There is one major problem with the amount of health, diet, food, and fitness information out there. It is not working. Long term. Ironically conventional wisdom, common advice, and diets are keeping you struggling.
If it were as simple as following a meal plan and exercising more, no one would be seeking advice. You can google 7 day meal plan right now, have the answers to what to eat and be well on your way to success.
I get it. We all do it.
I personally bought my clean eating cookbook in 2006. Made my steamed brown rice, vegetables and chicken, and measured and ate the recommended portions down to the ounce. Packed my meals for out the day. Would go, go, go, and eat at the recommended times even though I wasn’t hungry or maybe craving something else.
I would reluctantly walk through the door after a long day of work, lace up tennis shoes and miserably do a 3 mile run.
I would be starving after my bland dinner and have just a few bites of leftovers. And then a spoonful of peanut butter. Then I wasn’t really hungry but would have a few grapes and maybe a cup of yogurt and that cookie too.
Then I would go to bed stuffed and sad and wake up and get back to my restriction the next day because that was THE day I would change be compliant. Even worse I fed into my own belief that this was the only way to be successful. And I kept doing it.
I had become lazy and dependent, only knowing how to eat if it was what my plan said and only focused on burning calories in my workouts.
When everything changed.
About 5 years ago I had a huge transformation (mostly mentally and emotionally) when I learned how to stop making these mistakes I am about to share with you.
There is a big disconnect with health and well being and the way we think. For me personally, when I was fighting healthy choices, and trying to control them, it only seems to turn around and control me back. It not only prevented me from living in my right body, but it prevented me from living my right life.
Have you ever felt that way?
Today I am setting the record straight so you can stop making these mistakes and start focusing on the things that actually matter and will ACTUALLY produce results.
Mistake #1 Relying too much on willpower and motivation.
There is actually research on willpower. Research that say we should stop using it as a tool for our self control
“If I just had more willpower and discipline I would do better,” I hear my clients say.
And I get it. We think willpower is an end all, be all choice, and if we are restrictive enough and just turn our back to things we want to resist, we will be successful. Did you know that willpower is not an endless source of energy and the more you rely on it, the harder it is to make the good decisions you intend to make?
Think of it like your cell phone battery. At the beginning of the day it starts strong and the more you use it, the more it drains. By the time you are home it is at 19%, barely holding on and now you have to make dinner and workout on energy that is barely holding on. No wonder it is healthy eating in the evening that people find most difficult.
The more strict and compliant you try to be, the more likely you will drain your willpower energy source and continue to struggle. Then we turn to motivation. The trouble with motivation is that is comes and goes. Those who are most successful do the work whether they are motivated or not.
The key is to learn how to conserve your willpower, not rely on it. And to not rely on motivation, create it, even if that means showing up even when you don’t want to.
By creating positive habits and rituals in life you can learn how to make healthier decisions that are as automatic as brushing your teeth. The brain likes effortless whether those habits serve you or not.
Mistake # 2 Trying to burn more calories and eat less calories instead of building muscle and eat smarter.
Conventional wisdom says if we just eat less and less calories and exercise to burn more and more calories, the results will come. That is true to some extent except we have been conditioned to take it to extremes. Extremes that fail us over and over again. Though it has been conventional wisdom in the past we seriously need to reconsider this framework if sustainable (and healthy) body transformation is the goal.
For me personally, I could care less if someones heart rate monitor says they burned 1,000 calories in a hike or 777 calories in a workout class. Calories burned are not the concern. I care that you are creating a strong, functional body and not screwing up your metabolism.
I care that you go home and eat a dinner that is healthy, satisfying and does not erase all your hard work.
Here is the thing with doing too much cardio and drastically reducing your calories. Your body adapts. You drop your calories, your body adapts. You do more cardio, your body adapts. You stop seeing results, you eat less. At some point you can’t do more exercise or reduce your calories.
When you are doing excessive cardio you burn through your carb and fat stores, strip your muscles, raise your cortisol levels, and in turn slow your metabolism and stress your body. Your body responds by making it easier for you to store fat for your next long workout expenditure. With a low calorie intake at the same time you body freaks out because it starts to miss out on key nutrients and is not sure if it will have enough energy to survive. It leans toward more fat storing.
When you overindulge, which you will at some point because it is life and you can’t sustain restriction, your calories above that baseline metabolism that you now have created for yourself will be more likely to go to your fat stores.
What is the answer? Exercise smarter and move more. Eat enough to fuel your activity expenditure.
Keep your body strong and functional and your metabolism revving by lifting weights. Eat enough to fuel your body in return. We were meant to work in shorter more intense activities. We were meant to walk, to garden, to labor, to build, to climb, to play, to move.
Mistake #3 Justifying your commitment to health
It is human nature to excuse, blame and validate our own feelings and thoughts to make ourselves feel better. We like to give away our healthy choice power even when the cost is our health. It makes us feel better if responsibility is not on us because it helps minimize our own pain. I get it. We all do it.
It is my friends birthday so I had to have cake.
I worked out so I deserved to eat a huge meal.
I had to eat that pizza because I didn’t want it to go to waste.
Here is a concept for you to try. Starting taking responsibility. For everything. In your relationships, in your job, in your daily routine and with your health! Even if you think it is someone else fault or there is a reason getting in the way, taking responsibility helps you find solutions and you solve problems.
When you start to do this, you realize how much power, choice and opportunity you do have! Face you truth right now!
Our bodies DO NOT define our self worth but they do house these amazing souls that contribute to the world each and every day and I believe that health, wellness and fitness is a catalyst to so much more.
When you start feeling better mentally and physically, other areas of life start changing as well. You may feel better, eat better, stress less, spend less, relax more, contribute more, help more. A simple transformation in your health can trigger changes in other parts of you life too and have a ripple effect beyond what you think you are capable of.