I’ve said this before…weight loss is easy. It is keeping the weight off that is difficult. The difficulty is due to the fact that maintaining a lean body over the long haul has little to do with grams of protein, fish oil, or block peroidization of you’re exercise program. Lifetime leanness is achieved not through nutrients per se it is achieved through persistence, fostering a lean culture, and feeling good (maybe superior?)about your achievements. Here’s what I mean.
I’ll talk about this a little later in the post, but one thing you need to realize is that in order to consistently attain a lean body you will be fighting an uphill battle, especially with your diet. When you travel, no one is waiting for you at the gate with a grilled salmon salad for you to take on the plane with you. No, there is a 16 year old working at Qdoba that wants to sell you a 3 lbs burritos which contains 1/2 cup of sour cream. When you go out to eat at the local wing joint with your buddies, the waiter isn’t asking you if you’d like to order off the menu something healthier, no he just wants to know if you want blue cheese or ranch. This is why you need to be persistent. You need to be persistent about what you need to stick to your plan. Last week I was out to eat with some friends and my buddy Joe (how maintains 6% bodyfat) displayed the ultimate level of dietary persistence. We’re at Buffalo Wild Wings. Joe looks at the menu, sighs, the waiter comes over and asks what he wants –
Waiter – “Breaded or boneless wings? 12, 25, or 50?”
Joe – “I’m going to order off the menus.” Joe puts the menu down and doesn’t look at it. “Can you make me a big green salad, lots of vegetables, and then I’ll have two blackened chicken breasts on the side.”
Waiter – Blank stare. “Oookay. What kind of dressing would you like?”
Joe – “Do you have olive oil and vinegar? I’ll have that on the side.”
Waiter -“I don’t think we have olive oil….yeah we don’t have that.”
Joe – “Can you go check with the kitchen for me?”
Waiter – Visibly annoyed. “I’ll be right back.”
That is persistence. Joe knew what he needed for dinner and he asked for it. The waiter didn’t have all the answers so Joe asked him to go find the person that did. There were at least 3 opportunities where Joe could have given in, but he didn’t. He was persistent and he got what he wanted. It is going to be a rare occasions that you can order directly from the menu. It is going to be a rare occasion that you will wake up 10 minutes before your alarm goes off energized to hit the gym. That is why you must be persistent.
I cringe a little using the word culture because it is has become such a buzz word in business nowadays but it is the best way to describe this key. You need to create and foster a culture of healthy habits so that you aren’t making healthy decisions because you are forcing them upon yourself but because that is what you do. Here are two examples to illustrate my point. My kids eat fruits and vegetables at every meal and when they snack on baby carrots and red pepper strips during the day they say things like “Ummm that is delicious.” They eat broccoli, they eat peas by the handful (literally, it is a struggle to get Peter to use a spoon). They eat this way because that is just how we eat. Eating vegetables was never an issue for them because those are the foods that we eat. Fruits and vegetables were never signaled out as foods that we don’t really want to eat but do because we have to. We just eat them, that is the culture at our house.
In that recent trip to a seminar with Joe we got to discussing food choices and eating out (how could you not after that encounter with the waiter). He said that at his gym, all the trainers eat really clean as that is the culture. If you came to the gym with unhealthy food ‘you’d get made fun of.’ Sometimes you need that. Sometimes you need the added peer pressure when your tired and your guard is down so that you order your burger without the bun and to substitute the fries for vegetables instead of eating it as is on the menu. The point about culture is that you want to work to immerse yourself in a culture where the healthy habits you hold important are the norm. This is key for maintaining a lean body for the long haul.
Okay, so this last one is a little controversial and I debated not including it. Andrew Carnegie once said that one of his keys to ultra achievement was carefully measured arrogance. This was mirrored by marketing and small business consultant Dan Kennedy when he applied Carnegie’s view to his own life regarding time and project management
I will tell you where my sense of superiority comes from: my control of my life, compared to everyone else’s lack of control.
A sense of lack of control is the worst thing. This is a common characteristic among chronically overweight people that I have worked with. So when you get control and are working your plan, feel good about it. Geez, near 70% of the U.S. population is overweight or obese. You’re succeeding against all odds! Against 99.8% of all food marketing. Against every gadget that makes life ‘easier’ so you can move and do less. Against all the thoughts flying in and out of your mind each day telling you to skip the gym or have the pancakes! Fostering a feeling of superiority doesn’t have to have negative connotations, it doesn’t mean that you are putting others and their dietary foils down – it means that you recognizing that you’re doing something great, something that pretty much everyone wants to do but can’t consistently.
Like I said at the beginning, it isn’t about nutrients and supplements. It is the mental stuff. It is knowing what you want and getting it whether it is the right food at a lousy restaurant or a quick workout at your in-laws house. It is about creating an culture where healthy behaviors are normal and then surround yourself with people who also feel that way. And it is about giving yourself credit for raging against the machine, doing what most people won’t, and then using that good feeling to fuel your persistence even more.