If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that life is insane and it is going to keep changing and throwing us curveballs regardless of our goals, plans and aspirations. In my experience a big part of finding success in your fitness efforts is being able to adapt and follow through with your plan amidst the chaos. This is actually a topic I discuss with almost every client I have at one time or another. Unfortunately life will bring conflict whether it be a mass pandemic, a loss of a loved one, a break up, loss of a job, etc. Now, I’m sure some of you reading this will rank everything I just listed as a higher priority than fitness. And I don’t disagree with that train of thought. However, most people put looking and feeling good pretty high on their priority list whether they realize it or not. This is one of the reasons fitness is so addicting in the first place. Some people go through a big part of their lives only to discover fitness later on and they get hooked because they start to see how great they can actually look and feel. Now, if you don’t follow through with your fitness goals following the death of a close loved one, or the loss of a job, no one is going to judge you. But, in my experience if you are going through a rough time and let go of things in your life that make you feel better like eating well and exercising it can create an even worse situation. So, this post is designed to cover how to create a plan that is easy to follow when shit hits the fan.
Think back to how many “shitty” weeks you’ve had over the past year. It could be a bad allergy week, a tough week at work, a week with bad back pain. Now that you have that number in your mind think back over the past 10 yeas. How many “major” unfortunate life events have you had? A loss of a job, a loss of a loved one, a global pandemic (theres at least one of those), etc. Now I want you to take all of that into consideration. When people make dieting plans on paper everything seems easy and flawless. So, if I eat this many calories each day I will be at my goal weight in 3 months! In retrospect this is obviously not usually the case, unless you have a mindset that plans to have some shitty weeks in there. For some reason in my experience I have never had a weight loss client that had a flawless journey. Something always happens. They have a bad week at work, they lose a close loved one, etc. While all of these things are unfortunate they don’t negate the fact that you are working towards something. Something that at the end of your journey you will thank yourself for. Something that makes it easier to get up in the morning. Something that makes you feel better even when the deck is stacked against you. And in my experience the reason why most people “fail” at their plans is because they don’t take into account that 1) making any changes to your life and body is hard as f***, and 2) they expect everything to go perfect and lovely. So let me give you a few tips as to how YOU can be successful with your plans regardless of your circumstances.
So let’s say over the past year you have had 12 shitty weeks, that’s roughly one per month. If you set up a weight loss/weight gain plan that only works on perfect weeks that is designed to last 3 months. Well you are already putting yourself 3 weeks behind schedule. My advice, think about how you are going to react when you have a shitty week, and remember just because the situation isn’t ideal every decision you make either brings you closer or takes you farther away from your goal.
2) Make everything as SIMPLE as possible
Many people follow these crazy ass meal plans that force people to cook foods they have never even heard of before. Or they choose a dieting style that doesn’t align with their cravings/palate. The ketogenic diet is a great example of this because what is going to happen if you have an absolutely shitty week and you decide to crush a sleeve of Oreos. Well, now you’ve taken yourself out of “ketosis”. So, if you can’t follow whatever plan you’re on when the going gets tough you SHOULD NOT be on that plan because life is not all sunshine and rainbows. My advice, choose a balanced approach to exercising and eating, one that allows you to be consistent even on the bad days.
3) Figure out your caloric balance
When shit hits the fan sometimes exercising may not be an option. Some people that have families and a demanding job may find themselves in a bind if their boss pushes a deadline. When this happens we don’t want to be in “reactive” mode. We want to be proactive. So, let’s say on your plan you work out 4x a week and deficit your caloric intake 500 calories per day which will yield about 1lb of weight loss per week. If you have an insane week where you only workout twice well that messes with you caloric balance. So if you want to continue to lose weight you need to obviously deficit the amount of calories you didn’t burn that week. If you normally burn 300 calories a workout well that means you need to eat 600 less calories that week, or roughly 75 calories less per day. That number obviously changes based off of how hard you workout.
