The mind is a powerful thing. Mindset work is probably the missing piece in most health & fitness programs. It is the quality of your mindset that defines the quality of your behaviour; and the quality of your behaviour defines your outcomes or goals. If you are unaware of something, do not have the correct information or you have unrealistic expectations then it is likely that your mindset needs some work. Think of mindset work as laying strong foundations for long term change. If your mindset is in the wrong place, it is going to be difficult to maintain your new patterns of behaviour over time - especially when the going gets tough.
In this series of blog posts I will look to raise your awareness into the most common mindset issues that I come across and tips on how to shape and build a mindset that supports long term success.
#1 Overestimate how long change will take
Change is tough. Forging a new lifestyle or trying to achieve a goal requires an investment of your time, energy and effort. And you are not guaranteed a return on your investment.
Many people I have worked with have a nice little plan mapped out in their head before they start working with me. They are going to cut out 500 calories a day and lose 1lb each and every week until they reach their goal. It would be great if it was as easy as this. They think their journey will look like ......
....but it is really going to look like that spiral you see on the right. Change isn't a linear process; there are far too many obstacles and hurdles that are unaccounted for. We are all human. We all have different lives, responsibilities, emotions, thought processes & energy capacities that will impact our ability to stick to a plan. The hurdles make change resemble the spaghetti strand in the picture above.
Be realistic about how difficult real lasting change is and how long it takes. What are the obstacles ahead that are likely to slow you down? For each of these obstacles what are the solutions that you can come up with, ahead of time, that will help you break through plateaus or just giving up.
Try to be flexible and remind yourself that change takes time and that it is tough. Account and have a plan for the periods of time when you are plateauing or moving away from your target goal. Give yourself more time than you have bargained for to allow for the hiccups that will occur.
#2 Underestimate the impact of exercise
Exercise is the first port of call for many when it comes to trying to lose weight. In understand that; food is tasty, it is everywhere and exercise burns calories. BUT, and this is something I remember reading many times on Lyle McDonald's blog, exercise is not a decent calorie burner for most people. Why?
- Most people can't train hard or frequently enough to accumulate a large calorie expenditure from exercise.
- It's much easier to eat 1000 calories than it is to burn off 1000 calories through exercise.
- If you read my blog post on the muscle calorie burner myth you might remember that physical activity only accounts for 20% of your metabolic rate. Most calorie are burnt by just keeping you alive.
By overestimating the calorie burn of your workouts there is a chance that you fall into the letting yourself off the hook mindset. You know. When you tell yourself;
"I worked bloody hard just then and the treadmill said I burned off 600 calories. I'll just have this [insert treat here]. It won't hurt."
In the battle of the calorie deficit, nutrition will always win out over exercise. It's just too easy to overeat - especially in a society where rich food is so available in conjunction with us being so short on time and high on stress.
It is easier to create a sustainable calorie deficit through focusing mostly on building a quality nutrition strategy with the addition of some moderate exercise/movement.
Try jumping on a treadmill and burning off 1000 calories. Now create a list of foods that allow you to eat 1000+ calories in less than 20 minutes. Which one was easier to do once? And which one will be easier to do on a regular basis.
Also, what are the benefits of exercise to you beyond the calorie burn? (see the #3 for more on this)
#3 Early on, focus on the benefits
You have to make sacrifices to achieve a goal. There will be things that you have to do and there will be things that you can't do often if you are serious about achieving your goal.
Where is your mind when you embark on a change? Are you focusing on the things that you will have to give up and miss out on? Things like eating out multiple times per week, not worrying about your alcohol intake and your daily 3pm treat at work.
Are you focusing on the pains of doing the things that you need to do. Like upping the amount of time you spend exercising or shopping for/prepping a homemade lunch to take to work?
The above are all the costs of change. By focusing on the costs you are increasing the pain of changing. There's only so much pain you can take before you pack it in. It's like flogging yourself on a regular basis. You feel hard done by.
What are the benefits of making these changes that will help you reach your goal? Early on in journey it is essential that you focus on building a list of benefits bigger than your list of costs. By increasing the number of benefits and focusing on them, you will help increase your motivation and adherence.
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