Summer is just around the corner, which means you’re probably going to consider dieting and slimming down.
You may consider buying new running shoes, supplements, and books filled with instructions on how to eat clean and detox your liver.
Not gonna lie, they probably won’t help.
The Boston Medical Center estimates that 45 million Americans diet each year and spend $33 billion annually on weight loss products; and yet The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that 2 out of 3 adults are overweight or obese.
How is it that we spend so much money and time on weight loss just to end up fatter than we were before?
Because we’re doing it wrong.
We shoot ourselves in the gut because we buy things and follow fad diets filled with promises of glory and desirableness.
We don’t diet for the right reasons.
And I’m not even putting “right” in quotation marks (well…I guess I did just then).
The right reasons for dieting have nothing to do with being popular or desired by others. They have nothing to do with fitting in or meeting society’s standards of beauty and strength.
Being fit and eating well is all about feeling good and taking personal responsibility for our bodies. It’s about taking good care of ourselves so we can take good care of the people we love the most.
Anytime we attach to superficial outcomes, we bet against ourselves in the long run.
Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look good. When we look good, we feel good. But we must decide ourselves what looking good means and not measure ourselves against other people’s expectations.
So, if you’re itchin’ to work on that hot body of yours this summer, make sure you set yourself up for success. Don’t make these mistakes:
1. Your purpose isn’t clear
It’s okay to want to look good, but trust me that’s not going to sustain you when all your trendy friends are sippin’ mojitos on a sunny patio during happy hour.
Dig deeper for a more substantial purpose that casts a shadow over all temptation.
To do this, just think about what’s most important to you. Then ask yourself “why” five to ten times until you hit bedrock.
For example, if you say getting is shape is important to you, ask yourself, “Why is getting in shape important to me?”
Maybe your response is, “Because I want to get rid of all this jiggly fat and see some muscle definition in my arms and legs.”
Then ask, “Why do I want to get rid of this jiggly fat and see muscle definition?”
Maybe your response is, “Because I can’t stand the way my legs flap around when I walk in jean shorts, and I really want to wear jean shorts this summer.”
Then ask, “Why is wearing jean shorts so important to me?” You can also ask, “Why can’t I stand it when I can feel my legs flap around when I walk?”
Maybe your responses are, “Because I want to look cute and trendy and not have to overheat in long pants when the sun is blazing,” and “Because I feel bad about myself and am reminded of all the bad habits I have and how I haven’t gotten in shape even though I’ve attempted it dozens of times in the past.”
Now we’re getting somewhere.
Ask, “Why do I feel bad about these habits and why do I feel bad about not being in shape already?”
I’m going to stop there for now and let you brainstorm some of the potential responses.
Now it’s your turn.
Ask yourself why you want to diet. Then ask “why” for all of your responses. Keep going, push yourself deeper and deeper into your own psyche until you hit bedrock and discover the underlying reason you desire a significant life change.
2. Your thoughts aren’t aligned with your goals
It’s easy to make our minds up about something and begin to take action. That’s why diet books are so great – they give us actionable steps to follow and begin right now.
But meal plans alone won’t get us closer to our goals.
We underestimate how impactful our daily thoughts are, especially the negative thoughts. The pattern of negative thinking is very powerful. Never underestimate it.
Instead of prioritizing trips to the “health” store, there needs to be a lot of mental preparation to ensure successful life change.
First, consider what you think about most of the time. Do it now. Look away from this article and let your mind wander.
What’s floating around? What events, topics, words, images, and memories come to mind?
Do they have anything to do with your goals? Are they counterproductive to your goals? Are they positive? negative? make you feel good or bad or neither?
Think about what you’re thinking about.
Then decide whether is makes sense to continue thinking those thoughts. Decide whether those thoughts align with the purpose you uncovered in the previous section.
Then say, “I think I’m thinking the thoughts,” ten times fast.
3. Your plan is not meaningful to you
You say you’re going to “eat clean” or “eat healthy.” What does that mean specifically? Are low-fat cookies and low-sodium potato chips considered healthy to you? How about bananas and grapes? There’s an awful lot of sugar in those… (Remember: Everything You Eat Is Bad For You)
You say you’re going to “cut back” on something. What does “cut back” mean? Consume one less per day? Not consume any at all? How will you keep track?
Are you going to follow a meal plan from a diet book or website? Do you ever actually eat those foods and do you typically keep them in stock? Do you know what to substitute in case you run out? Do you even know why you’re eating those foods in that order at those times of day?
Does any part of this diet you’re about to start mean anything to you at all?
Maybe it does. Or maybe parts of it do.
But overall, are you really just going to follow what someone else says is right for you without having any say in it?
When you know your true purpose and practice aligning your thoughts with your goals, you have the solid foundation necessary to create a strategy that ensures your own personal success.
