If you’ve never heard Simon Sinek’s Tedtalk on Start with Why I would highly recommend it. It’s a great concept and one I find particularly useful in fitness. As coaches and fitness consultants, we are constantly meeting people who tell us how much they want to get fit, or lose weight, (or make any other change for that matter). The hard thing about what we do is we both love helping people change and get really excited at the prospect of someone joining our gym (or starting a meal plan, or getting a new job, etc., etc.). We’ve both learned the hard way that if we want the change more than the other person, it won’t work. Just won’t. It’s tough to draw the line sometimes between supporting and encouraging, and chasing, and when we start to cross into chasing, it becomes almost co-dependent and is not likely to lead to lasting change for the client.
So what makes the difference? I’m of the opinion that a person’s weight loss or fitness success is tied to two things; their ‘why’ and their self-efficacy (belief that they can actually achieve the goal). If people don’t think they can do something, they are not even going to try, so this is really important. With working out, if people just give it a chance, their beliefs about what they can do will change, so a lot of times it becomes a matter of how big the ‘why’ is and if it is big enough to overcome self-doubt, less sleep and sore muscles.
So what is your why? I have noticed about myself that my emotional feelings about my workout program are far more positive when my why is something I want, rather than something I’m trying to avoid. To explain…I was a fat kid and I got bullied because of it. It sucks, but it’s true. My big “WHY” the first time I lost significant amounts of weight was to make myself ‘perfect’ so no one could ever pick on me for how I looked again. Now, if this isn’t immediately apparent (and it should be if you have any shred of common sense or emotional health) this is a terrible and unrealistic why. For many reasons. Having a fear driven ‘Why’ based on avoiding a negative consequence did lead to obsessive compliance and got the physical results. What I hadn’t bargained on was the overwhelming anxiety if I so much as missed a workout or gained a pound. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but my running from ‘why’ really messed me up and did not bring me joy, or health.
Fast forward a few years of interventions, a happy marriage, an intact spiritual life, two pregnancies and three babies later and my why has completely changed. It’s now ALL about staying healthy, and pride in performance, and staying as flexible as possible because these kids will KILL me if I don’t! I’m still bummed if I miss a workout, but I don’t hear people calling me names in my head anymore. With a positive ‘why’, I don’t beat myself up for not being perfect, I instead celebrate my progress. I let myself be human and enjoy the ride.
Interestingly, my ‘why’ today has brought me commitment, not compliance. I love my workout time, and I enjoy eating healthy. I don’t feel deprived and like I’m suffering. I feel like I’m helping myself achieve a really important goal.
If you keep telling yourself you ‘should’ change your eating or exercising behavior, but never do, I would really encourage you to look at your ‘why’. If they one you have isn’t serving you, how about coming up with a better one?