Information and knowledge is at an all-time high.
A quick Google search of “how to lose fat” will net you a cool 131 million unique hits.
131 MILLION pages – indexed on Google – on the topic of fat-loss advice.
And yet we are losing the fight.
What are we doing wrong?
How are so many engulfed in the fitness game – and yet not getting the results and progress they are looking for?
Never has there been a topic so many people are so passionate about – and yet fail in realizing their desires. If you wanted to purchase a Lamborghini, that would be a different story. The cost would put it out of reach for all but the most affluent individuals.
But fitness is nearly free.
The cost of fitness is low, relative to many other responsibilities we have. (Take note I just called fitness a “responsibility“.)
All you really need in order to improve on a regular basis is your body and a decent pair of shoes. A gym membership is useful, but it’s not a requirement. Have you ever seen the physiques of gymnasts? Bodyweight training is more than adequate to give you the look and health you desire.
So, it’s cheap, it’s available, it’s everywhere – so how are we losing this fight?
Is it misinformation? The fitness “industry” trying to turn a quick buck on magical (and ineffective) weight loss supplements and detoxes?
Is it outside influences? Friends and family who spend their time urging you to consume more than you wish to at social gatherings?
Is it stress related? The high stakes of the “rat race” causes us all to burn out and turn to convenience foods for ease and comfort?
Is it ignorance? Do we not understand that ranch dressing is loaded with calories and that most granola bars are equivalent to a Snickers?
Perhaps there’s merit to each of those suggestions. But I would suggest the answer is a bit bigger.
There Is No “One Path”.
Fitness – your goal of continuous physical self-improvement is dynamic. You will have ups and downs. You will have good days and bad days. You will need to change your beliefs on a frequent basis in order to continually progress as your body adapts to its stimulus.
Everyone’s path is different.
Speak with other fitness professionals about their fitness journeys – both personally and professionally – and the stories are strikingly similar.
You’ll ask, “Hey, how did you get into this fitness thing? What started you down this path?”
And you’ll likely get a chuckle and a response of, “You won’t believe the silly shit I’ve done in the past, it’s embarrassing, really……….”
Nearly every fit pro has done a litany of things wrong in the name of “good health” and “fitness” – both personally with themselves and professionally, with clients.
- You’ll hear stories of extreme low-carbing and ketogenic diets while training hard.
- You’ll hear stories of lengthy fasts followed by epic binges.
- You’ll hear stories of neurotic meal-timing routines carried out to the minute.
- You’ll hear stories of obsessive macronutrient cycling with perfect nutrient partitioning.
Frankly, you’ll hear silliness.
But through all of that, the fit pro keeps on keepin’ on. They adjust, they adapt, they lose preconceived notions.
If you are willing to challenge your beliefs and rid yourself of the promising lure of the “One, Weird Trick“, you can do the same.
Experience Trumps Education Every Time
I’m a firm believer in multiple revenue streams. That way, if one stream runs dry, no worries, you’ve got back up.
One of my revenue streams is my first career choice – that of an educator. I’m at ease in front of a group of 13-year olds discussing Algebraic topics; it’s second nature to me. Next year will be year 12 for me – I began my teaching career in the fall of 2004.
I spent 5 years working on my undergraduate studies at Eastern Michigan University. Classes, labs, volunteering, substitute teaching, student teaching, lesson creation, classroom equality research projects………..the whole nine.
I had a solid undergraduate education and I was ready to join the rank and file as a teacher and begin my career.
With a gig lined up, I entered the classroom – my classroom – and organized, decorated, straightened, and prepared for those little pre-pubescent beings to come walking through the door.
I was ready.
The buses pulled up on day one, the kiddos walked down the bus steps and their feet hit the pavement. I had a big sign that said “Mr. Helmes”, and my 30-or-so kids found me and we walked inside the building.
We reached the classroom, I closed the door behind me, and I had a strange experience.
I looked at the kids and in that one, brief instant, thought to myself, “What the hell do I do now?”
I shook that thought off, walked to the front of the classroom, and my career began.
In my first year, I was REALLY bad. I guess I was good for a first year teacher, but looking back on what I know NOW – I was bad, plain and simple.
Those 5 years spent in a University, poring over theory and curriculum meant next to nothing.
You never have to create an organic environment of safety and understanding in a University.
