Nope, new year but it is still the same old you with the same faults, vices, and weaknesses. That’s not negative, that is reality. It does not mean you cannot improve, get better and have a successful 2023. It means you need to acknowledge that you are not an Olympic athlete who will train twice a day, 6 days a week but you can make changes that YOU can continue beyond two weeks or some 30- or 60-day challenge. I do not like new year’s resolutions for the same reason I do not like 30/60-day challenges. They usually are too difficult to sustain, lead to failure and, by their nature, cannot create lasting change. I also do not like the idea of waiting for the “new year” to make a change. I understand how the new year can get people thinking about that change, but I would encourage you to take a smaller step and take it right away. I have already lost 25lbs in the last four months of 2022. However, here we are so if you are ready to start then let’s create some real lasting change. I have been accused of being negative, but I know that I deal in reality and facts. Everyone knows that most New Years resolutions don’t even last a month yet so many people set them. The poor odds of sticking with a resolution is like playing the lottery for your retirement. It is a miserable failure for almost all. If we know the odds are stacked against us, then why would we play the game? Let’s change the game and find something we can win. That is dealing with reality and leaning towards success. As Dave Ramsey likes to say “Change Starts with the person in your mirror. It’s your responsibility to take control of your life”. There is nothing more positive than that. Whether your goal is to lose weight, exercise more or start a business here are a few things to help create lasting change.
It sounds simple but first you must decide to make a change. Four years ago, at Christmas I could tell that my mom had finally reached the point where she was ready for a change. I wrote about her journey of strength here and here. She continues four years later because she made very small changes over a long period of time and has created it as part of her life so she can sustain it. In fact, I coached her videos today from here workout yesterday. It all started with her deciding it was time for a change.
Start / Do something
Again, it is simple but not knowing what to do and being anxious about it holds many people back. It may be as simple as walking for 15 minutes and doing sit to stands out of a chair. This is where my mother started with a few sets of standing up off her chair without using her hands, now she has squatted 95lbs. Her deadlifts were with an empty wooden dowel and since has deadlifted 175#. She started with just a little but has made amazing progress over time in strength, endurance, mobility. If she tried to do that right away or accomplish that in 30 or 60 day “Challenge” it would have been a dramatic failure likely ending with her being hurt. Many people jump into a new fitness routine and try to do way too much. If you go full tilt and tell yourself, you will work out 5 days a week that is likely unsustainable. Start with 3 days per week but you need to start. Now the 30- or 60-day challenge might help give some direction, but it makes you long for the end instead of embracing the process. Start with a little, add as you go/grow and learn by doing. Small, sustainable changes over a long period of time is key and don’t let fear of what you don’t know hold you back. Fear of not knowing what to do is a large obstacle to starting. I have always believed the best way to learn is by doing and I experienced this last year in my new career with Summit Contracting. Additionally, when starting Moe Strength, I hesitated for years because I was unsure until I decided to start the website and begin to make small changes and grow. As the saying goes “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.
Set yourself up for success
Set small achievable goals but do not let the number become the most important thing. Setting goals can be helpful and there are many resources out there on goal setting. All I will say is create specific goals that are challenging yet achievable. Set a time frame for your goal but realizes progress is the most important thing. I have hit my intermediate body weight goals, but I know the health benefits of a decrease waist circumference and blood pressure are more important than hitting one specific weight on one specific day. I know creating sustainable habits for my nutrition are far more important than weighing 205 on my birthday.
Decrease the friction
Decrease the friction to make the task easier. When my mother began strength training, I knew she would not drive 30 min. and train in a public gym. That would create friction for her and make it less likely she would continue training. We created a home gym for her to increase the likelihood she would continue to train. I also train at home, so I go to bed in my workout clothes and plan out my morning to make it easier to get out of bed and train.
Set up processes that help you
In my weight loss goal, I committed to use only small dinner plates and utensils to limit my portion size. The number one thing you can do for weight loss is to limit caloric intake. Now therein lies the rub because there are a million way/techniques/fads to lose 10lbs in 30 days. Ultimately, we need to come up with ways to make it easier to eat less and harder to eat more. Using smaller plates and utensils is one small thing I used that allows me to eat less and feel full. This has been studied and using smaller bowls and spoons while eating ice cream led to eating less but still feeling full and satisfied. This makes it easier to sustain for a life change. Using larger plates not only encourages us to take larger portions but it makes those portions seem smaller and less filling. The smaller plate makes the portions seem larger. This sends a que and gives a feeling of being full earlier making it easier to sustain when you do not feel deprived.
Increase the friction
Increase the friction for things you are attempting to limit. I love ice cream and that is why we don’t often have it in the house. If we want it, we need to make a special trip to get it. This increases the friction decreasing the number of times I eat ice cream. Notice I did not say I do not eat ice cream.