Definitely use books and websites for guidance and a place to start. But empower yourself. Trust yourself. Experiment. Know that what you choose to do is a reflection of what’s most important to you.
Declare your purpose, align your thoughts with your purpose, then align your actions with your thoughts. That’s your strategy.
4. You focus on what you’re without
When we diet, our thoughts tend to drift to the things we no longer can consume. It’s totally normal and super powerful.
However, if our thoughts are aligned with our purpose, we won’t be worried about what we can’t eat or can’t do.
Rather, we’ll be thinking only of that which we can eat and can do.
And there’s really something to that “attitude of gratitude” thing, too.
I personally started a gratitude journal and have noticed significant changes in my everyday thinking habits. Every morning I write six things I’m grateful for. Here’s one of the lists I wrote:
Substituting thoughts of what we lack with thoughts of what we have makes a tremendous difference in how we view our lives.
Try it yourself. You don’t have to do the gratitude journal thing, but as you’re thinking about your thoughts, start letting go of “can’t, aren’t, don’t,” and start adopting “can, are, do.”
5. Your environment doesn’t support your goals
What you’re watching and reading, who you’re hanging out with, what grocery stores you go to, all play a huge role in the decisions you make.
Let’s face it, you’re reading this article because you haven’t achieved your goal yet and you are so frustrated that nothing has worked. Welp, like my buddy Al said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
If you really want to change your habits, you’re going to have to change what you’re exposed to.
And this environment conundrum goes hand in hand with focusing on what have instead of what you’re without.
Maybe you don’t need to focus as much on cutting back as you do on adding value to your life.
And honestly, telling people you’re making a life change might not be the best thing.
I used to think telling people your goals is a good thing. You put your goals out into the universe, tell your friends so they understand why you’re not coming to happy hour or ordering pizza… But telling people tends to put too much focus on the “change” aspect, and other people tend to feel threatened, so they inadvertently bug you a lot about this “change,” which can feel heavy over time and create unnecessary barriers in relationships.
Your decision is your decision. Period. It doesn’t have to be anybody else’s business. Unless you choose it to be.
This is a seriously personal thing you’re doing here. Be selective about who and what you allow to be a part of it.
6. You make drastic lifestyle changes and do too much at once
You don’t have to “go vegan” to get healthy. You don’t have to completely overhaul your life in order to achieve your goals. If fact you shouldn’t. Because the larger the change you try to make, the harder the fall will be when you don’t accomplish it.
And sorry if this sounds pessimistic – that’s not the intent. You know I’ll be your most supportive cheerleader for whatever you want to accomplish. But I know you, and I know that you’re probably not setting realistic goals for yourself.
You’re all excited about life change, getting healthy, summer, the outcome. You get high off the thought of what life will be like when you have <insert desire here>. But like all drugs, that high will fade and you’ll crash hard, only to feel defeated and more discouraged to start again in the future.
Doing too much at once will make you feel super productive, but you’ll burn out.
Focus on small things. Little tweaks. Baby steps. Trust me, they add up quick.
Slow, intentional life modifications are essential for long-term success.
As long as you got your actions aligned with your thoughts aligned with your purpose, any action you take will get you closer to where you truly want to be.
7. You sacrifice what you enjoy
You choose the wrong food. Food that you don’t like to eat, fad food that you don’t know how to use. Food you don’t know how to cook, expensive food, specialty store food, foods with names you can’t pronounce.
You’re not eating foods that taste good to you. You’re not eating what you enjoy. You’re not considering options other than cutting out the “bad” stuff.
Certain foods probably won’t make your “healthy” list, but as long as you’re working out and eating tons of veggies and lean proteins, is a smidge here and there really going to destroy everything you’re working towards?
Speaking of working out…
Do you hate running? It’s okay to say yes, I’m not going to be mad at you. If you hate running, why the heck would you sign up for a 5k?
You don’t have to do things just because they are popular and other people like doing them.
I’m sure there’s some sort of physical activity that you naturally enjoy over others. Skiing? Hiking? Swimming? Lifting weights? Crossfit? Yoga? Jazzercise? Zumba? Thighmaster-type stuff? (Just promise me you’ll wear neon leotards and leg warmers…I miss the 80’s…)
Is it possible that your bad habits are “bad” mainly because of the frequency, portion, duration, attachment, anxiety, deep rooted resentment, blah blah blah?
Is it possible that the “bad” thing you enjoy isn’t inherently bad, you’ve just attached to it too much and let it define who you are?
When you uncover your true purpose and align your thoughts and actions, it’s very likely that what you enjoy will change. It should. You’re growing, evolving.
But you ultimately get to choose what to allow in your life and in what capacity to allow it.
In order to truly grow and evolve and fulfill your purpose, don’t change who you are – become who you are.