When it comes to weight loss, the fundamental question that everything boils down to— the answer to which determines whether you’d be able to successfully lose weight and maintain that long term is—
“Are you overly focused on tactics or are you focused on implementing a proven strategy?”
If you’re someone who’s heavily tactics focused, but you have minimal or no strategy in place— you would go round and round in circles without achieving any kind of sustainable results.
Take the analogy of your kitchen.
Say you’re expecting friends to come over for lunch. How would you approach the cooking?
First you would formulate an overarching vision for the meal. You’d start by deciding the kind of cuisine you want to cook— is it going to be Indian, Mexican, Chinese or something else?
Then you’d determine the kind of dishes that you’re going to prepare as part of the cuisine.
So what are you having for entrée? What are you going to prepare for the main course? Is there going to be dessert?
And only after that, you’d determine the tools you’d use to cook these different meals.
For the main course, you may use a mixer-grinder to chop up the spices. Then you may use the stove-top to cook the thing. You might bake the dessert in your oven.
All of these different tools— the mixer grinder, the stove-top, the oven, the knives you use to chop up vegetables— they are just that. They are tools.
Imagine you going into the kitchen without any plan or strategy in place— you have no idea what cuisine you’re going to cook or the different dishes that you’re going to prepare.
You go straight to the mixer-grinder or the oven, and throw in ingredients hoping that something edible materialises; hopefully there would be three dishes which complement each other, ready by the time your friends arrive.
Would that be a reliable way to go about things? Clearly not.
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This is what happens when you approach weight loss from a perspective of being overly focused on the tools.
If you were to cook a dish, there are dozens of different methods you can follow to achieve the same end result. You don’t necessarily need to have a mixer-grinder to crush your spices. You could do that using a mortar-pestle.
You don’t need a peeler to peel off the skin from potatoes. You could do that using a knife.
Different tools could be used for the same purpose. It is not the tool that determines the outcome. It is the overarching strategy— whether you know how to use the tools available to you for your specific purpose.
If you start from the tool end and try to get to the result i.e., preparing a delicious meal for your friends or achieving weight loss— that is not going to work.
This is where most people get stuck when trying to lose weight. They are always hunting for tools.
“Should I fast for 18 hours a day?”
“Should I go vegan?”
“Should I cut out all carbs?”
“Should I drink only smoothies?”
“Should I do cardio six times a week?”
All of these things are just tools. They’re not the strategy.
Unless and until you have an overarching strategy in place, no tool or tactic would get you to the desired end goal.
If you have not been able to achieve results so far, it is because you are overly tactics focused.
You’re always chasing after the latest fad or the newest trend— the next shiny object.
Experienced chefs aren’t looking for the latest kitchen technology. They stick to the fundamentals and use the same tools they’ve been using for decades to cook amazing dishes.
So it is not about the tools; the fundamental principles still work. You need a proper strategy in place that works for your specific circumstances.
You are not to blame entirely because most programs out there these days are heavily tactics focused.
If you go into the online space, you’d see on social media that every influencer and fitness guru seems to have their own version of a weight-loss magic-bullet.
Some preach a certain way of fasting, removing certain kinds of foods from your diet, adding in a specific supplement. But one common underlying thread across all their methods— they are heavily tactics focused.
This would be the equivalent of a chef preaching that you must cook all your meals using a blender for best results— that all other kitchen tools were useless and total crap. The best dishes always come from a blender.
Can you see how irrational that sounds?
Whenever you see any fitness guru proposing one tool or tactic as the ultimate solution to weight loss, think of this analogy.
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Let’s now move from the online space to your real life.
I’m sure you know at least one person in real life who has maintained a healthy weight for an elongated period of time (at least a couple of years; possibly decades.).
If you think of it, this person isn’t focused on any of these so-called tactics and methods to maintain their results.
And even if some of these tactics were part of their daily routine, they would not claim that one specific tactic is what lets them maintain a healthy weight.
It’s just how skilled chefs won’t claim that the secret to their delicious cooking is a special oven or a frying pan they possess.
They may use an oven. They may use a specific frying pan as part of their cooking arsenal. But it is not the tool that determines their results.
The tools are just part of their overall strategy.
