If you've done some Google searches on "how to lose weight" or "how to build muscle", there are thousands and thousands of results that pop up. From eating chicken and broccoli five times per day to eating whatever you want and doing a bunch of cardio, there seems to be endless "answers" to your questions. Interestingly enough, it's actually not the "best way to lose weight fast" that we're after.
The real question is this: What is the most optimal AND practical way to reach our health and fitness goals?
After all, what's optimal can't be the solution unless it's practical too.
The Dangers of Extreme Sacrifice
When it comes to health and fitness, one of the first things we think about is our physical appearance. When we do this, we tend to associate EVERY SINGLE DECISION along our fitness journey based on how it will affect our bodies. We make extreme sacrifices with other important things in life in order to achieve those goals. Why, though?
Well, extreme sacrifice is sexy and it sells, believe it or not. When people go on diets, they want to be acknowledged for their amazing will power and discipline. It's more "difficult" to go on a restrictive diet and reach their goal and the recognition they receive from their extreme sacrifice is what keeps them going. Although they won't admit it, it makes them feel juuuust a bit above everyone else. But what's so wrong with the extreme sacrifice?
Nothing is "wrong" with the idea of sacrifice whatsoever. If there's anyone that understands living like no one else so that later I can live like no one else, it's me. Trust me. But when it comes to balancing health, fitness, and an enjoyable lifestyle, things can get a bit shady. Using extreme sacrifice to reach a health and fitness goal is unhealthy when the following things happen:
1. It begins to negatively affect your relationships.
2. Husbands and wives begin to neglect quality time with their spouses because they feel like they have to be in the gym for 3 hours each day.
3. People begin to distance themselves from their social groups because their new training plan says they can't go to happy hour on Thursdays anymore.
These are all extremely similar. When this kind of sacrifice damages the relationships in your life, there needs to be a change. The above examples are a few of many that I have heard of. Some others that really concern me are parents not being completely present at the dinner table because they "need" to have kale salad instead of mac and cheese or else they'll lose everything that they've worked for. Families getting read of weekly ice cream trips in the summer because dad has to eat "clean" is another one I've heard of. Even moms feeling like they have to cook even more because they can't eat anything that their family is eating. It makes me so sad to hear things like this.
It Doesn't Have to Be That Way
People, reaching a fitness goal doesn't require a crazy amount of sacrifice. Although the fitness industry has been lying to you and telling you that you have to live like a competitive bodybuilder in order to look great in your swimsuit, I'm here to tell you otherwise.
"Adam, are you telling me that reaching my goal is going to be really easy and I'll hardly have to put in any work?" No, that's not what I'm saying at all. But what I am saying is this:
Properly balancing your health, fitness, and lifestyle is going to be the best way to reach your goals. Why? Because getting the best mix of optimal and practical is what delivers results.
How Do I Find Balance?
Over the last 5 years or so that I've been in the fitness industry, I've discovered that the ideal balance between optimal and practical has these three components:
1. A complete understanding of where the individual is starting.
2. A complete understanding of where the individual is wanting to be.
3. A very good understanding of where the individual's priorities are.
So, in order to begin creating a plan that allows you to have a great balance between health, fitness, and lifestyle we need to figure out where you're starting point is.
The Starting Line
Where are you coming from? Have you been sitting on the couch without physical activity for the last five years, or have you been doing hard resistance training for the last five years? Either way, your starting point is going to have a big impact on the training plan that you choose. I can't place a new client of mine on a similar program that I am doing if he/she hasn't exercised in years. Although the chances that their body will adapt are high, their changes of hurting themselves and having a negative experience are even higher.
The same thing goes for nutrition. I weigh 215 pounds and my body maintains its weight at roughly 2800 calories. Although I'm working to put on a few more pounds of muscle this year, would it be smart for me to follow the same plan that Ronnie Coleman was on? Absolutely not, because he is eating 6,000 calories every day during the offseason, he had wayyyy more muscle mass than I do (which means he burns more calories) and he also was on a healthy dose of anabolic steroids while he was competing. Similarly, putting a 110 pound female client on a similar regimen to mine would be absolutely ridiculous. Pickin' up what I'm puttin' down?
