You have finished cleaning the plate of the last bits of ham. You take a sip of your beer, feel your stomach bulging and think: “This is Christmas, it’s ok to indulge and eat in excess. Soon it will be next year, and then I will get back in shape. I will start exercising and eating healthy, and by the summer I’ll look great when I’m lying on the beach in my swimming trunks and enjoying the sun. Promise.”
I wonder how many thousands, or millions of people are making these kinds of New Year’s promises: “I will lose 20 pounds”, “I will go to the gym 3 times a week”, or “I will become a vegetarian”. Few weeks into the future and most of them have quit, and most likely also made up reasons and justifications for themselves about why they had to quit. It’s always something external, so that one doesn’t have to face the reality of being a failure and take responsibility for it.
There are a few reasons why this happens. One is motivation. And I’m not even talking about how to motivate yourself, or what kind of techniques can be used to build up motivation. Most people lose the motivation to make a change because they haven’t really thought the whole thing through. They haven’t had a long, honest conversation with themselves about what is the current reality of the situation, and why it needs to be changed. The motivation for losing weight is never the actual event of weight loss, and if you don’t look deeper, your motivation will be short lived.
You need to get to the underlying reasons for hitting the gym 3 times a week or losing 20 pounds. Do you want to feel healthy? Do you want others to think you look good? Do you feel that being a bit chubby or skinny prevents you from attracting the opposite sex? If you don’t think these things through, you’ll never get to the real reasons for making a change in your life, and therefore you’ll never find true motivation for doing it.
Besides motivation, information is also an issue. There is too much of it around, and no one is going to tell you about what is right and what is wrong. Everyone’s selling their own product, beliefs, and way of thinking. I do this too. I’m very much advocating the low-carb way of life because it works wonders for me, and I feel that it makes logically more sense than any other diet I know besides the paleolithic diet, but that one is rather difficult to achieve in practice.
The thing is, that most people make a New Years promise and then rush into action immediately. They will start going to the gym doing something they assume works, or they will start eating based on their earlier beliefs about what is healthy and what is not. This is exactly what I did. When I decided that it’s time to lose the belly over a year ago, I started exercising 5 times a week, eating “healthy”, and after 3 months I looked exactly the same as when I started. When you realize, that the struggle of the past 3 months was for nothing, it’s a bit difficult to stay motivated.
I’m pretty sure that most New Years promises revolve around losing weight, getting in a good physical shape, or becoming healthier. Now, if an overweight person wants to lose weight, how do you think she will approach the challenge? She will use the exact same information and beliefs that have been stuck inside her head. Now, if she already has that information, why hasn’t she been using it to become normal weight already? That’s because whatever she thinks she knows is wrong. It’s as simple as that.
If we knew, I mean really infallibly knew, what to do to become a healthy, fit person there wouldn’t be an obesity epidemic. The problem is, that most people don’t face the fact that the mental models and preconceptions they have might be wrong. Cognitive dissonance explains a bit why it is so difficult to admit being wrong. When I say it like this it sounds ridiculous, but there are many people who really, honestly think that they are eating healthy – or have an otherwise healthy lifestyle – yet year-by-year they’re gaining weight. It’s a very rare individual who actually stops to think that maybe the knowledge she has about a healthy lifestyle is wrong. If she thinks she’s eating healthy but still gaining weight all the time, maybe her preconceptions about what actually is healthy are the source of her problems?
Before you can start losing weight, you have to lose your way of thinking. It obviously isn’t working, so it’s time for a reality shift. It’s time to start questioning those beliefs and search for different points of view. It takes some time and commitment, but it’s definitely going to give you better results than just rushing into action without thinking thinks through or doing some underlying research about what works and what doesn’t.
Go to a library, or Amazon.com, and search for books about diet and nutrition. See what other people say about these topics. What kind of reviews and ratings have they got? Is the author credible? Search for blogs. Even if you don’t immediately find the information you seek, they can be a great gateway to other, better websites about the topic, or lead you to a book that will change your life.
This is not applicable only for diet and nutrition, but if you’re skinny and have been trying to build muscle for the past months without any results, you’re obviously doing something wrong. It’s time again for a reality shift, and to question the beliefs you have about muscle hypertrophy. Time to hit Google and start searching for blogs, sites, and books about what we actually know about how to do it. What is the actual science saying about it? That information will be tremendously more useful to you than just relying on monthly tips from Men’s Health or similar magazines.
Maybe you’ve tried to quit smoking three times before with the help of nicotine patches, but failed every time. What makes you think that this time would be any different? You’re setting yourself ready for failure unless you question your basic assumptions and beliefs, and come up with a new strategy.
If you made a New Year’s promise in order to change some aspect of your life, don’t rush into it. Think about it thoroughly to discover what is your real motivation for making that change. Be honest to yourself. Then write down what preconceptions you have about how to actually make the change happen, and question those preconceptions. Don’t show mercy to them. Do a little research to see if what you believe is actually backed by solid, preferably scientific, evidence instead of some bloke just believing the same way you do. Only when you have a clear idea about what works and why it works, it’s time to take action.
2010 will be a great year. Make sure you get the most out of it!