After seeing a photo of myself with my shirt off a few weeks ago I decided it was time to make more of a concerted effort to get in better shape.
I’m not necessarily in bad shape, at all. But I’m not in the shape that I believe I should be in. And that’s an issue for me.
I guess you can kind of ignore the fact that you’re slipping. Accept that your clothes are a little tighter and that your body looks and feels a little softer. There’s excuses to be found everywhere and they’re very easy to use.
But there’s got to come a time when you’re honest with yourself and seek to make changes. That time, for me, was after I saw the photo of myself shirtless.
I decided to involve our members in the process and lay down an 8 Week Challenge for them. The reason for me was simply to ensure I was accountable. I promised that I’d post what I ate everyday with a short synopsis of how my day went, and I encouraged them to follow suit.
It’s been over 3 years since I last consciously went on a diet, and so it’s been a bit of an adjustment for me. You see, due to my fairly active lifestyle, and 15 years of consistent training under my belt, it’s quite easy for me to stay in, what would generally be regarded as, good shape.
But, I must admit, it’s been tricky to step things up a gear. Particularly considering that all I used to have to do was switch from cappuccinos to Americanos and I’d shred up in a week or two.
So here’s a couple of things I’ve noticed:
1. It’s a lot more difficult when you’re not got a set goal.
I used to have to make an agreed weight in order to compete, so the process was simple. I’d have a ‘start weight’ and I’d have a ‘goal weight’. If I didn’t reach my goal weight I’d embarrass myself, my coaches/teammates and I’d potentially not get to compete.
So every decision I made, every single day, was made based on making that particular weight.
However, at the moment, I have no set goal. I just know I want to be better and – as much as that’s a great goal – it’s enigmatic.
I’ve considered entering a race, booking a photoshoot and a few other ‘things’ that’d give me a definitive ‘end date’, but I know I wouldn’t give my all to any of them and therefore don’t see the point. Maybe when I feel like I will give my all then I’ll go ahead and book something, but for the meantime I’m going to plod along just trying to improve.
For you, it’s worthwhile considering what I’ve just said and trying to apply it to yourself.
If you’ve got a wedding coming up, it’s easy. Same with a holiday. Maybe Christmas and New Year, to a lesser extent. But if you’ve got nothing coming up in your calendar, maybe it’d be a good idea to put yourself out there and sign up for something that’ll help keep your eye on the prize.
2. It’s all too easy to under-report.
Let’s face it, no one wants to ‘fess up when they’ve had a McDonald’s at 2am after a night on the piss; particularly when they’re supposed to be ‘on a diet’.
So everyday there’s an internal battle waging through my mind as to whether I’m honest or whether I gloss over the truth and fabricate it a little.
I’d say that thus far I’ve been 95%+ honest. And, based on that, I’m fairly worried about the honesty levels of the general public when reporting to someone else.
If you’re not honest with yourself, you’re never going to improve your body shape.
If you’re reporting to someone else (a coach or an accountability group), those two celebrations on the way back to your desk count. Those couple of bits of bread before your main course count. The one or two biscuits you had mid-afternoon, however small and seemingly insignificant, count.
If you try to convince yourself they don’t count and aren’t important, you’ll continue to pick at them and your reporting on what you ate will become less and less honest as you ‘let yourself away with’ more and more.
3. One ‘bad decision’ very quickly leads to another…and another.
“Oh, go on then, I’ll have a beer.”
Next thing I know I’ve had 4 beers, 3 whiskeys and I’m in the queue at McDonald’s for quarter pounder with cheese at 2am.
That was on a night I was only going to have “one or two”.
The next morning, when the hangover is there or there abouts, it’s easy to continue eating rubbish in the hope that it will “square you up”. Then you’re a day and a half down out of 7, have probably outdone all of your good work from Monday-Friday and are facing an uphill battle to get back on track on Monday.
Make clear decisions and stick with them.
It’s okay to be led astray every now and then, but if it’s every weekend you’re going to have major problems making progress (unless you’re an absolute ninja at adjusting your calories, which – let’s face it – most of us are not).
4. It’s easy to throw the towel in.
Everyone says they want to lose weight, but when it comes time to actually doing it very few strap on their big boy/girl pants.
We started with over 30 members raring to go, on the first day of my posting my food diary we had 20-odd following suit. 13 days in and we had 4 or 5 commenting on last night’s post.
That’s not meant as a dig at those who’ve fallen off the wagon. For all I know many are still soldiering on in silence. But I do think it’s a fairly accurate representation of the staying power that most people have.
