By Jill Coleman
Google “weight loss workout” and get 8.5 million results in less than 1 second. The information on how to lose weight is everywhere: what workout to do, how many times per week, what foods to eat and when to eat them. Tons of information is literally at our fingertips. Why then do so many people struggle with fat loss, despite having the information one click away? The answer is implementation.
We are guilty of it here at Metabolic Effect. We love listing our top fat-loss foods, demonstrating effective workout routines and chatting up the latest research. However, something that frequently gets lost in the details is that “information is not transformation.” Seems simple enough, and yet so many people cannot effectively implement the powerful steps necessary for lasting body change. A bodybuilder dieting for a show can do it for 12 weeks, and a runner can follow a training program for the months leading up to the race, probably because there is some sort of end in sight—a goal. What about those of us just trying to lose fat for losing fat’s sake? What’s our motivation? And what are the steps to implementation?
We like to joke that pretty much any diet on the market works, if you actually consistently do it. However, most are unsustainable, do not meet people where they are and in the end people stop following them. In other words, the changes necessary to implement a long term change in behavior is just too inconvenient. We may have the best intentions, but ultimately, we won’t follow through if the plan is too tough to implement. Either it requires too much willpower (which we all know is exhaustible) or it is too radical a change for the lifestyle that we currently live. It’s not that we don’t want to change—it’s that we literally cannot change.
This is where you need to cut yourself some slack and don’t kid yourself. If you are someone who sleeps in until 8am every morning, the idea that now you are going to get up at 5am everyday to workout is unrealistic. For someone who hates vegetables, the idea that they will now eat them at every meal is unrealistic. Instead, be gentle with yourself and choose 1 single change to make at a time, and then practice that 1 new behavior for a while to create a habit out of it. For the person who sleeps in every day, begin by waking up at 5am on Monday mornings only. Perhaps the incentive that you get to sleep in the rest of the week will give you Monday motivation. But, guess what? Even that may not work. How about making it even easier for yourself by sleeping in your gym clothes? How about making it even easier than that by sleeping in your car in the gym parking lot? Kidding! But maybe it would work?? But honestly, creating lasting body change is least about the tools (diet, workouts, etc.) and most about changing behaviors. And this can be difficult and takes practice.
In the book “The Happiness Advantage,” the author Shawn Achor shares that humans’ natural way of being will always be to choose the path of least resistance when it comes to behavior. This is why even though we have every intention of getting up and going for a hike on a Saturday morning, we end up lounging on the sofa watching a Top Chef marathon wondering what happened to the day. Unfortunately, studies show that when we choose this path of least action, it is only satisfying for about 30 minutes before we start to feel lethargic, emotionally listless, and unaccomplished—“Gee, I have been laying on this couch for 4 hours and haven’t done anything today!”
This is the principle of psychic entropy; a state in which we cannot focus our attention effectively to complete tasks. We are then left with negative feelings of being unmotivated, bored, and even more tired than before, despite having done next to nothing. All the while, we know on a conscious level that when we go out for that hike or hit the gym early that it sets a tone of accomplishment, focus, and re-energizes us. Yet, we frequently choose not to do that because it takes what Achor calls “activation energy”—or the amount of initial effort it takes to do something. Many people cannot change their current behaviors because the new ones they are trying to adopt require too much activation energy. Achor suggests that the only way to implement lasting behavior change is to find ways to lower activation energy so that we will be more likely to adopt the new action and eventually make a habit out of it.
ME recognizes that each person is an individual whose regimen is unique to them. The idea that lasting change can be made by a complete overhaul of that regimen is unsustainable. Instead, we suggest fitting the program to your current lifestyle and making changes via choices that are equally as easy as the ones you are currently making, thus minimizing the activation energy needed to make them.
For example, if you are someone who likes to eat out at restaurants, ME offers techniques to eat for fat loss when ordering out, like choosing salads over sandwiches and choosing protein-based appetizers over starch-based apps. If you are someone who gets busy during the week and cannot make meals, take a single hour on Sundays to prep meals for the week including grab-and-go quick options like hard-boiled eggs, chicken breasts, turkey burgers, a big container of veggies, and microwave a few sweet potatoes. It is unrealistic to ask someone who doesn’t have time to cook in the mornings to make a gourmet egg white breakfast, which is why convenience options like bars and shakes are acceptable on the ME program.
Furthermore, the ME workout is relatively short and thus more psychologically satisfying—you are much more likely to do the 20-minute ME DVD at home than an hour on the treadmill at the gym. The Rest-based Training concept also allows you to go at your own pace, meeting you where you are, rather than forcing a discouraging intensity on you before you are ready.
If you struggle with how to implement behavior changes, despite having the information, check out ME’s upcoming webinar: “7 Key Behavioral Changes” and get some insight into how to effectively create new fat-loss habits for good.
Here is a short, cute video of Jade describing a client of his—a great example of implementing the fat loss lifestyle via “meeting someone where they are,” rather than forcing them to make new, unrealistic choices that in the end the cannot make, enjoy!