On Radical Change

On Radical Change - weight loss advice - photo by sunny forest

A couple years ago, I watched a documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It was about an obese man named Joe Cross who was dealing with health problems, so he committed to a 60-day juice fast to lose weight and get healthier. After 60 days, he had lost 100 pounds and was able to stop drinking and smoking, all of which improved his health dramatically. Crazy, right?

Obviously this path isn’t for everyone—drastic change can be dangerous physically and emotionally. But for some people, radical change does work when gradual change didn’t.

Sometimes when I think about this story I have to wonder, Do some of us need to go about weight loss in a more drastic way in order to feel like we’re really making a difference?

When I lost weight 10 years ago, I didn’t take drastic measures, but people are often shocked when I tell them I lost 135 pounds the old fashioned way in a little over a year. I guess I did move quickly, and maybe it was pretty radical. Still, I can’t say I’d juice for 60 days straight or bike across America. But there is a part of me—the impatient, impulsive, and ambitious part—that can understand why anyone would want to sprint to the finish rather than jog there.

Weight loss is an area where the generally advised strategy is slow and steady. It’s so commonly accepted that if you do it any other way, you’re sure to take heat. Small, incremental changes are thought to be more realistic and more sustainable long-term. And yes, there are so many merits to this approach. For one, your brain has a chance to catch up with your body. For another, healthy habits have the benefit of time to solidify.

But for some of us, the slowness of this approach can cause serious mental and emotional fatigue. Since you don’t see results very quickly, you’re not as motivated to keep going—and maaan that makes it hard to want to keep going. You still feel the deprivation, you still struggle, only you’re not seeing it pay off.

But let’s say you go against traditional wisdom and you go the fast route. Let’s say you do something drastic, like suddenly going vegan, or quitting smoking cold turkey, or you juice for 60 days like Joe Cross did—what happens when the 60 days are done? The transition is far from seamless. How do you now learn balance, or temperance? Is that possible?

The thing is, while I can see all of the potential problems with radical approaches, I’m also someone who gets very, very fatigued by the slow and steady route. I’m a sprinter (figuratively, obviously). And as a somewhat extreme personality myself, I can see what they’re drawn to.

When you want to change your life, and you’ve got a wall of a hundred-plus pounds in front of you, sometimes taking the wall down brick by brick doesn’t feel like enough. Sometimes you need a bulldozer.

What kind of change works for you?

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12 thoughts on “On Radical Change

  1. Rebekah W.

    I think I’m a bit of both worlds. I definitely want to see the instant gratification of making a life change, however I need the slow and steady to solidify these changes. I’ve made the drastic changes before and have gotten to my goal rather quickly, but I’ve also went straight back to the habits that got me into trouble in the first place and regained all of the weight I worked so hard to lose. I’m in the process of losing the same weight for the third time now and I’m really trying to stay in the solidification stage this time. Finding a good balance while staying active has been key!

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  2. Hootie

    So great to here your thoughts on this :) I know that slow wear all too well. I guess I would need to try the radical to see :) I would say, kind of like ww in your journey that everything has a season based on where you are.

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  3. Juliana @ Urban Simplicity

    I think on some level, you have to commit to the pain of it. The asceticism of it. The fact that it isn’t going to be easy, that there are going to be good days and bad days, and that every change you make may not produce results. At some point, the results (i.e. the numbers on the scale or the measuring tape) have to stop mattering; it has to be about where you are as a person and what (good or bad) habits you are instilling. It has to be about fostering a right relationship with food and eating, ultimately.

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  4. Karen Simon Peterson

    I’m the slow and steady type. Seven years ago I made the decision to lose weight by changing my diet. I eliminated most sugar, processed food and dairy. It took me two years and I’ve kept the weight off.

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    1. Krista

      He actually participated in another documentary on Netflix that just came on there a couple of months ago, but I’m not sure how recent it is outside of Netflix. He also came out with a sequel to his initial doc, which came out in 2014 (first one was in 2010). I wonder what he does now, too.

      Reply
    2. Jacquie

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. What did he do after 60 days, because he didn’t learn anything sustainable in those 60 days.

      Reply
  5. Hanro

    Hi Andie,

    Great question. Personally, I’m a sprinter. Every time I discover something new, I get super passionate about. But I think I’m in the minority.

    Like you said, the juicing/detox won’t help you change your health habits.

    I think a good approach is to ask yourself: if you’re not willing to do it for the rest of your life why even bother? It’s like continually having a fling or one-night stand :)

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  6. Krista

    I watched that documentary too a while back, but I don’t think I could have done it myself. I usually need slow and steady change, rather than an immediate and often drastic change. I feel like drastic change inspires in the moment, whereas slow and steady change is more long term. I slowly transitioned from eating meat to being vegetarian and now vegan over the course of a year, and I don’t think I could have done it overnight. It seemed too drastic to cut it out overnight.

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  7. Arika Moore

    Love this question, because like pretty much everything in life, it varies from person to person. For me, I could never stick with the drastic stuff. I have 4 kids that I have to take care of and those intense detoxes really take it out of you for awhile. I tried and it wasn’t for me. That said, I LOVE Joe Cross. I watched the first documentary and the second and follow him on instagram. He’s inspiring in the same way that you are Andie. He promotes health and happiness and eating in the middle ;) I juice everyday because me and my family struggle to eat vegetables and that helps me make sure that we get them everyday. It works for us.

    For me and my husband, it had to be a lifestyle change. We knew that on a bulldozer kind of diet that we would lose a lot, but that wouldn’t prepare us for what came after the diet. We had to discover a new way of eating that worked for us.

    I find beauty in all the diversity. I find it incredible that so many people can lose weight and get healthy in a variety of different ways!

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