“I know what to do, I just don’t do it.”
I think I hear this in the gym at least a hundred times a year. The statement itself is usually a big joke, because when actually ask the person “what they know,” it’s usually old information that involves whole grains and a calories-in, calories out approach to weight-loss.
But besides that, it does have some truth to it. It points to the gap between all the resources and desire to lose weight, and the actual outcome with a lack of results. The real work that gets your from A to B is ALL MENTAL.The difference is sticking to it when it gets hard.
Failure is MENTAL. Success is MENTAL. Your physical body is very ok with the action plan of whole foods and a small caloric deficit that causes fat loss. But the “failures” – extra snacks, the chocolate cravings, the social engagements and the breakdowns leading to binges that lead to you totally quitting the plan OR just failing every day and saying “I’ll start again tomorrow,” or worse, on a Thursday when you hear “I’ll start fresh on Monday” – that is all MENTAL (read: emotional).
Getting results on a body transformation is like any other endeavor with an end goal. Like getting your degree, it’s a huge investment in time and energy and there will be days you want to quit – but it’s all worth it if you can stick it out. And that requires some mental hardness.
FIND YOUR WHY AND WRITE IT DOWN
When I first sit down with someone and ask them what their goal is, they usually say “I want to lose weight/this tummy pooch” or “I want to feel better/have more energy.” But usually, they have a number in their head of how much they want to lose but they don’t want to admit it out of fear. What’s important is to tackle that fear by admitting the WHY.
WHY do you want to change your body? Believe it or not, not everyone cares how they look/feel in a bathing suit. Some people just want to be around for their grandkids. Some people are motivated to be faster. Some people are sick of feeling like crap everyday. Some people can’t sleep. Some people want to run in only a sports bra on a hot day, and some people want to be able to climb stairs.
Whatever the reason is for you, write it down. Write a sentence or a whole journal entry, but they say the first step to any problem is admitting you have a problem for a reason. And putting into hard words means you are committing. You are entering into a contract with yourself. And since you have it physically in your hands, you can take it out and look at it when you start to lose your focus. Or turn in into a phrase to yourself in tough moments: Ex: “Work hard now, dance shirtless on a boat this summer.”
NOW DON’T FORGET IT
Speaking of focus – you need to make a plan to remember your why. Many different things will claim your attention during the day, and believe it or not, you will forget this thing that you believe is the THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO YOU – until you eat something you were not supposed to, skipped a workout or were running around wasting time looking for something for lunch because your forgot to meal prep.
Recently I read an awesome book by Bobby Maximus, a former UFC fighter and creator of renowned fitness facility Gym Jones. Called “Maximus Body,” the book sounds like a typical “get ripped NOW” fitness book, but it’s actually filled with the mental aspect of training/body transformation. Maximus shares one particular tip I love that he got from a sports psychologist that helped him win a big fight. He placed sticky green dots (the ones you get at an office supply store) in places he had to look – inside the refrigerator, the bathroom mirror, the closet door – and each time he saw it, he had to think of one reason why he would succeed in winning his next fight.
He’s not the only one: Under Armour sponsored yoga instructor Kathryn Budig writes the affirmation “You are beautiful” and her mantra “Aim True” on her bathroom mirror with a white-board marker. Competitive CrossFitter Christmas Abbott sticks motivational Post-Its to the dashboard of her car.
Find what works for you – in past years, I’ve experimented with a daily journal, but nothing has made me get my ass moving better than putting my bikini on a hanger across from my bed. You know at the end of the day, you will see it, so late night snacks are out and you will want to feel ready for the next day. In the morning, it’s the first thing you see, so it sets you up for a day of focus.
MAKE AN ACTION PLAN IN DETAIL
“Failure to prepare, prepare to fail” are words to love by. A fail-safe plan accounts for where you will be during all your meals so you can hit your specific macronutrient/calories guidelines, customized to your life. Take the emotional out and focus on the logistics.
The problem with cookie-cutter meal plans is that not everyone lives the same life. I don’t eat a traditional “dinner” like a 9-5 worker because some days I work from 3 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., so a protein shake is “dinner” most nights. Plan when you’ll be working out, when you have social engagements, etc. SO THAT NOTHING CAN EVER SHAKE YOU.
Helpful tip: one of the reasons I love My Fitness Pal is it will make you plug in a goal weight, and then show you how many calories you should eat each day (higher or lower depending if you want to lose 1-2lbs each week) to get there. It uses the MEASURABLE goal to get you get. Do X, you will get Y. Don’t “eat more protein,” plan for 20-30 grams at each meal.
KNOW THYSELF (and then healthy hack your habits)
Discipline is one thing, but if you force yourself to do something you hate, it might not go well. And being miserable can only last so long before you want to give up.
