You’ve probably started seeing it already: The “How to Crush Your New Year Goals” articles, videos and rants on social media. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve been down this road many, many times before saying to yourself, “THIS is going to be the year I [fill in the blank]”.
“Get in shape”
You know the drill…
Invariably, you’ll end up feeling frustrated and defeated by yet another failed diet plan or wasted gym membership. But what if I told you that the vicious cycle of dieting and exercise isn’t your fault?
The fault lies in our perception that we need to “start over.” However, I’m here to tell you that the whole “new year, new you” concept, especially as it pertains health and fitness, is straight up nonsense.
Failure is Inevitable
It’s almost impossible to NOT fail.
As much as I’d love to unravel 38 years of poor nutrition habits, muscle imbalances, mindset blocks and emotional baggage virtually overnight, IT JUST AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN…At least not with the typical uber restrictive diet plans that we’re led to believe are necessary to achieve any semblance of success.
We all want a quick fix that, if I can be perfectly honest with you here, doesn’t exist, despite the media constantly suggesting that it does with article titles like:
“Blast Belly Fat – The Easy 4-Week Plan”
“A Flat Belly in 14 Days – Our Easiest Food and Fitness Plan, Ever”
“Lean Muscle Fast – Beach Body in 60 Days”
You get the idea.
I’ve been in the fitness and nutrition industry for going on 15 years and subscribed to numerous “fad diet” plans myself. I can tell you that they all work — at least for a while — until reality sets in.
That really long and stressful day…
The work party…
You know what I’m talking about.
This is the wrong way to create lasting change.
Here are 3 effective and time-tested tools to overcome the Nutritional Overwhelm that often accompanies this time of year so that you can FINALLY feel like you’re in control of your body.
1. Identify Your Limiting Factors
This is possibly the most important question I ask any potential client when we speak for the first time: “What are 1-2 things that are potentially getting in the way of you achieving your goals?”
The most common responses are (sometimes these take some hashing out in order to identify):
1. Time – This is actually a bullshit answer, but still valid because we all feel this way. We just haven’t prioritized things appropriately, YET.
2. Social Support – You’re hanging out with the wrong people and/or your loved ones are (hopefully unintentionally) sabotaging your goals.
3. Stress – Work/family/emotional stress is causing you to overeat and/or affecting other health-related factors like sleep, digestion, weight loss, etc.
Let me give you a quick example:
Beth wants to lose weight but is sick and tired of the rollercoaster dieting that she’s experienced her whole life. She wants a realistic nutrition plan that doesn’t make her feel like she has to be so restrictive all the time.
Her common pattern is to start a plan, like paleo, keto, or tracking macro’s, and do great for the first 2-3 weeks in which she experiences pretty good weight-loss progress. However, invariably there comes a “bad” day, be it stress, vacation, or a night out, that causes her to say “screw it”, followed by guilt and an unwillingness to continue with her diet plan.
Beth works in her dad’s business and they have an office suite with 20 employees.
Generally, Beth makes pretty good nutrition choices and exercises, but through our conversation, we noticed that while her week starts with great nutrition choices and structure, by Wednesday afternoon or Thursday her “willpower” has been thoroughly depleted as stress levels are constantly high. She finds herself searching out that mid-afternoon snack (even though she’s not hungry), especially when they frequently have cakes and cookies on hand.
This starts the inevitable cascade of poor nutrition decisions through the weekend with a “screw it, I’ll start again Monday” attitude.
Sound familiar to you?
We established that a major limiting factor for Beth is the types of foods that are on hand in the office, i.e. cakes, cookies, etc. Sure, it’s easy looking to simply tell her to avoid them, but the reality is that it can be similar to telling an alcoholic with booze in the house to “just say no.” NOT REALISTIC.
The Importance of Identifying Limiting Factors
So why does this matter?
Because by identifying this “limiting factor”, i.e. the office sweets, we now have a couple of pretty valuable places to start that can make a huge impact towards her weight-loss goals WITHOUT making her feel overwhelmed and restricted.
