Winny’s real people, real health example: the long game
Winny is a 68-year-old patient of mine, weighing 120kg with long term type 2 diabetes and very poor fitness. Her diabetes was out of control, she was on 3 medications and it was getting worse. She was one step away from insulin injection therapy which can make it even harder to lose weight.
Initially, when I started seeing her she had the same misconceptions that many people did. She just had to go on a 10-week program, suffer for that period but lose lots of weight, and then everything would be fine and she could go back to her life.
The common reality though is far from this. She tried the intensive diet program that she bought online, she lost about 8 kg which is good but she was constantly hungry and restricting herself. At the same time, her fitness was very poor and nothing was addressing this. Interestingly her blood sugar levels for her diabetes did not change much.
However she could not sustain this change, she was grumpy because she was constantly restricting herself, she was unhappy, she was isolated because her husband didn’t want to do it, and she was tired because she was hardly eating anything. So she stopped, and within 4 weeks she had not only regained all the weight, she had put on an extra 4 kg because she was eating more from guilt and as a “treat”.
Sound familiar? If it doesn’t yet, you’re lucky.
So, I met with her and her husband. We discussed what they liked to eat when they were hungry, what they liked to do, what was needed and most importantly – what could they do for the long term. Initially, she made small but important changes and lost about 1-1.5kgs or 2.2 to 3.5 pounds a month. Not a lot in a short period compared to the intensive diet but still, that was 15kg after one year which is more and she could maintain it because she was happy in the process. Then after one year, she felt ready to do short periods of more intensive change followed by going back to her “baseline” healthier lifestyle. This rapidly improved her weight loss losing ~2-4kg a month in the intensive phases and 1 kg a month during baseline. She felt comfortable and happy about doing this. So, to date, she has lost 22kg and she has changed her way of life so this will just continue. Her diabetes had significantly improved, we have reduced medications and she is no longer headed for insulin. Also, her fitness has improved and she is now enjoying the movement she does.
Sound good? The moral of the story here is – play the long game, make sensible investments into yourself and your life.
A lot of people might think the traits required for long term success include a strong will power, determination, and a “take no prisoners” attitude. But actually, in our experience, these traits work well in the short term to get you started, but in the long term, we need a few different traits.
For sure developing your will power over time is both possible and I encourage it but I want to talk about another mindset. A crucial mindset for long term success is the learning mindset. This means that the goal is not perfection but rather learning, growing and humility to accept we need to change. To learn about our strengths and weaknesses, to learn how to problem solve, to learn how to adapt in our lives.
Anyone can go crazy for 4 weeks and pretend to have changed and had revelations, but what matters is what we learn on this journey; the insights, the applications, and the strengths. At first, this may seem like a bit much and irrelevant, but I can almost guarantee you that later on you will watch this video again and it will make sense.
When people go nuts in the short term, they burn out, they don’t learn how to change their lives. Interestingly, we have to learn this “learning” way of thinking as well. If I give you a piano and say – “play like ”, of course, you couldn’t even if you have the best piano in the world. A lot of people forget that the path they are on is like this, it takes time and practice but often they give up after a few weeks if they haven’t got the results. In a few weeks of piano practice, most people can only play hot cross buns, and the same is true for a lifestyle change.
When anyone makes any sort of lifestyle change they go through a few steps – external control, internal control, then automation. So this means initially we need things outside of us to motivate us, perhaps people, like your health professional or family. Then we develop internal control like willpower, motivation and internal purpose that keep us going. And finally, the goal is to change our actual routines and habits, so we don’t have to try anymore, we don’t have to try and be healthy, we just do it because we created a new way of life. I cannot stress this enough, your goal is not actually to lose weight, or to exercise more. The goal is the change our way of life, our routines, habits and flow so losing weight just comes automatically and stays where you want it.
As I said before it is totally natural that you will lose weight fairly easily, to begin with, and then it may or may not plateau. But don’t give up, change up the methods and keep going. Perseverance is the key. You can lose weight. Often I see the people who just push on, like a workhorse, slow and steady, they might only lose 1kg a month, which most people would consider very little, but in 2 years when they are 24 kg or over 50 lbs less and slowly but steadily changed their whole lives – versus the other people who rushed it, to begin with, and burned out are the same weight or heavier – who is laughing now?
So remember this principle – If you want to succeed, you have to play the long game.