When people make the decision to begin any new diet or exercise program they all have one thing in common; the desire to feel lean, healthy, and strong. Over and over again, we begin with the best of intentions and become disengaged along the way. With all of the resources available to us in today’s day and age, why does it seem harder than ever for people to get the results they are after and hold on to them?
They are overwhelmed!
Overwhelm leads to inaction!
Do you find yourself revved up to get on track with your eating and exercise week after week only to end up feeling disenchanted or unmotivated to keep going?
Do you find yourself inspired to start a new program that you heard about through a friend, magazine article, or television infomercial only to find that after spending some time with the program you lose steam?
I have been there too. Believe me, I have. Just like you I have tried countless different approaches and strategies to my eating and workouts based on things in various nutrition and exercise science publications. I have read about and tried many of the “latest workouts” that have come in and out of the fitness industry over the past 2 decades. Time and time again, as information would update and change, I found myself second guessing my progress and second guessing my approach. You know what? I am better for it. I am informed and can speak from experience. And I’d bet, so can you. Sometimes you have to trust what you inherently know.
If we know ourselves so well, why is it so easy for us to become overwhelmed with diet and exercise?
I have found that there are 5 reasons for this and….if you keep reading, there is a formula for success!!!
Reason #1- Information Overload
With the world wide web, or information superhighway (internet) at our finger tips we have access to a mess of information presented in so many different forms that to call it ‘overwhelming’ seems like an understatement. We have to sift through opinions, clinical experiences, and scientific research only to find ourselves more confused than ever before. The diet and fitness industry is filled with contradictions. There are so many rules or anecdotes for what works and what doesn’t. What you should be doing and what you shouldn’t be doing.
Here are some examples;
Eat breakfast every day, eat every 3 hours to keep your metabolism burning, practice intermittent fasting and don’t eat for 12 hours, don’t workout on an empty stomach, do cardio in a fasted state first thing in the morning, eat intuitively which means eat only when you are hungry, lower your carbs if you want to lose fat, eat your carbs or you can’t build muscle, don’t eat after 7pm, if you are having trouble sleeping you should eat carbs at night…
….and my ultimate favorite, …the ideal caloric intake or starting point or reference point for women is 1,200 calories a day.
How could anyone stay on track with anything in the realm of diet and exercise with all of this misleading information? It is maddening. There is a simple solution to all of this. I promise you that. Keep reading…
Reason #2- Perceived Belief of the Time That It Takes
There is the time that it takes to do the “day in and day out” of any given program and then there is the time it takes for the program to deliver visible or measurable results.
Many people are confused about what to expect with regard to one or both of these areas.
Seeing results takes time and effort. But, how much time and how much effort? Any intelligent person will only continue to do something consistently over time when the benefit of doing it outweighs the cost. It makes perfect sense right? Why would anyone spend precious time on something that they do not perceive to be adding value to their life? So, with that said, how much is enough and how long does it take to see if it is working so that we buy in to the value of doing it? There is no “one size fits all” answer to how long it is going to take for you to get the results you are looking for. There are too many variables. But what I will tell you is that what matters most is how realistic you are with what it is that you are doing and the reason behind why you are doing it. People are often unrealistic about their ability to simply adhere to a program long enough to see results because instead of doing what is truly practical for them, they choose a program based on what they think “the program is going to do for them.” Here is a direct spin off I created from JFK’s famous quote; Ask not what the program can do for you but what you can do …and that is the program. Unrealistic expectations and jumping from program to program is a direct result of media marketing and advertising in the fitness industry. We all value speed, efficiency, and a “quick fix” so that essentially is the idea behind the marketing. This is why you see articles with titles such as; “3 Weeks to a Flat Tummy” or “Lose 3 Inches in 3 Weeks.” People buy into that so easily because they want so badly to believe that it will be true for them. They review the details of the program and convince themselves that if they just do “the program” for 3 weeks they will have a flatter tummy because hey, it’s science. Why doesn’t this ever work for a sustainable amount of time? Because there IS NO ONE PROGRAM THAT DELIVERS RESULTS EQUALLY FOR EVERY PERSON. Should I say that again? Yes! THERE IS NO ONE PROGRAM THAT DELIVERS RESULTS EQUALLY FOR EVERY PERSON. So how much time will it take? Depends on where you are starting from, depends on where you are going, depends on how well you handle stress, depends on how much time you have in any given day, depends on your kids not getting sick, depends on you not getting sick, depends on the weather…you get the idea…
Reason 3- The Program is Not Well Suited
There are hundreds of thousands of diet and exercise programs in magazines, books, and on the internet that all can deliver results over time if done on a consistent basis. However, it’s not about the program, it is about you. Does it meet you where you are now and will it take you to where you want to be? It can and it will as long as it tailored for you. Any decent program can be tailored and re-structured to fit anyone as long as it is built around my soon-to-be famous mantra. THE 3 E’s.
It has to be Efficient, Effective, and Enjoyable.
