“People tend to abandon the good system they’ll follow in search of the perfect system that they will quit.” — Tim Ferris, NYT Best Selling Author of The 4-Hour Body
When it comes to losing weight, getting fit, and living a healthier lifestyle, I see people (left and right) trying to find that next hot thing to jump onto — whether it’s a new diet, a new fitness app, or a magic supplement.
Isn’t this the pattern that people have been repeating for decades? At least in America, I’ve noticed this a lot. But it’s far from being effective.
As a habits coach, this is how I define insanity —when people do the same things over and over but expert to get different results. No wonder why the CDC’s prediction for America’s health in 2050 is so alarming.
This is one of the most effective strategies I learned from one of my virtual mentors, Tim Ferris.
Instead of trying to add 101 new things in your daily routine, what would happen if you stopped doing the things that were not giving you the desired health and fitness results?
The following are the top 7 mistakes that I’ve seen my students at Powered by Habits do.
If you haven’t been getting the desired results with your health and fitness efforts, see if you’ve been making this error and then stop doing it.
Your genes don’t determine your health. Eric Lander, leader of the Human Genome Project, has emphasized repeatedly the folly of learned helplessness through genetic determinism:
He says —
People will think that because genes play a role in something, they determine everything. We see, again and again, people saying, “It’s all genetic. I can’t do anything about it.” That’s nonsense. To say that something has a genetic component does not make it unchangeable.
While the science is still evolving in this topic, let’s keep it aside for a moment.
If you’ve been telling yourself that you inherited bad genes, then how is this belief-system helping you in your life?
Perhaps this may be stopping you from taking actions to better your well-being.
What would happen if you switched your mental script from that of a victim to that of a warrior and began to say —
“May be I inherited weak genes but I’m going to work hard to reverse that.”
Exercise has been linked to the benefits of epigenetics i.e. the process where your gene expressions get modified rather than alteration of the genetic code itself, thereby having the potential to reverse your medical condition.
Whole-food, plant-based diet can protect your telomeres. Here’s some science for the nerds —
Telomere length shortens with age. Progressive shortening of our telomeres leads to cell death or transformation into cancer, affecting the health and lifespan of an individual. But the rate of telomere shortening can be either increased or decreased by specific lifestyle factors. Better choice of diet and activities has great potential to reduce the rate of telomere shortening or at least prevent excessive telomere shrinkage, leading to delayed onset of age-associated diseases and increased lifespan. (Source)
My grand father passed away at 51 due to a cardiac arrest. My Dad had his first heart attack at 37 and then a brain stroke at 56.
This is what I did when I was 17 and 50 lbs overweight and struggling with binge eating habits.
I took ‘My genetics are messed up’ mental script as a bigger motivation to start taking actions and change my health.
10 years later, I’m grateful for the power of psychology on how you interpret an experience can have different results in different people.
Are you still blaming your family genetics for being overweight or obese or being big boned?
What would happen if you started to thing along this line — that your genetics are not your conditions for the rest of your life?
It’s time to stop blaming genetics if you really want to create lasting changes in your health & fitness this 2017.
2. STOP SETTING RIDICULOUS GOALS
When my students first come to me, they have goals of running 6 miles everyday or working out 3h per day or burning “only” 30 lbs.
I’m like — “Wait a minute. You are someone who has a history of knee injury and hasn’t run 1 mile for years now is aiming for 6 miles a day?”
Here’s why you keep falling short of your ridiculous goals — that’s because your brain has a range of what it sees as attainable.
When it comes to forming a habit, if the task is too easy, your brain gets bored easily. And if the routine gets too difficult, it’ll again resist the act.
But if you keep it at the sweet spot of a 60–90% of your personal threshold of what is too difficult for you, it begins to learn and adapt to the new routine. It starts taking notes of the rewards it gets after each round of the routine (i.e. the completion of each habit loop).
So instead of setting ridiculous goals, what would happen if you focused on systems and getting progress to your higher goal of shaving off 30 lbs or running ‘X’ miles, etc.
You can start by keeping your routine in the sweet spot of difficulty so as to continue repeating it and thus building the habit.
Here’s an excerpt from Scott Adams book — How To Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big –
Going to the gym 3–4 times a week is a goal. And it can be a hard one to accomplish for people who don’t enjoy exercise. Exercising 3–4 times a week can feel like punishment — especially if you overdo it because you’re impatient to get results.
When you associate discomfort with exercise you inadvertently train yourself to stop doing it. Eventually you will find yourself “too busy” to keep up your 3–4 days of exercise.
The real reason will be because it just hurts and you don’t want to do it anymore. And if you do manage to stay with your goal, you use up your limited supply of willpower.
Compare the goal of exercising 3–4 times a week with a system of being active every day at a level that feels good, while continuously learning about the best methods of exercise.
Before long your body will be trained, like Pavlov’s dogs, to crave the psychological lift you get from being active every day. It will soon become easier to exercise than to skip it — no willpower required.
And your natural inclination for challenge and variety will gently nudge you toward higher levels of daily activity while at the same time you are learning in your spare time how to exercise in the most effective way.
That’s a system.
So stop setting ridiculous goals. Look at where you are and then focus on integrating bullet proof systems into your life so that you get daily progress.
3. STOP FALLING FOR THE NEXT FAD-DIET
Instead of chasing every other diet that you read on your favorite wellness blog, what would happen if for once, you asked yourself —
Is this a diet something I can do easily?
Is the diet suitable to my lifestyle?
Can I sustain this for the rest of my life, when I’m traveling, when I’m 70 years old?
One of the most common mistakes is that people jump onto the next promising diet without for one questioning themselves if that is sustainable to their lifestyle.
