Fit Habits: Understanding Where You Are


Fit Habits: Understanding Where You Are

February 15, 2012

So you want to be lean and sexy, eh? You’re not alone. I’m sure you have, at one point or another, looked at yourself in the mirror and said, “Damn, I wish I could see my abs more,” or, “These loves handles have to go.”

Yet despite this ubiquitous desire to sport a beach body year-round, very few of us actually manage to get to that point. Seriously, just take a look around for proof. I had a friend the other day talk to me for about the 10th time about wanting to slim down the size of his legs. Every time he brings up this topic, we find ourselves in 20-minute arguments about how he should be eating, how much cardio he should be doing, and how (and if) he should be training his legs. And then later that night, he says, “Hey, does anyone want to order Domino’s Pizza?”

Say… what?

What’s funny is that I know he wants to be able to wear a pair of pants that won’t rip clean down the middle when he takes a step forward. I know this because he talks about it all the time.

You could say that he simply doesn’t want it badly enough. That obviously if he actually had a burning want to do something, he’d do it – no matter what, at all costs. I’d like to argue, however, that that’s not always the case.

There are several factors at play here. Multiple chasms that must be crossed to realize a goal:

  1. Expressing a desire to accomplish something
  2. Understanding what you need to do
  3. Being willing to execute those behaviors
  4. Actually practicing them on a consistent basis over a long period of time

I would venture to say that most individuals find themselves stuck at steps 2 and 3. To get rid of that flab, you know you need to stop those late-night binges. To improve your squat, you have to actually – dare I say it? – squat.

But what’s the roadblock?

Just Do It? 

Now, as much as I love Nike (I can often be spotted sporting all Nike apparel from head to toe), I don’t think their slogan, “Just do it” really can be applied here.

“How do I get myself to the gym five times a week?” Just do it.
“How do I stop my hand from reaching into the bag of pita chips?” Just do it.

How well has that worked? Try telling a chain-smoker who’s been trying to quit this unhealthy behavior for years to “just do it” and quit. This is not only futile but can also offend him (or her), as saying something like this implies that that you are undermining his efforts.

Take my dad, for example. As a corporate man, he finds himself travelling relatively frequently. And as a corporate man, he has business dinners multiple nights a week, oftentimes involving a certain degree of (mandatory) alcohol. I created a training and nutrition program for him four weeks ago per his request. On the day he was supposed to begin, he shot me a quick e-mail: “Forgot that I have to go to Singapore for a week – will start when I get back…” and then two weeks later: “Making a trip to India – I’ll do this later,” and finally a third time: “Feeling sick… have been in bed the past four days.”  That was three delays.

I could have easily thrown my hands up in frustration and fired him as a client. I could have spat, “You’re just wasting my time; I have better things to do.” But I didn’t. Because I understand that…

It’s Not Easy

It goes something like this: eat less, move more. Or rather… eat smart, move smart. Regardless, the point is that it’s not always enough for someone to hand you a plan of attack and bid you adieu. There’s a reason why all those quick-fix gimmicks out on the market are so wildly successful and people turn their noses up when someone tries to tell them that there actually isn’t a magical pill that will instantly make them hot. That reason is that living a fit life isn’t easy – and people tend to like easy.

You can fling yourself repeatedly at your goal as you cry out dramatically that you want it so badly but you just don’t know how to get there. You can whine and moan the entire way that you want to quit. You can turn to me and whimper it’s too hard; it’s too much work; it’s taking too long; I don’t feel like it.

I’ll give you this much: yes, the world would indeed be a much easier place to live in if you only did the things you felt like doing. You could sit around on the couch and wait until you felt a jolt of energy and a magical sprinkling of motivation to make the trek over to the gym. You could pay your taxes when you felt like paying them – which, quite frankly, would be never. You know what else would happen, though? You would slip into mediocrity and blend into the background. Congratulations, now you’re just like everybody else and there’s nothing that makes you special. I hope you’re proud.

Once you can accept in your heart and in your head that any journey to greatness (or rather, awesome!) and any accomplishment worth working for is not going to be easy – once you’ve understood that there will be hardships and speed bumps along the way, and that some days you’re going to feel discouraged – you will find yourself much better prepared to march resolutely forward.

Where Are You?

Shed some light on where you are in your endeavors. Where do you find yourself getting continuously stuck? What’s keeping you there? When you have a fight with your significant other, do you drown your anger in Phish Food? What’s happening that repeatedly gets in the way?

Mmm… Phish Food….

This could be a behavior – a habit – or even a thought process that occurs. [Tweet “Do you self-sabotage? “] I did for a long time. Do you make excuses? Are you afraid of failure? Have you become so used to watching three hours of television when you get home from work that you can’t fathom doing anything differently?

I’m not asking you to change your ways (yet); I’m inviting you to spend some time thinking about why it is you do what you do. You may notice a pattern. When you feel x, you do y. When m happens, n tends to follow.

These are habits, my friends. And sometimes, all it takes is raising awareness of what’s happening in your life to begin to make fixes. To an extent, you don’t even have to make a conscientious effort to do so. You may find that you naturally shift away from unhealthy behaviors and thought processes just by noticing them. Pretty neat, huh?

