So you are 10 (or 20) pounds heavier than you would like to be. The current worldwide epidemic has put you over the edge. That’s what happens when you are locked down in your house with nothing to do all day except stress, eat and watch Netflix.
Maybe you were doing great and making progress with your health and fitness and then got derailed by the current pandemic. Or maybe you weren’t where you wanted to be before the current pandemic.
Either way it is too much. You are at your limit and it is time for a change…to get healthy and fit!
You are highly motivated. And that is a problem. That is how you repeat the cycle of gain, lose, gain, lose...gain.
It is a cycle that you will never break with motivation. Because motivation comes and goes.
Motivation is great for a short burst of work towards a goal. Which makes it great for losing 5 or 10 pounds in a month.
But if you are ready to lose weight and keep it off, forever, then instead of motivation you need discipline.
The big difference between approaching change through motivation and discipline is how you think.
When you are motivated you think BIG.
But when it comes to discipline the secret is to think small.
Motivation vs Discipline
Motivation - the general desire or willingness to do something.
Discipline - the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior.
For example, let’s take me, at this moment, writing these words to you.
It is 2 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon. In Israel the work week is Sunday to Thursday. So Thursday is like Friday. It is 34 degrees Celsius (94 Farenheit) out. Hot and Sunny.
Now I run my own business, Magen Fitness, that provides online coaching. So I don’t have a boss to make sure I get my work done on time and don’t skip out of work early. I have to keep myself accountable, and if the work doesn’t get done, the work doesn’t get done.
And I don’t like writing. (Something I should probably work on reframing).
So I am not motivated to write. My desire right now is to put some of the beer from my fridge into a bag with ice, and walk to the nice cool spring (in the shade) that happens to be 10 minutes from my house.
But instead I am sitting at home and writing.
Because I am following the code of conduct I set out for myself to put out a new (great) article for you every week–to help you reach your health and fitness goals.
This is the underlying problem with motivation. You always have conflicting desires. One way of looking at it is there is the “Now” desire and the “Later” desire.
Now I want to have a beer in secluded nature, cooling myself in a cold spring.
But later I want to have content that I can send to you to help you reach your goals.
If I let motivation run the show some weeks an article will get written, some weeks it won’t.
But I have trained myself to be disciplined. So I can work on my long-term desires instead of constantly caving to my short-term desires.
This is a problem that you have to face head on. You want to eat the chocolate now, but you want to lose 10 pounds. You want to sit on the couch and rest, but you want to be in better shape.
The solution to your problem is discipline.
Discipline means sticking to rules and doing the things that you know will enable you to reach your long-term goals. Even when you don’t “feel” like it now.
If discipline is a four letter word for you then there is something BIG you need to understand.
And that is to take baby steps with your discipline.
Baby Steps, the Secret to Discipline
When you are motivated you want to work really hard and do everything at once and get to your goal NOW!
But when you are developing discipline it is important to start small. Ridiculously small.
Here is a story from one of my online training clients from this past week. Let’s call him A.
A has done great. In the last 9 months he has lost 29 pounds and is at his goal weight and now one of the problems he is running into is he is getting tired of repeating the same meals.
So he determined he wants to work on developing more cooking skills and recipes. Working together we set a new habit of finding one new recipe every day.
Not cooking, just finding a new recipe and adding it to his recipe book.
I like this example because A is also highly motivated and sharp. And motivated people tend to overdo things.
He decided to cook some of the recipes this week and he realized something. He didn’t have all of the ingredients for them. And he realized that if we had made the habit “cooking a new dish every day” lots of problems would have popped up, as they did.
He wrote me a very nice email saying that he sees a method to my madness: first get recipes, then work on shopping, then work on cooking.
If I tell you to cook a new recipe every day it will be a lot of effort and a hard code of behavior to stick to. When you don’t have the ingredients or have a busy day you start failing at the new habit (read: code of behavior) that we are trying to bring into your life.
I coach people for success, not for failure.
Looking up a new recipe is easy, but it is a step toward the current end goal. More variety to make healthy eating more enjoyable.
