Have you ever felt incredibly excited about something? Maybe it’s a project, a goal you are really excited about, and feel like you are so unstoppable. Then, with time, the immediate thrill of doing something awesome dwindles and you feel like you’re back to square one. Or worse, you hit a “down” that’s equal to and opposite of the “up” you felt when getting started on your goal.
A lot of people wish they could just feel pumped, motivated, and excited to be eating well and exercising every day. You know what? That’s all a lie. It’s like going and seeing those motivational speakers who get you all excited to go do something, and you get home, and nothing changes. Nothing has changed.
The thing is: excitement is just an emotion. Just like boredom and apathy are emotions. If we let our emotions decide our consistency, we would never achieve anything in life.
It’s not excitement or enthusiasm that determines how successful we will be with food and fitness, it’s our habits. Our automatic behaviors… the things we do when we aren’t pumped or “on fire” to change everything.
So how do we make changes in our health and fitness when we aren’t pumped, revved up, and ready to take on the world? Here’s how to create massive change in your life, your fitness, your body, without being “on fire.”
Be honest about your priorities
The truth is, most people have bigger priorities than fitness and nutrition, and that’s normal. You have a family, a career, hobbies, friends… maybe you’re in school, maybe you’re starting a business. For most people who are interested in making changes to their health and fitness, food and exercise falls around priority numbers 4-8. It’s rarely ever number one.
And it doesn’t need to be number one. There are very few people in the world who need fitness and nutrition to be their number one priority. It’s important to understand that for different people, there will be different motivational drivers:
Here are three motivational types I’ve discovered in my work with nutrition and fitness clients:
These are people whose life or livelihood depends on their nutrition and fitness. Examples would be professional athletes, bodybuilders attempting to earn a living as bodybuilders or fitness models, actors who have to look a certain way for a role.
While my livelihood depends on healthy eating and moving… it doesn’t actually depend on how ripped or chiseled my abs are, or how fast I can run. So I, personally, don’t fit in category #1. Chances are you don’t either.
These are the people whose desire to eat well and exercise is competing with many other things in their lives. They want to improve their lives, improve their health and fitness and feel better. It’s not their number one priority, and it doesn’t need to be either.
Most people wanting to create a healthier relationship with food and get fit fall into this category. I fall squarely in this category. While I do run a nutrition and fitness coaching business, I don’t find clients or attempt to create value by showing off my body: my body is NOT my livelihood. I am constantly distracted by my son, my business needs, my life… yet still am able to maintain a healthy, fit body (keep reading, I’ll show you how)
These are people who are motivated by shame, guilt, or fear. They feel shameful about how they look. They feel guilty about how they eat. They feel fearful of food. As a coach my first and only goal for people in this category is to get them out of this category into the “distracted” category. Once we can eliminate the fear, shame, and guilt, then we can start making some real changes and see real results.
While “distracted” may seem like a negative term for a lot of things, it’s actually the best way to approach your relationship with food because it’s just life.
Welcome to reality: If you don’t feel distracted from eating well and exercising regularly, I’d say you’re probably missing something in life because life is not about food and exercise. Food and exercise are meant to support and enhance your life. Not be the main focus of your life.
Creating massive change in your health and fitness… while distracted
While texting and driving is not ok, eating well and exercising within the confines of a distracting life is totally and completely normal (and possible). The key is to make changes in a way that supports your life as it is, rather than expecting you to decrease the distractions in your life.
Here’s the step by step process of how to do that:
Step 1: Eliminate unreasonable and unsupportive advice.
And the first thing you need to do: stop taking advice from the driven. No, really. Stop taking advice from professional athletes and body builders. Stop taking advice from celebrities that have to look a certain way for a certain role. Stop taking advice from Instagram celebrities whose fame and credibility is tied to how good their abs look in their pictures, and not their ability to help others achieve results. They generally assume everyone has the same resources, drive, and desire that they have. And when you don’t, they shrug it off as “you just don’t want it badly enough.”
(Oh and by the way… there are now Instagram photoshopping apps. So don’t even worry about their abs, they may not even be real)
Step 2: Fit food and exercise into the life you have now, not the life fitness gurus think you should have
Wake up at 5 am every day and get to the gym before your kids wake up… spend 5 hours every weekend preparing food for the week so you won’t eat out… meditate for an hour a day so you feel more centered… all advice that is great if your lifestyle supports it, and absolutely the worst advice if you have competing priorities that make this advice completely.
Instead of attempting to overhaul your life to try to fit into a set of expectations that just don’t work for you, find ways to fit food and exercise into the schedule you now have. Start small and make one change, consistently, until it feels natural. Then add to it.
Here’s one awesome example from one member of the Youtrition community:
You can’t always change your circumstances, but it’s likely that there are ways you can adapt to doing ONE SMALL thing differently right now. And that small thing, done consistently can have a bigger impact than you could ever imagine.
Step 3: Find consistent, internal drive:
I once heard the story of a famous motivational speaker who jumped on a mini trampoline backstage to get himself pumped to go speak to the audience.
And it pisses me off.
Because what the world needs is fewer gurus shouting at people and making them feel pumped in the moment, only to feel down and frustrated the next morning. If this guy can’t even be motivated without physically forcing his body to jump up and down, how do we stay motivated to make long term consistent changes?
The key is to get off the motivational roller coaster. The roller coaster that has you pumped one minute than apathetic the next. Instead, focus on creating steady, consistent, internal drive to do the things that are important to you.
Here’s how to do that:
- Create changes within your realm of competency – As humans we like doing things that we’re good at. We like feeling successful. This is why I recommend making small changes as opposed to massive overhauls. When we feel competent at the task we are performing, we’re more likely to feel internally motivated to do it.
- Recognize the immediate reward of each action – Our ultimate goal with any change we make is for it to become a consistent habit that we do automatically, without thinking. Imagine if lacing up your running shoes in the morning felt as natural as reaching for your phone. Neuroscience shows that in order to engrain a habit into our subconscious, the behavior itself needs to be rewarding.
- Know your why – Now, let’s be honest, not all gym sessions feel rewarding. Some feel monotonous, or dull. Others feel great. The goal is to, each time you do a task, remember why you are doing it. That long term reward, knowing your why, will help you consistently make changes that benefit you.
Fitness and nutrition doesn’t need to be your first priority, and in fact, it shouldn’t be. There are bigger priorities and thats ok. You don’t need food and exercise to be your number one priority in order to be successful at it. The key instead is to slowly and consistently fit new changes into your life, and to develop an internal drive to practice those changes consistently.