So you want to change your body, to become fit and healthy, to feel comfortable in your own skin so you can finally be free to enjoy life, go after your dreams and fulfil your true potential.
I get it.
It is not as if you haven’t tried before. You certainly did. Some things worked for a while. Others left a bitter taste behind. And now, you might be a little discouraged.
You are not alone. I’ve heard this story multiple times. That’s why I decided to make this video. To show you that there is nothing wrong with you. It is the way you have been approaching that it’s not the best.
Here’s why you haven’t succeed yet and what you need to do to get back on track.
The fitness industry loves Challenges. And at this time of
the year, they seem to be everywhere: “40-day build challenge” or “12 weeks to
a bikini body.“
I’ve never been very fond of challenges because they tend to
reinforce behavioural patterns and beliefs that are not beneficial.
For instance, most challenges are short-lived contributing
to the erroneous belief that losing weight (or building muscle) is a fast
process. To deliver results in such short period of time, most programs rely on
endorsing extreme behaviours that are not realistic (or safe) for the average
person. Those behaviours generate an enormous amount of deprivation which could
potentially lead to unhealthy compensatory behaviours (binging, purging or over
exercising). Besides, most programs don’t expand on how to maintain the results,
so once the challenge is over you are on your own.
I’m not saying that challenges don’t work. They do. But only for a very specific type of people:
Usually already fit
Used to dieting and extreme exercise
Hold certain values – health and fitness,
appearance – as priority
Enjoy being pushed to the limit
People who don’t fit this profile end up feeling
overwhelmed, frustrated, discouraged, disappointed, ashamed, and powerless.
At least, that’s what I thought.
Since I don’t like jumping into conclusions, I decided to conduct
a little research. I enrolled on a 40-day challenge.
I wanted to understand what drove people into these programs.
And if they don’t work for most folks, why were they coming back? Is it some
kind mass delusion or is there something I am missing?
So there I went with an open mind in search for answers.
Much to my surprise, I was able to find quite a few positives which I am
sharing with you now:
Challenges are a group activity that happens
inside a community of likeminded people. This creates a sense of belonging, of being
understood, of not being alone which is fundamental for success. People in these
communities are supportive and ready to cheer you up when you need it.
The fact that you enrolled in something creates
instant accountability. That’s because we tend to tell people around us about
the challenge and they will want to know how you are progressing. In my
experience, the more people you tell, the better your adherence will be. There
is always someone who won’t let you off the hook if you slide.
There is usually a willingness to play at 100%.
You’ve made the commitment and you are going to give your best. (Even if it is
temporary. In fact, knowing that the effort has a deadline increases ability to
use willpower. “I just need to hang in there for a few more weeks.”)
Strong commitment to a program contributes to
consistent behaviours. And behaviours consistently repeated over time can turn
into life-long habits.
Momentaneous empowerment. Voluntary
participation (it doesn’t count if you were forced into a program) on a
challenge can shift your beliefs from “this is too hard” to “I can do this.”
Those challenges are full of role models that post
their struggles and how they overcame them. This can inspire a change in
attitude when facing a roadblock. “What would so and so do?”
Having structure inspire trust (after all, this
program was carefully designed by an expert) which eliminates second-guessing
(the root of negative self-talk).
The bottom line is that participating on a challenge can be
very beneficial if it played right. That’s because these programs can generate
loads of positive emotions (empowerment, enthusiasm, positive expectations,
optimism and hopefulness) that are necessary to overcome potential roadblocks.
This means being able to use willpower to overcome cravings, looking for solutions rather than excuses, shutting down negative self-talk, prioritising based on your goal, making better choices and so on.
Hold your horses. Before you jump into this bandwagon, be
aware that challenges are, as the name say, challenging. If your life is already
full of stress, this is probably not the best time to start one.
However, it doesn’t mean that you need to wait for perfect
conditions (by the way, there is no such thing as perfect conditions, life is
imperfect by default) in order to do something.
What if we could create mini-challenges in our life? I mean,
small manageable changes. Would that be helpful?
Bingo! My proposal is engaging in a behaviour-based
challenge (rather than a full on all-or-nothing challenge). That means instead
of trying to change a million different things at once (which can be overwhelming),
we focus on installing one healthy habit at a time (or breaking an undesirable
one). For example, a 30-day alcohol-free challenge or a 6-week Zumba challenge.
You will get all the benefits of participating on a
challenge, minus the stress and overwhelm of trying to do too many changes at
once. In addition, small changes may feel so easy to incorporate in your daily
routine that you might be inclined to keep going even when the challenge is
The journey towards any goal is seldom a straight line. More
often than not you will face challenges. It’s a normal part of the process.
But the problem is that these challenges may have a direct
effect on your mind, creating a turmoil of emotions. Emotions that if not taken
care of, tend to escalate to humongous proportions preventing you to reach your
goals and dreams.
Let’s take a closer look at the emotional roller coaster
that is a fitness journey.
Stage 1 – You have just decided to embark on this journey. Motivation is high as a kite. You can’t see any obstacles so you overestimate your own abilities, creating an ambitious plan that may not be realistic on the long run. But you are excited and you go with it.
Stage 2 – You are two weeks in and still can’t see any visible results. Decide to do some research and get overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. You get confused and start to second guessing your original plan. You feel compelled to make adjustments.
Stage 3 – Still no results and life catches up with you. You feel impatient and frustrated. “I am doing so much. I should be seeing some difference by now. Why is it taking so long?”
Stage 4 – Start feeling overwhelmed with everything you set up to do. It feels hard to keep up. Motivation starts to waver.
Stage 5 – Now, you are second guessing everything. “Am I on the right path? Am I capable of doing this? Do I even want it?”
Stage 6 – Negative self-talk starts. Can’t see anything good about this journey. Blame game starts.
Stage 7 – As the internal pressure rises you feel discouraged. You are on the brink of giving up.
Stage 8 – “Can’t take it anymore.” You jump off the band wagon. Experience an initial feeling of relief, followed by guilt, unworthiness and dis-empowerment.
Stage 9 – Go on with your life. Try to justify your decision to quit. Use other things to make you feel better but it is too late. The whole experience left a scar in your self-esteem.
Have you gone through something like that before? Well, you
are not alone. It is estimated that 73% of people who starts a fitness program
give up before seeing results. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
As I mentioned on my previous post (click here if you haven’t
read it), to be successful you must learn to deal with negative emotions.
Otherwise, you will quit before even starting.
Why is this important? Because we make decisions are based
on emotions. The truth is that negative emotions trigger a response from a
primitive part of the brain which tends to underestimate resources and overestimate
threats. It’s a survival instinct.
But you are not here to survive. You are here to thrive,
Emotional intelligence is the ability to control emotions in
order to make decisions from a resourceful state, not biased by fear, guilt,
insecurity or other negative emotions.
Take willpower, for instance. Willpower is a resource that
can only be accessed when you are on a positive state of mind (from joy to
contentment). The moment you go down on the emotional scale, you reach an
unresourceful state and can’t rely on willpower anymore.
A negative state generates negative self-talk, bringing up limiting
beliefs based on past experiences. In those states, the mind start looking for
reasons why you can’t succeed. And the more you allow the negative self-talk to
grow, the deeper you go into a negative state.
Therefore, learning to manage emotions is fundamental if you
want to achieve any goal. Emotional intelligence doesn’t prevent negative
emotions to arise but it allows you to recognise when you are getting into an emotional spiral so you can stop it before
it’s too late.
The good news is that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a skill
which can be learned and strengthened. You just need to start.