A kid doesn’t refuse your directions and call out your authority in front of the class in a University.
You don’t need to figure out how to grade 100 papers per night and still be a functioning member of your family in a University.
Teaching is a dynamic and organic experience. The more you do it, the better you get. You will gain understanding as the years move by. After a bit of time, you’ll gain confidence in your abilities and start to see the “big picture”. The “small rocks” will be brushed aside and you’ll gain an appreciation of what makes the “big rocks” move with less effort.
The game will slow down, becoming easier for you to “play”.
But not one, single classroom experience will prepare you for it.
Kind of like fitness.
Why Is Fitness So Damn Hard?
Because we don’t really know what to tell you. We might pretend we have the “key to health”, but all we actually have is a decent guess based on research and field experience.
There’s no exact road map to fitness. There are recommendations, but what works best for you will evolve and change over time.
“Optimal” is relative – and fitness has no end date. Responsibilities spring up, life happens, we fall off the wagon, and we give up.
Perhaps the biggest puzzle piece that makes fitness so damn difficult is the “all or nothing” mentality people have.
Too many of us are one in one of two different states:
- On point with our diet and workouts, 100%.
- Eating all the foods and lying on the couch.
The extremist nature of these two options mean you’re either leaning down and feeling great, or gaining body fat. With nothing in between.
Ever notice the most common answer to come out of a Coach’s mouth is “It depends.”?
- “Do you think I should go low-carb?” Well………it depends.
- “Should I incorporate cardio into my routine?” Well……….it depends.
- “Would intermittent fasting be beneficial for me?” Well……..it depends.
- “Should I train 3 days per week or 4 days per week?” Well………it depends.
There’s nothing wrong with admitting you don’t know the answers. And yet, we all demand the answers instantaneously.
Moderation is a dirty word for us all – and not showing simple moderation is what has caused our society most of its issues.
Instead of being “totally on” or “totally off”, try to relax, be mindful and reflective, and eat intelligently.
When clients go on vacation, we tell them to go “off plan” – purposely. Nobody wants to count macros while on vacation. We give them a few easy guidelines:
- Keep your meal frequency the same as it is at home.
- Emphasize protein.
- Be careful of carbs and fats – skip the bread bowls, appetizers, etc.
- Have some drinks and make smart alcoholic choices.
- Get in some activity if you can.
- Enjoy and have a great time.
Nearly every time the client returns, they are amazed that they didn’t do much damage after they do a post-vacation assessment. Quickly, the additional bloat and/or water weight leaves them and they’re back at it.
It’s amazing what a little moderation can do for you.
Best Practices To Make Fitness “Easier”
If your habits are not yet permanent, you’re in a dangerous place. After a good amount of time passes, and you make fitness a permanent fixture to your routine, fitness DOES get “easier”.
Your workouts themselves should always be challenging, but you will have a mindset shift as the months pass. All of a sudden the lure of the gym will beat the lure of the couch (or Happy Hour), and you’ll stop skipping workouts.
You’ll become addicted to beating your training log, and satisfied with the results on-point dieting is providing you.
But this takes time.
A few items which will help you speed up the process.
Find Something You Love – And Do It Religiously
I love lifting. But that’s just me. Maybe you like to walk, or swim, or bike, or jog.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter all too much.
Just be sure you LOVE it – because you’ll have to be willing to do it long-term.
Steer Clear Of Extremes
If you’re adhering to dogmas that require a strict avoidance of ANYTHING – it’s a poor choice.
Eliminating food groups helps to lower calories – which is what causes the fat loss.
It’s not doing anything magical. A moderate (there’s that word again) dose of all 3 macronutrients is your best bet for success.
Invest In The Process, Not The Outcome
You cannot control the past – it’s already happened. And the future isn’t here yet.
If you wanted to have a million dollars by the time you were 60, what would you do?
Would you go rob someone? Get another job? Start selling drugs?
Nah, you’d likely increase your retirement contributions and cut back on expenses to compensate.
A million dollars takes a long time to accumulate. You can’t think about the million dollars. You think about your daily habits instead – and forget about the final tally. It will add up over time.
The exact same thing can be said about fitness as well.
The road to true greatness is the road less traveled.
And that road goes DIRECTLY down the middle of the street.
The closer you can stick to the middle, the more you will be able to make sense out of those 131 million different Google hits.