Start as you plan to continue

Back when I worked in international aid and development I went for an interview with an international non-government organisation. It was one of the ones you’ll have heard of and they do a lot of great work in developing countries.

I was interviewing for a project management position in Africa on one of their projects. I’d had two phone interviews and flew to their head office for a face-to-face meeting. At the time I was working for the Australian Government’s aid agency managing projects in the South Pacific, albeit from head office in Canberra. I’d only been out of the field for year or so, but it felt too hands-off. I wanted more.

Early in the interview one of the staffers told me the project I’d be looking after was floundering. The government (of this impoverished African country) was ‘supposed’ to maintain and replace key pieces of infrastructure on which this project depended. But they had little money so they didn’t and it seemed they had no intention of doing so.

It took all of my willpower not to laugh in the faces of my interviewers. By that time I was seasoned and cynical (which I know isn’t always a good thing). Nevertheless it seemed a rookie mistake to be implementing a project dependent on something a cash-strapped government said it would do. There was no MOU and seemingly no real commitment on behalf of the government in question.

Sustainable change

A key tenet of the Australian Government’s aid program back then (in the mid-late 1990s) was ‘sustainability’. We were starting to see the error in our ways—realising we were often putting money into infrastructure and services which were not sustainable longer term. I’d been sufficiently exposed to that way of thinking I was surprised others were still naive enough to hope for the best.

My own cynicism aside, I’ve been thinking about this issue of sustainable change a lot of late.

Recently I was asked to provide some advice to new bloggers. My advice*?

image by

I’ve been blogging for over 6.5 years (though seem to have made little headway 😉 ). In that time I’ve seen many bloggers come and go and one of the BIGGEST problems I hear of is that people start with—what’s akin to—too much enthusiasm. They’re going to post daily, they decide. Or several times a week. They’re full of grandiose plans.

A month later they’re exhausted… and they give up.

As an all-or-nothing type I’ve always been conscious of that behaviour. We’ve all been there and we’ve seen it in others. Those who join a gym… going twice a day at first. They’re hard-core. And a month later they are sick of it. Burned out far too soon.

I’m pretty good now at monitoring my behaviour. At pacing myself. At starting as I plan to continue. It’s about being committed for the long haul, rather than the short sprint

The one area it remains a challenge is on the weightloss front. Over thirty years of dieting (and not-dieting) has taught me successful and sustained weight loss seems to be all about lifestyle change. SUSTAINABLE change. Indeed, those I know who’ve kept (20+kg) off over the years are usually involved in the fitness or wellness industry. They’re converts.

I was reminded recently of a breakfast catch up I attended in the mid 2000s. I’m fond of breakfasts out and I’ve had MANY. On this occasion I was doing Weight Watchers (for the umpteenth time). One of the friends was on another diet program and both of us sat there, cross-examining the cafe staff about the omelette. How many eggs? Was there butter? Cream? Low fat milk? Could they just use egg whites?

The irony of such obsessiveness seems ridiculous now. Now when I can eat 1kg of hot chips in a sitting with no qualms. Or as much chocolate before feeling ill. I lost 30kg on Weight Watchers that time around and was only 10kg off my goal. I avoided chocolate for almost five months.

And then I gained back that 30kg. And another 20. For good measure.

After my recent post about ‘needing’ to lose weight I very much appreciated the support and suggestions about making small changes. And after further overanalysis contemplation I’m refining that to… small SUSTAINABLE changes. I’m not entirely sure what they are yet, but… they’re on my mind.

Are you an all-or-nothing type?
Do you ever think about your habits or lifestyle as being sustainable?

I’m flogging my blog With Some Grace today.

* My other advice to new bloggers: be authentic.

*** Images in this post via ***


  1. Yes I am an all or nothing and have really come to appreciate (since having kids and no time or organisational skills) the value in consistent, small changes. Or as you put it sustainable changes. Last year I had to reevaluate whether or not to keep blogging and I realised I wanted to but it was not going to be on the grandiose scale I envisioned, just what I could when I could.

    I think for weight loss consistent, small changes really add up and actually make a huge difference. When I loved in Brisbane I always lived near work. I moved from the city to a further 20 mins away (on foot). A friend I hadn’t seen in awhile after my move commented on how in shape I looked and what was I doing. The only change was walking a little bit farther to work. I think uou are on a good path, choose easy, small steps and buikd from there. 🙂

  2. Great Post Deb!! I love your posts Deb especially when you talk about me 🙂 because you were right? lol

    I know you weren’t 🙂 but I say that because that is exactly how I was feeling lately.

    I’m “all or nothing” in many aspects of my life, not only blogging. I truly think blogging (like other things we do) reflect our personality.