And then…

The next logical step is conquering step 4: practicing the right behaviors on a consistent basis over a long period of time. Let’s not worry about that part for now.

These next couple of days as you go about your usual business, I encourage you to pay close attention to your actions. Be observant. Take note. Watch what happens.

Sit on that for a while.

  1. Daniel Kreger 9 years ago

    This definitely gave me some pause about where I am and where I want to go. I’m pretty consistently in stage 4, but also tend to sabotage myself when I’m exhausted. I know there are steps that I can be taking to make sure I’m getting better rest. So, thanks for making me think!

  2. Brian Danley 9 years ago

    Indeed, many of my clients fail on the nutrition front and jeopardize or even sabatage their hard work put in the gym as a result. The conversation inevitably steers to, “Let’s not go there” when I bring up the topic as if to imply they know they need to eat healthier but don’t want to make a change (no matter how subtle) in their eating habits. It certainly is frustrating as a trainer to contend with this type of behavior. Any client can express a desire to accomplish a goal and a good trainer can help him or her in understanding what needs to be done to make it happen. But ultimately the client must internalize their behavior in order to make the necessary change(s). This is the crux of the matter and the hump of the metaphorical hill that must be surpassed. Then and only then, with motivation and dedication, will the client put into practice the new behavior for an indefinite period of time. Changing one’s behavior for the better is what makes being
    a personal trainer very challenging but potentially rewarding!

  3. Jon 9 years ago

    Another thing to consider is the creation of avoidance behaviors. Do you find yourself consistently coming up with “reasons” you can’t make it to the gym? Learn to recognize these as they develop and take steps to elimiate them or pretty soon your back to step 1.

    • Sohee Lee 8 years ago

      I would categorize this as a thought-process roadblock.
      The human mind is SO intriguing.

  4. sarah 9 years ago

    I’m starting to make peace with the fact that I can’t “go on a diet” without freaking the fuck out. Thinking too hard about the fact that I’m not hot is a recipe for ruining the rest of my life. I just don’t take the pressure well.

    I can handle clean eating most of the time (and I feel better doing it); I exercise regularly because I like it; but I can’t capital-D Diet, and I can’t be competitive about my looks, because sooner or later I’m going to wind up in a hell of my own making.

  5. Another awesome article Sohee. Definitely showing this to some friends. But hopefully they’ll take the first step of even ATTEMPTING to read it. lol

  6. Ronda 8 years ago

    Oh my gosh. I wish everyone would sit down and analyze why they do what they do, or don’t do for that matter! I had a client that yelled at me once and told me she didn’t need me to be her food police. Oh really? If that’s what people think then I’m completely wasting my time with them because they simply don’t get it and until they do I throw in the towel with them. You can’t beat a dead horse and believe me, this was one dead horse. Figuring out why you’re eating junk is the first step. I’ve come to the conclusion that although I want to help people, if they don’t want to be helped then I’m spinning my wheels. I’d rather spend my time on someone that really wants to improve than someone that does something just half way.

  7. Marc 8 years ago

    Great article. My problem is definitely sticking to a diet. In fact, I may need to determine whether or not I have a sugar addiction (is there such a thing and how would I know?). I have noticed a pattern where I will go very clean for 8 weeks with great results, but then gradually oscillate out of control. It appears that once I make progress towards the looks I want, my mind takes over and tells me “one cheat meal is not going to make a difference”. I don’t see the subtle changes, the cheat meals become more frequent, and before long I have totally sabotaged my results. I know I have nobody to blame but me, but I don’t know how to address this. I know better, I want it (I have lost 50lbs over 3 years and only need 20lbs to get to where I need to be), but I am not sticking to it long enough to get to the body I want to have. I know I will never be back to my original weight, because sites like yours have educated me over the years. But the infinite loop of trying to lose the “last 20” is killing me and is frustrating to no end. I like the idea of having an accountability partner whom I don’t know, maybe along the lines of what you and JC Deen are doing online. Maybe if a neutral 3rd party – not my trainer, spouse, or friends- would hold me accountable for every calorie I ate, and if there were no possibility of sneaking food, maybe then I could stick with it. I don’t think the “paste your workouts and results on facebook” works for me, because you really only post what you want people to read. So maybe a brutally honest confession-style conversation would help keep people like me in check?

    • Sohee Lee 8 years ago

      Hey Mark – thanks for your comment! Yes, sugar addiction is very real. It seems like you’ve been taking a black-and-white approach with dieting. You should consider flexible dieting, which involves working some fun foods into your diet as well while still making progress. Or give yourself a cheat meal a week where you don’t have to worry about calories – this has great psychological benefits. Studies have shown that flexible dieters are much more successful in the long run and it’s what I practice as well.

      Absolutely find someone(s) to keep you accountable!

      • Marc Mulzer 8 years ago

        Thanks for the encouragement! I switched to intermittent fasting three days ago, and I think this is really going to work very well for me. A little discipline during the fasting period buys me a lot more flexibility in what I can eat. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas! Great work.

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