One of the first questions I ask a new client before we start on their fitness program is “what is your main fitness goal?” People’s goals can vary quiet a bit. Some individuals want to lose weight while others want to gain weight…some want to move better and others just want more strength. Although goals can be different the true reason behind each goal can be narrowed down to one thing and it’s the same for almost everyone.
I discovered this one driving factor a few years into my fitness career. When people would tell me their fitness goals I would dig deeper and ask “why?” As I went deeper and deeper with each client something became very apparent…everyone wants to reach a fitness goal so that they can feel happy. “I just want to lose weight so I can be happy.”
It was at this point I realized something. Although I was a good trainer who was dedicated to my clients and to helping them getting to their goals, very few had achieved long-term success. Sure many would get to their original goal but eventually they would “fall off the wagon” and get right back to where they were before. I started to think that perhaps it had nothing to do with their training methods or diet…perhaps it had to do with their root driving factor. I started to think that maybe it was all backwards.
Rather than aiming for a goal so that they could be happy, they had to be happy first. I changed my approach and started teaching my clients to train and eat because they love their bodies instead of hating their bodies. Then things started to really take off. Clients succeeded faster and their success seemed more effortless. They also STAYED fit and healthy. Their techniques and training methods didn’t change but HOW they applied them did.
You see, although hating your body is a powerful motivator initially it will eventually drive you to make decisions that aren’t the best for you. Here is an example…imagine you hate your belly. To you its disgusting and ugly and you just want it gone. You are angry with yourself for even letting yourself get a belly. Now think of how this motivates you. If you have a hard and stressful day at work or if you didn’t get a good nights sleep…but you really HATE your belly so you force yourself to get to the gym. The workout you choose to do is intense because you really hate your body and the pain you feel and how tired you are part of the punishment. You don’t deserve to feel good cause you hate your body. This attitude of hating yourself is a very powerful initial motivator…until it isn’t. At some point you get sick of hating your body. At some point your “willpower” fades and you just want to feel good. You “fall off the wagon” and say “screw it, I just want to love myself now and feel good.” So you stop all exercise and you BINGE on your favorite foods. Does this cycle sound familiar?
Also consider the exercise choices you make under the pretense of hating yourself. Maybe your body actually needed a LOW INTENSITY workout day on the day you were really stressed out and tired? Maybe what your health needed was some sleep? You can’t make the best decisions if you hate yourself.
Lets use a different example. Lets imagine that you look in the mirror and you objectively notice that your body is reflecting poor health. You don’t confuse your body image with your self image…you simply see that you haven’t been taking good care of the body you have but this doesn’t make you a bad or disgusting person. In fact you realize how much you LOVE yourself and you want to start taking care of it. Now when you go to the gym the workouts you choose are APPROPRIATE. The foods you choose don’t feel restrictive, they feel nourishing. You ENJOY the process now because the entire time you are TAKING CARE OF YOU. Who doesn’t like to do that?
It is all about the process!!! If you workout and eat because you love yourself exercise and food become enjoyable. Ask yourself this question…if you truly enjoyed working out and eating right would you ever “lose” the motivation to do so? Of course not. Even taking time off from the gym or eating the occasional cupcake wouldn’t be covered in guilt because you made those decisions to take care of YOU. Yes, taking time off from the gym can be the right thing if your body, mind or emotions are fried and that cupcake can be healthy for other parts of you besides just your physical self.
Once you process and make this shift in how you think about exercise and diet the rest is easy. Remind yourself that you LOVE yourself and watch how well you end up taking care of yourself.
Author: Sal Di Stefano
Sal is one of the hosts of the Mind Pump podcast. At age 18 his passion for the art and science of resistance training was so consuming that he decided to make it his profession and become a personal trainer. By 19 he was managing health clubs and by 22 he owned his own gym. After 17 years as a personal trainer he has dedicated himself to bringing science and TRUTH to the fitness industry.
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