4) MAKE A PLAN, JUST MAKE A DAMN PLAN
Life is ever-changing. Most of us don’t have the luxury of a “normal”. We have kids, demanding jobs, loved ones that need us, home projects, and whatever else demands your attention on a weekly basis. When these things happen DO NOT give yourself an excuse to not follow through with your plan. The reason why I see many people fail is because when something throws off their natural rhythm they flounder. Well I always workout on Friday’s, but I have a work conference this Friday, ok so why not workout on Thursday? Theres 7 days a week, if you normally work out 4 you have 3 days with which to adjust your plan. So, when you have a week that throws you off plan on how to get around it. Be a problem solver, don’t be helpless.
5) Ask yourself how long you actually want to be “dieting” for
One of the best things about the world we live in is the copious amounts of amazing food that reside here. Sometimes I have vivid dreams about foods that I’ve eaten in my lifetime. Not sure if I should talk to my therapist about that or not. With that being said, how long do you want to limit yourself on the foods you can eat? Because in reality when you get to the “end” of a weight loss phase you have the ability to slowly raise your daily calorie threshold without gaining body fat, if you do it the right way. I have many clients who do really well with their food for a couple weeks only to fall off for the 2 weeks after that because they couldn’t moderate their portions, or decided to live in an “ignorance is bliss” type of mindset. The reality is somewhere, some way you have to sacrifice if you really want to change. You can sacrifice consistently and see results quickly or you can sacrifice here and there and drag out your “diet” over a matter of years. The choice is yours. Now, when I say sacrifice I don’t mean you have to give up the food you love, you just have to moderate how much of it you consume. And again this has to be a consistent thing. Even when weeks are tough. The worst thing you could do for yourself is have a complete “fuck it” day or week because life got tough. So going back to my earlier point make it simple.
Alright guys and gals that’s it for todays rant. Remember choosing to change your body is one of THE HARDEST things you will ever do in your lifetime. Why do you think the fad diet industry is so lucrative? People have such a hard time doing this that they pay companies millions of dollars per year to make it easier for them. So here is some free advice on how to succeed. Make it simple, plan to fail, follow through with your plan, and remember you don’t want to be restricting yourself forever.
Stay strong everyone
Everyone I know has some form of goal in life, even if it is a loosely followed idea, everyone has some type of goal or direction. Now, just because people have goals, it doesn’t mean that they have the willpower to actually reach those goals. And, let’s face it some people have goals and ideas that are far beyond their level of commitment. Which again, I think that if someone has a lofty goal, but doesn’t have the commitment level to reach it, in the long run they will be unhappy. Because their commitment level will never match the level of their goal and they will sit around wondering why life never goes in their favor. Or complain about their genetics, responsibilities, or some other factor that hindered them from achieving their desired end result. Before I get into the nitty-gritty portion of this post I want to begin by stating that as a coach I never judge anyone based off their level of commitment or “results”, but at the same time the way that I coach different people and what I ask of them is determined by how committed they are and how honest they can be with themselves. I realize that everyone has their own personal battles that they fight every day and choosing to be healthy and fit will be more of a challenge for some than it will be for other. However, I do believe that being honest with yourself is the most important thing to do in your fitness journey. Because in reality if your actions don’t match your goal. Your goal is simply not that important to you. And again that is ok, but it is something you need to come to grips with and decide if you want to change your commitment level or change your goal.
As someone gets deeper into their fitness journey one of the things they learn relatively quickly is the amount of sacrifices they will have to make exponentially increases. When you are a beginner, strength and muscle increases much more rapidly than in more advanced athletes. A beginner will walk into the gym weekly and sometimes even daily and set a new PR (personal record). Whereas more advanced athletes may train for months to set a PR. When people reach this point they will begin to understand the extra sacrifices they will have to make to continue to get stronger. They will have to do research, which requires time. Or they may hire a coach, which requires money. They have to learn patience and perseverance as adding 5lbs onto a lift may only come every month or two instead of every session. They learn to put their ego aside and learn to train smart to progress. These are the people that you see competing recreationally in sports, bodybuilding, powerlifting, crossfit, etc. Now, the amount of people that choose to make these sacrifices are by far the minority. The majority of people will continue to do their simple workouts and stay at the same level. After a while, many of these people will fall off, because they have a mindset that does not match their commitment level. They don’t progress and they get “bored” and decide to spend their time doing something else. Because the sacrifice they have to make is no longer worth the goals they had in mind. Some people, and in my experience very few, will be satisfied with their level of athleticism and continue with their routine day in and day out with little to no variance. AGAIN, all of these outcomes are perfectly fine, but the question becomes; how much are you willing to sacrifice to get further in your journey?
