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September 02 2009

Building on Momentum: 5 Steps for Continued Success

By Mark Sisson

Whenever the end of a Primal Challenge month rolls around, certain reader questions tend to flood my inbox. “When’s the next one?” is a popular one, as is “Did I win?” Still others concern the same basic content as regular questions, only delivered with a bit more enthusiasm and a touch more desperation (I guess immersing yourself in a formal challenge will do that). And finally, the most common question I’ve been getting is this:

“What now?”

If you’re new to the PB but well versed with the dieting world, this question is completely natural. So many of the fad diets are diets rather than lifestyle changes, and a big part of making an ultra restrictive, ultra low-calorie regimen “attractive” is telling their adherents that the diets are only temporary – that they can go back to eating like they used to as long as they exercise moderation. Hmm. Unlimited access to moderate amounts of fries, chips, and cookies (all eaten with the blessing of “insert feel-good eating guru here”)? I dunno about you, but I somehow envision that scenario escalating until the weight returns (“and in greater numbers”).

You see, eating nothing but low-fat wheat thins and Special K only sounds feasible if you operate under the assumption that it only lasts a month with the “benefits” lasting a lifetime. But we know this isn’t the case. CW knows this isn’t the case, too (how often do we hear the “diets don’t work because you just gain the weight back once you stop” refrain trumpeted in the media?). Hell, anyone should know that temporarily shifting one’s diet will only have temporary, fleeting results – and isn’t that why you’ve decided to give the PB a shot?

Most of you already know that the Primal Blueprint is a lifestyle, rather than a mere eating pattern. It encompasses fitness, sleep, stress management, mental health, as well as nutrition. You can pick and choose and you’ll still see results, but the best transformations occur when you incorporate each element into your life.

Yesterday in my video post I touched on a few things you can do to build upon the momentum you’ve created as a result of the Primal Blueprint Health Challenge. Let’s take a look at a few additional ways to stick with the changes you’ve made.

Review Your Results

Take a look back at your experience. Did you fall short of your goals? It happens to the best of us. The important thing is to redouble your efforts, armed with knowledge that the effects of the PB can be swift or gradual – just don’t be disheartened. Did you exceed your expectations? Awesome – now imagine how good it’ll get after a year of this! Were the changes a bit subtler than expected? Sometimes, gradual is better than drastic, because it allows for better acclimation and more realistic expectations.

Write down what worked and what failed. One’s personal history – failures and success alike – makes a good model for future endeavors.

Build Off Your Success

Now, for last month’s challenge, many of you attacked a specific area of the Primal pantheon that you felt was lagging behind. Maybe you were trying to get to twenty pull-ups, or maybe you were trying to eat 100% Primal for a month. If you successfully undertook a personal challenge that focused on a single aspect of the PB, why not build off that success and expand your focus? You’ve reached a personal best on squats; how about getting those eight hours of sleep every night? You’ve tossed all the pastas, beans, and packaged foods to complete the Primal Pantry conversion; how about making a point to visit the farmers’ market every weekend?

Build and expand, but be sure you don’t neglect the basic foundation.

Formally Define More Challenges

Set goals. Have a plan. Write it down. When it comes to making lasting lifestyle changes, this is all good advice. I intended the challenge as a springboard to further challenges, except I can’t outline them all for you every time – which is why for this challenge you were tasked with creating your own. Thirty days is usually enough to see some drastic results in most people. Just imagine what an entire lifetime of weekly, monthly, yearly challenges might bring! Keep pushing yourself, maintain that Primal Blueprint Health Challenge journal (and start one if you haven’t!), get specific with your goals (“I want to lose ten pounds in six weeks”), and treat these challenges as sacrosanct as the original set.

I wish I could offer you prizes for every challenge, but total body transformation and optimum health is a pretty decent compromise.

Become a Regular

MDA is quickly becoming a full-fledged community. In addition to the constant flood of nutrition articles, fitness posts, recipes, advice, tips, and tricks that show up every single day, there’s also the forum. Keep in touch! Read the posts and discuss them (or any other issues of interest) with your fellow members. I pledge to do my part to inform and inspire you; with active participation and engagement with the material (geez, I sound like a college professor), you round out the other half. Once you get personally involved and get in a rhythm of keeping up with the blog, I think you’ll find putting the Primal pieces into place becomes easier and easier.

There are a number of highly educated, well-informed, erudite forum posters that I’m thankful to have expanding on the material in the blog – I suggest you take advantage of them (or count yourself among their numbers!). And as long as I still have readers, I’ll keep pumping out the encouragement as best I can.

Avoid Stagnation

Apathy is the enemy of progress. Don’t get bored. If eating the same food each day isn’t your thing, don’t think you have to keep it up just to maintain some notion of Primal purity. Try new recipes and restaurants. Don’t eat the same foods you always eat. Try new exercises. Varying intensity, duration, and movement is good for your body and for your resolve. If you’re sick of sprinting on the track, go for an intense swim, or try the Grok crawl instead.

The key is keeping yourself busy and your mind active. If you’re merely going through the motions, alter those motions. Force yourself to do something differently. The human mind is powerful and fickle, and you’ve got to entice it with new challenges – constantly – or it’ll get away from you and revert and relapse.

