If you’re trying to make a lifestyle change that involves weight loss and physical fitness, you can’t avoid hearing that you need to step out of your comfort zone to succeed. Everywhere I turn I hear the same message – you must step outside of your current comfort zone to get results. The undertone is that the farther you step, the better it is.
The Pinterest graphics above is a good example of that kind of attitude.
Yet, I’m fed up with that kind of simplistic notion of stepping outside of your comfort zone. Why? I’ll explain below.
I don’t disagree with the fact that in order to lose weight and get fit, you need to make changes to your current lifestyle. If you weigh 300lb, eat fast food 4 times a day, guzzle gallons of soft drinks and take barely 1000 from your front door, your lifestyle needs to change a whole lot if you’re ever going get to normal weight range.
And while some of the changes you need to make will probably feel somewhat uncomfortable – like learning to eat more veggies or starting an exercise habit – where is it written that you need to make fast and drastic changes? On the contrary, most attempts at changing your lifestyle fail because you suddenly step too far outside your current comfort zone, not the other way round.
I think Marion has a great way of putting it. She once remarked that we have this crazy idea that we can turn our lives around in 90 days*
For most people, like me and Marion, losing weight and getting into shape is a long process that takes years and involves lots of experimentation and occasional backsliding.
Here’s an example from my own life.
When I decided I want to learn how to eat better a few years ago, I started my project the way most people start – I tried implementing all changes simultaneously. Because analyzing my food journal revealed that I don’t get enough protein, fat and veggies, I went on a rabid quest to add more protein and fat to my diet and increased my veggie consumption too. That meant that I had to make big changes to my diet and constantly look for new food items to add to my diet (that is how I learned to eat nuts).
I have plenty of similar experiences from exercise.
A couple of years ago I read Levine’s book Move a little, lose a lot, purchased a good pedometer and started walking. I walked so much that in a couple of weeks I had the beginnings of an overuse injury. I had to scale down my walking considerably in order to continue with what I was doing. And I have plenty of similar experiences in my past.
It’s probably easy to find similar experiences in your life.
I’m pretty sure you would get better results by staying closer to your comfort zone and gradually making changes to your lifestyle. And your results would be even better if you’d only make changes that fit your own lifestyle and your own preferences, rather than trying to turn your life upside down because of what some program tells you to do.
A good question to ask yourself about some lifestyle change is this: Can you (realistically) see yourself doing x in 5 years from now? Is x making you feel miserable and unhappy? If so, quit doing x or at least scale down your efforts till you get on a more comfortable level.
* I believe there will always be books and programs that promise you earth-shattering results in just 12 weeks or 90 days; that is, books that require you to step far outside your current comfort zone. But that is just clever marketing, nothing else.
If you don’t succeed with some 90-day program, the problem is with the program, not you.