Just cut it out - it’s not working. You’ve tried over a hundred or thousand times, only to be met with failure, relapse and plateaus. You’ve always had an answer for it: Try more! Keep digging, eventually you’ll come out the other side.
The reality is that you do too much of the wrong thing and too little of the right thing. Your whole lifestyle is set up to create bad habits and zero results. No wonder you aren’t making progress. So do yourself a favor and read today’s article as we delve into the components of success and how to do a lot more with a lot less.
As human beings, our strongest asset and perhaps best evolutionary adaptation is our ability to mimic. Monkey see, Monkey do. This has allowed us to adapt to hugely different environments, learn from each other and have a better understanding of the world. We even have neurons specifically designed to mimic called mirror neurons. It’s most obvious in young children which you can see roleplaying and mimicking their way to learning languages and understanding complex ideas.
Less obvious, though, is how we mimic in our day to day life. It turns out our minds are closely attuned to what’s going on and constantly mimicking it.
So how does this relate to efficiency and why you keep failing?
You <--> Environment continuum
Since you are constantly absorbing outside stimuli, interpreting it and even mirroring it, it becomes very clear that what happens around you has a very strong effect on just about everything inside of you. In essence: you are your environment. This also means that making simple changes in your environment can have a strong effect on your habits and behaviors. And that's good since it’s a lot easier to change something like your desk layout than it is to change deeply held convictions.
The goal here is to establish environments and structures to promote good habits and discourage bad habits. Good habits help you reach your goals.
Imagine coming home to a delicious, nutritious and balanced meal and compare that to coming home to a KFC bucket. What do you do in each situation? Almost opposite things.
Eating better with no willpower
Cut down on bad food influences. That means things like watching commercials, staring at food porn, and having bad foods at home. I’ve noticed this effect everytime we’d buy a pint of haagen dazs. Like magic, when there was ice cream in the freezer, I would get strong cravings for ice cream. When the ice cream ran out, my cravings faded away... until the next time we bought it - which we don’t anymore.
Don’t have food in front of you when you’re not eating. Some people like to keep snacks - healthy or otherwise - at their desk or within arm's reach, unfortunately this increases a person’s cravings and appetite. Keep healthy snacks with you, but save them in their proper place and time. Random snacking throughout the day is one the biggest calorie contributors to a person’s diet.
Prepare meals in advance. When you are well-fed and have good energy you won’t have issues cooking and putting together meals. The mistake most people make is waiting until they are starving before they start thinking about preparing food - ironically this is when you have the least willpower and energy to remedy the situation. More often than not, they succumb to junk and take out. Not very smart. Have easy staples that you can prepare quickly and that you like to eat.
Example easy meals
- Gourmet sandwiches
- Quick Pita/Tortilla pizza
- Healthy nachos/tacos
- Healthy stirfry
- Fruit and greek yogurt
Eat at specified times (With some flexibility). You have a good sense of yourself: what times you start to get hungry, when does your energy dip, when do you get really busy at work. Use that knowledge to structure your diet and plan ahead. Imagine if you have lunch at 12pm and just chug along until you’re hungry again. Finally hunger hits at 6pm, but you are really busy - welp, time to mainline some bigmac sauce.
Eating every 3-5 hours is a good rule, but keep it (a bit) flexible. Half an hour late or 20 minutes early to a meal is practically the same - the goal is to get that meal in. This helps maintain good blood sugar levels, keep hunger at bay, and maximize your mood and energy levels.
Make healthy food the easy choice. Go grocery shopping and cook foods in bulk regularly. If your fridge and pantry is chock full of healthy and delicious food, you’re a lot more likely to pick something from there rather than get take out. Staples that we always bulk cook:
- Whole chicken
- Chicken breast
- Pork tenderloin
- Rice and other grains
- Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes/Squash
If you are 5 minutes away from a healthy and delicious meal and 30 minutes away from a shitty McDonalds one, which one will you pick?
Stop overdoing it. Most people think they have to feel the BURN and go through a near death experience on the elliptical to get a good workout. That’s an awesome way to get really sore, miss the next couple of gym workouts and hate the gym for life. When you first start to exercise, your fitness ability is extremely low. The only way to bring it up is through regular exercise.
Intensity early on doesn’t matter, in fact, too high intensity will increase your chance of injury and make it slower to learn proper form. Start light, do plenty of warm up, ramp up, hit a good intensity and go rest. Consistency is the key, and as your fitness improves, so will the intensity. Slow and steady is how the best success stories are achieved.
Drop the mindnumbing cardio and do something exciting. Who would have thought peddling an immobile bike for 40 minutes was boring? Exercise can be plenty fun and exciting, you just have to avoid repetitive, lukewarm movements. When you enjoy your exercise, it becomes a source of energy and motivation rather than yet another drain on your willpower and another reason to give up already. Go for a hike, play sports, go for walks, start biking or just do a fun and effective workout that challenges and engages you.
Start lifting. Not only will you get stronger, faster, fitter and improve your definition, but you will do shorter workouts. With lifting you only have to hit the gym 3 times a week to get great results. Focus on big compound movements like squats, deadlift, pull ups, bench. Start with light weight, high rep for your warm up and finish heavy weight low rep for the final sets in a movement. It’s fine to start with dumbbell movements like goblet squat and dumbbell row to get the form down before moving onto their barbell equivalent.
Do intervals instead of steady state. Basically alternate short bouts of high intensity with rest in between for any cardio movement. This can be done for walking, jogging, running, biking, stairs, any movement that gets your heart rate up.
Some solid intervals (Add a 3-5 minute break when needed) - adjust intervals based on your fitness level:
- 30 second fast, 1 minute slow (Repeat 6-12 times).
- 1 minute fast, 1 minute slow (Repeat 6-10 times)
- 2 minute jog, 30 second sprint, 2 minute walk (Repeat 3-5 times)
It can be as formal or as informal as you like; stick with a strict 30sec/60sec protocol, or just through in a few blocks of running in your half hour walk. Couch25k is another great way to get started with intervals.
Keep exercise close. Just like you want to keep healthy food at the ready, active lifestyle is not just about having a training plan you sort of do, or a gym membership you use for the first couple weeks of January. Stay active during the day by taking frequent breaks from desk work, incorporating a standing desk or other respite from constant sitting.
For gym training, stick with what is easy and realistic for your situation. If you never get to the gym, it doesn't matter how awesome your training plan is. Learn how to do bodyweight movements and you can do a complete workout anywhere. Try some walking or jogging routes around your neighborhood, or invest in some home equipment like dumbbells and resistance bands. There's no need to fuss about what's optimal or perfect, just get some activity in how and when you can and you're already on the road to improvement.
Exercising, eating better and just having overall better lifestyle isn’t that hard. Often times it’s even easier than what you are doing now. It just requires knowledge, planning and forsight. Stop spinning your wheels, gritting your teeth and trying to strongarm results, and start working smarter.
My favorite technique is always take a step back from any problem I’m facing, take a deep breath and sit down with a pen and paper. 95% of the time I’m able to figure out the solution within 5 minutes.