I'm Going To Try This For A Month...

Updated: Feb 18, 2019

I’m going to try this for a month, or I’m going to do this for a month. It’s the brand new fad. For some reason, it seems to be fashionable to give something a go for a couple of weeks, with no real intention of continuing it after the designated time frame. I have no idea why, or what people are supposed to gain from it, apart from being able to tell all their friends on Facebook that they’re doing it. It seemed to have started with Movember, but I can get behind that, because it’s for charity and awareness, there’s a real reason for it. Since then, it’s moved onto things like Dry January and Veganuary. But it similarly applies to some people’s attitude to exercise or weight loss. And it all works out to be relatively pointless.

The main problem with these little “challenges” is that it’s simply not enough time to affect real change. I’ve had a lot of people tell me, even some of my personal training clients, that they’ve tried this diet, or that diet, and it didn’t work for them. Now if they didn’t like it, that’s fair enough, but the reason is more often something along the lines of, “I didn’t notice a difference.” And then when I dig deeper, it turns out they’d only really tried it for a few weeks, a couple of months at best. More often than not, that’s not enough time to notice a considerable change. It takes about six weeks to create a significant difference with weight loss, probably double that for friends to notice it, but that doesn’t mean you’ll actually notice it. Most people don’t take measurements, they don’t take before and after photos, they go on what they’ve seen or can feel. If you’re looking at yourself in the mirror every day, you’re not going to see the changes, and weight is an unreliable measurement. So, you pack it in after a few weeks, even if it’s actually working, because you haven’t noticed anything. And then repeat the cycle with something else, and never really get anywhere.

If you’re an alcoholic, or you have a problem with alcohol, Dry January isn’t going to help. You either fail and feel crap about yourself, or you succeed and it provides you with justification to binge the rest of the year. “Look, I can give up… (so long as it’s only for a month) Now back to what I was doing before.” And rather than just moderating yourself all year round, which would have a much greater and longer lasting effect, you save up all your credits for this one month. That’s probably why they’re January, and not December. Because if it was December, it would interfere with people’s habits too much. And we know which side would win that battle. It’s basically the same with Lent, things like that. If you totally remove something you enjoy, chances are you’ll eventually give in, or when the time is up, you’ll binge, or go back to the same destructive behaviour.

Which is the other issue, that the challenges may not actually be addressing or highlighting a problem you might have, and they’re simply masking it with a jovial contest you can take part in with your mates. Why do you need to give up alcohol, why do you need a challenge to do that? If it’s not something you can just moderate yourself, or it’s something you think you’re doing too much, then you might have a serious problem with it, and it would be really worth looking into getting help.

There are two keys to success in these areas, and they are moderation and commitment. As we all know, most things are okay in moderation, and you need to have the things you enjoy, otherwise what’s the point? But moderation is enough. And you need to have commitment, because the changes don’t happen overnight. They will take a while, and you need to know and understand that. Take appropriate measurements, and judge your progress over set periods, say every month or so. If you’re going to try something, give it enough time to actually have a noticeable effect on you. I’ll be back next week.

Dan Miller

Body Fuel Personal Fitness Trainer