joe —  Fri 25-Oct-13

Helly BellysHaving recently lost a significant amount of weight, most of my hallway conversations involve someone asking, “So, what’s your secret?” I try to make the conversation a little more fun by responding, “I like to yodel in the shower,” or “I was that fifth dentist that actually preferred sugared over sugarless gum.”

This doesn’t help my relationships.

As an experiment to see how long I could keep a straight face, I once told someone that my secret was jelly beans. I explained how it wasn’t just any jelly beans, but Jelly Bellys. I explained how Jelly Bellys use a special kind of sugar that binds at a molecular level with fats that are then more readily removed from the body. I told them that the popcorn and Dr. Pepper flavors had higher concentrations of these sugars and were more effective. I lost it when I tried to explain how ingesting the popcorn and Dr. Pepper flavors together while watching television would make them feel like they were in a movie theater.

I aim iron manI don’t like the question about my secret because the answer disappoints others. When I tell them that “I eat less, I exercise more, and I get good rest,” they look as though I have just told them that water is wet. All the advice that doctors have been telling us about calories in and calories out is true. But, the message disappoints.

The disappointment comes because we are all looking for a better, faster way to reach a goal. Like water running down a hill, we are always searching for the fastest path to get to where we ultimately want to be. When we have failed at the most obvious path, sometimes often, we assume that there must be a better path. It can’t be us, it must be the method.

The hope for a better path gets complicated quickly. In the world of weight loss you can remove the carbs from your life (Atkins), eat like a caveman (Paleo), pretend you’re Italian (Mediterranean), or eschew all things that have a face (Vegan). Each of these are wonderfully attractive because they hold the promise of some magical secret that unlocks the energy burning potential of our internal combustion engine. Clearly this is a secret that the doctors didn’t know about in their “calories in minus calories out” formula. Unfortunately, many of the people that ask me, “What’s my secret,” have tried those alternative approaches and failed as well. That’s because, like math, it’s hard.

SquirrelWhat is it about the new and different that pulls us from the old tried and true? The single most effective program for weight loss over the years, Weight Watchers, has none of the gimmickry of the new and shiny. It’s calories in, calories out, along with some goal setting and encouragement. It’s a long slog. A long, proven slog that doesn’t sound enticing.

The new and shiny is attractive largely because it has not met the test of time. It appeals to our sense that there is always a better way. Unfortunately, the new and shiny often prevents us from doing what we know works now but may be hard. We keep holding out hope that there is a better way. In holding out hope, we soon forget the old adage, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”

This is not just about weight loss. This is also about life. What other parts of your life are you missing out on because the new and shiny keeps failing you? Is hopping around from job to job in hope of finding the perfect one keeping you from investing in the difficult one you have today? Is the distraction of that cute new co-worker who “gets you” keeping you from investing into your much longer running marriage?

What if the secret you are waiting for is the one you already know?