I’ve seen it happen to friends and family. It’s even happened to me. A person loses a large amount of weight very quickly through the use of a very restrictive diet. Unfortunately, as time passes the weight begins to return because the restrictive diet is abandoned. The question commonly asked is why would a person who had so much weight loss success just give up and go back to their old habits, reversing all their progress?
To me, the answer is simple: being on a restrictive diet is not real life.
Such a program teaches people one thing, to unconditionally say, “No.” In every situation that may lead them astray from their diet, they simply shake their head back and forth. They pretend that it doesn’t matter, that they’re content drinking water at happy hour, or popping their frozen meal into the microwave while everyone else enjoys a mouth watering steak. They pretend until they’ve simply had enough of depriving themselves and throw their diet out the window for good. Or they reach their goal, start to ease their way back into the world of social gatherings and the occasional meal at a restaurant only to find out that they haven’t learned the skills to handle such situations.
This is why I’m skeptical when someone throws around the term “Gazelle Intensity.” If you’re not familiar with the term, the literal comparison is to the manner in which a Gazelle reacts to being chased by a cheetah. In the practical application of debt repayment it means reducing and eliminating as many expenses as possible and living on as little as you can in order to pay off your debt as quickly as possible.
Gazelle intensity reminds me a lot of a restrictive diet.
People that pay off debt with gazelle intensity learn how to be very good at saying, “No.” You don’t have to pick and choose what to spend your discretionary funds on, because by the definition of gazelle intensity there is no such thing. Your money either goes to absolute necessities, or to paying off debt.
It’s also not real life. Long term deprivation from anything that makes life enjoyable would be extremely hard. If someone successfully achieves their goal, other difficulties may be revealed. Once the debt is gone, I can’t help but envision a couple sitting at the kitchen table staring at each other wondering how to discuss what to do with the extra funds now available. How would they resolve differences regarding how to use those funds? This could be new ground for them as suddenly they don’t have to say “No” to everything.
The best diets, with your food or your finances, are lifestyle changes that are sustainable forever.
There are diet programs available that teach nutrition facts, portion control, and the importance of physical activity. It won’t result in the extreme calorie deficit of a restrictive diet, thus the results will not be as dramatic and the process may take a little longer. However, such a program will teach the proper way to eat and be active such that a healthy lifestyle is developed that can be maintained forever.
You can also pay off your debt without gazelle intensity. If you want to get a better handle on your finances and eliminate your debt you will have to make changes to your spending habits, cut expenses, and even increase your income. But do so in a way that builds a financial framework that extends past the end of your debt repayment. Allow yourself some ability to reward yourself for your hard work and enjoy life. One of my favorite quotes comes from fellow blogger Paula Pant, “You can afford everything, just not everything.” You have to learn how to prioritize your wants and make conscious choices about what is most important to you and what you can afford. Gazelle intensity focuses on always saying, “No,” but real life is also about learning when the appropriate time is to say “Yes.”
Have you, or anyone you know paid off their debt using gazelle intensity? How did it work out?