The Psychology of Fitness & Weight Loss

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It’s the new year. You’re done with the hedonism of the holidays & make a resolution to get fitter & have the body of a model by the end of the year. You watch your diet, get started on a new fitness regime & hire a personal trainer to keep you motivated & accountable.You’re doing good, with some initial fat loss & some muscle gain, & get compliments from your friends. And then, you get busy with work, family & stuff that comes up. You skip one workout, because you’re tired after a long day at work. It’s just one, you reason. And maybe miss another because you wanted to meet your old friend who’s in town. And then, little by little, before you even realise it, you’ve fallen off the wagon.
If you’re anything like most of the people I know, this is what happens whenever they start a new fitness or diet routine. Do you know why monthly & quarterly gym memberships are so expensive compared to yearly ones? That’s one of the dirty little secrets gym owners don’t want you to know about. Most people stop coming to the gym after 3 months. Ask any of your gym-bunny friends whether this is true.
So what happened? Why is it so difficult to set up an exercise habit, when you see kids & youth being pretty much active all the time. Are we hardwired to conserve energy as we get older?
There are many reasons for this, but the major reason is it’s difficult to stay active nowadays because the modern urban environment & culture makes it very easy to get away with being lazy, & doesn’t provide enough support & positive motivation for people who’re trying to stay fit.

Your willpower is limited

You don’t have an infinite well of willpower that you can dip into at will. Your willpower & cognitive bandwidth are limited, and you should treat them like a resource & focus on managing them.

I’ll lay out exactly how in the next section.

Motivation doesn’t last. Systems do

Another truism is that motivation, while great to overcome inertia & laziness, will most likely not carry you through to your end training goals
Anticipate future drop-offs in motivation. If you’ve been training for any reasonable amount of time, you *will* fall off the wagon. And when that happens (and it will), you will already have a plan of action to dust yourself off & get back on track.
When you fall off the wagon (and you will), here are my recommendations for restarting your diet/fitness routine:
The 5 stages of fitness grief
Step 1: Beat yourself up for losing all the training momentum you’ve built up.
Step 2: Take an inventory of where you stand in terms of your training goals. Don’t be VAGUE. Be specific when it comes to lifts, weight loss.gain, fat percentage. Use numbers wherever possible. Feelings are prone to inaccuracy. Numbers, however, don’t lie.
Step 3: Do a test workout to see how much your strength has changed. Be conservative, this is only a test run.
Step 4: Once you know what your current numbers are, plan out what your exercise progressions will be.
Step 5:Build up training momentum
There! Problem solved.

 

Habits

Remember, getting healthy & fit is a marathon, not a sprint. Even while short-term goals are great to motivate you to get your butt to the gym, you should fit them into your long-term training goals.
The first 3 months are all about figuring out how your body responds to your workouts, optimising your sleep & recovery, starting to get diet in order & fixing postural imbalances which are sapping your strength & mobility.
The biggest issue by far that you’ll have at this stage is impatience. If you can navigate this stage successfully & mindfully keeping your larger training focus in mind, you’ll do just fine.
The next 3 months is when you’ll fine-tune your diet & macros, build your strength & your progress will really start to take off. This is where you will start to see changes to your body composition.
The next 6 months is where all the habits you’ve been building will come together & your fitness will start to go on Autopilot.
After one year is when generally your fitness goals start to get more ambitious, once you’ve seen what your body is capable of doing & seeing the results of your hard work for yourself, which brings a renewed, understated sense of confidence in yourself.

 

Tracking variables

The biggest mistake most people make when they start a new diet or fitness routine is they don’t track changes in their strength, size, body fat etc. If you don’t track your numbers, how will you know what’s working & what isn’t?
Congnitive bandwidth is limited. You cannot realistically expect to  micromanage all variables, so you find the few which reflect your overall changes & try to document how they react to different inputs.
As a counterintuitive corollary though: What you track doesn’t matter as much as the very act of tracking…..somethng. Anything!
Is there something you wanted to ask but I haven’t addressed here? Leave a comment or reach out to me.

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