The Biggest Lie in The Fitness Industry

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I asked four different groups of people about how their fitness journey has changed over time: Two groups of clients, and two groups of trainers.  I asked them where they started, what changed next, and then where they are at now.  

What I found out: There are basically three phases of working out and eating well:

Phase One: Fix Me

Where everyone starts: Workouts and nutrition are about solving a problem with extreme workouts and diets.

And then it becomes: Extreme workouts and nutrition obviously don't solve my problem.  Either I need to give up, or find something more reasonable.

Phase Two: Fixing Me Has To Last

Where everyone starts: Workouts and diets are about solving a problem with reasonable workouts and diets.

And then it becomes: Now that I've solved this problem, I have to maintain not having the problem somehow.  

Common converstions here include:

I need to not get hurt in my workouts, so I can maintain not having the problem.  

I need to make food a lifestyle, so I can maintain not having the problem.

Phase Three: My Values and Self Expression

Where everyone starts: Working out and nutrition is a lifestyle, so that I don't have a problem.

And then it becomes: Because I am whole, complete, and integrated, it's an expression of who I am to work out.

The Biggest Lie in Fitness

So what we see is that for most people, in most phases, working out is trying to solve a problem.  Something is wrong, and they have to fix it.  

Unfortunately, this is the absolute least effective way to get or maintain any kind of results.

The big lie in the fitness industry is that
people have to hate their body to get results or to get motivation.  

And yet motivation research (specifically self-determination theory) would say that true, intrinsic motivation comes from a state of being integrated with your values.  Essentially, that you work out and eat right because you think that's what your best version of yourself would do.

You work out and eat right because you think
your best version of yourself would work out and eat right.

And that's it.

And that's actually the easiest place to change and cause results from.

It's actually great to have goals coming from the other direction: You love your body, and want to take it to the next level and get a little leaner.  You love your body, and want to take it to the next level and get a little stronger.

What You Do is An Expression of Who You Are

It's funny living here in Colorado, because so many people have a totally outdoorsey perspective on their body: Their body is what they climb with, or go mountain biking with, or hiking with, or camping with.

Essentially, they take their body out on the weekends and do fun stuff with it, like it's a remote control car or something =)

You have an opportunity to look at your activities, your workouts and diet, from a perspective of if they are aligned with your values, if they are the actions you feel like your best version of yourself would do.

And you get to say what that is.  

It's about what you DO, not where you've gotten.  

So if your best version of yourself would do intelligent, reasonable workouts 3 times per week, then do that.  Be your best version of yourself, today.  If your best version of yourself would have a reasonable nutrition program, and you'd plan your meals weekly, you can be that best version of yourself this week.

The Fitness Journey

To simplify the phases above, it really looks like this:

Everyone starts out: With some problem, something is wrong, they want to fix it

Everyone gets to: From being whole and complete and integrated with my values, it's an expression of who I am to workout and eat well.

And neither one has anything to do with when you hit your goals.

I've met a zillion people who hit their fitness goals, but it stayed being "a problem to solve" forever.  In fact, it was terrifying after they hit their goals, because they didn't want to lose them.  It was a punitive driver, almost compelling them to workout and diet.

On the flip-side, you can integrate working out and eating well with your values now.  You can start being grateful for the results you've already produced now.  You can start being your best version of yourself now.

I can't state this heavily enough: How you feel about yourself and your body doesn't change when you hit your fitness goal.  Even if you "fix" the problem, it won't really feel like it.

On the flip-side, take a look at who you want to be in the world.  Take a look at who you want to be in your community, with your friends and family, and for yourself.  Take a look at what you think your best version of yourself would do every week to take care of yourself.  

If you work out and eat from that perspective, you'll enjoy it more, it will take less energy, and you'll hit your goals faster.  On top of that, you get the joy and satisfaction of acting in accordance with your own values, and in line with your best version of yourself, that you got to say what is, for yourself.

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by Josh Hillis
Author of Fat Loss Happens on Monday
Contributor for Strength Matters Magazine


Calorie Counting Might Break You

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One thing I've noticed since releasing Fat Loss Happens on Monday is some confusion about the "By The Numbers" Phase.

It's Where To Start, Not Where to Stay

In the book I said to start with By The Numbers, a phase that includes starting to food journal, and adjusting primarily calories and protein based on your results.

The reason I start people there is because it shows us where the break in the system is.  Or, said less elegantly: The By the Numbers Strategy is designed to break you.

Numbers phase

Most people are going to have the wheels come off the wagon with calories and protein and logging, and see that they need to work on habits or logistics, like planning, shopping, cooking, or eating slower.  

90% of the Game is Awareness

Tracking calories is going to create some awareness around food choices and quantity.  But where it's really a powerful assessment is in showing what there is to work on.

Could be logistics like planning

Could be "on the court" stuff like eating more slowly

Could be that counting calories drives you crazy, and that you should journal your food on paper or by taking pictures with your phone.

Those are absolutely completely necessary things to learn.  And that's the whole point of the By The Numbers Strategy — to create awareness of what you really need to be focusing on.

Super Advanced?

How do you know if you're super advanced?  If you can go straight off of calories and macronutrient information, and make those changes on the fly, you're super advanced.

This is typically someone who's already been planning, shopping, and cooking for quite a while.

If that's you, you can make small adjustments to your food plan, based on your results and the numbers in your journal, and have a straight line to your goal.  It's awesome when it's that simple.

It's almost never that simple.

Everyone Else: Three Step Plan

If that isn't you, that's awesome!  In fact, that's most people who come to me.  Here's a three step plan to getting to the next level:

1.) Look at your food journal for where things didn't go the way you wanted

2.) Figure out what the issue was (Planning?  Cooking?  Bored?  Ate too fast?)

3.) Put together a plan to take one new small step that would be more effective than last week

That's it.

In my book Fat Loss Happens on Monday, there are four different strategies you could take on based on what you learn from where it comes apart.  

So essentially, what you'd learn from the By The Numbers Strategy is which strategy that would make the most difference for you:

  1. Planning and Preparing Strategy
  2. Fullness Leads to Fat Loss Strategy
  3. One Meal at a Time Strategy
  4. Mindfulness Strategy

There's also a maintenance strategy, which mostly involves cycling off fat loss as a goal, and working on something else fun and fitness related.  Cycles of goals and focus makes a lot of sense.  Likewise, most people might cycle through one of the above strategies multiple times, or might go through all of them one after another.  

That's the point of assessment — it shows you what the one next thing to work on is.  

Having the discipline and courage to work on just that one next thing is actually the fastest route to the goal.

To The Next Level, Rockstar

Whenever things come apart in your diet, the only question you should ask yourself if — what could I add in strategically that would make a difference.

If you need more structure, take a look at my book Fat Loss Happens on Monday.

If you need some accountability and support, I have a Fat Loss Happens on Monday coaching group starting soon.  Stay tuned.

by Josh Hillis
author of Fat Loss Happens on Monday
contributor to Strength Matters Magazine for personal trainers
speaks about coaching habit change to personal trainers all over the United States.