Updated: Jun 11, 2020
We’ve all heard it before, haven’t we? The fitness guru talking about keeping on top of your macros, reducing belly fat, X weeks to getting a 6 pack, body type quizzes and the list goes on. Wellness coaches, fitness instructors and nutritionists discuss these kinds of buzz word topics and very rarely go any further than that - it drives me up the wall. The wellness industry is full of articles, posts, pictures and videos trying to entice you in to forking out your money for some quick fix.
I’m going to be frank with you, don’t expect anything else from real health living. Let me pose some questions to you early on in this article. You can deal with these in a number of ways; you could think of them as hypothetical and thought provoking, or (my personal favourite) you could actually answer them. Write down your answers, say them aloud or better still, book a consultation.
Here are my questions: Are you dissatisfied with the way your body looks and feels? Have you felt this way for a long time? So it’s taken a lot of time and, let’s face it, money to get your weight to where it is now. Becoming overweight, or dare I say fat, takes time and effort. Realistically, it would be foolish to expect that warm, huggable layer that you’ve worked so hard to gain is going to be easy to get rid of either.
So, the first piece of fiction which I’m going to debunk right off the bat: You cannot spot reduce fat. What do I mean by spot reduction? I’ll use belly fat as the example. It’s this magical fantasy idea that if you do a certain number of crunches, planks and sit-ups that you can get rid of that stubborn belly fat. This is a lie. Have a little read of my article why be real when we could be flawless?
Don’t get me wrong, if you do these exercises regularly, you’ll build up strength in your core and abs. In other words, everybody has a six pack; whether you can see it or not is defined by the amount of subcutaneous fat which sits on top of it.
If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard people say “I don’t need to lose weight on my face or arms, just my belly” I’d be rich. Sorry to break it to you, but you probably do. The fact is that if you’ve got excess fat on your tummy; you’ve got excess fat in other places too. Now, don’t be disheartened, there are small steps that you can take to achieve and maintain results.
Unlike most coaches who are out to sell their services, programmes and products, I’m going to tell you how to do this. But do not be mistaken, I can’t do it for you - that comes down to you. My role as a coach is not to change your life for you, but to ask the right questions and provide you with the tools to do it yourself. No, it’s not a great business plan. Essentially I’ve made it my job to coach you to not need me. Now to the important stuff:
Yes, every now and again you hear about somebody who has transformed their mindset overnight and stuck with it, but this is incredibly rare - the reason for this is motivation. What people often fail to remember is that motivation is an emotion like any other and we know that emotions come and go quickly. So, by that token, how on earth can we expect to stay constantly motivated to change our behaviours overnight? We can’t! We’re human beings, ergo: we’re flawed. But what I would like to do is help you to take motivation out of the mix of essential feelings needed to become healthier. That energy burst you get is great but it isn’t a long term solution. Do you think people who workout 5 times a week feel excited and motivated every single time? Of course they don’t! Just like you, people who exercise regularly and eat healthily don’t always want to.
Whatever you want to call it, be it a routine, habit or lifestyle, that is the key to getting rid of that weight that just won’t go. Creating habits is what is going to give you results and maintain them. At the beginning of this article I said that I was going to tell you how to begin the journey towards becoming healthier and the truth is that we all have to start small. Creating tonnes of new habits in one go and sticking to them is very challenging just because of the way our brains work. Habits consist of triggers (for example, waking up), actions (brushing your teeth) and rewards (no more morning breath). If you look at your day and break it down into the hundreds if not thousands of habits we have as individuals, you can probably tell which ones you consider to be positive, healthy habits and negative, less healthy habits. But why do we have the negative ones? Simple: reward. Whether it’s a sugar rush from a biscuit that you always have with your lunchtime cuppa, or losing your inhibitions after that third glass of wine with dinner; the reward motivates the action, the trigger initiated it.
There are thousands of these sequences throughout our days and they become the habits we enact but ‘cutting out’ all of your bad habits and making new healthy ones isn’t going to happen either. Chances are, the trigger will still be there and it’ll just be a matter of time before the biscuits and wine creep back and you’re back to square one. But to replace the biscuit with an apple perhaps doesn’t seem so daunting. That’s one action, not lots all in one go, but one good behaviour to replace one old proclivity. The aim is to substitute old for new, negative for positive, unhealthy for healthy.
My little secret is one at a time. Once you’ve established one, the point at which it becomes second nature to top up the water glass instead of the wine, you introduce the next change.
Be patient with yourself and when you slip up, don’t beat yourself up over it. Acknowledge the behaviour, celebrate it as a treat and then move on. Try not to introduce guilt but rather accountability.
A healthy lifestyle and a healthy body is not made by doing one particular exercise, sticking to one specific diet or implementing one meticulous habit - it is achieved by taking lots of little steps and appreciating that you are human, mistakes are normal and improvement is always possible.