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The importance of taking small steps

Have you ever noticed how young babies are taught to swim?  It’s a delightfully slow, deliberate process.

The baby is first placed in the vicinity of the pool so he or she can get used to the smell and sounds.  The baby may sit next to the water, or hold a pool noodle, or feel just a few drops of water on their face.  Parents cheer and clap for their babies at each of these developmental stages, no matter how small, no matter how far away from swimming they may still be.  Even if the baby “fails” during the process – e.g. cry when they’re submerged under water -- they are still supported and encouraged.

Contrast this experience to how we sometimes treat ourselves when we’re trying something new, or embarking on a new, challenging journey – like improving our health or losing weight.  Often, it’s almost completely the opposite.

As a weight loss coach, I find that patients don’t treat themselves as gently as I’ve just described.  They take too large initial steps; they are not patient with themselves during the journey; and they do not seek out sufficient support.  As a direct result, weight loss journeys are often less delightful, and sometimes less successful, than the baby swimming journey described above.

Patients often take too large an initial step when they embark on a new, challenging journey.  For example, one patient I met with was so excited to lose weight that she decided to re-start the running routine she did back in college (15 years ago, despite being physically dormant since then).  This patient immediately hurt her knee.  It was difficult for her to get her body moving again after that, not only because of her knee, but also because she hurt her pride -- she now believed she didn’t have what it took to be active anymore and returned to a dormant lifestyle.  This wasn’t true, of course – it’s simply that she was too ambitious and took too big a step initially. 

The antidote to this is to simply start small.  Even if you used to run marathons monthly, if you haven’t been running lately, start with walks.  Even if you used to bike the Tour de France, if you haven’t been active lately, start with flat, short bike rides.  If even these first steps seem daunting, start even smaller.  Go into the woods for a forest-y stretch.  Wade into your favorite body of water and stay afloat for 10 seconds at a time.  Move your body in any way that gets you started and doesn’t scare you away.  Then build from there – just like a parent teaching a baby to swim.

I have also noticed that, unlike the situation described in the beginning of this post, adults have less patience with themselves during new, challenging journeys like weight loss.  They are almost intolerant of setbacks or failures along the way, berating themselves to the point of quitting.  However, it’s almost horrifying to imagine a parent berating a baby for crying the first time he or she fully submerged under water.  Isn’t it, then, just as bad to berate yourself for not doing something perfectly the first time you’re trying it?  Patience, resilience, and roadblock mitigation are key.  In fact, I tell patients to embrace and even invite failures into their journeys.  They can be the most valuable learning opportunities of all.

Finally, patients often fail to reach out for the support they need, instead often white-knuckling it the whole way.  Go back to the baby-in-the-pool scenario.  The baby succeeds because of his or her support system – the parent holding the child, the instructor giving instructions, the lifeguard watching from above, the pool operator testing and maintaining the water periodically, the pool owner spending money on needed upgrades periodically, the pediatrician giving advice on when to teach the baby to swim and helping with potential swimmers’ ear infections, etc.  In the same way, we need support systems during any challenging journey, too.  At Sound Medical Weight Loss, we provide 360 degree holistic support – medical, physical, nutritional, mental, aesthetic, and more.

Curious to learn more?  Reach out and get the support you need!  Book an appointment with us directly –

Mariel Ilardi  Mariel became a weight loss coach with SMWL after being a patient herself -- having lost 65 pounds through the program! In addition to coaching SMWL patients, Mariel is the founder and CEO of Haven Coaching, an executive and career coaching company.

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