Tough Love for Attaining a Fit Lifestyle
Just the other day I was interviewed by a local news network here in Tulsa and they really wanted to know just one thing. Their question was a simple one, but was one that I feel is of paramount importance to you, to me and to people who are trying to improve in general. Of course this includes anyone wanting to improve the look, feel and function of their body, but it goes beyond that and has an impact on literally every aspect of a person’s life. The question they asked was this:
What is the most important factor for someone trying to improve their physical fitness?
At this point in my two decade fitness career, I am fairly certain with the answer I provided. In my opinion, a system of support and accountability is the primary factor that will determine whether or not a person will achieve a healthy fit body or achieve just about anything else for that matter. You may say, “but Jared, a person has to decide to be successful before they can achieve success”. To this I say, nonsense! That is not a true statement. We have seemingly endless examples of people who have achieved amazing success in various aspects of life, but they themselves did not necessarily want to be successful. In these instances, people achieve success for other reasons; to please their parents, to gain favor of a potential love interest, to live up to the standards they feel society, their family or the people in their environment place on them. People do not need to decide to be successful in order to achieve it, they do not have to “want it” more than everyone else and they do not necessarily need to make sacrifices they otherwise would not have made. While all of these things could be part of a person’s recipe for success and achievement, they are not necessarily the primary reason for it.
As I stated previously, a system of support and accountability, in my opinion, is the primary reason people achieve success in fitness, in business, in life. We’ve already determined that people can achieve success by trying to please others – this is a great example of a system of support and accountability producing success. One of the simplest things to look at in order to see this is true is to look at the wealthy and famous families of America (or any nation for that matter). The Kennedy family, the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, take your pick. Generation after generation the family members that remain within the family unit without somehow alienating themselves or otherwise becoming the dumbass relative no one wants to acknowledge, become successful in their given ventures. Whether it be the furthering of the family’s business or political interests, or simply to forge a successful life of their own, there are scores of examples where the many members of these families have continued to create successful lives for themselves. Why? The answer isn’t magical, it’s because their families form a system of support and accountability for them. Being part of these families comes with certain expectations of social engagement, pursuit of higher education, community involvement and development and management of innovative businesses. It’s an unwritten rule that if you want to remain in good standing within the family then you’ll conduct yourself in a particular way.
Likewise, being healthy and fit can be made simpler, even easier, by developing a similar system of support and accountability. Unfortunately, many of us not only fail to create a solid system like I’ve described, but we actually create a system that supports and holds us accountable to lifestyles, behaviors, habits and actions that lead us further and further away from our health and fitness goals. Take any person who has repeatedly started a fitness program and allowed it to fade away just as quickly as it began only to become heavier, more unhealthy and more dissatisfied with themselves and their physical bodies.
This is a tough thing to acknowledge because for many of us, it requires admitting to ourselves that a large majority of the family, friends and people in our lives are not people that have a positive influence on us when it comes to working for and attaining a healthy and fit lifestyle. We’ve spent years cultivating social relationships that keep us out late eating and drinking. We worked hard for the chance to mix and mingle with the popular people who are now our friends but now hold us back from attaining our fitness goals because they would rather meet for dinner and drinks than meet you for a workout with your trainer. This is true of most people who struggle with their bodies. Ask yourself, how many times have you tried to improve your fitness lifestyle and how many times have you ended up dissatisfied with the outcome. There’s a saying I see quite often now but it’s absolutely indicative of what we are discussing. It says,
“If your tired of starting over, stop giving up”.
I know it seems like a no brainer, but think a little deeper for a moment. Why do you keep giving up? Why do you wake up one day and decide to “start over”? It’s because any support and accountability you had to keep pursuing your health and fitness goals was overpowered by the system of support and accountability you’ve created that opposes it. I’ve helped people work through this issue for many years. A lot of well meaning people consider beginning a fitness program, they join a gym, hire a trainer and after a few weeks realize getting fit amounts to a considerable amount to time, work and effort and they quit. Let’s think a little deeper once again and ask ourselves; given all the things they’ve put in place to help them, why then did they quit? The answer isn’t that hard to determine. It’s because even though they joined a gym, no one was going with them. Even though they hired a trainer, they hadn’t developed a lasting relationship with that trainer and therefore placed very little emphasis on what he or she thinks. So, after a few days or weeks of soreness, eating vegetables and skipping “fun time” with their unhealthy and unfit support system they decide that chips and salsa with margaritas is a more satisfying experience for the immediate present. Hence the cycle comes full circle only to begin again next time the person’s frustration and self-loathing of their physical body comes into their field of consciousness. Of course this usually happens just before some event that a person would like to look their best at. Again, this person sets themselves up for failure because they rely on the imminent event to provide the motivation for them and do nothing to improve the quality to people in their lives as they relate to achieving a fit lifestyle. So, as the date draws closer, it becomes less important, rationalizing unproductive behaviors begins, they begins letting their once determined efforts subside and before they know it, the event has come and gone and they haven’t improved one bit.
This is a huge topic, one we could discuss for days, weeks, months, but you get the picture. I encourage you to take a careful analysis of the goals you have for yourself. In particular, take into account your health and fitness goals. Write them down. If you don’t have any, then don’t waste your time, I understand that the healthy, fit lifestyle is not for everyone and there is nothing wrong with that. Above all be honest with yourself. However, if you do have serious health and fitness goals, write them down. Then take a piece of paper and draw a line vertically right down the middle. On one side of the line make a column for people that support your health and fitness goals both in action and word. And, you guessed it, on the other side of the line list the people who detract from your healthy fit lifestyle goals. Be honest! You don’t have to show the paper to anyone, it’s an exercise in personal reflection and personal honesty. You’re simply taking inventory of your positive and negative systems of support and accountability. It’s up to you what you do with the information, but this exercise puts you in a position of power. Whether or not you actually use the information you have is a personal decision only you can make. In the end, most positive movements in your fitness lifestyle will require pruning the overgrown hedges, or in this case people, who detract from your fitness goals and placing them into a role of less impact in your life. Changing your mind, body and life is hard work. It often requires changing your environment and the people in it.
Create a system of support and accountability that would rather go for a bike ride than meet you for lunch. Find people and programs that give you the support you need to be active, eat well and laugh a lot instead of sticking with the same ole people who frustrate you, put you down and make you feel guilty for trying to better yourself. It’s never too late to trim the hedges of your life! Spring cleaning doesn’t have to relate only to your home, it can relate just as well to your daily life and the people in it. Play with the idea of silently letting negative people and places slip away into the silence. Find ways to minimize your contact with people and places that support your negative actions and feelings while you work to surround yourself with happy, active, healthy and fit people who want you to join their ranks and share the wealth of living a fit, vibrant life with others.