I have worked with trainers and other health professionals in the past who have recommended diet after diet, training program after training program, and quite literally, riding the wave of trends. One that stands out, for example, is a diet consisting of no carbohydrates, no dairy, and no coffee - and daily exercise consisting of 60 minutes of either high volume weights training, or running. Now, I don't know how many of you have tried eliminating carbohydrates from your diet, but it's awful. Add dairy to that, and then add coffee - and suddenly you are not a very pleasant person to be around!
Ironically, these outrageous meal and exercise plans recommended by the trainer never actually resulted in the trainer being a “healthy” person. In fact, this particular trainer yo-yo'd in weight just as much as any client I have ever seen.
Speaks measures, doesn't it?
There is a point to this story, and the point isn't simply declaring my dislike for outrageous nutrition and exercise plans.
The point is, this is the very thing that is holding us all back from achieving great long-term results.
“I'm just on a break from my nutrition plan, but once I get back into it, I'll be good again”.
I cannot tell you how often I have heard someone say something along these lines to me. It's so common, I am usually finishing their sentence for them!
Most people think they need to do some kind of Herculean, enormous, epic effort to accomplish a goal, and when they're not doing that effort - they think that is their fault - like it's some kind of personal weakness of willpower or discipline. Of course, people think that because thats the way we have been programmed, and if we can't white-knuckle our way through a restrictive meal plan, we are weak or lazy.
Unfortunately, people don't actually draw the connection between the fact that the thing that they believe "works", is the same thing thats causing them to fail. This is so hard for people to understand because it requires you to flick the switch between short, mid and long-term consequences.
In the case of the trainer above, they recommended daily intense exercise, and this sucky no carb, no dairy, no coffee diet - where you are eliminating whole food groups.
All this teaches you is to white-knuckle through this deprived, epic effort (when life is perfect) - and thats the skill you learn.
You learn that in order to get results, you must be in the perfect life situation, free from holidays, work stress, injury, illness, time restrictions, lack of motivation, etc.
The skill you never learn, is how to continue under any set of life circumstances.
I don't know about you, but life is never perfect. Life is busy, life is stressful, and things happen every single day that tempt us to throw away our perfect meal plan and eat whatever and whenever we like.
People always take on projects that are much bigger than they are capable of doing, and they do them on their best days only. They then only build the skill of going really hard, when its possible to go really hard, and they never build the skill of figuring out how to maintain or even make progress when life is, how life is.
Let's take a look at the concept of "Always something, versus all or nothing".
It's this idea that you're not going hard or doing nothing, it's that you're going to do always something, a little something every day.
In the context of diet, that might mean, don't get rid of whole food groups, just figure out how to eat moderately on any given day of the week so you can sustain this over the holidays, or when life gets stressful.
When it comes to exercise, what if you could find an exercise program that only took 10 minutes per day, 4 times per week, instead an hour of running every single day?
This advice isn't particularly sexy - but to every single person thats yo-yo’d, be it a woman thats done weight watchers, or a man who was in shape in his 20’s, but is now trying to figure out what happened - every single person that has been through these ups and downs, knows what I'm talking about.
The problem is, it's really hard to connect the dots. We are programmed not to make this association, and we are lead to believe that we aren't getting results due to a personal deficiency, because we are weak, or because we are lazy.
The men in their mid 30’s, who say “if only i had the time to work out like i did in my 20’s, I wouldn't be so fat!”
You see - this isn't your personal deficiency, this is the fact that what you did in your 20’s never taught you the skill on how to do this!
The reality isn't that your weak, and it's not about needing to get back on the wagon, and it's certainly not about following a strict regime that you can only follow for certain periods of your life.
These yo-yo trends are the exact consequence of these behaviours, and the reality is that you chose something - you learned something - that you can't possibly do during most of your life.
And thats what you have to fix, not your schedule, but what your putting your faith in “works”.
Drew is a personal trainer and nutritionist and is the co-founder of Evexia Wellbeing. Drew specialises in long-term habit change, body composition training, and mindset.