This Easy Technique Builds Healthy Lifestyle Changes That Last 20 Years

by Brad Isaac on May 17, 2009

jogging is good for you

“The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” ~ Charles DuBois

I think ambition kills more weight loss than any other factor.

When you first start a new diet and exercise goal what do you do?  You want to run out and buy a new treadmill. You want to go buy a new bike. Get new workout clothes. Get new shoes.

You might eat nothing but cabbage for 3 days.  Luxuriate on meals of carrot tops and wheat stems.  Flax seed becomes the snack food of champions.

New diet goals are a lot like falling in love.  Married people know the “falling in love” stage lasts a short time when bumped up against 10 years of marriage.  The in-love phase, where passions are high, where your eyes glass over and your heart races when your love appears might last a few months.  But only a base of realistic expectations, builds a base of stable and solid love that can last a lifetime.

Too many unreasonable expectations cause failure in diets and in love

When you first create a new diet plan, you get excited.  This is when the inspiration and motivation is high.  But sadly, early diet goals can be like falling in love.  Eventually we get to the point where we see the not so pleasant side and passion wanes and pain increases.

Your treadmill becomes a clothing rack.  Going to the gym starts to suck.  The idea of eating just one more salad makes you want to gorge on Boston Cream Pie…

Dieting is Like a Love Affair With The Wrong Person – Passion Short Lived

I call the loss of passion and motivation the dip.

The dip happens in business.  It happens in dating relationships and in marriage.  Similarly, the dip happens with workout and dieting goals too.  But you knew that already, didn’t you?

When you’re in the dip, it is easier to slack off and believe slacking it isn’t so bad.

However, we all know the result of accumulated days of slacking.   As the days of lethargy pass and pass, there will one day be an accounting.  And then what?

We go back to falling in love with another system.  And history repeats itself.

The dip is a fact of life.  It is predictable.

The dip isn’t only for weight loss, falling in love with any goal early without developing a long term plan is dangerous.

Here’s a prediction for you – am I psychic?  Pick a long term goal.  If your goal will take a month or more to reach, you will hit the dip.  At some point you won’t want to follow through.  Not doing will feel better than doing.  No need in complaining about it or weeping into a 1/2 gallon tub of ice cream.  Expect the dip and plan accordingly.

You might ask how we can plan for and compensate for the dip when trying to lose weight.

Make A Lifestyle Change.  Oh Really?

We’ve all heard the way to permanent weight loss is to make a lifestyle change.  But rarely do we hear how to do it.  This is so irritating I want to beat myself over the head with a meat tenderizer.

Whoever says “just make a lifestyle change” (without telling you how) needs a swift kick in the butt because if we don’t know how, it is impossible to do.

A Lifestyle Change is Serious

A lifestyle change is huge.

It means changing your life — forever! Did you ever consider that when someone said “make a lifestyle change to lose weight” ?

Therefore, I am going to give my how-to on creating a lifestyle change for losing weight.  

Lifestyle Change 101

When starting out to lose 50 or 100lbs. most people usually take on too much too soon. It’s exciting at first, but then 3 or 4 days in, we get tired, our muscles ache, the day of fasting lemon-rinds soaked in fungus tea makes the head throb.  So we want to quit. Hint: That’s the expected and natural result. You should not be surprised when you quit.

Going back to the lifestyle change, you can’t go from 10 years of rest to 10K marathons in a week.  It’s common sense right?  Yet dieters push to get fast results to keep motivated for the long term.

Here’s an idea – forget about motivation for a minute.  And think about 20 years from now…  That’s how the smart money investors think.

Lifestyle change is like a money investment

Picture yourself as an investment strategist.

A new investor comes to you for some advice about what to do with $10,000 they painstakingly saved.  He says he wants to put it all into the stock market by buying shares in a brand new company.  You find out this company is one he overheard some people talking about at Starbucks.

He wants to get in on the ground floor of this stock before it shoots to the moon.

What do you think of his investment strategy?  How much growth can he expect in 20 years?

You know the odds are staggering in favor he’ll lose all his money.  He’s moving too fast into a direction he knows little or nothing about.  He is going “all in” so there is no way for him to adjust for market fluctuations – no way to adjust for the dip.

So you tell him to forget about the quick fix – long term investing is where the real money is made.  You put together a portfolio of mutual funds that balance risk with security.  Then finally, you tell him to put his money in for the 20 year stretch.

Permanent weight loss is what it is – permanent!  Permanent results from temporary changes rarely, if ever, work.  So we need to start thinking permanent in order to make it happen.

How do we reach a state of permanency when it comes to being thin or trim?  Like our new investor above, we make a long term investment.  We think 20 years out…  And we don’t do anything we can’t reasonably expect to do unless we can do it for that 20 years.

Can you subsist on cabbage soup and eggplant seeds for 20 years?  Of course not.  Can you start out by running 5 miles a day within the first week?  No, you’d be crazy to try.

