I get a ton of emails from friends (and strangers) on how lose “get in shape” or “lose weight” or “gain muscle”, so I’ll usually respond with some sort of 8-week program, and some diet tips. However, when I follow up with those same individuals a month later to check their progress the usual answer is “I haven’t started yet.” I don’t get it? Why would people take time out of their day to email me, and then not take advantage of the information I give them?
I have found that lifestyle changes are VERY difficult for people. Things like going from an unhealthy to healthy lifestyle, or from a spending money to saving money lifestyle. But why?
People, in general, want to be “Perfectionists”, meaning we have an “all-or-nothing” approach to many things in life. In his book, Being Happy, Tal Ben-Shahar goes into great detail of what a Perfectionist is. General beliefs/descriptions of the Perfectionist are: focused on a destination (rather than being present in the process), a fear of failure (resulting in inaction), All-or-Nothing mindset, defensiveness, Faultfinder tendencies (“A faultfinder will find faults even in paradise” -Henry David Thoreau), harsh (on themselves, and others), and tend to be very rigid. Most of us has some sort of Perfectionist in us.
This is why it is so difficult for us to keep our New Year’s resolutions, change our bodies, change our minds, change our spending habits, and all other lifestyle changes. We try to do it all-the-way or not at all.
Let’s use this Perfectionist model with fitness. How can you possibly expect to go from never working out and eating fast food everyday, to working out six days per week on a chicken & asparagus diet? It is absurd to think you can do this. It is the same thing as waking up today, and saying “next week I am going to go do Olympic trial runs.” Olympians train for years and years and years to get where they are! The key to change is small victories. For every small victory you have, pat yourself on the back, and be happy about it! Here are some tips on how to go from not doing ANYTHING to living a healthier, more fit, life.
- JUST GO to the gym: Do not set a ridiculous goal of going to the gym 6 days/week for 2 hours/day. Begin with 1-2 days for just thirty minutes each session. For the next 4-6 weeks make it a habit to get your 1-2 days. Write up a workout and just do that same routine for the next 4-6 weeks. After that 4-6 weeks is up (and you succeed!) be happy about it! Congratulate yourself, and then maybe add another day or two.
- ELIMINATE 1-2 things: Look at your current diet, and pick 1-2 things that you can limit, or eliminate for the next 4-6 weeks. If you eat pizza 3 nights/week knock it down to zero or one night per week. If you drink alcohol 4 nights/week knock it down to 1-2 nights per week. An idea for the first foods to look at eliminating are:sugar/starchy carbohydrates (such as cereals, breads, candies, chips, cookies, and cakes), and the combination of fats/carbs (such as pizzas, cheeseburgers, alcohol combined with cheese).
- WRITE DOWN your goals: I am the WORST at writing down my goals and keeping them. However, I wrote down my New Years Resolutions in 2012 for the first time ever. Much to my surprise I am not only still on path with these goals and resolutions, but have already completed some! So write your fitness goals down, and put them somewhere you can see them every single day.
- DON’T get down on yourself: Maybe you are doing wonderful, and are on track to crush your goals, but then one week you drink three nights in a row, eat two large pizzas/day, and don’t make it to the gym. DO NOT get down on yourself. Just make a conscious choice right to get back on the game plan. Sometimes I will have my diet on lock, be killin’ it in the weight room for two weeks strait, and start telling myself that I look sexy when I check myself out in the mirror. But then I hit the movies, eat a large popcorn, and then refill it (kind of gross, I know. I like it to be wet with butter too! Don’t judge me..). When I walk out of the movies I feel sluggish, tired, and bloated. However, rather than getting mad at myself, and picking up a cheeseburger, and going home to watch TV I go do heavy squats and sprints. I am not saying you have to do squats every time you crush an ice cream this is just what works for me. The point is to ease up on yourself a little bit. If you mess up your plan it’s all good just force yourself to get back on it.