You Must Do This.
by NIA SHANKS
Do you feel like it’s a constant battle to eat well and work out consistently, or are you struggling to build a fit and healthy body? If there was a secret weapon that could help you achieve results, this is it.
Before we examine this “secret weapon” let’s first look at the approach most people (you?) take to lose fat, get fit, or simply improve their health. They adopt the all or nothing approach to health and fitness. Here’s how this would look on a spectrum:
Look familiar? Most people ping-pong between both extremes. They do it “all” perfectly (e.g., follow their diet without deviation, do every workout as written, etc.) or they do “nothing” whatsoever (e.g., eat poorly, skip workouts).
The all or nothing approach isn’t just flawed — it’s dangerous. The “all” end can lead to obsession (some may binge eat, develop disordered eating habits, use exercise as punishment, etc.), shame and guilt (from being unable to sustain such a rigid methodology), and of course dissatisfaction from never reaching one’s goals. The “nothing” end is, well, where you don’t do a damn thing; you don’t work out regularly or make consistent smart food choices. Since you’re not “doing the plan perfectly” you decide not to do anything.
How All or Nothing Leads to Failure
Let’s examine the “all” end of the spectrum further. This is when you’re kicking ass, bursting with motivation, and committed to “finally” achieving your goals. You perform your scheduled workouts. You eat your salad like a champ. You don’t deviate from the list of allowed foods and successfully refuse those your diet says to avoid. You, are all in.
But, hell, what happens when your kid has a last minute activity that requires you to miss your workout? What if you get sick and have to miss a workout or — gasp! — two, or three? This derails you, and your momentum and motivation plunges. That missed workout or two turns into a month of missed workouts. You, are now doing nothing.
Or perhaps a special event lands smack in the middle of your fantastic new diet and workout plan. You’re going to be surrounded with piles of tasty things that are forbidden by your diet. No problem, because you’re all in. You’re going to resist the intoxicating aroma of your favorite foods and desserts because you’re serious this time about losing weight and getting fit.
Then you get there. You’re strong at first, but then you spot (Oh my! Is that a mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwich with an Oreo nestled inside?) a tantalized ice cream creation you’ve never seen before. “Screw it!” you declare as you wrap your fingers around the cold, delectable dessert sandwich of the gods.
Fast forward minutes later and you’re eating other things you declared to avoid. You already screwed up and went off your diet as you discovered how many bites it would take to reach the Oreo in the holy-shit-that-was-amazing ice cream sandwich, so you might as well keep on going, right?
You know what happens next. You’re filled with guilt and shame. You went off another diet. You’re just not strong enough. You’re destined to not lose weight or get fit. Instead of getting back on track tomorrow you’re overwhelmed with guilt and, again, say “Screw it” and continue to make less than ideal food choices.
You, my friend, have quickly transitioned from all to the welcoming, unfortunately familiar, despair of nothing. All. Or nothing. You do it all correctly — make good choices at every meal and snack, and complete every workout — or you don’t do a damn thing.
Do you know why the all or nothing approach is a recipe for catastrophic failure? You can’t win. You simply can’t maintain the “all in” approach, without fail, forever. So why would you even try? Why would you set yourself up for failure from the beginning?
Well, I know why. It’s because that new diet or this cutting-edge workout program promises you the results you’ve longed for, and you just need to apply, without deviation, their strict rules. If you can tolerate the misery, deprivation, and exhaustion then you’ll achieve noticeable results quicker than if you took a slow, steady, sustainable approach. (This is nonsense perpetuated by the bullshit of health and fitness.)
So the question is: If the all or nothing approach can only end with failure, what is the answer? How can you build, and maintain, a fit and healthy body?
Adaptation. The secret weapon to lasting success if there ever was one. This is the powerful sweet spot between all or nothing.
Life exists in a state of oscillation rendering the all or nothing approach useless — adaptation is the only remedy.
Whereas the common all or nothing approach breeds disappointment, shame, and seemingly endless failure, adaptation gives life to confidence, lasting success, and even reduces stress.
You can attempt to do it all, until you end up doing nothing, or you can embrace adaptation and achieve maintainable results while actually enjoying the process.
Adapt to Build a Fit, Healthy Body
If you’re ready to build and maintain a healthy and fit body, you must learn to adapt. The good news: it’s easier than you think. Much easier, in fact, than trying to follow a “perfect plan” expecting never to slip up.
You’ll go through periods where you eat well and never miss a workout, but you’ll also inevitably face challenging times. Here are some common examples you’ll face, and how to successfully adapt:
You sustain an injury. Adapt. You can always do something. Focus exclusively on the things you can do, and get better at them.
You can only make it to the gym twice this week, instead of three. Adapt. Go twice and perform your workouts; improve your performance from the previous time. You can perform a third bodyweight workout at home. Problem solved.
You’re at your favorite restaurant that has the best homemade pasta and cheesecake. Adapt. It’s fine to enjoy your favorite foods on occasion. Either split the meal with someone else, take half of it home, or just enjoy it and move on. When you followsimple nutrition guidelines you’re free to enjoy your favorite things occasionally. This is much more enjoyable, and realistic, then trying to avoid a long list of foods forever.
Your workout window was chopped from 60 minutes to only 30. Adapt. Do fewer, quality sets. Or switch to a workout that has you moving more and resting less (like the one in the minimalist programs) so you get in the same amount of work in less time. It’ll be tough, but sufficiently effective.
You’re at an airport or fast food restaurant and you’re stuck with less than ideal food options. Adapt. Make the best decision you can with what’s available.
Some unexpected event occurs and you lose motivation to keep working out and eating well. Adapt, damnit. Do something. Perform shorter workouts if you must. Eat smaller quantities if you truly don’t have better options available. Adapt.
Adaptation. It’s your secret weapon to achieving the results you want, and ensuring you maintain them. Learn to adapt to any given situation — be it with nutrition or working out — and you’ll do well.
The next time things don’t go as planned (e.g., you miss a workout, get injured, indulge more than you anticipated, have to decrease the frequency which you go to the gym) ask yourself the one question that matters: What is the best decision you can make with what’s available? How can you adapt? Answer, and then execute.