It’s that time of year again. Resolutions are being made and millions of people around the world are thinking the same thing: This will be the year that I get my dream body. In January, 6-week challenges skyrocket. Everyone wants their ideal body and they want it fast. Gyms are all too happy to help, promoting 4, 6, and 12-week challenges that promise amazing results in a temptingly short time-period.
The big question is, do they work?
Sure! For a while…
If you’ve ever done a 6-week fitness challenge before, you’ll likely know what I mean. At the end of the 6 weeks, your before-and-after photos will look great. Another 6 weeks later is a different story. It’s not your fault, 6-week challenges have been proven time and time again to rarely work in the long term. So why don’t they work, and why do we keep buying into them?
People love the idea of fast results. They want everything yesterday, which is why 6-week challenges are so appealing. It’s a timeframe that we can visualise clearly which helps us stay motivated. The problem with this is that the human body doesn’t like to change at all, let alone quickly.
We are designed to hold onto fat. It’s our survival mechanism to see us through times of famine. To override our genetic code and lose fat is hard, and it gets even harder when you rush it. If you want to lose a substantial amount of fat in a short period of time, you’re going to have to drastically change your eating habits and exercise. This is an issue because such drastic changes are usually unsustainable. Not to mention, going too hard too fast can cause injuries and even metabolic damage.
So, why can’t you keep that weight off? The answer is simple. Temporary goals give temporary results.
Generally speaking, most of us have a body that reflects our lifestyle. If we lead a generally healthy lifestyle we tend to look healthy. The problem with fitness challenges is that they push you into a completely different and unsustainable lifestyle. For 6 weeks, you’re leading the lifestyle of an athlete, training and dieting outside the normal range. As a result, you’ll start to look like an athlete, but as soon as that lifestyle stops the results will stop too.
To get lasting results, you need to start living a healthy lifestyle permanently. There are no quick fixes. Just because you lose weight, doesn’t mean it will stay off forever. As soon as you go back to your old eating habits, your old body will come back as well. The only weight loss that will stick is weight loss that comes from sustainable changes you can keep up for the rest of your life.
The third and most damaging reason why 6-week challenges don’t work is that they eat away at your self-esteem and reinforce the neverending yo-yo of diet culture. By pushing yourself into an unsustainable lifestyle you’re entering a cycle of trying, succeeding for a short time, then going back to our old ways and ‘failing’ again. This plays tricks on your mind and self-worth, convincing you that permanent weight loss and lasting health goals are unattainable.
The key is to stop thinking that there is an end date. It’s easy for us to give up all our bad habits for a short period of time, but it’s a lot harder to even consider giving them up for good. The good news is that, if you approach health and weight loss gradually, you don’t need to go all-in from day one.
Focus on changing one habit at a time. It could be as simple as drinking more water or going for a walk every second morning. These small habits will add up and make a big difference over time. While you might not get that impressive before-and-after photo in 6 weeks, who cares? It’s where you are in 6 months and 6 years that truly count. Long-term health is achievable, it just takes time and a gradual approach.
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