1. Get the cakes out of the office. Fortunately for her, she has direct control over the types of foods that are brought in, so that’s a no-brainer. For others, they may not be so lucky. It could be as simple as avoiding the “break room” altogether.
2. Pack a healthier snack so that when the snacks are present and willpower is low, she has a better option to choose from, like a piece of fruit OR opting for a walk
3. We also established that the cravings were merely a stress response and not hunger. Her body is telling her that she needs to take a break, which is where a 5-10 minute walk outside or some guided breathing exercises can help form a new routine rather than turning to sweets.
By eliminating this daily afternoon sweet snack, we’re easily reducing her caloric intake by 200 calories, which in and of itself can stimulate weight loss. BUT, more importantly, we’re also helping empower her to stay confident and in control of her nutrition decisions. This way she’s going to be more likely to make better decisions from meal to meal, even through the weekend, whereas she normally would have “fallen off the wagon,” so to speak.
Pro-tip: Identify 1-2 limiting factors you have high confidence you can change and start there, rather than trying to change everything all at once.
2. STOP Searching for Answers Online!
With thousands upon thousands of articles and videos online (and billions of $$$ to be made in the fitness industry) there’s no lack of “experts” working to get their piece of the pie.
What this means for you, the innocent bystander, is that unfortunately you probably can’t trust the majority of the keyboard warriors claiming to have the next “perfect diet plan”.
And don’t even get me started on Instagram: The holy grail of bullshit, fitness pro, “celebrity trainer” wanna-be’s.
What You Need to Look for Instead
Find someone (with at least a degree or two in some area of health/fitness) that you resonate with. Look for someone who speaks to you and your desires. If all you want to do is improve energy and sleep better, than a physique coach touting killer 6-pack abs isn’t going to be the right fit.
How realistic are their guidelines? Despite the fact that the ketogenic diet is all the rage, if you don’t know the difference between a protein and a carb and haven’t had a home-cooked meal since the 90’s, then that might be an aggressive first step… And that’s OK. Accept it and start slow.
Check for evidence of ACTUAL results. Before and after pics, testimonial videos, comments and communication in article posts, etc. Ask yourself, do they actually do what they say they do?
Pro-tip: It’s easy to get lost in the sea of online weight-loss information and experience “Paralysis by Analysis” – you have so much info that you end up doing nothing. Instead, identify with 1-2 people in the health/fitness space who you feel are speaking directly to you, who don’t make unrealistic claims and who have proven results. Spend time implementing their free information until you’re confident they’ll be a good fit, and then contact them about coaching or buying a program.
3. Accept that It’s Going to Take Time (probably a lot longer than you’d like)
If weight loss were easy, we’d all be walking around shredded.
Weight loss goes far deeper than just eating less and exercising more. For most of us, emotional trauma, stress, genetics, and environment, to say nothing of our generally poor nutrition habits, influence our weight.
And just like learning how to master any skill, like riding a bike, swinging a kettlebell, figuring out QuickBooks, or becoming a good cook, it’s going to take time, practice, failure, repetition, and commitment.
The habits necessary to produce long-term and effective weight loss are skills that we need to nurture and reinforce, one at a time.
Pro-tip: Regardless of your goal, give yourself 6 months to a year, minimum.
It has taken a lifetime of both good and bad habits to get you where you are today and, unfortunately, there’s no Easy Button to make those bad habits disappear, despite what we see in the media.
Keep that in mind as you start to see all of the hyped up “New Year, New You” weight-loss plans hitting your Facebook feed.
You don’t need a new you. You’re perfect in all of your imperfection. But you likely just need to start practicing some better habits. This starts with appreciating all the things you’re doing well, followed by just a couple of things you could be doing better. That alone is often the first step in long-term success.
It takes longer to reach sustainable weight loss than you think. You’re bound to encounter a lot of bright, shiny objects along the way that will temp to throw you off track. However, it’s important not to lose sight of the goal at hand.
When you look back a year from today you’ll be glad that you started now.
And if you need any help in your journey, just let me know and let’s talk about how I can support you.
Here’s my email: firstname.lastname@example.org