So why is it that you despite being overly focused on the newest diet, the latest fad— the next shiny thing, is not able to achieve your goals? But there is some other person who’s able to maintain a healthy weight even when they aren’t aware of any of these methods?
Why is that so?
It is because these people have knowing or unknowingly built a strategy that allows them to achieve and maintain weight-loss results long-term. That means they have created the lifestyle, the habits, the systems and the behaviours— which make it easy for them to sustain a healthy body weight.
Either they have intentionally modified their lifestyle over time successfully. Or they grew up in an environment which encouraged healthy eating behaviours and exercise habits.
It is like someone who grew up in a family with skilled chefs. And they were encouraged from childhood to be in the kitchen and experiment with dishes. They grow up to be a skilled chef themselves.
If someone had the good fortune to have grown up in an environment conducive to maintaining a lower body weight, they would in all likelihood be able to sustain it through adulthood.
This is why you see obesity run in families.
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More than the genetic component, it’s the environmental and behavioural factors that causes the obesity cycle to repeat across generations.
If you’re currently dealing with weight-related issues and it’s a pattern you notice among family members as well. You’d have to put in deliberate effort to create a strategy that aligns with the results you wish to achieve and that’s in accordance with your lifestyle.
What do I mean when I say that you need a strategy in place?
The first thing you need is a clear vision regarding what you wish to achieve. Where’s your end goal? What does success look like to you?
You need to understand the different parameters that govern your lifestyle— the foods you normally eat, your home environment, your support system (friends and family), your exercise habits, your sleep and recreational behaviours.
Weight loss ultimately is about eating less and moving more. Just like building wealth is about spending less and saving plus investing more.
But both of these goals require a solid strategy in place.
If you go after tactics even when it comes to building wealth, you may succeed accidentally; but outcomes are not predictable.
And it’s not a sustainable long-term plan.
Similarly when it comes to weight loss, if you don’t have a solid strategy in place you may accidentally lose some weight. But that’s just based on luck. And you won’t sustain it long-term. You may have experienced this first-hand already.
You need a clear vision. And you need to understand the parameters that govern your lifestyle. For example, someone who travels a lot cannot expect to follow a strict and rigid diet.
But someone who likes discipline and routine would do well with meal-prepping and having a strict diet; they may not enjoy much variety and unpredictability with meals.
Do you have a lifestyle that requires you to condense all of your eating into a limited time block? Then you may do well with some kind of intermittent fasting. This may not work if you like to eat frequent smaller meals.
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You need to be aware of your current roadblocks as well. What challenges are holding you back at the moment?
For many people, the primary challenges are— unmindful snacking, erratic meal timings, sedentary lifestyle. So if you cut out a food group like carbs, how does that help resolve any of these roadblocks? Will that keep you from snacking between meals? No it won’t.
If uncontrolled snacking is your main roadblock, you wouldn’t approach it by cutting out carbs from your diet. You’d start by fixing your meal timings and your eating space. You’d remove triggers from your environment that prompt snacking tendencies.
Another crucial part of your strategy is to figure out your dietary and exercise preferences. If you have to eat foods you dislike for the rest of your life, how’s that going to work out?
If you dislike going to the gym, will you be able to stick to a 6-days-a-week lifting routine?
Ultimately, like I mentioned earlier, losing weight boils down to eating less and moving more.
When it comes to movement, any kind helps. So find something that works for you. Do you like dancing? Do you like running? Do you like playing a sport?
Any movement is good movement when you’re starting out.
Over time you can experiment with different things that are more challenging, and as you develop curiosity to try other activities.
Remember this. It is not the tactic. It is the strategy.
Can you use a certain tool for your individual strategy? That is what matters.
And is the strategy you have formulated sustainable for you long-term?
Because if it isn’t; if you’re unable to adhere to the strategy long-term, you also won’t sustain the results.
So work on creating a robust weight loss strategy and then pick the tactics that best support it.
If you have been trying to reach your weight loss goals for a while now, but are struggling a bit in the process.
It’s probably because of a lack of consistency, a lack of guidance or a lack of support.
If you’d like a 24×7 support system to hold your hand and guide you through the process till you get to your goals, you should consider 1-on-1 coaching with Workday Physique.