How an elephant helped me to lose 20 kg's of weight


Although, I have the past years been living a rather healthy lifestyle and been coaching and training others to do so as well, it wasn't always like that. 8 years ago my lifestyle was very different and I was overweight. During the following one and half years I changed my lifestyle and lost 20 kg's of weight. It wasn't easy and I needed help from my elephant to succeed. 

Elephant? What does an elephant have to do with weight loss? And how could it help you in your change process too?

Old ways bring old results, new ways bring new results 

Before we get to the elephant, lets have a look first at the rider, and how he needed first to get the facts right and look at to the eyes of the truth, to get back on track with the elephant. 

Direct the Rider

Rider is the rational side in your head. It is the one who analyzes information, does planning and sets direction. It sees beyond the moment and does the long-term thinking.

Everything started one casual day at the university when we had a chance to measure our body fat percentage. I was a bit nervous to take the test and had no clue what the result would be, but silently I thought: "Yea no worries, it must be around 13-15%, I'm working out regularly and doing 100 kg bench presses, I'M FIT!".

But, oh dear was I wrong... The truth slapped me into the face, really hard. 22%! (Recommended healthy level for men 15%, obesity level 25%)

"That machine must be lying", was my first thought. But no, it wasn't lying, it was me who had been lying to myself, too long.

There was no place to hide anymore, no excuses, no more lies. Student life with loads of partying had taken its toll. It was time to face the reality and accept I was overweight.

The rider had found his way back to the track. 

After some thorough self-discussions, I decided to change direction and get rid of the extra weight. 

To get started I made a plan, set goals and acquired knowledge how to get there.

I read all the information I found on how to lose fat and keep muscles. I started exercising smarter, tried to eat healthier, and limit partying, and as usual, tried to change everything at once, and was sure I can do it!

With the correct map and riders determination the elephant took a few nice steps and then... it stopped. It did not agree to go any further on that path. The comforting student lifestyle was too enjoyable...

Something was missing.

Motivate the Elephant

Elephant is the powerful and strong emotional side in your head. It's often very stubborn and if it decides something, the rider has no way to control it, no matter how good facts or reasoning it gives. 

Elephant only moves if it's internally motivated. It wants to know why we are going where we are going, and not any reason is good enough.

Talk first to the elephant through emotions, not the driver through understanding

Sometime after the test at the university my friend invited me to join a football game because their team needed players. I wasn't really excited but I promised to help the guys in trouble.

Do you know the feeling when you after a long break do something and realize how much you actually enjoy it and have missed it. This was it. After several years break from playing I was so excited from the first touch to the ball until the end whistle, and I was happier I had been in long long time.

But... my body wasn't... With a body weight of 88 kg (at 178 cm) I was so freaking slow and bad. From old memory my mind told me to go there and do this and that, but there was no chance I was able to do any of it. And you don't want to know how much my knees and every other place hurt the next day.

Despite of all the pain, I wanted to do it again. But it meant I needed to lose the extra weight to be able to play better and without pain. 

So I got back to my weight loss project. 

Unlike the first try, this time the elephant, who had earlier stopped, started listening what the rider said and was happy to move, and fast. 

The change started to feel so much easier and I started to make real progress. Bad habits started slowly to switch to better ones and I was motivated to push forward.

I wasn't relying only on will power anymore, the motivation came from deeper inside. 

My elephant had found its purpose.

But to be able to reach my destination there was one more thing to do.

Shape the Path

With teamwork the rider and the elephant can get through a rough path, but there is a limit to their abilities. The path must be at least passable, and naturally, it's easier to go downhill, a little push gives some extra speed, and signs about getting closer provide extra motivation.

No matter how much you want to change, it won't happen if the path has too many, too high obstacles on the way

The environment I lived in was still the same with all the distractions and I needed to shape it to make sure the change lasts.

So I started to make the right behaviors a bit easier and the wrong behaviors a bit harder. 

I threw away all the tempting unhealthy foods, filled every place with healthier choices, bought new training equipment, and paid licenses, insurances and other payments to play football. I also bought a bicycle to get more daily activity and scheduled regular training times with a friend.

Eventually, I also started saying more often no to partying, arranged other activities for the weekend, and told people around me about my project.

To stay on track where I was going, I kept measuring the change in different ways. Weight went down, clothes felt looser and the mirror was happy, but the best feedback came from the football field where I was getting continuously faster and better.

Finally all the pieces had fell together and the change happened. 

What looks like a person problem is often a situation problem 

Lessons learned from the journey

In the end I lost 20 kg's in around 1 and ½ years (88 kg -> 68 kg) but the number of kilos didn't matter that much. What mattered were the amazing things it brought into my life and that I had learned to enjoy a healthier lifestyle.

I had no secret tricks or diets, just long term thinking and doing, and making a bit better choices a bit more often. 

More vegetables and fruits, enough protein, less white flours and sugars, less fast food and more homemade food. Increased daily activity, different forms of exercise with increasing phase, and enough sleep to recover.

Once I had found the inner motivation, the key to long-term success was that I didn't get too strict on the diet or anything else and kept a good balance in life. This way the sacrifices I needed to make were reasonable, the change process never got too difficult, and people around understood and supported my change process better.

Along the journey I learned that losing weight is no rocket science, but it's not easy. It needs a lot more than a certain diet or exercise plan. It needs a higher purpose to change and an supportive environment. And you need to somehow make the process itself enjoyable.

Nowadays these learnings are the basis of my coaching philosophy, and have helped many others through their change processes. Maybe they can next help you to succeed in your change?

What is stopping you from changing? Is it the rider, the elephant or the path?

Does your rider have the right map, the knowledge and the tools how to change? Could a navigator (a coach or a trainer) help you to get forward the correct way and not get lost anymore in the endless flow of information and advice?

Or do you have an elephant problem like I did? Have you found a deeper purpose and reason for change? If not, could someone help you find answers?

Do you have a supportive environment around you? How could you shape the environment to encourage good behaviors and habits?

Whatever you want to change, go for it, start now, it is possible! But make sure you allow the change to happen by directing the rider, motivating the elephant and shaping the path!

- Petri

Would you like to lose 5, 10 or 20 kg's? Or would you like to change your lifestyle and see the beauties it brings into your life? 

Contact me through and I will show you how. The first coaching session is free for you!