I see a lot of ads offering things like a ‘14-day weight loss challenge’ or ‘21-day health restart’ this time of year. Do you?

Many people will sign up for them. I have done them myself in years past. I have also created and offered them in my health coaching business before. I even considered offering one this year because they are so appealing. But then I remembered – they don’t work.

A “restart” or “jumpstart” sounds so beneficial and inspiring. It seems like the answer to our problems. We think, “I can do anything for 14 days,” or, “This will get me started.”

While those thoughts may be true, the reality is that these short-term programs rarely lead to long-term change. These programs share the same problem as setting goals – the “finish line,” the built-in stopping point to the new actions.

What Can We Do for Weight Loss or Other Health Improvements?

I think one of the most valuable things you can do is to learn how to create a successful plan for yourself. Having no plan at all doesn’t usually work, you probably don’t need an explanation or convincing of that. You may be living without any kind of plan right now. How is that going?

Flexibility Is Key

Creating too strict a plan usually ends up not working any better than no plan at all. ‘Challenge’ types of programs are often way more restrictive than how someone would be willing to live their daily life. There has to be a certain amount of flexibility in any plan before it can become a lifestyle.

Only you know how flexible or strict your plan should be to make sure you will adhere to it. I love to see my clients be successful with a very flexible plan that is in some way improving their health. You can always tighten up or add to your plan at a gradual pace to ensure that you will always be willing to do it.

Your Rally Cry!

When we start these ‘restarts’ or ‘challenges’ we are excited and want to shout, “Let’s go, let’s do this hard thing!” as we embark. This excited, fired up motivation, burns hot but soon flames out. It is hard to sustain that kind of enthusiasm for very long.

I think our rally cry should be more like, “Okay, I can do this. It is totally doable.” It may not seem as thrilling, but it is much more useful for your long-term motivation.

Sustainability

Over the years, I have had so many clients ask me, “Should I do the ____ (popular at the moment) diet plan?” Some of the plans are healthy and beneficial but my answer was always, and still is, “Don’t do anything that you are not willing to do for the rest of your life.”

What is the point: lose some weight, stop doing the plan, and gain it back again? This is such a waste of your time and energy, and not great for your body OR mind.

“Keep It Between the Navigational Beacons, Between the Buoys”

I think I am quoting a Jimmy Buffet song here, but I like it. Besides making sure that your plan has enough flexibility to be sustainable, it also needs some guidelines, some buoys to keep you on course. These guidelines can include things like food or drink limits.

An example could be maximum number of alcoholic drinks or desserts in a week. The beacons could be minimum baselines for your activity. Like establishing a minimum number of times or minutes per week of exercise. You could set a minimum number of times you cook at home per week, or maximum number of meals you get out.

Remember to make your guidelines doable. This is not a challenge or a diet or a program. This is how you plan to live your life.

Don’t Forget Compassion and Patience for Yourself

Remember that even though you have set up a flexible, doable plan, you probably won’t be perfect, especially at first. Don’t immediately ditch the plan or change it. Give it a little time before you decide if it is doable for you or not.

You may have done a short-term program that led to permanent changes in the past. If so, yay! The majority of people that I have worked with find that sooner or later they have to establish a sustainable lifestyle plan that works for them. Creating the right plan for you can take a little trial and error, but it is worth it because it creates permanent change.

If you want some help developing your flexible, sustainable plan for health, you can get my planning worksheet here.

Have you done any short-term weight loss challenges? How was your experience? What did you gain or learn from doing them? Will you do a challenge again? Please share with our community!

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