So many people just go straight to the first few search results when they type in "how to lose weight". I'm not saying that this is a bad thing necessarily. But a result of that is following a plan that isn't made for you. And when you follow a plan that wasn't made for you, you start to live a life that doesn't work for you. Little miss Sally would hate eating as much as I do, and I would be hangry all the time if I tried to eat the amount of food that was right for her.
I don't expect you to know everything about your nutrition, macronutrient intake, and creating a training plan that is custom-tailored for your goals. That's why I do what I do. Just ask and I'll help you out. My point is this, though. Knowing and acknowledging where you're coming from is EXTREMELY important. And so is seeing your finish line.
The "Finish Line"
By the way, I've placed quotations around this one because ideally, we don't ever want to finish the race. A fitness journey should be life long. Goals change, but we all should be setting new goals again and again.
Understanding where you want to finish is soooo important. And there is a difference between having an idea of what you'd like to look like, and real numbers that you can measure. I can't tell you how many time I get coaching applications where the individual's goal is to "build more muscle", "tone up", or "lose fat." I'm not minimizing these goals whatsoever. They're very real goals and they certainly matter to my clients for many different reasons. But before we can move on to implementing a training and nutrition, I always encourage people to make things very specific and measurable. When your goal is specific and measurable, it becomes easier to understand what the process is going to look like from start to finish. Let's make a couple of examples.
Most females want to "tone up" or "slim down". When goals are this broad, it is extremely easy to become lost in the middle of your fitness journey. You'll have a tendency to change habits fast, set your training and nutrition protocols to match women who are at different starting points, etc. But if you make your goals specific and measurable, you'll know that it takes X grams of carbs, fats, and protein to lose X pounds. Make sense? Simply put. Not knowing EXACTLY where you want to be in X weeks will make it easier for you to follow some figure competitor's nutrition guidelines just because she's "toned" like you want to be.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say "I don't have time." Please, you have time. It's ok that you didn't get something done. It's ok that you fail sometimes. But only if you're willing to admit that whatever it was, it was not a priority. If it's not a priority, you're not going to get it done. Accepting your priorities are vital for a healthy balance of health and fitness in your life.
It's not appropriate to make fitness your number one priority if that causes you to live an unhealthy live in other ways. Relationships, hobbies, and quality time are all examples of what I'm talking about. Admitting that it's not your number one priority is 100% OK! This is why I touched on the starting line and finish line before I got to priorities. One of my goals this year is to read 20 books. I've only read four so far. Why? Because I haven't treated it as a priority, and I admit that. You're not going to hear me say "I didn't have time." But I will say "it hasn't been a priority."
If your goal is to lose 10 pounds of body fat in 16 weeks, putting fitness on the back-burner to spend time with your family and create awesome memories is acceptable. If your goal is to compete in a show and you need to drop to 5% body fat leading up to it, there are going to be many moments where you'll have to say "no" to some fun. Will that have an effect on your relationships? Yeah, probably. But only temporarily. You'll have to be a bit more selfish with your time for a few more months and once that show is over you can return to happy hour with your friends and staying up late. You just have to understand that and fasten your seatbelt.
The most important thing here is coming to terms with how bad you want something, what it's going to take in order to get there, as well as what amount of work you are willing to put in. Certain goals require a certain amount of sacrifice. Am I saying that it's going to be extremely difficult for a mother of three to lose body fat and put on some lean muscle tissue over time? Of course not. But if her goal was to compete in a show 16 weeks away, it would certainly make being a mother a little more difficult because of the sacrifice that is required to do something like that. Figure out what your biggest priorities are. If training and proper nutrition aren't a couple of them, don't be surprised when your lofty goal isn't accomplished.
Lately I've enjoyed providing takeaways in my articles. Whenever I read something I like to find a takeaway to apply to my life. So here are yours:
1. Be realistic with what you want, and what you're willing to put in.
2. Don't make some goal and get upset or discouraged when you knew you weren't going to put the necessary work in anyway. It's much better to make tiny goals that you can surely accomplish and let them build on each other.
3. For goodness' sake, enjoy life. It is way too dang short to put memories on the back-burner. Count your macros, train hard, and enjoy this beautiful thing called life.
Thanks for reading. I really do appreciate it.
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