Physique Psychology: Diet & Training Plans Are Useless If They Can’t Be Followed
Today I have a guest post courtesy of my friend, Jill Coleman. She’s an incredibly intelligent lady and I’m stoked to have her debut her first guest post; it’s about a topic that’s not very sexy, BUT, it’s very important and she does an incredible job explaining it.
Hey there! A big thanks to Nia for allowing me to take over her blog for the day and spout some crazy stuff about the body change mindset. Ready? J
Over at JillFit Physiques, we believe that the mental component to physique development is more important than the actual plan you are following. *record scratch* Say what? Yes, here is it again: your training program and nutrition plan mean nothing without the ability to actually do it. And the doing starts with your mindset and your lifestyle, not The Plan.
Allow me to back up.
Think back to your last dieting attempt or nutritional overhaul. It probably went something like this, “I am so excited for this NEW plan! This is going to be THE ONE! The one that will work for me! Finally!” You probably did great for the first couple of weeks, and then around weeks 3 or 4, things started to get hard. You had a busy weekend and wasn’t able to prep your food for the upcoming week. Or you had company in town and of course had to entertain them by hitting the town. Maybe an old injury flared up and you stopped workouts altogether.
If you’re like most of us, pretty soon, you’re back where you started having given up on this one too. Oh well, another plan that didn’t work—we’ll just keep looking!
This scenario is not unique. It’s not bad luck or bad timing; it’s life.
And the reason that often we continue to fail with diets is because they do not allow for our unique behaviors, lifestyle, schedule or psychological sensitivities. In other words, diets that try to fit us into a generic box and require us to completely overhaul our current lifestyle do not leave room for undesirable circumstances or time for transition. It can take months of practicing a single new behavior for it to become a habit. So how can we hope to implement TEN new habits flawlessly in a matter of weeks? The truth is that we can’t.
Research in the field of Change Psychology demonstrates that when we work to implement ONE new behavior, we have an 85% chance of success after 2-4 weeks of practicing that behavior daily. An example might be choosing to have a salad at lunch instead of a sandwich and chips. When we attempt to implement TWO new behaviors simultaneously, our chances of success at making them habits fall to 35%. At THREE behaviors, less than 10%. So, the odds of us successfully implementing a complete lifestyle overhaul in mere weeks are extremely slim.
The reason for this is the nature of habits. Habits are automatic. So when we are not practiced at new behaviors yet and our willpower inevitably gives out, our old habits will invariably take over. Our old habits are pre-programmed. This doesn’t mean that we can’t change them, but it does mean we need to go about it in a systematic and intentional way.
So how do we successfully create new habits?
Here are 5 techniques that work for making a sustainable change in your health, fitness or physique:
1) Implement 1 single, EASY change to start.
Practice until this single change becomes automatic, usually 2-4 weeks. Beginning with an easy switch helps us build confidence and momentum. A quick accomplishment encourages us to keep going.
2) Ready yourself for the inevitable point at which it starts getting tough.
Recognize it and push THROUGH it. You have been there before, and you may have reverted to the old way, only to have to start all over again. The sustainability of your success depends on your ability to become a detective, and search to find your way through the tough times. End up at a restaurant? Figure out how to make a better choice. Skip a workout? Not all is lost—get back on it the next day. If you don’t want to start over, stop giving up.
3) Drop the black-and-white “dieting” mindset.
Living a healthy lifestyle forever is about creating your unique plan that will work for your lifestyle, preferences and metabolism. I consider traditional diet plans convenient starting points, but to think we can and should follow an exact meal plan that someone else gives us for the rest of our lives is absurd. Remember life? It happens, and we need to have a framework in which to work when the meal plan goes out the window. So throw yourself a bone, do your best wherever you end up. And if you make a mistake, not all is lost. Simply make a better choice at your next meal.
4) It’s a practice, not a protocol.
Like forming any habit, they do not become easy overnight. But the more you practice a healthy habit, the easier it becomes. For example, I have my clients practice saying “no” to crappy food choices at least once. Simply practicing saying no assures that it will become easier over time. A strict protocol doesn’t allow for mistakes and learning. Practice means you are always growing and getting better.
5) Focus on the behaviors that are in front of you, not the outcome.
One foot in front of the other. Don’t look a week from now, a month from now, a year from now. Focus on making the best decision possible at your very next meal. Focus on the workout that you have planned for TODAY. Physique development happens one meal at a time, one workout at a time.
The time will never be “just right” so just do. Right now. (Nia here — Yes, Yes, YES. I completely agree. There will never be a better time than right now.)
In her book “The Willpower Instinct,” author Kelly McGonigal cites research demonstrating that often humans think, “I’ll start something in the future when things settle down” or “When things are less hectic, then the time will be right to try that [diet].” McGonigal shows that surprisingly, though our bias is that in the future things will be less hectic, the truth is that they actually never are.
So why do we expect to only be successful on a diet under perfect circumstances? It would make more sense to develop a way to eat and exercise that we can sustainably do no matter what the situation. Circumstances will never be perfect or ideal. That’s why it’s important to find a way to implement changes slowly and using behaviors as the cornerstone. Success in anything requires building habits around achieving it. We can’t rely on willpower—it’s exhaustible. And habits will be there to pick up the slack once self-control is gone. Spend time cultivating healthy habits. This takes time, patience and practice. But it’s worth it if it means finding your unique fat loss formula for the long-term.
Jade Teta, author of The Metabolic Effect Diet, says, “An inferior plan that you can actually follow will always beat a superior plan that is not doable.” Without the tools to effectively implement, the best diet plan in the world is worthless.
If you are interested in this stuff and want to learn more, I’m launching my 4 Week Fat Loss Jump Start program with Metabolic Effect January 7th, 2013. It blends fat loss nutrition and training with the mindset piece to create a sustainable lifestyle. I can also be reached at our Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you! (Note from Nia — I highly recommend you check this out!)
My Favorite Resources on Change Psychology:
- “Switch” by Chip & Dan Heath
- “The Metabolic Effect Diet” by Jade & Keoni Teta
- “The Willpower Instinct” by Kelly McGonigal
- “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg
- “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor
Thank you to Nia for this opportunity!