A thought experiment: you have a pile of sand. A heap. Remove one grain of sand and place it next to the pile.
How many piles do you have now?
Remove another grain from the pile and place it on top of the lone grain. Now, how many piles? One.
Continue the process again. Still only one pile. Repeat the process over and over, and though there isn’t one single grain that will redefine things, eventually we can say definitively that two piles exist.
At what point does one grain of sand result in change?
This thought experiment is based on a Greek philosophical argument called the Sorites Paradox, more commonly referred to as the Paradox of the Heap, the paradox being that one grain is both relevant in creating a new heap and yet also, meaningless.
What if we related this to our diet and food choices, and how we maneuver through the difficulties faced when we are trying to lose weight, reclaim health and forge a new path.
If we view our goals as simply the new heap we are trying to create, what if we focused on increasing the number of grains of positive behaviors on the pile rather than pounds lost?
What if the goal was to move one grain, and then another? The next right step. One at a time. Not the perfect grain or the exact right step, but any grain, any step.
People who are successful at weight loss eventually recognize that consistently moving one grain of sand is the point, and they don’t let the idea of what could be or should be get in the way of what is. They use this paradox to their advantage: one workout is important, but one missed workout is not unless it leads to more and more missed workouts. One poor food choice is not important unless it leads to many more poor food choices. So the goal becomes the task at hand rather than the big picture, And then ultimately, the paradox remains because the big picture becomes the task at hand…
Over the last 6 years of my own health and weight loss journey, I have been far from perfect, but the times I have come closest to giving up are the times where I spiraled into a tailspin of “This is useless, I’ll never succeed,” but as the Paradox of the Heap shows, this is not true. There’s always another grain of sand that can be moved, always something I can do to further my goals, even when the heap seems insurmountable and the end nowhere in sight.
Back in January we created a community challenge called #NewMe23 with the purpose of showing how small, incremental, seemingly insignificant steps taken day in and day out lead to change, and in April we are holding another challenge called #SpringForward. The challenge will be sent in a newsletter and posted on the community chat on April 1.
As you navigate these challenges, please try not to get bogged down with thoughts about how imperfect your version will be or how everyone on the app Community Chat seems to have it all figured out. Trust me….we don’t, we’re all just plugging along, taking our grains of sand and creating new piles one speck at a time.
Things are always going to get in the way. Life will constantly throw us curveballs.
So, what can we do? Something. Anything. One grain. Not because it will move the needle in any significant direction, in the same way that taking one grain of sand will not do much to make a new pile, but because it keeps us going and engaged in the process. It keeps us connected rather than retreating into a spiral of isolation and shame. It keeps us moving until at some point, one grain of sand, one bit of effort will be the tipping point to a great and lasting heap of change.
When it comes to diet and lifestyle, one lone grain, one misstep, one indiscretion, one isolated bite or meal does not really matter. And honestly, neither does one perfect meal, hard work-out or long fast. But, when does it matter? When we stop moving those grains to the other side entirely.
Which grain will be the tipping point to give us the success we so desperately want?
Keep going and you will surely find out.
Download the Doctor Tro App here and join our #SpringForward April Challenge. Premium App membership is not required; Weekly Group Coaching and Mini-meetings are FREE to all members throughout April, so let your friends and family know they can participate too!
Click here to download the #SpringForward checklist!