Sure, they’re all still training and trying to focus on making better choices. But when it comes to tracking their food, movement and keeping themselves accountable by spending 2-3mins typing how their day went, it’s all a bit much for most.
The importance of bodily change will vary from day to day in your mind.
One day you’ll be super-low and will be willing to do anything to change. The next day you’ll feel fine, quite comfortable and will not really care about changing or not.
The days you feel comfortable that are equal parts great and destructive. Obviously, it’s amazing to feel content and happy, but if it leads you to decisions that lead you further away from your goals you have to be careful.
A couple of days later you’re back feeling low and regretting the indulgences that have contributed to that state of mind.
Decide what you want to achieve and remind yourself of it constantly.
My experience tells me that if you don’t you’ll constantly undulate – make progress, lose ground, make progress, lose ground, etc.
5. My body doesn’t change as quickly at 28 as it did at 22. (And my experience tells me that it’ll be even slower at 32 than it is at 28.)
I know I’m about as old as I am fat, so I’m not claiming that either. But I’ll tell you…when I was in my early 20s, I’d switch from having milk in my coffee to having it black and I’d have ab veins within a week.
Sure, my body fat percentage is higher now than it was then, but it’s a helluva lot easier to shred up when you see results so quickly. The ball just keeps rolling and the motivation stays high.
When things are slower to move, it’s harder to stay on top mentally.
That said, I’ll never be 22 again so I can’t expect my body to adapt the same now as it did then. My lifestyle is totally different now and that’s on me.
All I can do is play the cards I’ve been dealt (or dealt myself, as the case is) and push forward. Moaning about the fact it’s harder now will not change my physique or the circumstances.
You should do the same – accept where you currently are and push forward. Looking backwards will do more hard than good.
6. Dieting whilst travelling sucks.
Over the past two weeks I’ve been to London twice and Rome once. That’s 10 days out of a possible 14 spent in airports, hotels and places I’m unfamiliar with.
When I’m in Glasgow I know exactly where I can go to get a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner if I’m eating out. I know what’s in my cupboards and I’m basically very much in control of what’s going on (well, I can be if I choose to be).
When on the move, it’s tricky. Airports are borderline-useless and one of the joys of travelling (whether for business or pleasure) is eating out at nice places; particularly in somewhere like Italy.
So, again, the towel can go in easily and the “I’ll start again on Monday” mantra can sound loud internally.
But, as hard as it is, it’s also easy to make better decisions:
A few beers instead of 12. No dessert instead of dessert. Walking instead of taking the bus/tube.
These are simple decisions, but they make a difference in the short and long term.
Things that’ve helped me:
There’s a few different tactics I’ve employed to help me be ‘better’, despite circumstances which haven’t particularly been in my favour, thus far.
I’ve decided that I’m ‘aff’ the booze
Over the past 6 months, or so, I’ve been partial to 3-4 beers on a Friday and Saturday night, potentially followed by a couple of whiskeys. This then spiralled into having a couple of whiskies after a stressful day at work.
Before I knew it I was drinking more days than I wasn’t.
(For some context and so we’re clear, this was always only 1-2 drinks, max…unless it was the weekend, in which case it was 4-5 max so there was no actual problem with drinking from an addiction point of view.)
So after my trip to Rome I decided to stop entirely, and I haven’t touched a drop for a week now. (Again, no big deal, but definitely saving me calorie-wise.) I’ll no doubt have a few nights out over the next 6 weeks, but the drinking will be contained to those nights only.
I’m aiming to hit at least 10,000 steps per day
This is a fairly easy target for me to hit, however there are some days (like today) when I’m sitting at my laptop a lot more than I’m up and around coaching, so something as simple as using the ‘Health’ app on my phone is a great way to keep me aware of how active (or inactive) I’m being.
I’m making daily commitments
“I’m going to exercise today”, “I’m not going to have any chocolate/cake today”, etc.
I’m about to start publicising these commitments so as I can up my accountability even more, but they’re a great way to stay true to your goals, so long as you’re honest with yourself.
I’m telling people what I’m doing
Every night, I’m posting what I’ve done during the day to all of my members. This means that I’ve got absolutely nowhere to hide and, plus, I feel like I’ve let them down when I’ve had a shitty day.
How can I expect them to stick to their goals when the dude that’s supposed to be leading the charge isn’t?
So, yeah, I’d really encourage you to take some of my simple tips on board and apply them to your life.
It’s a lot easier than you think once you stop making excuses and commit.
But getting to the point you’re ready to do so may take a lot longer for you than you had initially thought.