The Middle Matters!

How to Reach and Sustain Big Gains

My band director always told us to start a piece strong and end it strong because people will forget what happens in the middle. But the middle matters.

We all love a before and after shot, especially when the after picture is hugely different from the before. This is true for a house remodeling project, a fashion makeover, or someone’s weight loss story. I notice that when I post a photo of me before I dropped 75 pounds alongside one after I lost it on social media, I get a lot of reactions. There is something about seeing a significant change that draws people’s attention.

Is it that people find the contrast of the before and after unbelievable? Is it a desire to have the discipline to achieve something similar? Is it a curiosity to know how it was accomplished?

What Makes for Transformation?

I don’t know. What I do know is that before and after photos might be intriguing, but they are not what transforms someone. The two ends of a drastic change are indeed a part of it. The beginning is a huge factor because deciding to change can be extremely difficult. The “ending” certainly is satisfying too. But it is not the two ends of the story, the front and the back covers that transform a person or situation. The thing that makes the change possible is the stuff in between. The decisions made. The habits formed. The commitments kept.

The daily work to reach a goal and the daily work to maintain the gains once a goal has been achieved are the most critical parts of any transition. Without the discipline and decision to sacrifice, the after picture would not exist. Without the commitment to do maintenance work, it cannot be maintained.

However, this hard work and determination can get lost in the win. This is true for onlookers as well as for the person who has undergone the metamorphosis. Twenty years ago, I lost 50 pounds using the same plan that I used to lose 75 pounds more recently. But that firs transformation didn’t stick; a year and a half after that weight loss, I had gained back the entire 50 pounds. I got caught up in my success and forgot what it took for me to get there.

The Carrot and the Stick

For me losing excess weight was definitely a challenge. Making the decision and recommitting to eat well each day, each meal, and to exercise daily took effort. But I got a reward (usually) at the end of each week when I stepped on the scale, and the number was lower. I had to make difficult choices. It felt like I was giving up the freedom to eat what I wanted, in the quantities that I wanted, (and the physical satisfaction that brought), but I had something tangible to look forward to every seven days, my results on that scale. The scale held me accountable. Seeing a lower number and the image in my mind’s eye of being a size 4 were my carrots.

I’ve been at my goal weight for six and a half years now. The first 18 months after I lost the weight was quite an adjustment, and perhaps even more of a challenge than working on getting to my target weight. Mentally I still saw myself as a big person. When I shopped, I bought clothes that were too big. I wanted to hide my body, which in my mind was still a size 18. And, the fact that I had reached my goal meant that I could not look to the scale to motivate me to stay the course. Instead, I had to rely on the stick– the fear of regaining all that weight.

During the first years at my goal weight, I continued the maintenance phase with grim determination. I had to keep the weight off. I desperately wanted to banish it forever this time. And it was rather painful. I couldn’t enjoy being in my new body. Now I’ve relaxed a bit. I still watch what I eat. I even exercise each day. But the inner work I did during my journey allows me to maintain my weight without stressing myself out about it. Now I can enjoy the benefits my weight loss affords me–a new body, greater confidence, and a brighter outlook on life. These are my new and improved carrots, and I don’t need the stick.

It’s the Middle that Matters Most

Before and after pictures tell a story, but they don’t tell the whole story. Just as the books I write give an account, they don’t tell the history of the book itself, the effort and discipline that it took to get the words down on a page. They don’t show the work it took to shape these words, cut them, and share them with close friends, and my editor, to further finesse them into something compelling that readers would want to read. Nor do they convey the fear that arises just before publication. Pictures of the beginning and the result tell a story, but the true story of the transformation can’t be captured in the two extreme ends of the expedition.

The outcome might be sweet, but it is along the journey where you will find transformation.

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Bold, fledgling entrepreneur, author, podcast host Discovering Courage, Finding Freedom, Living in France! Adventures.Insights. Stories. thecouragecatalyst.com

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Patricia Brooks

Patricia Brooks

Bold, fledgling entrepreneur, author, podcast host Discovering Courage, Finding Freedom, Living in France! Adventures.Insights. Stories. thecouragecatalyst.com

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