I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a personal trainer.
I’m a normal person who has had big success in the past reaching fitness goals. I read lots of books and countless articles to increase my knowledge, and know how to evaluate different diet and workout plans.
Here are three principles that helped me to achieve my goals:
BIG CHANGE REQUIRES BIG CHANGE
There’s no easy way to transform yourself. Even if you decide to go the illegal path and juice up, you still have to workout. You still have to eat right.
The bigger the changes to your life-style, the bigger the changes to your body.
If you’ve ever seen the show The Biggest Loser, you’ve seen this play out in EXTREME ways. You’ll see people lose 15 pounds in a single week, and over 100 pounds over a matter of months. How do they do it?
Well, you take a person with an extremely sedentary life-style, who over eats extremely unhealthy foods, and who is retaining large amounts of water. You then have that person workout 8 hours per day, eat only healthy food, and drink only water, all while being watched by a doctor and coached by a world class personal trainer. Likewise, the contestants who go home early almost never have results comparable to those who stay on the ranch (though they still have amazing results).
I know this sounds like a fairly obvious principle, but just look at the way every single diet, exercise program or supplement is marketed. They promise quick and easy BIG results. Have any of these quick and easy programs worked? Did your get amazing abs using Seven Minute Abs? Do you look like the guy in the BowFlex ad? Can you fight like Chuck Norris after using a Total Gym? Is the biggest change the person on the diet pill bottle made to their lifestyle taking these pills? Do you really think the guy holding the Shake Weight got those arms by holding a shaking weight for 6 minutes per day?
Here’s a secret:
- Amazing abs require more than just doing 7 minutes of ab workouts daily
- The BowFlex guy didn’t use just a BowFlex to get into that good of shape
- Chuck Norris was fighting Bruce Lee long before he owned a Total Gym
- The person in the before and after pictures did a whole lot more than pop a couple of pills per day to lose 50 pounds in 12 weeks
- The Shake Weight guy has probably never used a Shake Weight outside of when he was paid to use it
Intuitively, we know that big change requires big change, but we’re always hoping to be the exception. We always want to find a short cut. They don’t exist!
One of the primary reasons I recommend making big changes all at once is that you will see real results. It’s hard to stick to plan when you’re not seeing any results. The reverse is also true, it’s easy to stay motivated when you are seeing results.
I will also say this, sometimes a big change can be the length of change. Maybe your big change is never drinking a sugary beverage ever again. That’s a big change. By itself, it won’t create a big change in a short period of time, but it will over large period of time. Likewise, if you decide to go for a 20 minute walk to start everyday, you won’t see big changes on the scale two weeks later, but 52 weeks later you will see a difference.
What are areas where you need to make a big change?
BIG CHANGE REQUIRES THE PERFECT STORM
When it comes to transforming your body, the battle is fought on four fronts:
- Body Chemistry / Hormones
- Rest & Stress Reduction
When you put together a plan where you make changes on all four fronts, you create the perfect storm for transformation. Likewise, all four directly intertwine with one another. A good diet will fuel your workouts. Sufficient or lack of sleep affects your hormones and workout time. Being intentional with your diet and supplements creates better hormone balance, and enables you to recover faster from workouts.
Here are some quick thoughts on each of these areas:
DIET – Learn about nutrition
Everyone knows the importance of diet when it comes to reaching fitness or weight goals, but they don’t always understand how. So often, we just go with the latest fad diet we’ve heard about (some good and some awful). I would highly encourage you to actually research basic nutrition before selecting any diet.
For the sake of this:
- Eat six small meals every day instead of three big meals
- Don’t just count calories, track the types of calories. There are so many FREE apps which can help you do this.
- Every meal needs to include a serving of protein, carbs, and fat. However, if your goal is to lose weight, you want to consume most of your carbs earlier in the day. Especially avoid sugary carbs after lunch
- Not all proteins are equal – Fish and chicken are great lean sources of protein
- Not all carbs are equal – Sugary carbs [especially in beverage form] cause insulin spikes which lead your body to store fat. Starchy carbs have similar effects.
- Not all fats are equal – All trans-fats are always bad. You need a bit of saturated fat, but just a little. Olive oil and fish oil are great for you (when not in excess).
EXERCISE – Find a plan which matches your goals
When it comes to exercise, you must match your workout plan to your goals and your life-style. I don’t know about you, but I used to go out and buy a magazine reporting to have some celebrity’s or professional athlete’s workout plan. I would then attempt to follow their plan. If you’re like me, it’s extremely tempting to do that. I love that stuff. Unfortunately, it’s a really stupid thing to do. They have a personal trainer, and nothing else to do except workout. They can hire a personal babysitter to watch the kids while they workout. It’s just not realistic.
You need to pick a workout plan which is realistic for you. Likewise, you need to pick a workout plan which matches your fitness goals. You need to pick a workout plan that you enjoy (or at least don’t hate).
- If you want to have toned arms, you have to lift some weights.
- If you want to gain strength, you have to lift heavy weights.
- If you want to drop fat quickly, a daily light walk just won’t cut it.
Do some research and find someone who is roughly in your current condition and achieved your goals. Figure out if their plan can match your lifestyle.
BODY CHEMISTRY / HORMONES – Keep things in balance
This is the piece which many people over-look. To put things crassly, our bodies are very complicated biological machines (with souls and spirits, of course). Just like any machine, what you use will have an affect on the results. If you don’t change your oil, your car will eventually have trouble.
Some quick thoughts:
- Your body needs solid levels of testosterone to support your muscle mass. Even if your goal isn’t to gain muscle, you want to have lots of muscle tissue. It’s active tissue which burns calories. So you want to eat foods which promote healthy hormone levels.
- Cortisol is the stress hormone. It breaks down muscle tissue and causes you to store fat. Rest and healthy body chemistry can keep cortisol to limited amounts.
- Taking vitamin supplements keeps your body stocked with all the vital nutrients your body needs for any fitness goals (of course, so does a balanced diet).
Just because a supplement claims to boost or suppress a hormone doesn’t make it true. The supplement industry is one of the least regulated industries in existence. Do lots of research and talk to your doctor before spending lots of money and messing with your system.
REST / STRESS RELIEF – Go to sleep!
I would highly recommend NOT starting a new fitness plan at a time where you’re highly busy and stressed out. I have a new baby coming in about 30 days. It would be silly for me to think this was a good time to launch into a major change.
SUCCESS REQUIRES A PLAN …and a plan not to fail
Everyone knows you need a plan for your diet and workout plan. We’ve already talked about that. In the 21st century, there’s no excuse for not having a great plan in both areas. There’s so much access to information. There are so many apps which can hold you accountable.
You can find a great plan to meet your goals!
That’s not the type of plan I want to write about here.
If you’re looking to transform yourself, you’ve probably tried before with limited success. You probably know EXACTLY how you failed in the past. You know your triggers which cause you to get lazy or relapse.
Before you start your transformation, you need to have a plan which protects you against all of the ways you have failed in the past.
Plan for success!
Plan to avoid failure!
- Do you need a workout partner who can hold you accountable?
- Do you need to schedule out meals a month in advance?
- Do you need to download an app that tracks your progress?
- Do you need to keep intensive stats on progress so you keep motivated?
- Do you need to clear your fridge and pantry of your favorite comfort foods?