The stereotypical thing people say to someone who’s recently lost weight is usually, ‘What’s your secret?’ And it’s a valid question. There’s not one way to do it, there are several. And gaining information about a way that may be unfamiliar with you could result in helping you. But almost every time I hear someone share what method they used to get in shape, I hear about their diet or their workout regime. And that’s fine. Those things are good to know. But learning those things never helped me to accomplish the same goal.
First of all, there is no ‘secret’ to getting into shape that will give you both increased muscle mass and less body fat that does not involve eating better and working out. The closest things are anabolic steroids and gastric bypass surgery. Steroids won’t necessarily reduce your body fat, but even if they did you can’t get benefits from steroids without also working out. It’s not like the Captain America formula. Rather it’s a hormone that allows your body to respond to your workouts better with increased muscle mass. Gastric bypass surgery can help reduce someone’s body fat significantly in a very short amount of time, but it is possible to re-expand the size of you newly shrunken stomach by eating more than a recommended amount.
And besides, both of those methods – steroids & surgery – come with a huge list of negatives. So, I strongly recommend not doing them if you can help it.
I apologize for the bad news, but the truth is that there is no herb or protein shake or new exercise or piece of cardio equipment that will help you acheive a better body without a ton of effort. There’s one tried and true method that works every time – eating better & working out more. Maybe some day technology and chemistry will come up with a way for us to get a shot in the arm and turn into Captain America. I don’t know. But that day is definitely not now. So, suck it up and get over the fact that if you wanna get in shape you simply must use this method.
I currently feel and look more in shape than I have in years. I’m by no means at my goal body, but I feel a lot better about where I am in February 2015 than I did in February 2014. Do you wanna know my secret? Well, I hate to say this, but I didn’t really do anything different as far as working out or eating well except that I just did more of it. Any given workout or day’s worth of meals in the last five months might look identical to a workout or day of meals I had last year. The only difference as far as that’s concerned is that my frequency increased.
To me, this isn’t helpful or teribly surprising information. I worked out more in the last five months than I had the previous seven months. I ate better much more often too. I didn’t need to learn a new type of workout or a new diet. What I was doing was fine. I just needed to do it more.
So, to me the much more interesting and potentially helpful ‘secret’ to share about my success has nothing to do with what I did in the gym or how I ate, but rather how I felt. In October (four months ago) I started to see a therapist. I have seen her once a week since then and I feel much better mentally than I have in a long time.
A lot of what I’ve written in previous blogs has described some of my new outlooks on life. And the most important one is that I actually like myself now. I can’t remember if I used to like myself and then stopped for some reason or if I was more or less like this my whole life. I wasn’t depressed in a clinical sense, but I did have a terrible self-esteem problem. I can’t say ‘did’ as if I don’t anymore. It feels like I still have it. I just now can overcome it often. The bouts of time where I mentally beat myself up and stress myself out for reasons that aren’t actually logical or helpful still happen, but they are fewer, farther between, and often less intense.
And that helped me to increase the amount of days/times I could devote to working out and it increased the number of times I was able to not eat junk food or avoid overeating in general. And that’s my secret. Let me try to describe it in a way that might be helpful.
Is there anyone in your life that you genuinely love to do stuff for? I think of my late grandmother. When she was alive I was happy to help her. I loved her and didn’t want her to have to get out in the yard or whatever if I could do it for her. I was eager to help her. Do you have anyone in your life like that?
I used to mow my grandma’s yard. Her yard was easily three times the size of my parents lot (she lived on a decent chunk of land for a single family home). I dreaded mowing my parents’ lawn when I was growing up. It was part of my chores that my dad expected me to do. I didn’t like it. Didn’t wanna do it. However, if my grandma needed her lawn mowed I was right on top of it. I smiled and took pride in the fact that I was doing something to help her.
What was the difference? I was still pushing a mower in the hot sun for a time. The work wasn’t any easier on me physically at my grandma’s. In fact, it was harder. Her mower wasn’t as new and I would have to go over the same spot several times. And her yard was way bigger. Yet I could enjoy it. How? Well, my mind felt differently. That’s it. The difference existed solely in my head.
So, my secret is simply changing my mind.
It may sound silly, but it’s true. I now make decisions about how I’m going to feel about something. And I’m very stern with those decisions. Now, there are times I can actually tell myself I’m going to like something that I had never previously liked before. One example is cleaning. I hate cleaning. My girlfriend loves it and wants to do a full cleaning of the apartment once a week or once every two weeks at the least.
Well, cleaning isn’t pleasant. I hate scrubbing and being around chemicals. It takes time and energy that I don’t care to expend on it, because it’s unenjoyable. So, used to, I would clean, but not like it. Now, I tell myself “You’re gonna have fun.” This sounds ridiculous, but it actually worked. Not every time and not always for very long, but there was a measurable difference in my mood. Cleaning didn’t magically become pleasant. I still disliked the smell of some of the cleansers and the grossness of the bathroom floor and it still took a while and made my joints ache from getting on my knees and scrubbing things. But my mind changed.
I just told myself that I was going to have a good time. I was going to be thankful for the fact that I had a home to clean at all. I could be homeless. And I told myself that despite the unpleasantness of the activity I was still going to have fun.
And this is exactly what I did when it came to working out and eating. I treated myself like my grandmother’s lawn instead of my parent’s lawn. I just told myself that I was awesome and I wanted to do anything I could to help myself. Sure, taking the time to workout is hard. But you better believe if I knew it was going to help my grandmother, I would do it with no complaints. I would feel good about it.
So, I just started treating myself like I would my grandmother. I have become the person that I am happy to do things for. I am the one who deserves to be treated well by myself. I changed my mind.
“But how do I change my mind? I can say something, but not believe it. Your advice seems impractical.” -Potentially you right now.
Think of your feelings like a math problem: situation + your reaction = your feelings
Simple math, right? How you react to situations determine your feelings. But what if I were to throw you one more?
your reaction = your feelings – situation
Now, I’m saying that how you feel before a situation will determine your reaction.
Think of your psyche like a video game. Do you remember how sometimes if you did the same thing three times or something like that then you would unlock a secret to the game? I believe that the human psyche can be like that sometimes. But the ‘secret’ is merely the command. In other words, if I have to have my video game character jump three times in a row in order to reveal a secret door then I probably don’t know ahead of time that there is a secret door. But if I tell myself to be happy three times in a row then the equivalent of the secret door is merely the state of being happy.
Now, I must say that some people probably don’t work out because they simply don’t know how. Same with eating. If you just don’t know what exercises to do or what types of food to eat, please message me. I used to be a personal trainer a decade ago and I’ve read a lot of books on nutrition and the human body. But if you’re like me and you already know that stuff, maybe the only thing keeping you from your goal is that you’re not treating yourself like you would your grandmother (or insert person in your life that you’re happy to do things for)
And why not? You deserve it, right? If you don’t think you do, then maybe you just don’t like yourself. It’s worth exploring.