvation mode” thing is a myth.  If you actually kept your calorie intake the same as it was when you’re on this “diet” then you wouldn’t necessarily gain all the weight back.  But nobody does that.  We magically think everything will stay the same, even though we have radically changed the rules of the game.

In our society today we all want quick fixes.  We want results right now and are willing to pay more money in order to get them faster if we really want something.  That email needs to be returned right away so I get a 4G phone instead of 3G.  That item you want you can buy online in five minutes rather than going to the store.  Results guaranteed in 90 days.  Even my clients expect miracles sometimes with removing their pain and getting them moving properly again or changing their body composition.  Sometimes I’m actually good enough to pull it off, but more often than not, it takes a while to get everything right again after years of abuse and neglect and a lot of work on their part doing everything right to bring it all together.

Olympians train for four years for one event, and we expect our body to change completely in 90 days.  The thing is, you can’t do that to your body.  It’s too smart.  It knows that stress, doing things quickly and trying to push beyond its’ current capacity means bad things, so it takes steps to not have that happen.  I’m going to ask you to simply listen to it.  Take the time to let it adapt, learn and move forward because whether or not you think you have time, you certainly don’t have time to waste.  As a society we need to get away from this idea that everything needs to happen right now and get back to what nature intended – slow, gradual change for the better.  I’m a firm believer that you can do anything that you want to do, but you have to give your body the chance to get there.  Let me know if you agree!

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