We’re well into 2015 now, and if you have long since abandoned your new year’s resolution to get in shape, I want to get to the root cause of the problem. Essentially, we will look at what didn’t go to plan, and why you threw in the towel.
Seeing the Bigger Picture
To begin with, we need to understand what your initial objective was, and what caused you to lose focus and jump ship.
In most cases, when someone makes a new year’s resolution, they begin with extremely high expectations. While this is a nice idea in theory, in practice it is almost impossible to achieve. The majority of people ask too much of themselves, rapidly become disillusioned, and then give up.
The key lesson here is to understand your current level of progress. This way, you can make suitable adjustments along the way, with the correct mindset and ideas for implementation.
I’ve always been keen to emphasize the folly of setting the bar too high, when it comes to fitness goals. Whenever I speak to novice fitness enthusiasts, I ask them to specify how long they think it will take for them to reach their objectives.
On many occasions, the replies I get are far fetched — to say the least. Unfortunately, lots of gym goers seem to fall for the marketing hype of the latest muscle building supplement, or ‘ground breaking’ new workout routine.
When attempting to adjust the body’s physiology, our theoretical, well intentioned hypothesis doesn’t often turn out as we expect. Maybe, after estimating your body fat, you think that you have to lose ten pounds of fat to get a six pack. This is nice in theory. However, you may be banging your head against the wall three months later, when you have shed fifteen pounds, yet are not as defined as you hoped to be.
The moral of this story is that outcomes in real life often don’t correspond with measurements that you make in advance. Much of the time, people discover that they need to lose more fat than they originally thought.
Keeping Your Feet on the Ground and Understanding Where you Want to get to
We all set standards for ourselves. I have high expectations of myself, which might appear excessive to others. However, other people’s opinions are not something that I care about. My ambitions are personal to me. They have an emotional significance, so I strive to achieve them. You need to adopt a similar mindset.
Having said that, it is worth pointing out that nothing in this world comes for free. When establishing fitness goals, we have to take our limitations into account (both perceptual and real).
You should always take a long term perspective with your expectations. If you wish to achieve a particular body weight, your immediate aim is to reach that weight. However, the primary aim, which is a long term goal, is to sustain that weight and to further improve your muscle to fat ratio.
Therefore, when establishing your expectations for particular goals, bear in mind that the time frame to get there is not the focal point. What’s important, is that you achieve your goals and maintain that outcome going forwards.
OK, let’s assume that you aim to lose one to two pounds of fat each week. You also need to consider what you will do if this doesn’t go to plan.
Say, for example, it takes you a month to lose one to two pounds.
Is this important? Perhaps.
Does this alter anything? Probably not.
Does this have some kind of higher meaning? Interesting question.
If you are doing everything properly, trying your hardest, and all the expected progress indicators are heading in the correct direction, you are on course to succeed.
Don’t forget, deciding on a preferred deadline is fine, however don’t be disconsolate if you happen to miss this deadline. Human beings are notoriously poor at estimating time frames.
How Strict Deadlines can do More Harm Than Good
Strict deadlines often put us under a lot of unnecessary stress. Bear in mind, I do not mean this to apply to bodybuilders, strength athletes or fitness models, who have to achieve a body weight or body fat percentage by a particular date for a competition.
Rather, I am referring to people who have no other deadlines, apart from the arbitrary ones they impose on themselves. We may look at a before and after picture of someone on the Internet, which reads: ‘John lost twenty pounds in four months!’. Then, we might consider ourselves to be a failure, if we lose weight any less quickly than John.
Don’t forget, progress is the objective, irrespective of the time frame. Imagine if you only had to lose twenty pounds to achieve your target weight. The majority of people could accomplish this, and even more crucially, keep the weight off via increased physical activity and better nutrition.
Let’s put the total weight loss described above into three categories:
- Quick weight loss (eight to ten pounds monthly)
- Mild weight loss (three to four pounds monthly)
- Modest weight loss (one to two pounds monthly)
Considering these situations, which ones do you think are the least and most difficult to achieve?
Quick weight loss would appear to be the hardest physiologically. This results in greater levels of stress, a steeper deficit, and probably major hunger problems. Nonetheless, the end result would be achieved rapidly, which would ease much of your mental frustration. Impatient people, who wish to progress fast, will enjoy witnessing their bodies alter quickly over the duration of a month.
Mild weight loss appears to be easier physiologically. This would result in far less diet related stress from a lower deficit. Needless to say, mild weight loss only produces a mild level of psychological and physiological stress. Nonetheless, for people who wish to achieve results fast, this might be a bad option, due to the frustratingly slow progression. However, don’t forget, if you are not a professional athlete or actor (with strict deadlines), there is no sense in imposing stressful deadlines on yourself. This additional stress will only work to your detriment.
The Best Approach: Focusing on the Process, Rather Than the Outcome
The world we live in is three dimensional, where time passes straight ahead of us. There is the here and now (the only thing you ever really experience), the future (that is always uncertain) and the unchangeable past.
The present (here and now) is the sole thing that you can consciously control. And, like the old saying goes, the way you act each day produces the ripples that create your future.
In other words, what you choose to do now causes what comes to pass in future. Therefore, if you desire a good future, you have to act in a way that is conducive to this.
Going forward, I want you to change your mindset from being target oriented, to being process oriented. Target orientated is too concerned with the future. Targets are nice to have, but if you are forever thinking about the future, you miss the here and now, which is detrimental.
By being concerned with the present, you will inevitably concentrate on the process. This means the day to day implementation of your body sculpting routine. It means cooking meals that complement your training. And it means training diligently and concentrating on the effort you are investing.