Everyone knows a big fitness enthusiast when they see one. They’re usually the person carrying around their tupperware and gallon of water, itching for another hour to go by so they can eat their next meal (I’ve been here, and still am a little….just to a lesser extreme). I think a lot of people who initially get into fitness go through this phase, mostly because they’re scared of going backwards and think they have to be spot on with everything. Here’s the problem, those who are thinking about getting into fitness, whether it’s to lose weight, look better or just feel better, see these people and believe that’s the way things have to be done. Well, maybe not, let’s take a look.
I have to lead off by saying this, getting back in shape is work. It takes patients, time and discipline. So don’t get your hopes up and think I’m getting ready to tell you that you can eat whatever you want and lose weight (that would be way too convenient after all). I think we’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule. If not, it simply states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. We’re going to use this rule in a little bit of a different manner and place it on a continuum. I’ll use an example to explain.
Let’s say you have 100lbs to lose, you’re nutrition consists of Pop Tarts for breakfast, fast food for lunch and Hungry Man dinners…usually followed by a nice midnight snack, and you’re exercise consists of getting off the couch to grab another beer. Oh, and all you drink is soft drinks and beer. Right now, 0% of your lifestyle is what we’ll call matched (inline with how our bodies were meant to eat and move) while 100% of your lifestyle is what we’ll call mismatched (not matched with what our bodies were meant to eat and how they were meant to move)…..this is the right side of our continuum. Monday you decide that maybe all this beer and soda isn’t the best thing for you and decide to start replacing it all with water. Over the next month you’ve lost 10lbs and have slid left on our continuum from 0/100 to 10/90. Next, since you’ve seen some results you’re curious how exercise will help bump this along, so you start working with a personal trainer 3 days a week. This month is another good 10lbs gone and you have bumped over again to 40/60. Your weight loss has stalled out so your trainer advises that it’s time to nail down your nutrition. That Monday you start eating all whole foods, nothing processed, every 3 hours on the button, carrying your gallon jug of water with you everywhere, taking your fish oil every morning and sleeping 8 hours a night. Weight is falling of you over the next month and you’ve jumped to the opposite side of the continuum to 100/0. Suddenly after a few months you start to slack on your workouts, start missing meals and replacing them with beers and the weight starts to come back. So what happened?
Change over time is essential. We’re creatures of habit, so making a bunch of drastic changes over a short period of time typically leads to short term gains but long term failure. As you get started with your fitness goals, it is important to move up the continuum slow, but not too slow. It’s also important to understand that, once you have made all your changes and are on the far left side of the continuum, you should stay there, but only for a short period of time. The closer you are to your goal, the further to the left you must be. Once you have reached your goal, however, we can settle back to 80/20. But understand that every once and a while you should sneak back over to 100/0 to keep yourself honest.
Keeping things in moderation is important, not only in fitness, but in life in general. Some of us can stand to be more strict because our personality allows us to do so, but the ones who can stay to the left for an extended period of time are few and far between. These outliers are the exception, not the rule, so beating yourself up because you can’t eat perfect 100% of the time like Jane isn’t the answer. Find your 80/20 and you’ll be successful.