September 10, 2012
Last week, my wife made coconut ice cream.
It was good.
So I had one serving. Then another. Then another.
It was mouth-watering, chocolate-mint flavored and mildly guilt-free – aside from the fact that I hounded down about 1200 calories worth of it in a half hour.
What about you?
Do you ever just go ape nuts on your diet and have a complete crash-and-burn like this? Fortunately for me, it was just one night, but sometimes stuff like this can happen for an entire weekend, or in some cases, weeks or months!
So last week, Chris Janzen (the mental performance coach for Pacific Elite Fitness) and I began discussing how we could better help people like me better stick to a nutrition plan and avoid a diet “crash-and-burn”.
First, Chris created this short and sweet nutrition survey to help us understand how we can better help you stick to a healthy diet without throwing up your hands in despair.
But he went even further than that, and also wrote a fantastic piece below, in which he reveals the 3 reasons we can have a hard time sticking to our nutrition plan.
I'd highly recommend you check out Chris's great advice below, and then be sure to leave your thoughts, comments or questions below (and don't forget to take that nutrition survey!)
“When it comes to improving your health and fitness, we all know that having the right information and knowledge about nutrition is often just half the battle.
What you actually do on a consistent basis with that knowledge, is what will truly determine the results you get.
And sometimes the gap between ‘knowing what to do’ and ‘doing what you know’ creates the biggest frustration of all – an inner conflict that can be painfully wide…and annoyingly persistent.
Not doing what you know and not living up to your promises to yourself can be a silent killer. A killer of your goals for being more healthy, killer of ambition to take on bigger fitness challenges, or the killer of the simple yet deep desire to lose a jeans size.
Despite easy access to great information and plans, even the best of intentions and best of efforts can leave you wishing you had more discipline, confidence and motivation, on a consistent basis, to better follow through with your ideal nutrition approach.
In more than 20 years of studying, teaching and coaching in human potential and high performance I see the same mistakes being repeated over and over by people trying to fix the symptoms and not the causes.
Symptoms might show up as excuses like…
“I’m too busy”
“I’m too tired”
“I’m overwhelmed with information”
I just can’t resist the ______ (chocolate, ice cream, pizza, chips)”
“I just need to try harder”
But those are symptoms of not seeing the real problem.
Sticking to your nutrition plan is not an issue of changing what you eat, it’s an issue of changing how you think and how you behave.
Changing or improving your behavior doesn’t have to be hard, and it can be a lot easier than you’re making it out to be.
To make lasting change, you must understand three things about how we humans are designed:
1. We like the path of least resistance.
We are hardwired for self-preservation. That means conserving everything as much as possible…calories, physical energy, mental energy, emotional energy, etc. This directly affects the decisions we make and the action we take.
And because we like the path of least resistance we generally respond to change in one of four ways:
a. Procrastinate – we acknowledge something is amiss in our lives but we decide we can delay taking action until some later time (and be no worse off)…”I know I’m 10lbs heavier than I was a month ago. But there’s a big BBQ after the game this weekend. I’ll deal with it next week (or whenever).”
b. Rationalize – we acknowledge the conflict but downplay it in our mind “It’s only 10lbs. I’m still not as fas as I was back in ’98 and my clothes still fit. No big deal…”
c. Suppress – we try to completely ignore it or push it out of our minds “Hmmm. 10 lbs. I have too much other stuff on my plate to worry about than this…”
d. Accept – we acknowledge it and basically tell ourselves that this is the way things are and there’s no point trying to change it “I’ve always been big boned but I guess this is what happens when you turn _____ (insert age you’re trying to get over)…”
When we engage in any of these behaviors we are effectively resolving our conflict in the moment. But the actual reality is we’re not solving anything. It feels like we are but we’re not.
So why aren’t we doing the right thing?
2. We are ruled by our habits.
In order to conserve as much as possible, we automate the vast majority of how we think, react, decide, feel, and behave.
Modern sciences have reached a general consensus that a full 95% of our thinking and behavior is subconscious, reactive or habitual. That means only 5% of what we do comes from conscious choice and thinking.
Can you see the implications of this?
When we want to adopt new eating behaviors, and do it consistently, it requires conscious effort. Yet we’re a 5% David fighting against the 95% Goliath of our unconscious mind that clings to current habits.
What’s more, the National Science Foundation estimates that we have 12,000-50,000 thoughts per day (depending on how deep of a thinker you are) and roughly 90% of those will be the same as yesterday.
The odds for doing something new are clearly stacked against us.
For most people, in this role of underdog, the front line in the battle for change is trying to summon enough inner strength and determination. Unfortunately…
3. We have a limited supply of willpower.
Even for the most successful and accomplished people on the planet, having “enough willpower” when it comes to eating and nutrition, can be an immense challenge.
Especially if that person seems to have ample willpower in one area of life, it can be confusing why they can’t ‘just do it’ when it comes to adhering to their nutrition plan.
The answer to why, is in part revealed by groundbreaking research by Roy Baumeister, Head of Psychology at Florida State University and one of the world’s most prolific and influential social psychologists. After studying thousands of people in and out of laboratories, his experiments consistently demonstrated two things:
1. We have a finite resource of willpower that gets depleted the more you use it.
2. The same stock of willpower is used across situations and all manners of tasks.
You use the same supply of willpower in keeping attention in long meetings, being frustrated in traffic jams, coping with demanding children and even making decisions.
‘Decision fatigue’ refers to the fact that the more decisions you make throughout the day, the more fatigued your willpower is, and less effective you are to carry through on the promises you made yourself in the morning. And when you use willpower to resist something you want, you become even more vulnerable to temptations.
No wonder the chocolate muffins in the office at 3pm are so alluring and you can’t bring yourself to actually order the salad while your friends are digging into the pizza and fries.
So that’s the battle ground upon which you fight to adopt and consistently execute your nutrition plan.
The good news is it’s not all bad news.
Quite the opposite really…
If you’ve struggled to make the changes or adopt consistent behaviors it may not be your fault. You just haven’t been shown the right way for you and the right strategies to overcome our natural human tendencies and barriers to change.
So this is your chance.
Ben and I are looking to create a brand new program to finally address these major hurdles and help you break bad habits, eliminate the feelings of overwhelm, create a manageable approach to implementation that easily fits into your lifestyle and can be enjoyable to execute.
But first we need to know more about YOUR biggest challenges, bad habits and gaps in your behavior that you’d like to eliminate.
So please click here to take the survey and tell us what’s on your mind and in your way of being your healthiest, fittest, and best self.
And feel free to leave your comments or questions below. Heck, even if you don't want to take the survey, you can at least write a quick note below about what you find makes it's hardest for you to stick to a nutrition plan.