Not everyone reaches their goals by the deadline they’d like to. That may be hard to hear, but it’s reality. Sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes the goals weren’t realistic, and sometimes you just haven’t reached your goal yet (but will some day).
But other people are successful with their objective. They set realistic goals with an achievable timeline, they’re patient, they adjust their strategy as needed, and they put in the effort to meet the challenge they put in front of themselves.
But one thing not enough people think about is this:
“What happens once I reach my goal? Now what?”
In regards to nutrition and weight-oriented goals, it’s an important question. After all, while many people are able to successfully lose weight, far fewer are able to maintain that weight loss over time. There are many reasons why maintaining weight loss is challenging, but perhaps the biggest problem is that too often there’s only a plan to reach the goal and not a plan to maintain it.
The irony of the problem is that these individuals often do have a plan to maintain their progress, but they’ve made the mistake of putting a deadline on the behaviors that got them there in the first place. What I mean is this: whatever you did to get yourself to this point, you’re going to need to keep doing all or most of those things to stay there.
Have you ever wondered why so many diets have deadlines on them? The 21-Day Fix, The 6-Day Cleanse, or something like that. The first reason they set this deadline is because most of the parameters on these types of diets are unsustainable. You may be able to keep up the protocol for a few days or a few weeks, but over time it’s impossible. They can’t sell you on this as a permanent solution, because who’s going to live on cabbage soup for the rest of their lives?
So it’s not really a solution at all.
But why would someone sell a product that doesn’t work? To sell you another, of course! The same people that profited off unsustainable low-fat diets are peddling low-carb approaches now. Why sell you one diet when they can cook up a new one to sell you for each month of the year?
Followers of these diet plans don’t have an answer to the question of “Now what?”. Although the term “lifestyle change” has become cliché, it holds up. If you don’t approach nutrition and weight goals in this way, it’s a losing game. That means that your goals need to be realistic. Are you setting a goal to get to a lower weight than you were in high school? You may want to re-consider, because what you’d need to do to reach the goal likely cannot be maintained long-term.
The real solution here is process-oriented thinking. Have you ever heard those statistics about lottery winners going broke? It’s because they were handed money without ever building the skills necessary to maintain wealth. They’ve likely never had to budget or invest their money before, and without the knowledge and experience to manage money they quickly lose it. They were handed their goal without building a process.
The same thing would happen if we were allowed to suddenly select our ideal weight and body type. The majority of people would see a quick return to what’s always been “normal” for them, because – in addition to having unrealistic body expectations – most of us haven’t built a sustainable set of behaviors to maintain that body type. Once again, you were handed your goal without building a process.
The point here is that the process is the whole point of making the changes in the first place. Build habits and behaviors, rather than focusing on simply reaching a weight number that you may not be able to maintain.
If you find yourself asking “Now what?” after you’ve lost weight, take a look back at how you got there. If you went about it the right way, the answer to “Now what? is to keep up what you’re doing, making minor adjustments as needed. If you went about it the wrong way, consider connecting with someone – like a dietitian – who can help you build a better process for the future.