1. There will be sacrifices.
Before a journey even begins, you need to ask yourself: “How badly do I want this?” There is a difference between just wanting something and wanting something so much that you are ready to bleed for it. Lets picture a teenager who, supposedly, desperately wants the latest ps4 game or the newest iPhone. If no one will buy it for them, will they actually go out and seek work to fund their retail desires, or do they merely want it served on a platter for them? Most of us, when we look deep inside, do in fact want our weight loss goals enough to make sacrifices, perhaps we fear type 2 diabetes, heart disease or setting a poor example to our children. Perhaps we need to achieve our goals in order to improve our mental health, in many cases you see most of the improvement mentally when the person is in the process of sacrificing and working towards their goal anyway. In any case all of these reasons warrant the sacrifices required and preparing oneself for this before starting is compulsory for success!
2. Allow yourself to make mistakes.
This applies to everyone, even you! What I mean by that is this: it is so easy to encourage our friends when they slip up in life, it is much harder to allow ourselves the same leniency. Something I notice constantly (with clients and myself) particularly with nutrition, is that subconsciously we set incredibly strict expectations on ourselves. How easy is it to fantasize about how great we are going to look in a month after being perfect with our nutrition, in those moments we are in a very focused and enthusiastic mental space. Consider if you will, the possibility that over the next 4 weeks you may, at times, be tired or irritable, you may be time-poor or sick, in fact you may even have to go to dinner with friends or family who have seemed particularly fascinated with your previous dietary weight-loss attempts and who, when seeing that you are not drinking or are avoiding the potatoes, would love nothing more than to make your “newest diet” the topic of table conversation. And WHEN, not if, WHEN we don’t comply with our expectations, we feel like enormous failures. Some people tell themselves they will never get there because they are too pathetic and others start blaming exterior factors like their unsupportive partners or busy work schedules – the outcome is the same: “I stuffed that meal / day up so why bother sticking to the plan now”
Lets explore a different scenario now, someone begins the same journey by setting realistic goals, for example: “I am going to go to the gym twice a week for the next 4 weeks” or “I am going to reserve wine for just Fridays and Saturdays this month”. These examples are targets that will help us make progress but they are also achievable, it is far less likely we will go into a negative spiral of blame if we simply allowed ourselves the possibility that we wouldn't be perfect from the start. When someone does a legs workout for the first time they come in fully expecting to be at their weakest and to find everything challenging yet when it comes to nutrition we seem to expect our first few weeks to be our best. Treat nutrition like everything else in life, you will get better the longer you do it
3. What you used to do / be is no longer relevant.
There is that voice inside all of us, you know the one, every time you flirt with the idea of being proud of something, that voice comes whispering into your brain that you used to be so much better. Why be proud of now leaving triple digits when you used to be 65kg? Not only does it apply to our previous feats, we are also exceptionally guilty of comparing ourselves to those around us. Why rejoice in finally being able to leg press 100kg when my friend Tim can leg press 150kg even when he doesn’t train for 2 weeks? I’ll tell you why you should be proud of these accomplishments, because right here right now you are progressing. You cannot physically do anymore than work as hard as you can with the countless variables you have and they are totally different to the variables your past self and your mate Tim tangle with.
BE > YESTERDAY is the simplest way to express the above point. You must not look too far back when competing with yourself and you should only try to be better than YOUR yesterday, no one else’s. Some may argue that the comparisons to our golden years and our sexy friend Tim are motivational. But I am telling you from experience that this voice in our head intentionally chooses comparisons to hurt us. When debating whether to permit this voice emotional energy, ask yourself: “Is this going to help me?”
4. Measure yourself in more ways than just the scales.
It may sound silly to not entirely focus on weight when one’s goal is to lose a certain amount of weight, but the means in getting to that goal will involve things that can wreck havoc when weighing in week to week. It may also involve periods of time where one is eating intentionally to not lose weight, especially if the person in question is more than a few kg overweight or if they have a weak metabolism. Based on these possibilities it is important to track your progress in all of those different areas. For example if I am working with someone on making slow metabolic improvement so that they don't hit plateaus and we are taking a break from dieting, their total aim should be getting stronger without gaining weight. Why I would use such tactics is a blog for another day but even if your methods are different I challenge anyone to explain to me why they think they should drop weight every week when there are so many things being weighed when stepping foot on the scales. If someone is 30% body fat then that leaves 70% as a variable that can and will effect your weigh ins.
Aside from the physical reasons it is incredibly important to have more areas in which to channel that mental energy. For instance if someone starts to really enjoy a certain style of training that they are using in their fat loss goals then perhaps they should start tracking their progress in this area as intently as they do their weight. It can become a very useful distraction that makes it less likely for you to become mentally undone when having one of those weigh ins that just don’t reflect the nutritional week you have had. Plus at the end of they day if you are getting fitter, faster, stronger then you are likely getting leaner as well.
5. HAVE FUN!!!
This incredibly vague point means a couple of things:
- Don’t feel greedy choosing exercise you enjoy! This point is for obvious reasons, if we don't enjoy the journey we wont make it to the finish line. Sometimes what is optimal for you may be sub-optimal for me, if you enjoy crossfit for instance but I don’t, you will work harder on it than me, you will attend more frequently and you will improve at a faster rate.
- Work social occasions into your nutrition! At the end of the day we are all human and if we don't allow for the social side of life then we will end up pushing friends and family away. Food is more than just energy, it is Christmas time, it is culture, it is family and friends, it is celebration, weddings, 21sts, apology presents (I am a pro at these!) the list goes on and on. There does need to be sacrifice, as I passionately pointed out in point 1, but we need to keep our lives in BALANCE!
- Surround yourself with positive people! We all have friends and family who can seem almost disappointed when we kick goals. It makes us feel like maybe we are that annoying person who never shuts up about how great we are. But in many cases there seems to be a percentage of people who, due to being so competitive with their peers, would be far happier if we never improved on our downfalls physically or mentally. These people need help on their self-esteem but it is not YOUR responsibility to hide your achievements to keep them comfortable. Enjoy your journey, surround yourself and confide in only your positive friends and screw the haters!