As I celebrate the arrival of my first child, I have had a lot of time to think about how I got here. All of the life events, choices, friendships, decisions, and other influences that I don’t even realize happened. Because as I gaze into my daughter’s precious sleepy eyes, I know that every single decision I’ve ever made since the time I was born has culminated into this moment of pure bliss. I know that I won’t have a great deal of time to spend with her as a newborn so I want to make every moment count. At the same time, I am overwhelmed with excitement to see how she will grow and develop.
Now take a deep reflective look at yourself (in a mirror or otherwise), then take all of the words describing my child, and replace them with your personal health and fitness goals. The paragraph above could be describing your body weight, strength, muscle size, or even something about your general health. And while the core message will remain true, you may not be looking at yourself and be happy or excited about how your goals are growing and developing. You can’t change your past, but you better believe that you can learn from it to make your next look in the mirror blissful.
If you haven’t done so already, do yourself a favor and read the book “Sart With Why.” It’s a leadership book, but it has some great take home messages that get to the core of what can help us feel fulfilled. When it comes to our health and fitness goals, many of us want to get there without making changes. Sure, going to the gym a couple times per week, drinking less, and saying no to candy bars is great. But I can honestly say that in the 7 years I’ve been doing personal training, I can count on one hand the number of people who were willing to exit their comfort zone to get to where they wanted to go. We all fall into these comfortable patterns of daily living that draw us in like warm cozy beds on a cold damp Sunday morning. We may be able to escape for a little bit, but we fall right back in when we get too uncomfortable.
Homeostasis —–> change —–> Chaos —–>Homeostasis
I think that’s why so many people do those 30-day diet/exercise challenges. They know that once it’s over, they can go right back to their comfort zone. The problem is that our end goal motives can be internal behavioral causes, such as instincts, impulses, needs, resolutions and desires as well as external behavioral causes, such as rewards, commendations, approval or disapproval. But the individuals that do the best, are those who are engaged in an activity for the pleasure the process provides (1). So if my goal is to get out of the cozy bed (get in shape), and stay out (stay in shape forever), I’m much more likely to do so if I’m playing with my daughter (healthy habits I like) rather than having to do chores around the house (nonsense health fads like eating kale) (2). When setting goals, the “why” should be something that makes you enjoy the ride.
The best lessons in life are learned through error. Whether they are mistakes we make, like leaving out a box of cookies on the table and expecting to have enough discipline not to eat them all by the end of the day. Or learning from others, like not to poke the bear. If you have tried and failed in the past, don’t go about things in the exact same way. It’s the reason why I talk to people on the treadmill at the gym. Typically, people do cardio to lose weight. However, cardio and dieting alone without strength training is a terrible way to lose weight, especially over a long period of time (3). But people try that route over and over again expecting weight loss to come. And when they don’t see that goal come to fruition, they get bummed out and quit for a few months. However, goal attainment is synonymous with behavior change goal feedback and tracking focused on accomplishments, resulting in enhanced self-efficacy for the goal (4). In other words, change what you’re doing (i.e. habits), document the positive results, and be happy with who you are and that you’re progressing!
- DECI, E. L., & RYAN, R. M. (2008). Facilitating optimal motivation and psychological well-being across life’s domains. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 49(1), 14-23. doi:10.1037/0708-55126.96.36.199
- Wisdom, J., Downs, J. S., & Loewenstein, G. (2010). Promoting healthy choices: Information versus convenience. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2(2), 164-178. doi:10.1257/app.2.2.164
- Dulloo, A. G. (2017). Collateral fattening: When a deficit in lean body mass drives overeating. Obesity.
- Héroux, M., Watt, M., McGuire, K. A., & Berardi, J. M. (2016). A Personalized, Multi-Platform Nutrition, Exercise, and Lifestyle Coaching Program: A Pilot in Women. Internet Interventions.