Discipline is not sticking to a very hard diet for a short period of time. Discipline is sticking to something doable for a very long period of time.
Start By Making Time
Everyone thinks that the secret to keeping weight off is exercise or diet. It’s not.
The secret is time management.
Exercising takes time. Cooking takes time. Eating takes time.
If you can’t make the time in a way that is sustainable, you will fail.
Which is why the first habit I often direct people to take is doing a five minute action. Or looking at how they spend their time. Or using a calendar.
These seem like steps that won’t make a difference. But they will. They will help you improve your discipline.
Remember that definition: “The practice of training people.”
The key is that you have to train yourself to be able to do things that you know are important when you don’t feel like doing them.
Start small, build up, and keep it up for the long haul.
Burning Off the Excess Fat
Once again, start small here. It is not about getting on a treadmill and burning the 35,000 calories that equal 10 pounds as quickly as possible.
Maintaining a lower weight is about finding sustainable ways to be more active so you can burn a few more calories consistently.
There are two basic ways of doing this:
1 - Move more: This burns calories while you are exercising
2 - Build more muscle: This burns calories all day every day
Both are important but if you have to choose one for weight loss you should choose building muscle. The fact is you will spend more time not exercising than exercising.
If you are a woman and afraid of getting bulky you don’t need to worry about that! Getting really muscly is quite hard even for guys to do, and you have fewer muscle building hormones than they do. Being afraid of looking like a bodybuilder because you are lifting weights is like being afraid of winning the Indy 500 in your sedan.
You just don’t have the hardware (unless of course you inject it which is what many female bodybuilders do).
You build muscle through resistance training. So learning how to do that is a good first step.
5 minutes of exercise a day is 30 minutes a week. That is a great start.
Remember that 3 hours sounds like a lot of time but if you slowly work up to 30 minutes a day that is a good long-term goal. There is no need to rush here.
And there are non-exercise ways of moving more. Like tracking your steps with a fitness tracker (for example Fitbit), or commuting on a bicycle.
Get Control of Your Intake
Diet has been overcomplicated.
If you want to lose weight you need to be in a caloric deficit while still getting enough nutrients to function and enjoy life.
This means eating lots of veggies and lean proteins. And getting enough carbs, fruits, and healthy fats.
You should always start dieting by adding nutrients instead of taking away food. If you are missing key nutrients your cravings will get out of control.
A good first step is getting 5 servings of colorful fruits and veggies a day, or eating a serving of protein with every meal.
Where to Go From Here
There are a few ways that you might screw this up.
•Undertaking a habit that is too big for you right now. Again, you need to succeed to build your discipline. Therefore your habit needs to be doable. You can always scale everything down. For example, if 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is too much or sounds overwhelming at first, then start with 1 serving a day. If after a week or two of doing 1 serving a day it feels easier, then you can increase to two. Let it settle in and increase to 3, then 4, then 5. And make sure to celebrate every success along the way.
•Taking on too many habits at once. You might want to start eating protein at every meal, and going to bed on time, and exercising every day. Trying to do all at once is a recipe for failure. Instead, just do one at a time, and once one is down you can stack another on top of it. If you really want to you can try 2, but if you start failing scale it back.
•Not working hard on your habit. No matter how easy your habit is it has to get done. And done consistently. When I say consistently what I am looking for is at least 80% adherence. You dont need to be perfect but you need to be consistent.
•Not having patience. This process works, I guarantee it. (No joke: I have a money back guarantee for my coaching clients). But it doesnt happen overnight. It is not uncommon for me to work with clients who only lose 10 or 15 pounds over the course of a year. But they maintain it for years afterwards, and more importantly it is easy to maintain because they built the discipline to keep it up.
How much weight did you lose last year? What would it feel like to be 10 pounds lighter this time next year?
If you want to change now is the time. The whole world is changing. And you can too!
Don’t keep trying the same strategies over and over again.
Like trying to find the “motivation” to exercise or eat better.
Rather, slowly build your discipline to stick to the things you don’t want to do now so you can achieve what you want later.
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“Discipline is Freedom” - Jocko Willink