I am posting this from Napa Valley, California. Yes I’m on vacation, no, I have not spent vacation time writing this. I really want to keep my blog on a roll, so I wrote two posts in advance, and am simply hitting the publish button (okay, maybe a few minor edits). See how much I love my readers? 🙂
So today starts week 4 of 2012. How are you doing with your goals and resolutions? I’m going to be honest with you ~ this is when people start to fade. I know, sad but true. After throwing caution (and good eating habits and exercise) out the window over the holidays, many people resolve to get back on track in January. The gym is packed, candy bowls disappear from the office and everyone is exclaiming about the incredible results from XYZ diet. This lasts anywhere from 2-6 weeks. Then people start dropping like flies. The spin class you couldn’t get into unless you called within minutes of the schedule opening suddenly has empty bikes. You no longer have to park around the back of the gym or feel like you are walking the length of a football field to get to the gym door. Your co-worker who lost 10 lbs in two weeks (by essentially not eating and spending hours at the gym each week) is seen eating a cheeseburger and fries.
Sound familiar? So which one are you? Are you the one whose walk to the gym door is a little shorter? Are you the one noticing the co-worker with the crappy lunch? Or are you the co-worker? Statistics vary, but while the percentage of people who belong to a gym has been climbing, as many as 40% stop going soon after joining; another statistic says that as many as 90% of gym members stop going within 90 days. If you feel you are falling off the wagon, if things are getting too hard or you aren’t seeing results, now is the time to re-evaluate. The folks at Precision Nutrition are fond of saying “How’s that working’ for ya?” If you started off the first week of January going to the gym 5 days a week, and tried out some diet that only allows you to eat grapefruit…”How’s that workin’ for ya?” If you signed up to work with a personal trainer 3 times a week and have cancelled half your sessions…”How’s that workin’ for ya?” If you decided to cut 800 calories a day from your caloric intake…”How’s that workin’ for ya?”
We all start off with the greatest of intentions, but unfortunately the harsh reality is that most people are not successful in achieving their New Year’s resolutions. So if you find yourself slipping, frustrated or ready to throw in the towel, I want you to read a great piece by John Berardi about setting goals and making changes called Top 10 Lessons for 2012. Admittedly, this blog post is written with a goal of promoting Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating program. However, there are great take-aways from this that everyone can benefit from. I encourage you to read the entire piece, but in my opinion, these two “lessons” are particularly good, especially as the energy of New Year’s wears off:
Lesson 5: Do one small thing each day.
My colleague Dan John once put it this way: “If something is important, do it every day; if it’s not important, don’t do it at all.” That’s especially true in body transformation.
In Lean Eating, we reach out to you daily, and we give you one small act to do, each and every day. Any less, and you lose momentum; any more, you get overwhelmed.
Sadly, some people find this out the hard way. They make a heroic effort to change every part of their life, from the time they wake up in the morning to the kinds of foods they eat to adopting a new workout program and dozens of other changes.
This all-or-nothing attitude may work for a week or two, but pretty soon they’ll crash and burn and be right back where they started. That’s why it’s important to practice one small thing at a time instead of trying to make a mad-dash for the finish line.
In Lean Eating we don’t worry about the past or the future. We focus on TODAY.
We ask ourselves, “What healthy habit can our clients follow today that will propel them forward?”
These small, daily habits slowly stack on top of each other until eventually our clients have a healthy set of eating and exercise habits they practice consistently.
Takeaway:Turn your commitment into a single, daily action.
This is the idea of making small changes, not big ones. Small changes over time morph into big changes. Small changes are easier to stick with. Success with small changes makes you feel good about yourself. Make the small changes a habit, then make another small change.
And this lesson I really like…
Lesson 6: Make it a little too easy.
Most people attempt to change too much at once. But that makes it nearly impossible to change anything at all. That’s why whatever one small thing you decide to do, you must be confident that you can do it consistently. A habit doesn’t become a habit by practicing it only a few times.
In Lean Eating, on the other hand, we give our clients one thing to practice at a time, and we ask a simple question:
“On a scale of 1 to 10 — 1 being not confident, and 10 being very confident — how confident are you that you can do this one habit every day?”
If the answer is a 9 or a 10, you have your new habit and can start practicing it immediately. But if you answer anything other than a 9 or a 10, you need to make the habit easier until it becomes something you’re confident you can do consistently.
If your one small habit is to eat five servings of vegetables every day, you must answer with a 9 or 10 before starting. If you don’t answer with a 9 or a 10, you simply need to make it easier.
Instead of eating five servings of vegetables every day, could you eat 3? What about 2 servings of vegetables every day? What about 1 serving of vegetables every day?
Whenever you can answer a 9 or a 10 — “Am I confident I can do this habit every day?” — you have your new habit.
During the process of scaling down your habit, you may realize it seems ridiculously simple. It may seem too easy. That’s perfect.
If it seems so easy that you have to roll your eyes, you know you can do it consistently. And you can gradually increase the difficulty over time.
Takeaway:Make everything you commit to easier until you have 90%+ confidence you can do it.
I like this because it makes change easy. Pick something to change that is so small that you find it easy, even “too easy” to implement. This is what most people do not do. January 1st arrives and everyone makes dramatic changes to both their nutrition and their exercise, changes that would not be classified as a 9 or 10 on the ease of implementing. I know it can be frustrating to make change that are so small you feel you aren’t going to be getting immediate results. We all want to see that 5 lb weight loss in week 1 (and some of you do, but you’re not going to lose 5 lbs every week…besides, it’s mostly water in week one).
The final think I want to leave you with is this ~ if the answer to “How’s that workin’ for ya?” is “not so good,” then change something, using the guidelines above. If 5 days at the gym isn’t working for you, then what can you do instead? Don’t abandon ship…just figure out what would be a 9 or a 10, something easy to comply with, and change your short-term goal. And don’t try to change everything at once. It’s great to have goals, and it’s great to have goals in many areas. But you might not be able to work on all of them at the same time. Maybe you want to start exercising, get your diet in check, take that writing class you’ve been thinking about, travel and change your career focus. Don’t start it all at once! Pick one thing and work on it…make some small changes, make some more small changes, establish some positive new habits, experience progress towards a goal before starting on another one.
I wish all of you luck on your continued progress!