If you know you can eat the same foods every day for the rest of your life, awesome. But if you know eating broccoli for the 5th day in the row will make you want to throw it across the room, PLAN for it. Look up some recipes, make them fit your meal guidelines (healthy hack ‘em) and mix up your meal plan every week.
If you know you like to eat out, PLAN what meals will comply with your plan and feel good knowing that you food-logged your steak and ate it, too.
Pay attention to habits: do you buy a drive-thru breakfast every day because it’s a happy part of your routine? Make a new habit and take a healthy homemade smoothie with you on the go. After three weeks, you’ll have a new routine and new pants, because you’ll be too lean for the old ones.
I had someone recently tell me she quit coffee because you couldn’t keep it in her diet. When I told her coffee is fine within reason, she told me she couldn’t drink it without sweeteners. I told her to healthy-hack her mocha by adding a scoop of chocolate protein powder in her coffee and WORLD WAS CHANGED FOREVER.
I myself found that after a bump up on the scale, that my after-work snacks in front of the TV had to go. I planned for a snack before leaving work, and now I go right to bed when I get home. #HACKED
BELIEVE IN YO’SELF (or find someone who does)
Once you make your plan and crank out all the logistics, there’s nothing left to do but carry it out. But you have to TRUST in the plan. If you go through your plan feeling unsure, it will be easy to fall off the wagon. Instead, throw your doubt off the wagon and trust the process. Believe in the plan, especially if a fitness professional helped you to create it. It is foolproof as long as you don’t go actin’ a foo and questioning it.
What can help you here is an awesome support network: On a crappy day when you are having trouble believing in yourself and your forget your WHY, turn to someone who believes in you. Have awesome people in place who for when you need gentle “You got this” reminders. A good support network is key – in addition to “know thyself,” you should “know thy tribe” and know who is best to guide you and who will order you pizza.
Choose the people who will give you a pep talk, tell you are looking good, or in my case, someone who will physically drag you out of kitchen to keep you away from the leftover Valentine’s Day candy (true story).
Recognize if you are surrounded by sabotagers. Not everyone wants the best for you, cares or wants to see you do well.
1) you are going to have to be even more mentally tough
2) you may want to consider spending less time with them or
3) finding new gym friends to hang with.
WHEN SHIT HITS THE FAN
They say the best laid-plans often go awry. Let me be clear, this is NOT an excuse to self-sabotage.
However, no one is perfect, no day is perfect.
If you find yourself guilty of feeling guilty, STOP NOW AND FORGIVE YOURSELF. When you mess up, just make your NEXT decision a good one.
And now a personal story …
Once upon a time last week, I had a hibachi lunch with the TSC training team. Most of us don’t eat that kind of food often, but on occasion there’s nothing wrong from straying from a plan – as long as you don’t do what I did:
Even though hibachi sans rice is a great source of protein and veggies, this isn’t your typical home stir-fry. That stuff is SOAKED in soy sauce and oils. Plus, I caved and had some noodles and what seemed like an innocent plate of seaweed salad (again, SOAKED in soy sauce).
BUT THAT WASN’T THE BAD PART. The bad part was I let it get to me. I was so full and bloated from all the salt and stuff I usually don’t eat, I felt like crap and choose chocolate over veggies and protein that night for dinner. The next day, I worked out and was feeling better, but I put too much pressure on myself to eat PERFECTLY to make up for it. When I failed to be PERFECT (note: perfection is attainable), I beat myself up about it and felt worse …. And that cycle last FIVE DAYS. Seriously. And I’m a fitness professional!
I’m also a professional human like you, so if you struggle with letting yourself off the hook so you can move forward in peace, I bet you’ve ruined many fat-loss attempts like me. The key is SELF-FORGIVENESS – when all else fails, don’t continue to fail because you feel guilty. You need to recognize the cycle and snap out of it.
How did I do it?
I admitted it. I reached out to four people I love who care about me and know my goals.
I remembered my why, and looked at my plan. I reminded myself that it was achievable, and that I just needed to mix up some of my meals because I know myself and recognize that I was getting bored and obsessed with perfection. I remembered how happy I am with accomplishment, and visualized my success.
To move forward, I made my breakfast today one of protein, greens and whole foods, and drank plenty of water.
I added to my to-do list to do some online shopping for a new bikini to hang on my wall, and a few new workout tanks to help to “earn it.”
And now I’m using my experience as a human and my expertise as a fitness professional to help you. If your are reading this and feeling like you are hanging onto your weightloss plan with your fingernails, TAKE A BREATH. Remember your “why.” Know it is achievable. Be reassured that every decision, good or bad, is getting you closer to that goal because you are learning more about yourself all the time. Let go, and get excited about your next good decision. Go forth, grasshopper, and get after it.