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 and eat well.
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.