One of the first self-help books that fell into my hands was Stephen Covey’s masterpiece, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. There’s one rule in this book that changed my mind and the way I see things forever.
This rule says that you can’t have a rich man’s life with a poor man’s mindset. In other words, you can’t be rich/healthy/persuasive…etc until you adopt the mindset of rich/healthy/persuasive people. It’s like walking around the city with the wrong map, as Covey liked to compare it; you won’t go where you want to go unless you change that map.
I see this rule manifest time and time again every time I discuss fitness with my friends. All of a sudden, the guy/gal who claps out from a 10-minute warm-up becomes a fit adult who wakes up every morning for an early jog.
Such transformation happens not just because this person has improved “physically” but also because they now adopt a different – and better – mindset that allows them to lead a healthy lifestyle, not for six months or a year but decades ahead.
Mindset Shift#1: Any exercise is better than better than none
Everybody – athletes and coaches included- have times when they feel beat, bummed, and unable to exercise. But they do it anyway using their mind tricks. Mine is The Zeigarnik Effect.
Whenever I feel too lazy to exercise, I drop the bar so low and aim to do something so comfortable that I cannot procrastinate, like a 1-minute warm-up, a single pull-up or a couple of minutes on the treadmill.
A guy once posted on Reddit saying that his key to his superior pecs was setting the goal of doing one pushup each day. He destroyed fear of failure with that technique – cause who can’t do a single pushup- and of course, he did more.
My cousin once came complaining about how he couldn’t stick to the gym no matter how hard he tried. So I told him to make going to the gym his goal instead of losing the 40 pounds he had to drop.
My advice was, “Get dressed, walk to the gym and consider your goal achieved once you walk into the gym. Once you find yourself there, you’ll naturally feel inclined to exercise which is better than staying at home watching Friends.”
Mindset Shift#2: Think Lifestyle
Friends come to me and say, “I want a diet that makes lose 20 pounds asap before summer,” and my response is usually the same, “I can help you, but if all you keep saying ‘diet’ then I’m pretty sure this time next year you’ll be coming back asking the same question.”
(I dare you, I double dare you to say diet one more time :d)
Why do I say this? Because diets to most people mean: A transitional period in hell after which I get to eat whatever I want.”
Want some proof? Ryan Benson, The Biggest Loser’s first winner, gained all the weight back +25 extra pounds a few years after he left the farm. When they asked him why he did that, and why he won the show in the first place, Benson said his primary goal while competing was to go home with the $500K winning prize and eat the food he loves. Oops.
I don’t blame Benson for the wrong programming because that’s what most people think in either black or white when it comes to food. You think that you can either get the good looks or the good food, you can’t have both.
So, what’s the catch? Opt for sustainability, and here’s how:
- Choose the activities you’d love to do, and do more of them.
If you love running, make a habit of it —even though I don`t recommend you do it every day. If you have a knack for hiking, do it every week. And if you love the way lifting weights makes you feel, then hit the gym more often. You can always find something you both like and CAN DO.
A friend of mine who bikes to work every day told me he did it after he saw Mike Ross from Suits doing it. He told himself “why not?” His office wasn’t that far, he had a bike, and he could make himself wake up an hour early. How fit you think he’d be if he bikes to work five days a week for three months straight?
Very fit. And the best thing about it? It doesn’t feel like a chore.
- Eat healthily, but still on your terms.
On and off diets (and I still don’t like the word) don’t work. They lack consistency. So to see real changes in your looks, you must follow a healthy lifestyle to which you can stick for a very long time. If you want to be a vegan just for the sake of losing weight you’ll soon hate it and get back to your old habits.
Personally, I’ve been doing fasting intermittently for the past five years because it fits perfectly with who I am and how I live my life. I’m always on the move, I like the view of a full plate and it allows me to get away with some of my favorite not-so-healthy foods.
If you hate fasting and want to go for another eating style, fine. But my advice is to pick a lifestyle that:
- Applicable: You can do it anywhere for 3-6 months straight.
- Suits your budget
- Has room for the food you love: So you don’t feel deprived and quit.
Mindset Shift#3: You’re not weak. You may be just biting more than you can chew.
“You were born to win, but to be a winner you must plan to win, prepare to win and expect to win.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
It was quite challenging for me to switch from the regular intermittent fasting to eating one meal a day —OMAD.
Though I ate a whopping 1500-calories meal (sometimes 2,000) in one sitting, I often craved food both late at night and early in the morning. And I knew that I won’t last in this new lifestyle unless I prepare my mind for the challenge. So, I picked a technique that Navy Seals use and started dividing the 23-hr fasting journey into four chunks:
- Fasting from 4 pm till I sleep
- Finish the 16-hr milestone (which is the basic stage of intermittent fasting)
- Fast till12 pm
- Fast till 3 pm
To further program my mind, I kept my daily fasting log in the following formula
And it worked.
If it’s 9 pm and I’m hungry, I focus on making it till bedtime instead of worrying about my ability to fast till 3 pm.
I only broke my fast three times in the past 284 days. And I want you to duplicate my success by doing what I do and planning for failure. I want you to accept the fact that your willpower is limited then find a way around it. For starter, you can plan your reaction in the following situations:
- When you feel stressed, sad or excited
- When you eat past your calories count or eat something you weren’t supposed to eat.
- When you feel lazy to work out
- When you miss a work out (or a couple of them)
- When you’re out with your friends
Doing this alone will 10X your results with very little effort. And you’ll build consistency, which is all you need to stay in a great shape.
A Quick Recap
These three pillars are what you need to always stay in shape:
- When you feel lazy, keep your focus on the next step and know that any movement is better than none. Never underestimate the power of a single pushup.
- Forget about the word “diet” and look for a lifestyle that suits you. My golden question is: Can I stick to this system for 6 or 12 months ahead?
- Start slow and don’t blame yourself for not having a super willpower. It’s a muscle that grows with practice.