    But there was a reason for me to start with such enthusiasm. I wanted to force myself to sit down and write everyday because I want to finish my book. Now everyday I write some for my blog and some for my book. So far it seems to be working.

    I also wanted to read books from a different perspective (analyzing the writing, characters, plot, etc.) so I could better my writing skills, which I was not doing when I was reading just for pleasure. The way to force myself to do so was to set up the goal to post a book review every week.

    I’m feeling a little stressed with my self-imposed schedule but I want to continue.

    I have up and downs but I usually don’t quit. You may see a post in about a month or so with a big bold H1 title “I NEED A BREAK” but it is very likely I’ll be back again. I’m very persistent. 🙂

    Again… thanks for this great post 🙂

    • I love that you’re balancing your blogging and other writing. That’s something I need to do. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on blogging – which is unpaid – and not enough working towards writing things for which I could get paid!!! I think (for me) it’s also about moving outside of my comfort zone.

  3. Definitely not all or nothing with some goals…there is no point otherwise and yes, it’s easier to give up. Even with my weight loss, the one that worked was just eating more healthy meals than just cutting out everything. I still drink, I still eat chocolate and the not-so-good stuff but I don’t binge on them which I would if I had given up completely. Blogging too has been reasonably paced. Great advice there Deb! 🙂

    • Sanch it sounds like you’re definitely on the right track! I think back to so many of my experiences (like that bloody breakfast) and just shake my head at my naivety.

  4. What a great post! I still consider myself a new blogger after 20 months blogging but you are very right, I used to look at other blogs and constantly compare mine against it. The most important thing I found was nobody wants to read a carbon copy of another blog, they want to hear what you have to say and that is what I try and do. I did have goals of doing a post everyday but very quickly realised that I would burn myself out so I try and be sensible about what I can manage.

    But yes I am an all or nothing kinda girl for my sins!

    Thanks for a great read!

    • I think it becomes a chore when you have to force yourself to do (whatever it is) too often – whether it be exercise or blogging etc. It’s different for each person as well. Some people may write quickly and others don’t. I wrote almost daily for a year or two in my old diet blog but they were very much brain-dumps and almost akin to a diary. I think it worked at the time and up until a point, but then I ran out of things to say and started to resent HAVING to write about weightloss, dieting and exercise!

  5. All or nothing. Absolutely. Even though my intention is not to be. I started the year making small changes & lasted longer than I had done before. Then some serious stress stuff hit and the extreme behaviour came rushing back. Now I’m contemplating all or nothing again when small & sustainable is required.

    • Ah yes, we always go back to what we know in times of crisis! I’ve no sage advice sadly, but it sounds like you recognise the behaviour anyway and are conscious of what you’re doing. I think my obsession over list-making is part of the ‘small sustainable iterative change’ thing. My goals (or #ToDoList items) may be tiny, but they give me a semblance of control.

      • I’m the opposite- I keep intending to write lists, but they just don’t happen- or I forget where I put them. It’s why I had so much fun making Emily a list writer. Yet, contrarily, I’m a control freak. Go figure.

      • Ah yes, very interesting. I was actually just telling someone today I’m a hand-writing list maker. Electronic lists etc don’t seem to do it for me!

  6. I’m all or nothing with exercise. I went on a walking binge at the beginning of the year which lasted for a month. I walked 10kms a day. Then I got sick of it and have done NOTHING since March. Nothing. I started out writing every day on my blog 2 1/2 years ago but now it’s only 2-3 times a week. I think I found my balance on that part of my life. It’s about the only thing though!

    • I’ve always been a bit more careful on the exercise front as I think my hours of exercise a day during my anorexic years meant I’ve NEVER looked at exercise the same in the 30 years since. However I’ve seen it in others… friends who have been super keen and going to two classes a day etc. And I just know that in a month’s time they’ll be sick of it. I even used to worry that the 5 times a week I went (when I was doing 12WBT in 2011-2012) was overkill, but it became a habit and also meant I needed to do NOTHING on weekends. But – again, even that mindset is a bit too all or nothing.

  7. With blogging I’ve taken the sustainable approach of only publishing one post plus hosting one link up a week. Any more would be unsustainable for me although I am so tempted to currently do more I have so many reviews planned!

    With weight loss unfortunately I am an all or nothing gal! I really do need to change that!

    Great post. It has definitely given me food for thought!

    • It’s great that you host a link-up. I attempted to do a book blogging link-up last year but it failed miserably. I’d hoped it’d help foster an Aussie book-blogging community but there was minimal interest. I did it for a month and think I had one person join. EVER!

