I've never been a cat person, so it's difficult for me to admit that we could all learn something from a cat. Although in this case I'm talking about the Cheshire Cat. When you take some of the Cheshire Cat's bits of wisdom and apply it within the context of health and wellness, you'd be surprised how applicable it is. Take a look at this exchange between Alice and the Cat.
Cheshire Cat: Well that depends on where you want to get to.
Alice: Oh, it really doesn't matter, as long as...
Cheshire Cat: Then it really doesn't matter which way you go.
Alice: ...so long as I get somewhere!
Cheshire Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if you only walk long enough
This could be the beginning of about 90% of the conversations I have with people when they first come through the door of Dynamic, although I try to be less sarcastic than the cat, and certainly less purple. Most people who want to get in shape need help getting there, but they don't really know where it is they want to get to. It's the not knowing where you want to get to that causes the failure to achieve results. You simply can't get a result, if you don't know what it is you want to achieve. "I want to get in shape and lose about 10 pounds" is no less ambiguous than Alice claiming that she doesn't care where she goes as long as she gets somewhere. Conversely, "I want to get to 15% bodyfat and be able to run my first 10k in 6 months" is a specific, measurable goal that you can wrap your head around and track progress towards. In my own experience, and in my experiences coaching others, the success rate of people with specific goals is an order of magnitude better than those without.
This comes down to how bad do you really want it. Everybody wants to be fit and healthy. Everybody wants to be strong and sexy. Then why isn't everybody? Ever look around yourself at the business travelers in an airport? How about a food court at the mall? You see many fit, healthy, strong, sexy people? I'm pretty sure you don't, and I'm also pretty sure it's not because they don't want to be. I think it may be that they just don't truly want it, because it would mean making a bunch of sacrifices that they don't really want to make. Getting fit and healthy is simple, but it's not easy. It's exercising at least 5 hours a week. It's eating right at least 90% of the time. It's getting to bed as early as you can so that you can get the right amount of sleep. That's really about it, folks. 3 things. Problem is that a lot of stuff has to happen to be able to achieve them. You might have to give up beers and nachos after work every Friday night. You might need to get up an hour earlier so you can workout 3x a week. This, by the way, means going to bed an hour earlier and not staying up to watch TV. Fast food? Pizza? Seriously?
It can't be found at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.
Cheshire Cat: The uninformed must improve their deficit, or die.
Sounds harsh, but I didn't say it. The cat did. So let's look into the meaning a bit. Let's say that you are, what we in the field call de-conditioned, which is our technical term for really out of shape. I have had people with as much as 100 extra pounds of de-conditioning come to me and, with a straight face, say, "I know what to do. I eat really clean. sdfhserertlkhsdfsdgfsdflkg...." That last part isn't a typo. That last part is my brain short-circuiting when somebody who has 100lbs of de-conditioning to lose, starts our conversation with "I know what to do, I eat really clean...". Doesn't really matter what they say next, my left eye started twitching as my mind tried processing the strange sounds coming out of the person's mouth. If they are eating really clean, then I can only assume that to mean they haven't been dropping their food on the floor or eating out of garbage cans. They are clearly uninformed about what "eating clean" is and they must improve their deficit, or they will die of one of many preventable diseases brought on by poor lifestyle choices.
"If I ordered this without the bun, then it would be a "clean" meal. Right?.... Right?"
Cheshire Cat: Every adventure requires a first step.
I think the Cat stole this from Confucius, but whatever, it's valid. You have to take the first step, and THE FIRST STEP HAS TO BE SETTING THE GOAL! Yes, I was yelling, because it's really, really crucial. The goal has to be specific and it has to be measurable. If you want it, and I mean truly want it, then do not be vague with what it is that you want. Define it. Own it. That's the first step. There is no other step, there is no progress towards anything, until the goal has been set.
You do not get to pass GO until the goal has been set.
Cheshire Cat: Steps to enlightenment brighten the way; but the steps are steep. Take them one at a time.
I alluded to this in a previous post, but you can't overwhelm yourself with trying to do too much too soon. I know how hard it is. Everybody just wants things to be good... RIGHT.... FREAKIN... NOW! I know the feeling, I've lived it. I'm old enough and have experienced enough bad stuff to understand the desire to want things to be fixed immediately. Having overcome most of the craters I created over time I also know that it doesn't work that way. It's a process, it takes time. It takes planning, commitment, dedication, and perseverance. In this article, we are talking about getting healthy and fit, and within that context, making progress is largely habit based. Getting more exercise, eating healthy, getting the right amount of sleep. These are behavioral goals. You achieve these goals by affecting your behavior and adopting new habits. But it is very important to only adopt one new habit at a time. In "The Power of Less", Leo Babauta shares this data:
- Adopting one new habit at a time results in an 85% chance of success
- Adopting two new habits at once: a 35% chance of success
- Adopting three or more new habits at once: less than 10% chance of success
If you're interested in achieving your goals, then not only do you need to adopt one habit at a time, but it has to be easy. On a scale of 0 to 10, if you were asked what is the probability of being able to perform the task required of the new habit, with 0 being "no way" and 10 being "that's so easy you're an idiot for even asking me", it has to be a 9 or a 10. If you currently believe that candy corn is a vegetable, then trying to adopt a new habit of eating 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day is probably going to be about a 1 on our 0-10 scale. Don't bother. You're just setting yourself up for failure. If your current diet has the nutrient density of a kettlebell, then let's start with something like taking a tablespoon of fish oil a day and a multivitamin. It's simple (should be a 9 or 10) and you get high impact with little effort. Be successful with this one every day for 2-4 weeks and let's move on to the next habit. Over time you will absolutely make progress and it will be lasting. For what it's worth, I have a nutrition coaching certification and this is exactly the process that I can help coach you through. We set realistic, measurable goals, identify limiting factors, and adopt habits that will stick until the goal is achieved.
When you find yourself at the bottom, the surest way out is one step at a time.
Cheshire Cat: And you've picked up a bit of an attitude, still curious and willing to learn, I hope.
You will get frustrated along the way. You will try some things that won't work. You may have those "screw it" moments that derail you for days or weeks. But you have to recover. This is the rest of your life you're talking about. You can be 67 years old with a counter full of medications and a calendar full of doctor appointments, or you can be making plans to be taking your grandchildren on vacation to Disney World. It's up to you and it happens now. Get yourself back on track and fix it. You can't give up, ever.
How do you want your grandkids to remember you?
So there you have it. You will never be able to watch Alice in Wonderland the same way again. With 2013 around the corner and much of the population looking to better themselves, I highly recommend the Cheshire Cat's advice.
Next time we will have a look at how the Mad Hatter's quotes apply to those who have been successful losing a lot of weight.
Mad Hatter: You used to be much more... muchier. You've lost your muchness.
Until then, Happy New Year!!