Don’t Be A Rezzy

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It’s Monday, January 1, 2018. If ever there was a confluence of timing to get you fired up to do something you’ve never done before, the first Monday of the first day of the new year would be it. Before you burst with anticipation for burning down the gym with your new workout plan and pairing it with a diet that would make a Trappist Monk look like a glutton, let’s step back just an inch from the starting line and consider a few things that will make your journey to find a “New You” more enjoyable, sustainable, and keep yourself from being lumped into that unenviable category of people collectively referred to as “Rezzies”.

A Rezzy is the bane of the regular gym-member’s existence: they spend hours on the stationary bikes and elliptical trainers, sweating like they’re trying to make weight for an upcoming UFC fight. You’re likely to find these creatures doing barbell curls in the squat rack and leaving their dumbbells on the gym floor in strategic locations most likely to cause the regular gym members to trip and fall. You have encountered this type of person in the office as they brag about their new diet that excludes carbs/fats/sugars/gluten/soy/dairy/meat/taste and may include a handful of supplements that are designed to maximize “fat-burn”. These folks are likely to post pictures of every meal on their social media feed along with videos of their latest “grind” of a workout. The only redeeming quality of a Rezzy is that there’s a 99.9% chance they’ll be out of your way by the end of January.

While we are all for regular exercise and eating well, an approach that takes someone from 0 to 60 miles-per-hour in the realms of fitness and nutrition most often ends in either a spectacular crash and burn or a whimpering retreat to old habits as the unsustainable reality of these New Year’s resolutions gets weighty. Either result comes from a lack of foresight to see potential roadblocks and recognition of a healthy approach to replacing old habits with new habits.

There are sustainable and realistic ways to add healthy habits to your life. Let’s look a little closer at how to make that happen.

Setting Realistic Expectations

In this day and age of social media and internet celebrity, there are a gaggle of internet fitness gurus promoting results in 30 days! (!). The perfect combination of diet and grueling exercise will give you the body of your dreams in record time.

Stop and ask yourself a few questions:

  • When was the last time I exercised regularly?
  • Do I like to cook?
  • What’s my ideal body composition? (hint: seeing all the lines between your abdominals is not realistic, sustainable, or even healthy for 99% of the population)
  • What makes me most happy? (if those answers include words like “pizza”, “ice cream”, “beer”, or “frappuccino”, a restrictive diet isn’t going to go well for you)
  • What kind of time am I willing to dedicate or have available to start a new exercise routine?
  • Is my partner, my family, and/or my friends supportive of my health/fitness goals?
  • What do I do when I make mistakes? Laugh? Yell at myself? Quit? Go on a bender? Pick myself up and get after it again?

Making lasting change in your health and fitness is a long walk, not a quick sprint. I’ve spent the better part of the last 5 years doing advanced testing to determine the optimum food, sleep patterns, and type of exercise to become the best version of me and I can tell you without a shred of doubt that the answer is a moving target. We are not static numbers on a page, we’re complex beings engaged in a dynamic culture and environment that constantly changes. Be prepared to learn, adapt, change, and overcome.

Make it Additive

When you set up your dietary plan in such a way that the words “don’t”, “avoid”,  or “abstain”, you’re simultaneously making it harder to stick to your plan and more likely you’re going to “cheat” or “binge” sooner rather than later.

Instead of swearing from here to eternity to abstain from steering your car through the Dairy Queen drive-thru, try adding in one new habit a week. As it relates to food, the easiest healthy habit you’re not doing is drinking a glass of water with a pinch of sea salt immediately upon waking in the morning. Your body is nearly 70% water and the stuff you drink out of your water filter lacks the minerals that are actually necessary for your body to absorb that 70 to 100 ounces you’re trying to drink every day. The sea salt solves that problem when you’re drinking water without food. When you’re eating, salt your food and drink plain water. If you’re rehabbing an injury or training in the gym on the regular, your tissues need water. If you don’t like the taste of water, grow up.

If you can master this first addition (meaning you can do it for 7 days in a row), try adding something else in week 2. Like eating a fist-sized serving of vegetables at every meal.

Just make sure you’re not adding more than 1-thing at a time. Adding a half-dozen new activities on Day 1 increases the degree of difficulty and chances of failure to a near exponential degree.

Master the Habit Loop

Creating a new habit that makes a lasting change is a goal many of us have set out to accomplish only to land in a big pile of failure. Understanding how habits are formed will open up the opportunity for you to replace those bad habits with better ones. Why is mastering your habits important? In 2006, researchers at Duke University discovered that over 40 percent of our daily routines are driven by subconscious habits, not conscious decision making.

There are 3 pillars of any habit: The Cue, The Routine, and The Reward. Here’s a simple visual example from the book “The Power of Habit”, by Charles Duhigg:

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The cue is your trigger, the visual, auditory, or kinesthetic sensation that causes you to begin a routine. In the diagram above, the notification on the cell phone triggers the individual to perform their routine, in this case, checking their e-mail. The reward is the craving your brain has that your routine is meant to satisfy. For the habitual or compulsive e-mail checker, clicking on the notification to check their e-mail inbox satisfies their craving for distraction or assuages their fear of missing out.

Changing a habit isn’t about stopping a bad habit or creating an entirely new loop. You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it. We know that new habits are most easily formed when you keep the cue and the reward the same and change the routine.

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Simply changing your routine is not enough. You’re going to have bad days, you’re going to have stressful times when eating well or sticking to your exercise routine aren’t going to be easy or convenient for you. And that’s why you need something else to create lasting habit change: belief and community.

Believing that change is possible has been identified as one of the strongest factors to lasting habit change. Belief is best supported and upheld when you are a part of a community. Even if it’s just one other person you can talk to on a regular basis, the likelihood of you making lasting change improves exponentially when you are connected with other people.

Bringing it Home

You are capable of achieving tremendous things. Some of the most successful people I have talked to and worked with are normal people like you and me, often with less advantages than we have today when they started out, who achieved great things through simple consistency. The people we hold up as heroes of change or aspire to be are often the people with the simplest routines coupled with the increasingly uncommon drive to play the long game.

The idea of the lone wolf or solo entrepreneur who made it big is simply a lie. We are meant to live in community and help one another. Here at Restore/Thrive, we always say, “Everyone needs a coach.” Whether that’s to solve a nagging injury or figure out what type of exercise is right for you, we’re here to help you solve those questions you have. Give us a call or set up a free 30-minute consult by clicking the schedule button above.

And Happy New Year’s!

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