Gaining Ground and then Giving it Up It was perfect timing. My New Year’s resolution every year for the previous 10 years had been to lose the 30 pounds I gained early in college. I stayed fairly active, but I didn’t make any progress because I wasn’t eating as well as I should have.
I had been learning through books, podcasts, and blogs about how to improve my diet, and by the time the half marathon challenge came along, I was ready to implement what I had learned.
The combination of a change in diet with intense exercise worked beautifully. I hit my 30-pound weight loss goal right after the half marathon. I felt amazing and resolved to never go back to excess weight again.
However, as happens in a high percentage of cases, I have now given up 25 of the 30-pound ground that I won 3 years ago.
Why We Give up Ground
The frustration I’m feeling right now has got me thinking about why we give up ground we have won. Part of the answer is that losing ground is much easier and faster than holding or gaining ground.
Jeffrey R. Holland said, "In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited.”(1)
He is speaking about holding spiritual ground. I didn’t hold the ground I won with weight and physical fitness, which most of us can relate to. But giving up ground happens in all areas of our lives.
A teenager who builds the trust of a parent from childhood can lose that trust in one late night. It takes a lifetime to build a career and reputation. Too often we see promising careers quickly destroyed by botched execution or even fraud. A lifetime of savings can disappear in a weekend of gambling or with a bad investment.
Losing ground isn’t always as dramatic as these examples. In my case, I didn’t gain back 30 pounds in one weekend of gluttony. I held ground until Christmas, during which I gained 5 pounds. I held that ground until summer, when I gained another 5 on a vacation. I held that ground for another year until I moved from a small town to a city with more places to eat out. Within 6 months I gained another 5 pounds.
I was still down 15, but the frustration was starting to build. I resolved to lose those 15, and I thought I found an easy answer. I explain how I gained another 10 under point #2 below.
Companies often put more focus on acquiring new customers than retaining existing customers. This is a classic example of failing to hold the ground you have already won.
How do we hold onto the ground we have already won? Here are 3 tips:
1. Focus first on holding ground before trying to gain ground We all want to progress, but sometimes we get so scattered in our pursuit of progress that we lose ground we have worked so hard to win. Before embarking on an ambitious plan to gain ground in one area, we can ask ourselves if the new direction will cause us to lose ground we have already won in other areas.
Before taking on heavier responsibilities in your career, first ask if it will risk losing ground you have won with your family or health. Before pursuing a new line of business, first ask if that pursuit will risk losing ground in your other lines.
Only move forward if you’re confident you can hold the ground you have already won.
2. Don’t think you have a free pass Holding ground is tough. Gaining ground is even tougher. Yes, sometimes people get lucky, but this is the exception.
I gained my last 10 pounds because I thought I found a free pass. I discovered the paleo/primal way of eating, and I read testimonials about fat melting away when following this plan. I didn’t need to starve myself to lose weight, and I could even cheat up to 20% of the time!
At about the same time, I found that my thyroid wasn’t working properly, which can prevent weight loss. The doctor was confident it could be corrected quickly, and given my diet and usual physical activity, I should see my weight go down quickly.
Well, I realized I had lost ground again because I let my guard down, thinking I had a free pass. The 20% of cheating became more than 50%, and my thyroid overcorrected from hyperthyroidism to hypothyroidism, which is even worse for weight loss (as I understand it).
There’s no such thing as standing still. We have to keep fighting to hold our ground, or we will quickly lose it.
3. Know yourself To hold the ground we have won, it’s important to understand our strengths and weaknesses and adjust accordingly.
Last year I read a blog post by Brad Feld called Abstainer vs Moderator (2) that helped me understand myself better. He shared how he doesn’t know how to moderate in any area - eating, working, etc. It’s much better for him to abstain.
I am the same way. I have to abstain from activities that I know will cause me to lose ground because I know I have a hard time moderating.
If I see a plate of cookies on the counter, it’s normally not hard for me to abstain. But if I take one bite, before I know it I’ve eaten the entire plate. Unless I have pressing deadlines, it’s not hard for me to keep my laptop closed after dinner. But if I open it for just a couple of emails, I’ll work late into the night. Conclusion
I learned the hard way how difficult it is to hold the ground we have won. However, we can overcome the tendency to lose ground by staying focused, working hard, and knowing ourselves.
Question: How do you hold onto the ground you have won?