Change your perspective
Don’t completely restrict everything (i.e. I will not eat ANY sweets). This is not sustainable for long life. You can white knuckle it for a few months but eventually your will power fades. While losing weight it is important to me to enjoy what I am eating and not feel like I was restricting myself all the time. I found steak or chicken with spinach, black bean salsa, cheese in a tortilla was very tasty. However, some days I would have a small bowl of Doritos. Sometimes I crunch them up and put them in my homemade burrito. This doesn’t sound like great weight loss advice, but this gives me the salty crunch I crave, makes it so I do not feel I am depriving myself and feel like I am missing out (FOMO). This decreases my urge to snack later. Another way to say this is to maximize the pleasure in the food that you do eat. The following is a list of things I have eaten while losing weight
i. Fried Chicken
ii. Ice cream
iv. Crumble Cookie
v. Whiskey / Craft Beer
If we attempt to eliminate one food, we are likely to suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) and it will not last. Instead changing your mindset to enjoy a treat and indulge when the time comes can assist in your weight loss and help keep it sustainable. I know, this sounds counterintuitive, but one weight loss study showed that those who associate cake with “guilt” tended to gain weight and those who associated it with a “celebration” made progress toward their goal. Another study in 2016 showed those who were encouraged to vividly imagine the taste, smell and texture of a treat chose smaller portions than those who did not visualize.
Envisioning an activity as an investment in your future rather than a punishment will increase the likelihood of sustainability. If you do not enjoy working out and see it as punishment it is unlikely you will continue. If you can change your perspective and see each workout as a deposit in your physiological 401k you are more likely to continue. “If you find that going to the gym is a strain and you want to change your mindset about exercise, then regularly visualizing the benefits could make the whole process more appealing. Various studies … have now shown that regularly practicing mental imagery of exercise for a few minutes each week can increase people’s motivation and enjoyment of their exercise regimes, as well as their performance.” (The expectation effect). I am fortunate because I developed an enjoyment of exercise when I was young. Now, I enjoy the process of training because I view it as helping me achieve my goals for the future. When I am stiff from training it makes me feel alive, in touch with my body and progressing to my goals.
Seeing your other daily physical activities as contributing to your goals is helpful as well. In a Harvard study researchers informed hotel maids how much energy they expended in all their cleaning activities to change their perspective of their own fitness. One month later the cleaners showed noticeable changes in their weight and blood pressure just by viewing their daily tasks as enhancing their fitness. (Mind-set matters: Exercise and the placebo effect. Psychological Science 2007)
Losing weight and exercising are probably the most common and least successful new year’s resolutions. The lack of success has to do with calorie restriction and not being able to sustain that indefinitely. We are blessed with abundant calories and less physical work but that can be a curse. So, we must create strategies to easily limit our calorie consumption and get us moving. Here are a few more strategies that have helped me.
1. Using smaller plates/bowl/ utensils
2. Stay off your phone/ streaming / social media when you eat (being present/mindful)
3. Only eat 3 meals and avoid snacking in between
4. Setting your fork down between bites helps slow down your eating
5. occasional intermittent fasting. We go to a holiday party or drinks with friends and over consume. When do we ever off set that? Find a day and set it up to fast until dinner. Drink coffee and hot beverages but that is it. I am a religious person and there is an element of denial and suffering but you do not need to be religious to see the benefits. Sugar free gum is helpful as well while fasting.
6. Find what works for you. I love working out at home so I set up a home gym. Others need the gym to get away and will not do it at home. Find what works for you
7. Develop a routine. I wake up at 4:40 and immediately start the coffee pot. I then go weigh myself (for motivation and to give myself information on my progress) and brush my teeth. I then grab coffee and do a short devotional. After the devotional I usually have 5-7 minutes to continue to drink coffee and prepare for my workout and the day. From 5:15 to 6:15 I train in my home gym. I then make breakfast, shower, play with Rio and head off to work. It is a routine that allows me to take care of myself physically, mentally and spiritually. I leave for work with a sense of accomplishment ready to attack the day rewarded with the knowledge that I can use the evening in any way I see fit. This will not work for everyone; some enjoy training in the evening or over lunch. The key is to find out what is best for you and create your schedule to have the least amount of friction to complete your workout.
8. Develop a plan and think ahead. A little bit of planning goes a long way. I know that my motivation will be lower on Friday than Monday. So, I do my Heavy Squats right away on Monday morning even though every gym bro knows Monday is international Bench Press day. I save my Bench Press for Friday because I know that will be easier for me to complete when I am less motivated. I also plan my week and adjust workout days if my work/travel schedule necessitates so I do not miss a workout.
9. Compare yourself to you and not others. This one is hard, and we need to be reminded often.
10. Physical activity makes you feel alive and connected to your body
11. Strength for life is less about how you look and more about maintaining function and health for as long as possible
12. Just because you did not sleep well does not mean you will have a terrible workout/day.
I used weight loss and exercise as examples because these are very common New Year’s resolutions but these tips can be used for any behavior change.
“The greatest enemy to your success is your excuses.” Anthony O’Neil
Strength training is one of the most important we can do as we age but we need to start moving more. Hiring a professional can be helpful for direction, planning, technique, and motivation but to get started doing something is more important. When you are ready for coaching, I would be honored to assist in your strength journey.
New Year, New Plan, Now Likely!