Many of us wait for the “perfect time” with our health, nutrition, and fitness. Reading time – 7 minutes

It’s the first issue of 2023. It’s the time when most of us have the maximum will power or motivation – what ever you call it – to start something new. Unfortunately for most of us after few weeks it fizzles out.

Wake up, willpower, I’ve got a bunch of jobs for you! First I need you to get me out of bed at 5:30 am. Then you’ve got to get me out to the gym. Also, don’t let me eat any sugar today. And while you’re at
it, help me complete my 10000 steps for the day.

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Sound familiar? We draw on willpower a lot. But what is it, exactly? Why does it seem to fail us?

Secret to your fitness success is not will power but the environment around you.

Have you ever “zoned out” while driving, and then realised you’re 10 kms down the road, not sure how you got there? Have happened to me many times. You must have been paying attention on one level, or you’d have crashed the car. And yet, most of your mind was elsewhere. Your unconscious brain was handling the job of driving while your conscious brain was focused on getting your errands done, what happened to you at work that day, or whatever else you think about. The way we approach health and nutrition is similar. There are ideas and thoughts that we’re aware of, and ideas and thoughts that we’re not. We can dive down into our brains to fish for our unconscious and subconscious thoughts and bring them to the surface.

Self-analysis is an important but you want to start getting in shape NOW! What do you do in the meantime while you’re digging around in your brain?

How to change your environment?

You can immediately change what’s around you. This includes things like:

  • Your daily routine

  • What tools you have available to you

  • The people you interact with

  • What foods you have near you (or far away from you)

  • Having trouble making it to the gym? Get home equipment.

  • Can’t seem to kick the ice cream and cookie with chai routine? Don’t keep

    ice cream and cookies in the house.

  • Having trouble getting enough veggies? Buy veggies at the grocery store and keep them at your residence.

  • Spending lot of time on Netflix, keeping you up too late at night? Get rid of the subscription.

  • Friends always taking you out for pizza and beer? Talk to them about your goals. Explore other options for socializing. And look for opportunities to develop new friendships, too.

Brian Wansink in his book Mindless Eating describes the ways in which portion sizing has changed over the years, and how this affects our behavior. There are two basic ideas here:

  1. Most of us will eat all that we are served — no matter how big the portion is. If we are served a small bag of popcorn, we’ll
    eat that. If we are served a bucket of popcorn, we’ll eat that. (Sounds familiar)

  2. If we consistently eat bigger portions, bigger portions will seem “normal”. We’ve lost our perspective on how much we should really be eating.

  3. We often eat more when we’re multitasking. Ever started snacking while watching TV or playing video games, then found yourself staring at an empty bag or bowl, wondering where it all went? Your attention was elsewhere, so your eating machine just went on autopilot.

Notice all the noise we hear on social media about macros and micro management is at the top and last one to occur in your development.

Notice that the base of the pyramid is what surrounds you: your social environment, your kitchen, your grocery habits, your day-to-day routine.

Changing your thinking eventually is essential. But in the meantime, it is much easier to change your environment than it is to change your mind.

Here are some ideas to set you up for success in your fitness journey of 2023:

  • Use smaller plates and cups. We’re often used to just filling the dish and eating till the food is done.

  • If there’s a food you don’t want to eat, get it away from you. Don’t keep it in the house. Make it hard to get.

  • Conversely, if there’s a food you should be eating, make it easier to get.

  • If you have more money than time, consider getting yourself a cook.

  • Park your car farther away from where you’re going so you have to walk.

  • Find a workout buddy. Surround yourself with people who are also working on their health, fitness, and nutrition.

  • Get a dog that needs walking

  • Don’t be hungry and in the grocery store at the same time.

  • Keep chopped, ready-to-eat vegetables in the fridge. Put them front-and-center so you see them and can get to them easily.

  • Make the fridge door a “vision board” with post-it notes reminding you of your goals, inspiring pictures, and cool looking magnets.

  • Keep workout gear in your face. Just put on your sneakers.

    Having them on your feet often just makes you feel like getting active.

  • Pack your “mobile gym” when you travel. Book hotels with gyms and/or pools. Toss a jump rope or resistance bands into your suitcase along with a list of bodyweight-only exercises that you can do anywhere. One of the Good Vibes issue has a list and videos compiled for easy reference.

  • Schedule workouts like you schedule meetings. Put them on your calendar and treat them like any other appointment.

  • Combine walking and working. Moving while you brainstorm or take a work call helps you focus and avoid the I-sat-at-a-desk-all-day guilt.

  • Turn family and friends into coaches. To create a supportive environment, be explicit with loved ones that you’re trying to eat better and get fit — and why. They don’t have to participate, but ask them to help.

In the battle between knowledge and environment, environment wins most often. If you think it is time to switch up your environment, do
it. Indeed, it may be one of the best ways for you to stimulate new progress.

We’ve all said this at one time or another. And it’s especially true when you don’t have a regular routine already in place. 

That’s because most people’s lives are so jammed that even adding just 30 minutes a day—a standard recommendation—can feel completely overwhelming. Plus…“Just 30 minutes” often takes closer to an hour—when you factor in traveling to the gym, changing into your gear, or resting post-workout.

My coach at Precision Nutrition says, “Shrink the goal”.
If you struggle to exercise—despite your best intentions—forget the “ideal” amount of activity. 

Instead, just aim for better.

For instance, unless you’re literally staying in bed all day, you’re already getting some daily movement.

So the question is…

What does a little more look like?

Only you can answer that, but maybe it’s:

>Taking 1,000 more daily steps than you’re getting now

>Going for a 10-minute walk every night after dinner 

>Doing one set of one exercise, or 5 minutes of mobility first thing in the morning

Those are just ideas, and they may not be right for you. But to find out, try this “game”:

On a scale of 0 (no way possible) to 10 (so easy it’s laughable), rate how confident you are that you could follow through. It doesn’t have to be the activities listed above; it could be anything that you’d like to do. 
But… Be honest.That’s the essential part here.

If you say “9” or “10” to an activity, you’re good to go.

But anything less? Scale back. Simplify.

What does it take to get you to a solid 9?
Maybe it’s only taking an extra 500 steps a day. Or 500 steps, four days a week (instead of seven). Perhaps it’s mobility routine just two days a week. Or only one 10-minute after-dinner walk a week.

Sometimes you’ll have to scale back so much, you might think, ‘This’ll never work! It’s too easy.’ It doesn’t matter. Because if you can stick with the change for 2 weeks, you’ll start to gain the confidence to scale up. 
And if you can’t, what chance did you have at doing the “optimal” amount of exercise? Go ahead and scale back more and try again. 

Once you’re consistently following through, you can repeat the above process. Each time you have success, build on it. 

In the next issue – Overcoming Fear & Worry

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up : Thomas Edison

There have been many times in my life that I wanted to give up. Instead I made my resolve stronger and reminded myself of the God-given purpose here on Earth. Massive Success. Rinse. Repeat. Don’t give up. Never give up.