  8. Great post Deb, all of it very interesting. I do tend to wade into things with great enthusiasm but then tend to fade. What often keeps me going is knowing others are doing it – example the fitreaders group I belong to. Would be far easier on myself it I didn’t know there was a group I report to, and just knowing other readers are doing it.
    The dumb thing about diets is that they make you think of food all the time! There is nothing worse than getting obsessive about it! (Puts hand up, yes that was me too!) Spoils the pleasure of dining out. Life is to be enjoyed. That said sometimes too much weight can take away from enjoyment. Sustainable sounds the way to go, hope you find what might work for you. Since I stopped dieting I hardly ever think about food!

  9. Hmm… I’d have to say until as recent as yesterday I fell into that bracket of ‘all-or-nothing’ too… and what I learned was to give others more scope to prove themselves, and for me to be more flexible and less judgmental. I can clearly see where this trait came from too… my mother and possibly hers!

    Habits and lifestyle… sustainable? Only if I believe them to be… and that’s where the issue of our ‘beliefs’ comes in to play… what’s lurking in the subconscious that we’re not aware of? All the diets, programs, workshops, knowledge and information can be of little use until we get to the root source of the issue… then the healing and change takes place. Loved your post! ♥

    • Thanks. I love your comment about the fact that all of the knowledge in the world is of little use, until…..

      On the diet front I kinda know what I need to do. And yet….

  10. A fabulous post as usual Deb! I used to be an all or nothing type person and can sometimes slip up and lean that way still today – though I try not to. I joined a gym AGAIN back in 2013 and as usual got sick of it and stopped going, lost some money in the process *sigh*. Never again! I started out blogging EVERY day, sometimes twice a day! I soon learned that was way too unsustainable for me and backed off. I’ve tried different blogging schedules. Some have worked, some haven’t. At the moment, I aim for 3 posts/week. Sometimes that is easy. Sometimes it’s a stretch but I want to provide consistency for my readers. It’ll be 3 years that I’ve been blogging in September – so I’m proud that I’m still here! As for weight loss – I’ve lost weight, gained weight, tried a zillion different ways but the thing is I love food and I’m not that fond of exercise SO finding a sustainable way to lose weight and keep it off has been somewhat of a challenge! I’ve lost just a smidge over 10 kg’s now on my latest attempt. I’m hoping that I can lose more and even better – keep it all off. Sustainability was a big part of my time in the Govt too – I actually even used to work in an area called Sustainable Agriculture and was privy to some really interesting stuff! 🙂

    • I have to admit Min, on the exercise front I’d be happy with 4 – 5 walks a week and yoga / Pilates. No need to go hardcore anymore!

  11. Deb, I meant to write a comment a few weeks ago when I saw your post, that you published but back-dated, it confused me until I read it properly. You know moderation is one of my biggest battles, so much that I won’t open a bottle of wine some nights because I know one isn’t enough, same goes for chocolate, chips, etc etc. I do agree with sustainable change, it has to be a bit of give and take. Maybe there’s other options you haven’t considered for various reasons..while I’m not advocating it or suggesting you need it but there are other non-diet options, lap band and the like. I’m only saying this because I consider you a friend and hope like hell you won’t be offended. But I think sometimes we all need a little helping hand. The only reason I suggest it is that I’ve had 2 close friends go through it with great results, because it’s accompanied with food counselling etc etc. I’m on the sidelines cheering you on always, and please don’t hate me. Love and light to you xxx

    • I’ve thought about the lap-band idea Em… though money would be an issue at the moment, though I know a few people who only lost about 20kg and got stuck. I was contemplating it seriously before I did 12WBT a few years ago – and then lost 25kg when doing the program. I know this isn’t the case and I know I’ll offend people who’ve had it done but it feels a little like taking the easy way out. Like I said… I know it’s not because I know you need to change your mindset or you’ll be blending mars bars to drink in liquid form. I hate the idea of having to tell everyone. And I would have to cos if anyone asked how I lost weight it’d feel like lying not to tell them. I have to admit though I feel desperate enough. (Given that no one’s offered to put me in a coma for a few months and drip feed me until I’ve lost 40-50kg!) 😉

  12. Moderation has always been an issue for me, especially when it comes to dieting. As a new blogger, I fell into the trap of trying to hard to be all things to all people. Now that I have a routine and found my voice, I am able to concentrate on where I am going. I guess I found my ‘sustainability’ along the way. xx

    • Yes Nicole it’s great you kept going. I saw a post by a fairly new blogger recently saying she was thinking of throwing in the towel as she didn’t have enough time, was running out of ideas etc and she’d tried to commit to almost daily blogging. I’m glad you’ve found your routine and rhythm!

