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Slow Is the Way to Go

Paradoxically, many people fail at losing weight because they try too HARD. Due to metabolic compensation, the body fights back to get back to its “normal weight.”

Although some people can lose weight quickly, for many others, going slow is actually the way to go. Paradoxically, it is often much easier to lose weight permanently if you don’t try too hard, because of the concept of creeping normality.

What Is Creeping Normality? The Fable of the Boiling Frog

boiling frog - creeping normality
Photo © 2010 J. Ronald Lee

Have you heard of the fable of the boiling frog

They say if you put a frog into boiling water it will jump right out. But if you put the frog in tepid water and slowly increase the temperature, the frog won’t leave the water until it’s too late. 

This is creeping normality. Slowly but surely, things change, but we don’t even notice a difference. A slowly increasing credit card bill eventually becomes crippling debt. A car that isn’t maintained eventually breaks down. A few excess calories a day becomes a huge weight gain. 

Obesity has been slowly creeping up in the western world, tripling in the last 40 years. Creeping normality is the cause. Food slowly gets more and more addictive. Entertainment slowly gets more and more addictive. This causes us to eat more and exercise less, without even realizing it.

the creeping normality of weight gain
Male chart looks similar. Reference

So is all lost? Are we doomed like a frog in boiling water?


Thankfully, the opposite can happen as well. A few dollars invested every day can become a million bucks. A house slowly renovated can become worth twice as much as one in disrepair. A deficit of a few calories a day can become a hundred-pound weight loss. The concept of creeping normality can be leveraged to your benefit. 

Use Creeping Normality to Your Advantage

In 2015, I was class II obese, with a LOT of weight to lose. It was incomprehensible to imagine myself being 100 pounds lighter, so for most of my life I didn’t bother to try. Once I finally had a Defining Motivation and developed a plan for myself, I purposefully decided that speed wasn’t important. After all, it took over 30 years for me to get to the weight I was. What’s three more years? I also knew that whatever I did I needed to sustain for the rest of my life, so my plan should not consist of major suffering. I decided to commit to eating 350 fewer calories a day. Over three years this would lead to 100 pounds of weight loss, but every day, it wasn’t that big of a deal, it was just like skipping a snack, something everybody has done in their lifetime. My body did not resist like crazy to this change, because it was like a barely noticeable temperature increase to the frog in the pot.

(Of course, tracking this caloric decrease took a little effort, but I didn’t even count calories. You can do what I did but even easier, by using the Luuze app to track your daily progress over time, with motivational nudges to keep you going.)

Andrew's weight loss chart showing creeping normality
My journey, from October 2015 to August 2018.

Unlike the frog that got shocked by change and needed to bail, I felt comfortable enough with this small change to continue the entire journey. Not that it was always easy, but it was way, WAY easier than I imagined. You never knew it day-to-day throughout the three years due to creeping normality, but my new normal, compared to the one in 2015 where I was obese and unhealthy, is radically different. 

creeping normality can lead to big changes - Andrew before and after
My previous “normal weight” on the left. After creeping normality, my new “normal weight” on the right.

Going Slow Can Be Better Than Going Fast

Just like how the frog leaps out of the boiling pot if you immediately put it into boiling water, our bodies can push back when we lose weight rapidly. This is due to metabolic compensation. (There are actually ways to lose weight rapidly that have shown reduced shifts in metabolic compensation, but that’s a topic for another article.) For many people, exercising more just means we eat more. For others after some rapid weight loss, cravings for food become overwhelming, which then turns into overeating. 

When I decided to seriously commit to losing weight, I read all these stories about it being impossible to lose weight because of all the reasons above. A lot of these stories are true! A sad fact is that many people then read these articles and then tell themselves that it is not possible for them to lose weight, even if they wanted to. (I don’t even want to link to these articles because they can be toxic to the mind).

Luckily for me, I didn’t just read those articles. There are millions of examples of people being able to transform their bodies, and although I don’t discount the stories of the people who have tried to lose weight but failed, or lost a lot of weight but had it all come back, I knew that these stories of success had to be true too. So what was the difference? I think a large part of it was this concept of creeping normality. In the end, sustainable weight loss is when a permanent lifestyle change occurs. And often permanent lifestyles are best changed when you don’t even know things are changing. 

The fact is that losing weight and keeping it off is possible. If you’ve had trouble losing weight, paradoxically, it may be better to not try as hard. Instead of trying to lose 5 pounds a week, 0.5 pounds a week could be a better goal. And of course, Luuze can help you figure out an optimal goal for you, and keep you on track, all for free.

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