The same concept applies to how seriously someone takes their eating habits. We all eat daily to suffice our hunger and stay alive. Some people choose to take this more seriously than others. Some people will eat whatever they “feel like” in the moment. They may crush their bodies at the gym, but have no willpower to sustain any semblance of a healthy eating plan. Some people make undertake a “fad diet” (Weight Watchers, Keto, Atkins, Zone, Paleo) for a small period of time to reach their weight loss goals, but when the goal is reached the diet is tossed out the window. Others will take a smarter approach and learn to balance their food, but struggle with being consistent with it for more than a few weeks. Others will set their diet goals, stay consistent, and get to their desired level of weight or body fat for a long time, but in the long run will fall into bad habits. Some will be consistent for most of their life and make it a lifestyle. AGAIN, we are all at different levels, have different struggles and commitments, and have varying levels of willpower. But, if you are someone with a reasonably sized goal like “losing 20lbs”, your level of commitment will have to rise to reach your desired goal. And again this level of commitment needs to apply to all aspects of your fitness. Someone can eat decent but fail to workout as much as they need to to lose weight. Others may work out a ton, but fail to follow a consistent eating plan. Some will struggle with both. And, obviously over time all the variables will change, depending on how committed said person is.
The moral of the story is fitness requires sacrifice. Spending a few hours in the gym every week means you have to give up time with family. Or maybe time you would be doing other things like watching your favorite show or napping. Taking the time to track your calorie intake can be tedious and monotonous. Learning to balance your meals can mean eating foods you love in smaller portion or less often. Whatever it may be, sacrifices will be involved. And if you really want to progress, these sacrifices have to be made regardless of how you “feel” in the moment.
I want to leave you with a simple analogy before I close. Let’s say someone with a lofty fitness goal (wanting to lose more than 5% of their bodyweight) or (Building more than 5-10lbs of muscle) is similar to someone that wants to buy a house. When someone wants to buy a house they make “sacrifices”. Some people will sacrifice more than others and thus get to their goal faster. Now let’s also take into account body type. Let’s say the body type you have is kind of like your “return on investment” or your “interest rate.” Two people can make the same contribution, but the person with a higher interest rate will obviously grow their savings faster. Again this may not be fair, but it's the reality of life and no one lives in your body but you so this is something we all have to deal with. Most people buy a house because it saves them money or gives them a place of their own. This is similar to the feeling of satisfaction someone gets when looking in the mirror. And again, there will be people in life that have the goal of buying a house, but never do because they were not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve their personal goal. Let’s say that every time you make a good fitness decision you are making a deposit into your house savings account. And every time you make a bad one you are taking money out of it. And every time you make an average decision your money stays the same. If you were to add up all your actions, where would you be in terms of buying your house? That is the reality of the situation. Every decision you make, every day, every week, every month, every year, all adds up. We all have bad days, bad weeks, bad months, bad years, but the account will always grow or dwindle. When you make a choice that you are going to reach your goal no matter the cost, and you begin to make decisions accordingly you will make the progress you desire. Someone may spend years sitting on the fence choosing to dabble in fitness and still make unhealthy choices. Some people commit right off the bat and achieve their goal in the first few months and then they set another one and continue to grow. Wherever you are in your fitness journey I want you to ask yourself: Is my goal worthy enough to me to make the sacrifices I need to to achieve it? If it is great, start doing it or keep doing what you’re doing. If it isn’t well then I suggest you set another goal, maybe a smaller one because saying you want one thing and acting in a completely different way will only bring you misery. Whatever you decide your actions, mindset, and intensity will determine the end result. And wherever you are in your current journey is the “truth” of your actions so far. Lastly, just because you may not be where you want to be now doesn’t mean you can’t be there in a few months with the right course of action. Decide, act, believe, and stay strong.
My name is Patriel Dunford and as the owner of Infinite Fitness my main goal in life is to spread good advice in the health industry and help people live healthier, longer, more fulfilling lives.