So you’re watching TV and you see a commercial for a pill, diet plan, or video series accompanied by footage of people who have had incredible results with the product. In every single one of those commercials there is small print that says “results not typical.” Translated that means that if you use their product you will lose weight but only if you also change your diet and exercise.
In other words, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
I don’t know what John Maxwell was originally talking about in the quote above but it certainly holds true for weight loss and fitness.
On the one hand, it’s frustrating – we’d all like a quick fix that only temporarily modifies our routine. We want those 10 pounds off in 2 weeks or to be able to run a 5K effortlessly without training.
On the other hand, it’s motivational. When you ask someone who has lost lots of weight and kept it off for their secret to success the answer will often be “I changed what I ate and started moving. And I’m still doing it.” Small changes in your behavior over the long term add up to long term changes that don’t make you feel deprived like a diet or make you go to extreme measures like bariatric surgery.
I’m going to call this the Flip Book Strategy. If you look at the first and last page of a flipbook the images may not make a whole lot of sense in relation to each other but each page in between holds a slight change that made it possible to get from the beginning to the end result.
If you had told me at the start of my fitness journey (not that I even knew it was a journey when I started) that I would get to a point where I don’t even consider drinking soda (or that I’d become a personal trainer!) I’d never have believed you. But now, through small consistent changes, that’s my life. My success in taking off weight and getting healthy came from small changes. I started off slow with little “sacrifices” that I didn’t really have to sacrifice for. At restaurants, instead of soda I’d get unsweetened iced tea or water. Instead of thinking I needed second helpings or two of everything (like hamburgers at a BBQ) I settled for one and found I didn’t miss the second. I went to the gym 3 times a week and got money back from my health insurance for doing so. Nothing I did was big but put together those changes led to a big payoff. It also led to healthy habits that eventually just became the way I lead my life. Those so called “sacrifices” are now things I don’t even think about.
What small changes could you make to your daily routine to change your life?
I saw a commercial for a weight loss product that exclaimed, “Get the body you deserve!”
Truth be told, I have exactly the body I deserve – if by deserve you mean “To have earned or merited.”
The thing is, I do just enough to maintain where I am – which is about 10 – 15 pounds overweight depending on the chart you look at. I know I eat too much and I work out mostly to support my eating habit. If I actually did what I need to do to deserve the body I want I’d eat less and work out more.
“Deserve” can also mean “to be worthy to have.” In that sense of the word, heck yeah I deserve the body I want. And so do you. Now we just have to earn it.
Last week I mentioned that you have to keep upping the ante and making things harder in order to get fit and stay fit. I can imagine that several of you read that and then said, “That’s great Amy, but how the heck do I do that?”
First, an analogy (metaphor? example? I’m not sure. You decide after you’ve read it.) Anyway, imagine you’ve just had a baby. They start out nice and small and portable. If you’ve been carrying a 6 week old around for awhile and then pick up a three year old the difference can be shocking. As the new parent that you are pretending to be you think, “How in the world am I ever going to be able to carry around a three year old in a couple years?” The answer is that that baby is gradually going to get bigger and as it does, your muscles will gradually be getting stronger. This is the exact same thing that has to happen when you workout.
I would be the worst trainer in the world if in our first session I said here’s a bar with your weight on it, now do a chest press. But if I started you with just the bar (45 lbs) and each week gave you a few more pounds you would eventually be able to press your own weight. Now, doing that may not be your goal but that progression can be applied to any exercise routine.
If you’re a cardio-phile you need to keep going faster, upping the resistance or incline, or all of the above. If you’re doing weight training you need to increase the weight or make the exercise more complex by adding another body part (lunges with a bicep curl). You can also add instability (stand on one foot or a Bosu) or a plane of motion (Plank with a twist, a reach, or a leg lift).
There’s no right or wrong answer to how you make things harder. Google exercises and “exercise progression”. Use routines out of magazines. Heck, watch a trainer with their client and steal what they do. Dare to challenge yourself. Remember, you are a work in progress. Both “Work” and “Progress” being the operative words.
Recently I’ve discovered that several of my clients and others I come in contact with have been working out on their own (wonderful!) but are limiting themselves to whatever I have told them to do in the past. For instance, if I suggested they do 15 tricep presses with 15 pound dumbbells, they are doing just exactly that, no more no less. For months.
The problem with this can be found in the old adage –
“If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Einstein
It’s all well and good to get to the gym and move your body but if you aren’t constantly challenging yourself with higher weights, faster speeds, or whatever makes a particular exercise hard you’re just spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.
Now you may be thinking, “I have to keep making it harder?! When do I get to just rest on my laurels?” I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you don’t. Not if you want to stay fit, mobile, and active.
I have two 87 year old clients right now who are probably the hardest working clients I have. My 75 year old also keeps me on my toes. These folks are simply incredible. At an age when most of us would think about resting, if not on our laurels, then certainly on our hind quarters, these men and women are more active than most of us ever are. The commonality between them is that they keep upping the ante.
For example, when I’m training someone, I often find myself repeating certain phrases like, “nice job”, “just a couple more”, or “breathe.” This week both of my 87 year olds have independently called me on the carpet for saying “perfect!” Both said in no uncertain terms that there was no way what they were doing was perfect and that I needed to stop that and make sure they were doing it right. They wouldn’t settle for anything less than continuous improvement and I shouldn’t either.
So, sorry, but you can’t rest on your laurels. You’ll have to settle for working hard and finding satisfaction in a job well done instead.
Here’s an interesting take on motivation that I heard on Radio Lab on NPR.
When we are working toward something – weight loss, quitting smoking, etc – our present tense selves are fighting against a future tense goal. Unfortunately, it’s not a fair fight. When you really want a cupcake or a cigarette right now it’s hard to be inspired not to have one by some future amorphous potential success. “Eat now” is simply stronger than “be thin later”.
According to the Radio Lab program, what you need to do to even the playing field is create a present tense “anti-want.” This “anti-want” is something that goes head to head against the craving to stop you from giving in. On the radio program this was illustrated by a woman who wanted to quit smoking. She’d tried for years but was unsuccessful because that present tense craving overpowered any future success she could imagine. What finally led to her success was creating something to battle that craving head on. She was involved in civil rights and declared that if she smoked one more cigarette she would have to donate money to the KKK. This gave her enough present tense incentive (smoke now and have to donate to something she hates) to actually quit smoking.
This philosophy is actually the driving force behind the website Stikk.com. According to their website:
We all need help to reach our goals – whether it’s incentives, or support from others. Years of economic and behavioral research show that people who put stakes – either their money or their reputation – on the table are far more likely to actually achieve a goal they set for themselves.
The idea is that you set a goal, set the stakes, designate a referee, and recruit supporters. Putting your money where your mouth is is optional but if you’re struggling toward success, this is one way to do it.