Where real long-term weight loss will happen.

Within reason what small changes can you make to your diet today that will last 20 years?   And don’t give me that “I can drink 2 slim fasts a day for the next 20 years” nonsense!  –  I said within reasonWe cannot make unreasonable changes and make them stick.

How about “I will eat at least one green vegetable with every dinner?” That’s simple enough isn’t it?  It doesn’t require any measuring, weighing or graphing on a scientific calculator.  Just look for the color green on your plate come dinner time.  If none exists, find some.

Here’s a tip where you don’t even have to give up anything – “When eating a sandwich at lunch, I will cut it in half.  I’ll eat 1/2 and save the other for later in case I get hungry.” I probably don’t have to tell you how this cuts calories and helps cut down on unnecessary snacking.  But at the same time, the psychological pain is minimal.  You haven’t given up the whole sandwich, just the timing of how you eat it.

Here’s another idea “I will never eat 2 side orders of starch during the same meal”.   Seems simple to me.  It isn’t painful.  In fact, it’s been my personal eating philosophy for nearly 25 years.

Goal exercise of the day

Here’s something to do today – I expect you to do it today.  Print this article and fill out the form below signing it as you would a contract.  It is a contract with yourself to do 3 simple things every day for the next 20 years.  I recommend hanging this contract on your bathroom mirror so you can see it every day.

Follow through with this contract or the kitty gets it!

You know you’ll be able to do it because the three changes are reasonable.  I can’t stress this enough.  They should be so simple, you should feel guilty they aren’t hard enough.  Seriously!

Make a list of 3 reasonable changes you can make to your diet or exercise you can follow through on for the next 20 years.

Don’t make excuses!  Do it now!

20 Year Contract

Date: __________________

I _______________________________________ hereby promise to follow through on these three habits for the next 20 years. At the end of 20 years I will have effectively changed my lifestyle.

My three habits:




Signature: ______________________________ Date: ___________

Witnessed by: ___________________________ Date: ___________

If you find this post helpful, please vote for it on stumbleupon or delicious.  Or just send it to a friend  You’d be helping me a lot.  Thank you!

- Brad Isaac
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May 18, 2009 at 11:39 am

Smart post! Thank you.

Doing three simple things is solid advice. Once I get that accomplished (formed a habit), I’ll add on three more and keep going. Thanks for the great idea!

May 18, 2009 at 2:07 pm

I like the idea of a 20 year contract; it really makes you put your goals down on paper. Writing things down puts some permanence in our goals. My wife lost 40 pounds and has kept it off for 8 years by writing down everything she eats.

Corporate Barbarians last blog post..Your Weight is Costing You Money

May 22, 2009 at 3:36 am

“Too many unreasonable expectations cause failure”

- Very well said. Unrealistic expectations is the surest way to get disappointed.

Johannes last blog post..Find Telecommuting Opportunities with Online Tutor Jobs

June 1, 2009 at 2:29 am

Umm, I’m being pulled in two opposite directions here :)

On one hand, I agree. Diving into a new habit head-first, all guns blazing will burn you out before you can say antidisestablishmentarianism. I should know, I’ve done it myself more than enough times.

On the other hand, I disagree with the “20-year” bit. Because doing any change is hard, and the harder you make it for yourself, the less of a chance you’ll even get started.

I have this concept I call “activation energy” – how much effort it takes to get started on a task. Very important to keep it as low as possible for good habits (and increase it for bad habits).

Anyway, thanks for making me think!

Vlad Dolezals last blog post..The Secret of Super-effective People – Weekly Review

June 2, 2009 at 11:54 am

I agree wholeheartedly with you here.

People try too hard they then rebound and each a pound of chocolate.

Eat what you want in moderation and you will slowly reach a healthy weight don’t flip between the newest faddy diet and pigging out as that is the best way to put on weight.

chefisms last blog post..Anchovy & olive pasta

June 6, 2009 at 12:25 pm


Well all I can say is that this morning the 2 minutes spent reading this article have been worth it.



Teresa Lencastre June 15, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Hi :)

Thank you for the advice.

I am going to print my contract and I will tell you how it goes some time from now.

Thank you very much… really…

I am trying to change my lifestyle and loose some weight and I find the concept of changing 3 small things… amazing :)

thank you :P


Brad Isaac June 15, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Teresa, happy to do it. If you need any assistance during this time, let me know.

July 6, 2009 at 12:37 pm

“Motivation is what gets you started, but habit is what keeps you going!”
True, only lifestyle changes changes can bring permanent results. The good news is also small changes done consistently can make a difference.
.-= Claudia´s last blog ..How to Stop Food Cravings with the Sedona Method =-.

Yonathan Zarkovian July 14, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Sorry if this sounds stupid, but how to I vote for it on StumbleUpon and Delicious?

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