S for Sustainability is a key step in our Health & Fitness Mastery Program and I can assure you that if you’re picking on a new diet that is totally out of whack to your lifestyle, you’re bound to relapse back and go back to your old patterns and remain fat.
So the next time you see your friend preaching that new highly effective diet, take a deep breathe. Smile… And keep moving forward.
Bonus: Any diet that you pick up, experiment with it for at least 6–8 weeks (12 if you have the patience) to be able to quantify the results and see what works for your body and what does not.
4. STOP THINKING THAT WORKING OUT WILL HELP YOU BURN ALL THE FAT
This one is funny to me. I see the whole country starts signing up for gym membership by the end of December.
People think that working out can undo the whole year of crappy food they ate.
Yet we all know the measly amount of calories physical activity burns. Yes, it helps to accelerate your metabolism and digestion and there are whole other benefits of exercise. So definitely don’t stop that.
But the thought that you can outrun your mouth is the one that is keeping America Fat.
If you could change one thing to take a step forward towards your health & fitness goal this 2017, make it what you eat a higher priority than how much you sweat.
Again, nothing wrong with the exercising but just remember that food is the one thing that you do (eat) everyday.
From a habits perspective, I tell my students this — You want to exercise. That’s something you have to put in some efforts to do.
But eating.. that is a habit you’ve been doing 3 or 4 times a day for quite a few decades. Plus, you don’t need any motivation to eat. Neither do you have to change your clothes or take a shower and other steps that are involved in the exercise process.
So, stop thinking that you can outexercise your mouth. Rather make food your friend and use that to help you get the maximum ROI from your workouts.
5. STOP COUNTING CALORIES
If you’re still counting calories in 2017, that means 2 things.
Nothing wrong with the 2nd one, but are you still fat? If you’re wondering why, I hope you got some hints here.
My question to you is this — has counting calories worked for you?
Let’s say you’ve been counting calories for some time now, can you quantify the amount of fat you burned specifically from this habit?
Yes, it’s a great awareness tool but the fact of the matter is, the simplest way to go about this is switch to a whole-food plant based diet or any meals that you cook at home.
You don’t have to count calories ever.
Just think of it from a sustainability perspective.
When you’re dining with your partner or at a business meeting, would you worry about the number of calories you’re consuming or rather enjoy the conversation while not having to worry about the number at all?
The whole Calories In minus Calories Out leads to Fat Loss is an internet tactic that has been heavily marketed for decades.
The thing is — it makes one feel good about staying under the calorie range. But the national obesity rates are saying something else.
In fact, here’s what I want you to do if you still count calories.
Go and ask all your fit and healthy friends in your group if they count calories. I bet they do not.
Wouldn’t you rather go move or run or play or lift some weights instead of worrying about how many calories was in that chicken curry salad?
Since you seem to be interested in this post, let me give you 2 rules about calories.
2 Rules with Calories —
Rule #1: It’s not what you put in your mouth that matters, it’s what makes it to your bloodstream. If it passes through, it doesn’t count.
Rule #2: The hormonal responses to carbohydrates (CHO), protein, and fat are different.
Things that affect calorie allocation — and that can be modified for fat-loss and muscle gain-include digestion, the ratio of protein-to CHO-to-fat, and timing.
6. STOP QUANTIFYING YOUR RESULTS IN WEIGHT LOSS or BMI MEASUREMENTS
Here’s the thing with the measuring scale and your body. You could be burning fat and building muscles. And when this happens, your scale counter doesn’t budge.
If you’ve been beating yourself up over this, does that sound a bit ridiculous now?
Body Fat Percentage is a better marker than your weight.
The same thing goes for BMI. While it can be an effective predictor of disease than body weight alone, it’s still a bit confusing since bodybuilders can have a larger BMI yet still be perfectly healthy and fit as compared to a normal Joe who’s clocking a BMI of 34.
What does the science tell us?
Today, it’s generally accepted that health risks can be determined as much by the relative distribution of body fat as by its total amount. What’s the worst kind of fat?
Abdominal fat — the kind that builds up around your internal organs. Having a potbelly may be a strong predictor of premature death.
Both the men above have the same BMI, but the distribution of weight is different. People with the so-called apple shape, with body fat concentrated in the abdominal region, may have the lowest life expectancy.
Fortunately, there is an even better tool than BMI that we can use to gauge the health risks of body fat. It’s called Waist-To-Height Ratio, or WHtR.
Do this —
— Grab a measuring tape. Measure your waist circumference in inches.
— Now divide it by your height in inches and multiply the number by 100.
For ex — my waist is 29″ and I’m 5’10” i.e. 70″ tall. So my WHtR percentage comes to 41.4%.
What does research say about the ideal ratio?
You’re safe it the ratio is at 50% (ideally should be less).
But if your waist is more than half your height, it’s time to start eating healthier and exercising more regardless of your weight.
Unless you’re okay with getting hit by the 4 top killing diseases (i.e heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease) by the time you hit your late 50s and 60s.
7. STOP GATHERING MORE GENERALIZED INFORMATION
If your goal for 2017 is to get in the best shape of your life, it’s time you stop gathering more and more generalized information. It’s time to specialize in the field of health & fitness.
Because I’m confident that you know what you need to do in order to burn more fat. In fact, it’s harder in today’s world to not know how to lose weight and stay fit.
But why are we living in a world where over-consumption has causing a global health crisis?
Could it be that the generalized information is there just to make money for certain organizations and the common public is an easy consumer target?
For a minute, ask yourself this — what are the few things that my friend does that has helped him or her to burn all the fat and now lives a healthy lifestyle?
What would happen if you started to model other fit and healthy people?
Do you think you’ll get a step closer to your health & fitness goal this 2017?
I bet you would.
Originally published at medium.com