The nutrition or exercise program has to be Efficient and that means that it is realistic to your lifestyle and your schedule and was created with careful consideration to your overall responsibilities and your available time. If it takes too much actual time or too much mental energy (another form of taking too much time) you won’t be able to stick to it long enough and build on that consistency so that you can get results and hold onto those results.
The program has to be Effective. How is a program effective? It meets you at your current level and challenges you “just enough” to get you to the next level without pushing you so hard that it requires additional effort in the area of recovery and nutrition.
The program has to be Enjoyable. It has to prove worthy of your time and energy and in order to do that it HAS to also be something you enjoy. If you have to white-knuckle your way through a nutrition or fitness program and you pretty much dislike every minute of it you are not going to stick to it and you certainly won’t build on the principle of consistency so that you can get results and hold on to them. Even if you manage to harness enough willpower to work through a program to see results, good luck holding on to those results. Fitness is not something you can eventually own… it is much more like something you pay rent for. You can’t simply do the work to attain it and then not continue to do the work to hold on to it. This is why it is essential that you find something that you enjoy doing.
Reason 4- Feeling Self-Conscious
We all feel self-conscious when we go somewhere new, meet someone new, or take a new job, but I think joining a new gym or fitness class for the first time is high up on the list of things that make us feel sheepish. There is even a funny term that exists for this. It is called “gymtimidation.” Women and men do not join gyms or group fitness classes because they think that they are not “fit enough” and don’t want to look at all of the fit people and have to workout along side of them. They think they need to first lose weight before they can be comfortable being seen in the gym working out in front of others. This makes me so sad. A common misconception that many people have is that “fit people” dominate in the gym and move fearlessly about from exercise to exercise. Men and women even get stuck doing the same thing and getting no results because they don’t know what to do to switch it up and they don’t want to look foolish in front of other people.The truth is that most everyone feels self-conscious regardless of their fitness level or their physique. While you don’t truly need to join a gym or a group class to get into better shape, I can certainly see how the idea is simply too overwhelming for many people. Thank goodness for home workouts, exercise videos, and the good ole outdoors. If you feel too intimidated to join a gym of group fitness class, be okay with it and then appreciate the fact that you don’t have to exercise around others in order to improve on yourself and find another way to do it.
Reason #5- Believing That More is Better. Boot camps, CrossFit, endurance events, training like a ninja warrior, it’s all so cool and hard core, and hard-core is sooooo sexy, right? No longer are we going to simply sit as spectators and watch true athletes perform in decathlons and triathlons. No, regular Joes (and Janes) on any given Saturday can be found running through fire, pushing rocks up large hills and crawling through muddy waters on their bellies and elbows in cold temperatures in Spartan Races and Tough Mudder races all across the country. The skull and cross bones CrossFit bumper sticker on the car in front of you gives you adequate visual warning about exactly what type of person needs to show up on Saturday and perform box jumps and clean and jerks. While all of this is truly admirable and it is so invigorating to set goals and crush them, we must also be focused on health and fitness as a lifestyle, not just the race or the next PR. (personal record) You don’t have to be constantly hitting personal records and signing up for races in order to keep yourself in shape. Can you get in good physical condition and stay in good physical condition over the long haul without having to be hardcore? Of course you can. Can you be okay with that? I can. While I truly commend people who accomplish great things in the areas of CrossFit or endurance events, I am also all about spreading (more like shouting) the idea that you do not have to embrace the ‘Go Hard or Go Home’ mentality that is now all the rage. It can be quite overwhelming for many people and stop them right in their tracks so that they never even get started. Instead, I urge people to simply start with the idea to subscribe to being consistent over anything else. Many times going hard actually leads to going home because of an injury. There goes your consistency right there! Other times people fall flat to get in shape and stay in shape because they had to harness so much effort and energy to train for ‘race day’ that they needed a complete “break from fitness and training” afterward.
To avoid overwhelm we must remember that in addition to the 3E principle of a diet and exercise program that makes for a healthy lifestyle there are are 5 areas where these principles must be applied.
These 5 areas are:
1.) Strength training that challenges the muscles and promotes bone density
2.) Cardiovascular training that consists of moderate and high intensity
3.) Whole Food Nutrition that supports your performance and aesthetic goals
4.) Adequate Sleep and Hydration to maintain energy levels and aid in recovery
5.) Stress Management Techniques to restore a healthy mindset and maintain hormonal balance
Again, overwhelm leads to inaction. Avoid becoming overwhelmed by taking small steps to design a program specific to your lifestyle by incorporating the 3 E’s in the 5 areas above. Let the focus be on consistency over anything else and work towards doing something that is efficient, effective, and that you enjoy repeatedly so that results are attainable and sustainable.
Remember, Realistic leads to Consistency….Consistency leads to Results… and Results leads to the belief that the benefits outweigh the cost! That belief is what will take you from simply being on a diet or exercise program to ….incorporating fitness as a part of your lifestyle!