Little steps can lead to big results
One of the many reasons that a new fad diet of any type will generally fail is that there are far too many changes made in one go. It for just this reason that I will not write people diet plans. They will start out with good intentions and follow it rigidly for a few weeks and then bit by bit they will drop the changes.
You can picture this as a pyramid (see diagram below). The base is very wide and this represents a large number of changes (diet plan). As you move up the pyramid it starts to narrow, this represents the passage of time. As the pyramid narrows this represents the amount of changes being followed (sustained). Ultimately you reach the peak of the pyramid and there are no changes remaining.
I am a big believer in the mantra “it is your lifestyle that got you fat/unfit/ill (and many more) and only changing that lifestyle will get you fit and healthy again”. The thing about this is that it means it has taken a while to get to where they are now. It is going to be a similar timeline to reverse everything. Therefore, clients have to buy into a long-term outcome rather than the 6-week quick fix. For some this doesn’t seem reasonable but get them to reflect on how many times they have tried to change previously. If they were to add up all of those attempts it would actually have been quite a long time.
What we actually want to do is turn the pyramid upside down. This is exactly how I work with clients. So now we’re starting at the point (no changes) and now I will agree a few changes with the client. They will normally have a few ideas as to what they need to change. This could be exercise/activity and/or nutritional. When possible go with their ideas at the start, they are more likely to stick with these if they own them (have devised them). Now monitor how this goes for a few weeks. If they come back and say things like “those changes are straightforward I didn’t really notice them that much” this indicates they are likely to stick with these.
Equally they may come back and say, “I really tried but I had a bad week and couldn’t do them that often”. If they can’t stick to changes when working with you, they are unlikely to sustain them long-term so bin them and come up with something new.
With time this ‘suck it and see’ approach will build on successes and establish long-term habits that will garner the results the client desires. This method of building on small successes worked extremely well for personal trainers who took part in my research. This is the small steps I referred to in the title. This can also be used in reverse when discussing the odd slip-up (relapse) in a programme. Put things into context and a timeline is perfect for this. Point out that having one bad day may look like a catastrophe but work it out in percentages. One day is about 3% of a month so not that bad, but let’s go further. It is only 0.27% of year and if calculated on 30 years it becomes a ridiculously small number. It is only when we fail day on day that the percentage becomes significant. So, the odd bad day will not derail your progress when you look at the bigger long-term picture.
It is because of this that we should see small steps as a big victory and celebrate them every day. In the context of a lifetime each day’s little steps end up as significant results. Whether that be diet/nutrition/activity/exercise or business, the mantra is exactly the same.