Raise your hand if you want to look toned or ripped. Now raise your other hand if you have tried to fulfill that want before.
Okay now pick your phone up off the floor and read on because it's important you hear this message.
Chances are almost all had both hands raised and at the very least a single hand.
This is not a bad thing. Many of us carry around additional pounds of fat that aren't doing anything good for us physically or mentally and we'd more than likely benefit from their lose. However it seems to be the majority of people who embark on doing the leg work needed to lose the weight never end up reaching their destination.
This sucks and it makes me sad because it means there are a ton of people out there not living the life that want to live.
That just doesn't sit well with me. I want you to have the life you desire. I want you to have a body you can feel proud of and confident in. I want you to make the biggest contribution to the people and things in your life that mean the most. I don't want you to be holding back for fear of judgement or failure.
The problem then we have to talk about and solve is why so many of us continue to be unable to get rid of the excess fat and add on the muscle we need.
I worked with a woman named Sharon (not the real name remember anonymity and privacy) for the better part of two years. She started training with me in an effort to get into dress-wearing shape for her daughter's upcoming wedding, but she ended up continuing to train with me long past that.
And to this day I might consider her one of the most successful clients I ever worked with and not just because she got into amazing shape, but also because of the transformation I saw in how she carried herself, felt about her body, and the way she approached life.
However things weren't always rainbows and sunshine when Sharon and I started working together. It took time to breakdown the barrier of skepticism about what I could actually do to help her and her old ways of thinking.
Nutrition was the biggest struggle. It always is in my experience.
I would counsel and coach her on what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat. We'd talk about the habit loop and how we could use it to build new habits. We'd discuss her problems during training sessions and brainstorm solutions.
This went on for several weeks, but the needle remained unmoved.
And a disturbing trend was beginning to merge in Sharon's weekly eating patterns.
Sharon would do unbelievably well with her food choices for two or three days and then basically have what equates to a dietary implosion the next day. Everything would fall apart and she'd revert to her old ways of eating and most of the time find herself over eating.
We began digging into this pattern. We'd talk about the days leading up to it and the day of. We'd discuss how she felt, how she slept each night before, who she interacted with, and a myriad of other factors. We were trying to uncover what was behind this recurring pattern.
And then it came out.
"I just don't understand why I have to give up all this stuff and even when I do for a couple of days I don't see a difference on the scale. Susan gets to eat whatever she wants and I don't see why I shouldn't be able too. I constantly feel like I am missing out and not getting to enjoy things."
When Sharon said that I knew that the problem did not exist in what Sharon was willing to eat or not eat, how much she was going to eat of those foods, or how to help Sharon cultivate new behaviors. The problem was Sharon's beliefs and attitude toward this "getting in better shape" process.
Her attitude is what I call an attitude of deprivation. That is Sharon entire focus is on what she must give up to get to where she wants to be and she is hyper aware that other people are enjoying the things she can no longer take part in.
This led her to feeling constantly deprived. This deprivation soon turned into a feeling of entitlement which quickly made her resentful of the new direction she was moving in and when this resentment was coupled with frustration at lack of progress in an unrealistic time frame she could quickly rationalize abandoning her efforts and return to her old ways despite her deep desire to move forward. The immediate emotional response was to overwhelming and as I have said before emotion, not logic, drives action.
This meant the number one thing we had to do for her to be successful was change her beliefs and change her mindset towards this whole process. We needed to work on focusing on what she was gaining from this change and how these new behaviors in life would let her give her best contribution to everything she did and everyone she interacted with.
This meant making the switch from the following training of thought:
I HAVE to eat healthy and GIVE UP the foods that make me feel good now. -> This sucks I am missing out on all the good stuff. -> I feel deprived, out of control, and resentful towards others for enjoying what I can't. -> I haven't even lost a pound yet! What good is all this doing? -> Fuck it I am just going to eat whatever I want today.
To the following:
I WANT to eat healthier because I feel better when I do and I am able to be the best version of myself when I feel better. -> This is difficult, but it's my choice to forego the foods that don't make me feel good about myself and I will ultimately regret eating. -> I feel confident in my ability to change, that I am in control, and am amazed at how much better I feel at the end and beginning of each day. -> I haven't gotten the outcome I wanted, but that is out of my control my body will do as it will. I am however killing it at doing the right things each day in order to give myself the best chance at having the outcome I desire. -> I won't quit. I will continue to take it one day at a time and celebrate each success and learn from each mistake.
It isn't easy. Cognitive processes are just like physical behaviors. The more we go through them the more hard-wired and worn that neural pathway becomes. Not to mention there is good evidence to show that a pathway such as this we can never really get rid of rather we can create new pathways and begin hard wiring these new ways of thinking and action over our old pathways.
This takes time.
Changing the way you believe, think, and feel doesn't happen overnight. It takes deliberate practice.
This can be difficult to do if your environment and social interactions remain unchanged as these two factors largely affect what we believe, how we think, and what we feel. This is where having a trainer and working out with and around other people who were working on the same things and who already had made the jump was so important for Sharon's long-term success.
Sharon was able to experience a new "normal" and she had a trainer who was constantly reinforcing the new of thinking. I was constantly reaffirming that she was the one in control, that she wanted this change, and what she was gaining from this change.
We talked about how good eating well and training smart made us feel.
How much easier it was to wake up in the morning and how much better we slept at night.
Having this new social context and environment help Sharon automate a lot of the change in her thinking, but it was done in a deliberate manner.
And I truly believe it made all the difference in her success both short and long-term.
I wanted to tell you about Sharon and this attitude of deprivation because I think it is a trap that is keeping many of us from making the jump from the health and hotness we have to the health and hotness we want and ultimately the life we want.
It's important that we begin to recognize that this attitude of deprivation and the belief that you are doing this because you have to is feeding the very feelings that end up sabotaging you again and again.
And yet you are in control of changing this and starting down the real path to long-term, sustainable, and manageable improvement.
This isn't completely your own fault. A lot of the feelings of self-deprivation has to do with the way the fitness industry markets to people and glorifies sacrifice, restriction, and will-power. Many are out selling the idea that in order to progress and get to where you want to be you have to be eating chicken breast, brown rice, drinking nothing but water, and in general just hating life.
I mean you see the self-righteous-hidden-brag posts all over social media made by people hoping to be positively reinforced for depriving themselves of something.
This kind of behavior comes from the wrong place and is driven by a weak source of motivation. This is the consequence of having an attitude of self-deprivation.
Instead individuals should be celebrating their change and better choices for themselves because they believe what they are doing really is in their best interest and is going to let them live their best life.
I am not above this attitude myself. I was stuck here for a long time, but thanks to some really great people and information I found online I was able to move past it to the benefit of myself and those around me.
I would encourage you to reflect on the trains of thoughts I described above and try to place where you fall between the two and begin working towards the later attitude.
An attitude of autonomy, power, and gratitude.
This will make changing the way you believe, think, and feel much easier and less foreign.
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training