Most of the conversations I have with people about nutrition aren’t really about nutrition.
Everyone knows a chicken salad is better for you than a large, stuffed crust, pepperoni pizza, after all.
Instead, I find that the further we get into the conversation the more apparent it becomes that preparation, planning, self-management, and motivation are the problems.
With that, I thought it’d be beneficial to jot down some of my thoughts after numerous fairly similar conversations over the past few weeks.
Motivation is transient and progress is only made with constant daily action.
One of my favourite quotes is:
“Success isn’t owned. It’s leased. And rent is due every single day.” – J. J. Watt
What I’ve found over the years is, when it comes to working toward health and fitness goals, the extent to which we’re ‘on track’ changes daily.
One day we feel amazing and do all of ‘the right things’, the next day we feel rubbish and do nothing positive. We sit on the couch all day, we have that cake, and we indulge after dinner.
Our motivation is still (or may still be) high. We still want to succeed. But we allow ourselves to lose momentum.
This loss in momentum is typically caused by us taking the easy way out:
“I could go to the gym, but it’s late so I’ll just go home.”
“I could cook dinner, but I’m tired so I’ll order a takeaway.”
These decisions can have a domino effect. They can lead to more decisions that take you further away from your goals.
You’re more likely to have a glass of wine or a beer with a takeaway than you are with an omelet, aren’t you?
Then, the further away you feel you are from being on track the greater the feeling of inertia there is to get back on track.
‘Paying the rent’, when it comes to your goals, involves treating each day as a new beginning.
It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday (although, it’s obviously advantageous if you were ‘on it’), what matters is what you do now and next.
Cut the head off the snake
Most conversations I have with people about their goals come at the point they’ve hit breaking point or ‘fitness rock bottom’.
They come to me (or one of the other Improve coaches) when they’re at their wits’ end and ready to quit altogether.
Every single time, they leave the conversation with what feels like a new lease of life, ready to go forth and conquer.
My advice to each of those individuals, and to you, is to cut the head off the snake.
As soon as you feel your motivation is dipping, speak to someone. If you’ve got a coach, chat to him/her. If you don’t, talk to a friend or family member.
Our minds can be horribly unfair and destructive if we give them the time and space to be. Acknowledging when there’s an issue and talking about it with a view to eradicating it (or at least taming it) will always be the best course of action.
From a health and fitness perspective, it can be the difference between going on a 4-week food binge, gaining kilograms of bodyweight or having a day or two ‘not feeling yourself’ and getting right back on track.
If you fail to prepare, you had better be prepared to fail
I always remember my ridiculously meticulous father drilling this into me in the run-up to exams when I was at school.
“You need to study, son. If you fail to prepare you better be prepared to fail.”
I wish I had listened to him.
If I had done I might not be wearing a tracksuit to work every day. Only joking, that’s actually something I’m strangely proud of.
However, it did take me a long time for his advice to sink in and make sense.
Like, literally a decade; I was probably mid-20s before I realised that planning and preparation were key to success.
Preparation from a health and fitness standpoint involves planning your week in advance:
When are you going to exercise and what are you going to eat?
Those are the two questions that will lead you toward your goals, perhaps, more than any other.
The exercise part may look like: Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7am, for example.
The food part is harder.
“How many calories? How many meals? What ratio of carbs, fats, and protein? What do I order if I’m eating out?
*Arghh…paralysis by analysis*
“I’m ordering a Chinese and downing 3 bottles of wine to chill me out and stop me thinking about this nonsense.”
The simplest thing you can do when it comes to food is to learn a couple of ‘go-to’ recipes, create a menu for yourself, write down a shopping list and get to work.
From there you can either cook your meals as and when or batch cook and portion them off in the fridge/freezer.
Doing this takes a bit of time, a bit of thought and a bit of discipline to make it work but that investment of time and effort will be worth its weight in gold if you can stick with it.
Clarity and confidence
Your ability to do most things in life will come down to how clear you are on what it is you actually have to do and how confident you are you can do it.
If your level of clarity on the task is high and your level of confidence in yourself to do it is high you’re winning.
However, if you’re confident you can do something but aren’t quite clear on exactly what it is you have to do you’re going to run into a spot of bother.
You’re also in trouble if you’re clear on what you have to do but not particularly confident whether or not you can do it.
In the instance of the latter two examples, you need help.
From a health and fitness perspective, the questions to ask yourself are:
– How easy am I finding this?
– How motivated am I to keep it up?
If you’re finding it easy and are highly motivated, you’re all good – keep on trucking.
But if the answer to either of those questions isn’t positive, it’s probably a good time to speak to someone about moving the goalposts to make things a little easier for you.
In most cases, it likely won’t be that the goals you’ve set yourself are too difficult to achieve.
It may just be that something has come up (work, family, relationship, etc.) that is consuming more of your time and energy than you had initially budgeted when you set your health and fitness goals.