  13. This is a good idea! I never thought about this, but when I look at what I’ve done in life, I think I stumbled onto this concept by luck 🙂

  14. Totally resonated with this post. I’m an all or nothing person and like you, I’m monitoring my behaviour closely these days. I trained so hard for half marathons 2 years in a row and then I’d burn myself out completely afterwards. I’d stop running altogether and stack on the weight from all that eating that I made up for the times I went without when I was training. I’m trying to get back into running again but trying very hard to do it differently and without the burn out.

  15. This post has given me food for thought. I’m an all or nothing type person. I don’t know how many times I’ve started a diet to try and lose my baby weight but I love food and possibly sugar too much. In regards to blogging my consistency has died a little each week because of my family and because I get paid to write for other blogs so there is only so much time that I can dedicate to my pursuits. Loving what I do means I carve time to do what I love and need to do. Maybe with the weight loss it comes down to finding exercise you enjoy and eating more of the healthy food you love? Don’t give up. And a great post by the way. Xx

  16. Hi Deb! I’ve always admired (envied) how you seem to be able to create a steady stream of content for your blog. 🙂 Writing can still be difficult to me, even though I now have only one blog I write for… (I could use your advice on how to become prolific writer if you have any!!)

    I guess I’m all or nothing re some things but not dieting or exercise. I don’t think I could do extreme diets or even Weight Watchers very long (they cut the calories too low). I do count my calories now but I also plan to include my favorite treats in my meals. This week it meant eating ice cream and some chocolate and eating regular meals…

    • That’s a great approach Satu – I need to be more like you on the food front.

      On the writing front, I feel a sense of obligation to keep the book reviews coming as I receive copies to read. It’s a bit like a job… albeit an unpaid one. I’d struggle more if I was working full-time most definitely. Although I don’t allow myself to read during the day. Days are still for ‘work’ in my little head. As for ideas I think I get a lot from reading other blogs and ideas being planted.

      Although MOST of my ideas come when I’m trying to sleep. I struggled for ages with Diet Schmiet though because I was out of ideas and was talking about the same thing again and again!

  17. Oh, the perennial battle! I’m like that in some areas too – I jump into something and then burn out. But not with everything. I started my blog slowly, and though I went overboard a few times, I’ve kept blogging and I try to keep a reasonable balance. But weight loss has never gone well for me, nor trying to keep things tidy – I battle clutter on a daily basis. (Or fail to battle it, as often as not.) Small, sustainable changes are the right way to go for both issues, but very hard to maintain because the results are similarly small in the short term.

  18. I used to be pretty much an all or nothing kind of person when I was younger, and if I thought I wasn’t going to be very close to perfect, I’d rather not even try something… Now, I’m much more laid back. About most things, because even if I don’t manage to do everything I plan to do, there is always tomorrow, or later, and dealing with what is truly important can sometimes take much more time than anticipated.
    With my blog, I’m the same way… My plan is three reviews per week, but this year, I’ve been reading a lot, and reviewing five books per week… And that’s OK, as long as I’m still having fun with it, and my blog is my hobby and creative outlet.
    When it comes to weight, I’ve become much more philosophical as well… As long as my body works well and I’m healthy, I’m happy 🙂

    • I’ve always been the same Lexxie – if I can’t be great at something then I won’t try. On the weight front sadly I suspect my body isn’t working as well as it should and I’m not sure I’m very healthy so…. I really should do something about it. (I say again and again!)

  19. I’m an all or nothing type. I’ve known this about myself for a while now. I commit big. I give big, fail big, all of it big. And I’m ok with that. Most of the time. Sometimes I think a little more balance, some more planning and time taken to investigate wouldn’t hurt either. Maybe there’s hope for me yet. 😉

  20. What a brilliant post – it makes me feel so much better about posting only once or (at most) twice a week! I hope you’re right and I can sustain it. I’m starting back at work soon so I am a bit worried I won’t cope. I love you’re insight into your job interview. It’s great when you can see the reality of things so clearly. Unfortunately I sometimes miss seeing it and get myself into a mess. On weight loss – I totally agree little sustainable actions are so much better than overdoing things and giving up. My advice would be to try and eat exactly what and when you like but very small amounts. Easier said than done I know! I’ve become a huge supporter of eating whole foods, complete with fat if that’s how they naturally come.

    • Your approach on the food front sounds good and it also sounds as if you’re conscious that you have a lot on and are already working out how to balance it and sustain it. I cringe when I hear people promote the ‘go hard or go home’ mantra because I think we should always start as we’re planning to continue – and that’s all about moderation.

      Good luck going back to work.

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