Are you one of those people who promises to lose weight on January 1st and by June 1st your throwing an extra scoop of ice cream on the Belgian waffle cone in abject failure?
Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.
But, as I discovered, it doesn’t have to be that way.
And to do it I’m not going to tell you about a wonderful new diet, or a new abs of titanium exercise program. Instead I want to point out one simple thing you can do to change entirely how you see yourself, see your weight and fitness issues, and point you to a better lifestyle.
From there, you are all on your own. So, there won’t be any pitches for miracle products or dvd’s at the end of this little discussion.
Fine. let’s get started.
Whenever you decide you are going to lose 20 pounds, or build up your muscles, or generally decide you are getting in shape, you are making a promise to yourself. And, if you are like a lot of other people, you break that promise over and over.
Every time you break a promise to someone else you generally feel bad don’t you? Well, guess what? When you break a promise to yourself you feel bad too. You just don’t notice it in the same way. You slump your shoulders a bit more. You slouch a bit lower on the couch. You hesitate for just a moment longer before saying what you want.
Because you are untrustworthy. You can’t even be trusted to keep a promise you made to yourself, let alone anybody else.
So, you become less likeable in your own eyes. You become less confident, less sure of yourself. You doubt yourself more.
And like all good self-fulfilling prophecies you accomplish less when you feel bad about yourself. You accomplish less when you think you can’t do more. Even when you do think you can do more it is usually just before you quit.
Now, that I’ve beaten your ego down a bit. I’m going to let you off the hook.
You have been misled about getting in shape. You’ve been lied to about diets and exercise. You have fallen for all the advertisements like the kid who bought the wiz bang X-Ray glasses out of the back of the comic book.
Like most good con jobs it was a very subtle trick. Just as the magician doing the cups tricked you into believing the little pea was under one of the cups, you were manipulated into the trick of believing in ONE WORD that governed how you tried to get in shape. And, ONE WORD caused you to fail.
What was that one word?
You had a goal to lose 20 pounds. You had a goal to get in shape. You had a goal to build up those muscles. You probably even attached a date to it. “I’m going to lose 20 pounds before the summer so I can fit into that swimsuit.”
Why did you fail?
Here’s the first reason.
You confused a “process” with a goal. Getting in shape isn’t something you accomplish, collect the trophy, and go home. Getting is shape is something you work on to get better at each day. Sometimes you make a lot of progress; sometimes you make a little. However, as long as you are making progress you are winning.
However, when you set out with the goal mindset, every day you are not at the goal is a failure. “I’ve lost 15 pounds but I still didn’t lose 20.” That’s the failure. You didn’t hit the goal, so you fail.
Goals are fleeting things. And hitting the goal doesn’t mean you really achieved what you wanted to. How often have you heard something like this?
“I lost 20 pounds for June, but I’ve put back 10 of it already.”
So, you reached the goal but the victory was gone in an instant.
Let’s turn your thinking around.
Let’s say that “getting in shape” is a process. Something you get better at everyday, FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. How would change your thinking? How would it change how you approach the issue of getting in shape? Would it change how you view the problem itself?
When I first went to the gym I wanted to get rid of some flab around my waist. I expected I would work out three times a week, shed the weight and go home.
But, after I got there and began working out I discovered that I wasn’t losing any weight at all. I was trading muscle for fat. And it was a slow process. There wasn’t any magic, “Do three thousand sit ups with our patented tummy buster plate and your stomach will be flat as a board.” Doesn’t happen.
Here’s the second reason you “failed.”
If you were really working out the trade of muscle for fat was probably very close to a one to one ratio. For every pound of muscle you add you lost a pound of fat. Funny thing is, you tend to lose fat uniformly across your body. It doesn’t just fall off your hips or waist. You trade it for fat on your chest, arms, and legs. But if those parts of your body get muscle you see very little change because muscle is smaller than fat! A pound of muscle is about one half the size of a pound of fat. So your arms, chest, and legs might get a bit smaller. Your hips might slim a bit, your waist might drop a half size. But your overall progress hides what you were using to measure your progress!
Your waist didn’t drop by inches. When you climb on the scale you don’t weight any less.
You were actually achieving your goal. You were getting in shape. But you were measuring with the wrong tools. Being able to lift ten pounds more doesn’t mean you look like a body builder. It means you look a little slimmer than you did before. And that slimness is stretched over your whole body, not just the places you worry about.
So, you measured your progress with the wrong tool – weight loss. And then, you didn’t meet your goal. So you quit, a failure.
Now, what would happen if you recognized that getting in shape was a process? Now what happens?
First, all that exercise would mean that you had more muscle in your system. You would be stronger. But, to get in shape means you would see that, as a process, there are really several things you need to be thinking about.
A digression. I occasionally write and play role-playing games. In these games we divide up characters abilities into various categories, for example, Strength, Intelligence, and Charisma. The more characteristics you give to the player to work with the more realistic and complicated the game becomes.
To “get in shape” you would need to improve in many different areas. Life is complicated. We might want simple solutions but, we seldom get them. Here’s a more comprehensive look at “getting in shape” from a gaming perspective.
Let’s take a look at each of those.
Strength can be thought of as those rippling muscles on the body builder, or it can be thought of as your ability to open a stuck jar of pickles with your bare hands. It is usually one of the first things we think about when we picture getting in shape.
Constitution is our ability to withstand injury and disease. A healthy body is better able to withstand colds, injury, and disease. A healthy body recovers more quickly from injury. While we don’t think of getting in shape normally in terms of constitution, after a debilitating accident or a long bout with cold or flu, getting back in shape takes on new meaning.
Endurance is another, “picture moment” for many. We see ourselves finishing a marathon race, or emerging from the water after a long swim. We might picture ourselves in the last leg of a bicycle race, or struggling to the top of the mountain. Endurance is clearly part of our requirements for getting is shape.
Flexibility is one we tend to overlook. You can be built like a behemoth but unless you are flexible those muscles can become as big a detriment as being too thin. The idea of being “muscle-bound” is a myth, of course. No amount of muscle will make you as inflexible as we see in cartoons. However, building muscle without stretching ligaments and tendons properly can result in severe, often debilitating, injury. We see all the time how top athletes can be injured in sports. So, to be truly in shape we must improve our flexibility.
Balance is the fitness piece most often forgotten. We take our balance for granted. Yet, as we age, unless we work to improve our balance constantly we can find ourselves slipping, tripping, and falling our way to hospitals, crutches, and wheelchairs. The balance feats that children do routinely, we shun. When was the last time you tried to do a cartwheel? How about a walk on a narrow board? Remember hopscotch? To truly be in shape you need good balance.
Now, when you said you wanted to get in shape were you really thinking of all the work involved to accomplish your goal? I’m betting the answer is no.
And would you even recognize the goal when you achieved it? If you got stronger but you are still getting colds and had a stiff back, did you really get in shape? Part of you says no.
The fact is you were actually thinking of less weight around the middle. But you set yourself up for failure.
So, by realizing what you really want to accomplish – getting in shape – and what it really is – a lifelong process, not a goal, you can begin to turn yourself into a daily process winner instead of a goals failure.
Each day do something to improve one of these areas. Build your strength with weight training. Improve your constitution by taking control of your diet. Build your endurance by running, cycling, or swimming. Improve your flexibility and balance with yoga or dancing. By breaking up the workload and focusing on making yourself a bit better you can finally put an end to the “goals” mentality and that feeling of failure.
Trust me. Being a winner every day feels a LOT better.