Under-promise, Over-deliver

Few weeks ago, I was commenting on another blog about the struggles they were having with their calories limits.  They were down on themselves for going ‘over’ their daily limits.  They were targeting 1.5 pounds a week but were about 600 calories over (came out to something like a 1.3 pound week).  The discussion was that just because the 1.5 target was missed, they had still come pretty close.  I also commented that during Phase II, when I was aiming for 1.5 a week, I found the calorie limits too constraining and stressful as well.

Which leads me to yet another gem from work that I find very relevant to weight loss.  I work in IT, and the first place I worked had a motto for promising projects to the end-users – ‘Under-promise, Over-deliver’.  Don’t commit to a moon landing in the first pass, promise to get a rocket to orbit the earth once and then deliver one that orbits it five times and makes popcorn (assuming this would be useful).  (I need to clarify up front – this does not mean you promise laughably easy things – you promise things that are a challenge, but achievable).  I’ve tried to run my career by this concept, generally successfully, for about two decades so it must be working.

As I’ve gone through the different phases, I’ve realized that it applies to health kicks too.  I initially promised myself to lose a pound a week.  I knew it would be a challenge, but that it seemed achievable.  And as I made progress faster than expected, I found myself motivated solely by the faster than anticipated progress.  It was a virtuous circle.  Promise to do something workable, strive to beat the goal, feel like a rock star.  And if I just make the goal or miss it by a little, still feel like I gave it a good effort.  For most of the last 9 months, I have felt pretty good about the project – I don’t feel overly deprived and I definitely don’t feel frustrated.

Contrast that with Phase II.  I found that phase to be really rough.  The loss of 250 calories, while not seeming like a lot was just enough to go from achievable, to really hard.  And any setbacks, such as the initial plateau, felt like I was heading to failure.  There was no room for error.  I felt more relief as I made progress than joy.  And I did feel like I had to watch every crumb going in my mouth.  I felt deprived.

Quite honestly, I felt I would never want to do that again, and I have no idea how the 2 lb a week people deal with it.

So when you are setting your goals, think about how you want it to work.  Do you want it so that any slip up means you can’t meet your goal (and might cause an emotional binge further setting you back)?  That giving it absolutely 110% x 8 days a week is the only way to meet the goal?

Or would you rather feel like having a week where you get a bonus because you were able to do 110% makes you feel like a super-star?  And where you feel like a small setback isn’t the end of the world?

BTW:  This is post 200!



About J.

40 year old IT guy on a health and fitness kick.

Posted on February 29, 2012, in Personal and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Marcia Stehouwer

    Thanks for the encouragement. I’m still struggling and it seems so difficult to lose even one pound a week. However, March is another month and I’m planning on getting over February and moving forward. I’m going to walk that half marathon in May if it kills me!

  2. What great insight, J! I have been guilty of setting myself up for failure in previous attempts to lose this weight. I usually set the goals just barely beyond reach, which left me (as you said) frustrated and ready for an emotional binge. Of course, that left me feeling even more frustrated and then I would quit assuming there was no room for recovery.

    I suppose I still set goals that may be a touch too far out (like my birthday goal, which was missed…not by too terribly much, though), but seeing the success(es) I have had this far kept me going strong even when that one goal was not met. Setting those smaller goals definitely boosts your confidence, which helps when a rough week hits.

    I will definitely take feeling like a rock star over stressing about every crumb going into this mouth! 😀


  3. Great post J! You are so correct, setting a reasonable goal and achieving it is much better than pushing too hard and giving up. You are right on target! thanks for sharing!

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