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Secrets of Rejuvenation: Incremental Growth

When we try to make changes in our lives, we often become frustrated at the lack of progress, especially as we approach our target. In my quest to improve my health, I’ve found it to be a slow, steady march toward a healthy weight, diet and level of activity. However, after being at it seriously for about a year, I’ve gotten used to this pace of progress. If I gain some weight over the weekend, I know that by eating properly the next week and exercising, I’ll get back down in a couple of days: no big deal.

I think that’s the key. We expect that something will happen quickly, but if we stick with it and don’t give up, we’ll find a pace, or a rhythm that we can maintain. We’ll get used to that, letting it form our new set of expectations. If we wish, we can then push them a bit more to see if we can pick up the pace.

As for incremental growth, I’ve now realized it’s the key to lasting change. The body is trying to adapt to new circumstances, but there are limits to the pace of this adaptation. If we try to ram too much change in at once, the body knows that something’s not right, and it tries to return to the previous steady state, whatever that was. However, if we make small changes, give the body a chance to adjust and create a new steady state, then previous habits won’t seem normal any more. For example, my previous portion size seems too big now, I don’t like Coke very much any more, and I can handle much more physical activity as a matter of course.

In other words, each incremental gain creates a “new normal”.

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