You’re led to believe you can have whatever body you want in a matter of weeks, or days! — and if you don’t accomplish it, you must be doing something wrong.
What’s the truth?
While everyone is different, I’m offering this general guideline of what to expect after certain periods of time spent dieting and exercising.
5 Years (On and Off)
Where will 5 years of on-again/off-again, diet and exercise get you?
Depending on how sporadically you applied yourself, you might be better off than had you done nothing, but possibly not by much (especially if it was mostly off-again).
I don’t tell you this to make you feel guilty. Your efforts are never wasted, even if you fail miserably.
You can learn a lot in 5 years of occasional effort, even if you don’t change much physically. Then you can take what you learned and apply it to a new plan you can use consistently.
Consistency is the most important element.
And while perfection is far from necessary (as we talk about in Why 90% Effort is More than Enough), from here on out when I discuss what to expect at various intervals, let's assume you've been consistent MOST of the time (like 80% or better).
It’s normal to end your first month of work frustrated that you’re not already a swimsuit model. Heck, you might not look or feel different at all.
If that’s the case, don’t give up. Remember, the most important thing is to be consistent, and you’ve barely just started.
On the other hand, some people notice immediate changes (usually from losing water weight) and get excited.
If that’s you, the important thing is to not expect continuous rapid changes. Yes, be excited and enjoy your success, just don’t get frustrated when the rest of your progress comes slower.
Regardless of whether you’re excited or frustrated after one month, any progress will be minimal.
At the end of two months there should be some evidence to show that what you’re doing is working.
But that might not mean what you think.
Any physical changes at this point might still seem insignificant. As long as you’re slowly moving in the right direction, that’s ok.
Expecting a major overhaul by now is a mistake.
Your progress might be more mental or emotional. Maybe you’re finally coming to terms with the fact that slow and steady wins the race.
No matter what you’ve accomplished exactly, by now you should realize the changes are coming, and you can sink your teeth in a bit deeper.
(If you haven’t had any physical changes, you might need to make some adjustments. Just don’t overreact if progress is still minimal.)
The end of 3 months is typically a turning point.
Before now you might still have wondered if what you’re doing is working.
Your clothes fit differently. You can see a difference in the mirror. You feel different.
Again, this can vary substantially. You may have lost 15 pounds, or you may not have lost any weight. Either way, you’ll notice a difference.
You could still be a long way from where you’d like to be, but by now there should be some sort of obvious change.
The tricky part is to not become complacent, or indifferent. You’ve done a good job, but you haven’t made this a stable habit yet.
Be proud of anything you’ve accomplished, big or small, but don’t lose your commitment or you’ll wind up right back where you started. That’s why it’s so important to build sustainable habits.
If what you’ve done up until now is too difficult to keep going, what good did it do you?
By six months you’ve established lasting habits.
It’s always possible to break your routine. Life happens, but by now it’ll take less effort to keep going. A week of summer vacation won’t derail you like it might have a few months ago.
As far as physical changes, you will have accomplished a lot.
Depending on a number of factors, you still might not be where you want, but you’ll be much closer.
Your definition of “in shape” might even have changed. While you’ll probably be in better shape than ever before, you’ll realize now how good it feels and want to go further.
There’ll be no question that what you’re doing is working. Your body composition will be different. You’ll feel better. And the idea of keeping this up isn’t scary anymore.
By now all the small changes you made will have added up significantly.
You might have achieved exactly what you wanted, but more likely you’ll appreciate that you’ll never be perfect… and you’ll be perfectly ok with it.
You’ll be settled into a new lifestyle, although you’ll realize it didn’t take as big of a change as you thought.
You’ll feel better in many different ways, and you’ll have new goals born out of an enjoyment of life, rather than a feeling of inadequacy.
You may have started out wanting to be just a little better off than you were, but now you’ll realize the sky’s the limit, and all it takes is a little effort done consistently over a long period of time.
To Infinity and Beyond
At every interval I mentioned that you might still not be where you want.
That’s because, from your goals to your starting point (and a million other things), everyone is different. It’s impossible to say exactly when and how your results will materialize.
The point is that lasting change takes time.
There are ways to speed things up a bit (in next week’s blog I’ll discuss the right way to lose weight quickly), but you’ll find it still requires an expectation of a longer time frame than most people allow.
If you’re ready for more than the typical “30 Day Get Ripped Quick” plans you find online, I suggest starting with our ebooks, which we offer free as our gift to you for signing up for our newsletter (where we send even more useful free tips).
You can download them here:
Forever Fat Loss: 12 Habits for Lasting Change (never diet again)
Home Workout for Beginners: Get In Shape In 20 Minutes a Day (no gym equipment required)