Your genes, your instinctual urges, and the MDA community are on your side. The challenge has only just begun.

Let’s stay Primal!

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17 thoughts on “Building on Momentum: 5 Steps for Continued Success”

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  1. I think the first point is THE most important one and people often forget it or don’t give it much importance. Great post.

  2. I committed to the 30 day challenge with renewed vigor, only to continue to gain weight (no, it’s not muscle). It’s enough to send me off into a carb-loading binge- but I won’t cave in.
    I am quite discouraged as it’s been 6 months on the PB with no weight loss…
    but I do believe in this lifestyle so will continue to promote it…it’s just hard when people look at me & don’t see any improvements! ;(
    On the bright side, all the recipes rock!!

    1. Hello marci,

      Have you shared your story with forum members? I’ve seen many regulars offer great insight into how a plan can be tweaked so that you see the results you are after.

      Start a thread and explain what you eat in an average day, how much you weigh, your height, your activity levels, how much weight you are looking to lose, how much sleep you get, your stress levels, medical conditions, and any other pertinent information that you might have and are willing to share.

      This is by no means a replacement for medical advice or in any way a scientific assessment but advice from those that are living the lifestyle can sometimes come in handy and be quite helpful.

      Despite not seeing any weight loss how do you feel otherwise? Are there other improvements? More energy, fewer cravings, for example? How are you sure it isn’t muscle gained?

      I wish you the best. See you in the forum!

      1. thanks Mark!
        I’ve pestered the kind folks in the forum- they are the best- but even my ND & holistic MD are mystified by my situation! It’s just my weight & testosterone are the troubling areas (the former too high, the latter too low). Clothing is too tight now ;( However, everything else- cholesterol, blood pressure, lipids- are perfect- so I know the PB works. I feel much better now(no hungry horrors like when I was a vegetarian, rare hypoglycemia attacks)…and like I said I refer any & everyone here (one galpal recently lost 5 lbs on the PB in no time!) I know it works, just gotta find my sweet spot. I’m a Grokette for life-thanks again for all you do.

  3. My wife had a tough time losing weight as well starting a low carb lifestyle. Lifting weights (compound movements) helped but weight loss was halted. We narrowed it down to her birth control pills. When she stopped using them, the weight started coming off more. I think it played a big role in losing weight.

    1. I was on BC pills for way too long but stopped a few yrs ago — I would encourage all women to do the same — they really mess up yr hormones in the long run. I lift weights 3x week…love it. Seems like I’m the only gal in the weight room which is too bad!

  4. I had a tough time losing weight w/ the low-carb lifestyle, too… and then I heard how an imbalance in glucagon (a hormone your body secretes when you eat protein) can up your cortisol levels (which makes you store fat). Once again, balance is the key.

    Balance, and a heck of a lot of fish oils, that is!

    The message is that every one of us is going to have to take the base Primal principles and tweak it until we find what works for us. The forum is a great place to do that along with other folks who may have walked this path longer, which tends to make it richer and easier.

  5. Hi Adam,

    How would one recognize and correct the glucagon imbalance?

  6. Marci,

    Don’t despair! I’ve been goofing around with the primal diet for about a year. I did last year’s challenge and had some flaky results. My weight goes up and down, roughly between 142-155 lbs. (Which is too heavy.) I’m 5’4 39 year old woman with a beer gut! Ugh! One thing I have learned is you can’t eat all the fat the Primal diet promotes AND Carbs! This can cause some poor results. The carbs have to go! This year’s challenge has been much better! I really haven’t had too much of a struggle with the diet like I did last year. Now, I need to focus on the daily work outs. The move frequently at a slow pace…let’s face it, if you are trying to lose weight you need to hit the upper ends of these charts=5 hours, ditto lifting heavy things and sprinting! (Which I haven’t incorporated into my routine.) But the weight is coming off. Aug 3 my weight was 150ish, today September 2nd my weight is 140. Not bad…just have to keep plugging away.

    1. thanks for yr kind words of encouragment- big e-hugs to you all! This is why MDA rules.

  7. Great post!

    I did look at my measurements. My arms went down a fraction of an inch, while I did gain strength. I also lost almost an inch around my thighs, which are still a problem area for me.

    After watching the Primal workout videos, I got incredibly inspired. My current goal is to be able to do pull ups. My gym has a machine that compensates part of my body weight. I have to compensate 55 lbs and am hoping to wittle it down to 0, then possibly start ADDING weight. That’s my answer to “Now what?”

  8. Hi Marci,

    Do you have a local crossfit where you live? This really did the trick for me…I went from being stuck at 210 to a quick plummet to 190 in just a few months. I had been doing paleo for a year, but my body needed a metabolic boost! I might add the crossfit community strongly supports a primal/paleo lifestyle, and the people are very welcoming of everyone on any physical level. Best of luck!

  9. Mikey’s right find a CrossFit gym.
    And keep a food journal, sometimes people think there eating the correct way buts its just a little off. You can surely send it to me to look at….Were all here to help!!