“Hard work and dedication,” A blonde, muscular youth said to his slightly oversized friend. “That is all you need in order to become fit.”
His friend looked at the youth with a serious expression on his face. He nodded and said, “I understand.” There was a hint of eagerness and motivation within his eyes. His jittery hands and arms were swinging in an excited back-and-forth motion from his torso. He was ready to work out.
I gleamed over at the two friends who were conversing with one another and musingly smiled. The muscular youth was going over his regular routine workout with his friend. He clearly wanted to help his friend get in shape and was trying his best to explain his strategy and principles on body building.
Their voices echoed in the background of my mind. It has been a while since I last heard people talk in the gym about ‘hard-work’ and ‘dedication’. I smiled because it’s true. All you need to get into shape is hard-work and dedication. These are great values that can help people succeed in many aspects of life besides fitness and health. However, there is a problem.
What does hard-work and dedication even mean in their context? Is it measurable and actionable? If you are new to working out and your friend told you all you need is hard work and dedication, what assumptions will you make? Would you be motivated or discouraged from working out?
Perhaps, if you are like me when I started working out, you would think, “Crap, I have to work hard to get into shape. It’s going to be a painful and long journey.” For others it may be, “I don’t expect anything less. I will definitely succeed.” Which mentality do you think is representative of those who are not fit? Most likely the former one.
So how does one succeed in getting the physique that they want? Or at the very least lose some weight? The answer is really simple: start with your mind.
The Mind on Weight Loss
Getting fit is all mental. I’ll say this again and again. You can lose all the weight you want without having to do any workout. If you can change the way you view your eating habits, you will lose weight. You probably won’t gain any muscles, but if losing weight is all you care about, then that is an option.
How do I know this is true? Research shows it. There is a very simple rule on weight loss and gain. You gain weight by consuming more calories than you burn. You lose weight by consuming fewer calories than you burn. This is elementary knowledge. If you eat more than your body needs, you gain weight. If you eat less than your body needs, you lose weight. The equation of this simple interaction is below.
Calorie Balance = Calories In – Calories Out
In an average day, a person needs a specific amount of calories to function normally or maintain weight. This varies from person to person, depending on your body type, sex, metabolism, etc. You can find all that information by searching online.
Now what is the point of showing you all this? The point is simple. If you want to lose weight, all you have to do is control how much you eat. That is all. There are countless miracle stories of people who lost weight just by consuming fewer calories. You can even lose weight by eating mostly junk food! A nutrition professor did exactly that.
So the task here is merely counting and limiting how much you consume. You don’t even have to do any strenuous workouts, but how many of us exercise that form of mental control and fortitude? How many of us, despite knowing that certain foods are bad for us, still consume them in vast quantity?
This is why working on your mind is important. There is no simpler process for losing weight than to control how much you eat. Which task is easier on a physical level? Choosing to not eat more than you should or spending an hour or two at the gym burning off the excess calories? The former, of course.
I know that for many people, our enjoyment of life comes from consuming food. I am not telling you to stop eating whatever you love to eat. I am merely advising you to look at your intention. If your intention is to lose weight, would you sabotage your goals by desiring unhealthy foods in vast amounts? You won’t. If you did, then you’ll be like Fat Bastard from Austin Powers. You don’t want to be caught saying, “I eat because I’m sad; I’m sad because I’m fat; I’m fat because I eat.”
Our mind works in wondrous ways. We may say that we do things because we are intelligently inclined to do them. However, if we truly evaluate why people do certain things, it all boils down to pleasure and pain. The reason many people are overweight in the first place is the overvaluation of pleasure in consumption. The reason many people fail in losing weight is the association of pain in working out. There two statements are connected.
If you learn to associate pain with consuming unhealthy food in vast amounts, you will lose weight. If you learn to associate pleasure with working out, you will lose weight. If you can do both, you will be fit. If you take both of these statements to the extreme, what you get is orthorexia and compulsive exercise. Don’t be duped into taking anything to the extreme, balance is key and important. Remember, everything that we do, we do them because we want to change the way we feel.
Ask yourself the question, “Why do I want to lose weight and get fit?” and see what kind of response arises from within. This is a great way to evaluate your current mental state and desires. Perhaps you want to work on your appearance, your health, or your mood. Whatever it is, make note of it and honor that intention and desire of yours.
I love junk food. I also love to eat. However, I stopped consuming excess food and have kept a steady habit of working out for almost a year now. I can say with certainty that I am in the best shape of my life even compared to when I used to do sports in school. How did I achieve this? By applying the principles of pain and pleasure.
I didn’t just associate pain with overeating or pleasure with working out. This method works, but it doesn’t satisfy the higher realm of understanding for me. What I did was associating pleasure with honoring the spirit of my intentions, and incredible pain with dishonoring the essence of my desires.
What I said earlier was just a fancy way of saying that I held myself accountable for my goals of being healthy. By working toward my goals, I bring immense joy and pleasure. By violating my goals, I bring pain and despair. To me this approach is much better than just associating pleasure with working out and pain with eating unhealthy foods. It gives me flexibility because I can take a break. I can enjoy life by indulging in unhealthy consumption of foods or go on a seasonal lazy spree of inactivity. I can do all that, but I still assume responsibility over my intentions. At the end, what holds true is that there is now a balance in my health/fitness journey.
I don’t have to become someone who is strict about what I eat at all times. I can still have unhealthy food with families and friends. I don’t have to care about counting my macro-nutrients or achieving a specific physique. I give room, so that I can enjoy the best of everything that life has to offer. Instead of being overly fixated on weight, fitness, food consumption, and health; there is now a healthy (how ironic) balance of all those aspects in my life. I can explore my own health and direction in life, creating the lifestyle of my own choosing.
Fitness is a Lifestyle
When the young, muscular youth told his friend that ‘hard-work’ and ‘dedication’ was all he needed to get fit, I smiled. There was nothing wrong with what he said. Instead, he triggered a sudden notion in me to share my ideas on how to get fit.
I already stated that starting with you mind is important. I firmly believe that physical wellbeing and mental health are interconnected. If you can improve on one of them, you will improve on the other.
I mentioned earlier that, by working on your mind, you can create the lifestyle that resonates with your intention. I want to tell you that fitness, in of itself, is also a lifestyle that you create.
If I was in the young, muscular youth’s shoes, I would ask my friend to reconsider the idea of getting fit, and instead ask him if he was willing to change the way he lived. If his response is yes, I would give him a 30 day trial to hit the gym regularly to build a habit.
It’s not just ‘hard-work’ and ‘dedication’ that gets someone in shape. Sure you can get fit by applying these basic values. But they are too ambiguous! What are your action steps? Are they sustainable? What are the chances that you can keep yourself in shape many years down the line? Will you still be motivated 5, 10, 20 years from now? Why do you even need motivation to work out? Why can’t you go workout without ‘hard-work’ and ‘dedication’? These are the important questions to ask. And the honest truth is you don’t need motivation, hard-work, or dedication. All you need to do is to establish a lifestyle that resonates with your goals.
I have been working out for about a year now. Initially, it was pretty hard getting myself to go to the gym on a daily basis. However, over time, it became incredibly easy. The reason is that I have established a lifestyle habit and pattern. I don’t even have to think about working out. It became a secondary nature that I do like going to sleep. I created this lifestyle by honoring my intention. Instead of spending an hour or two a day on entertainment, I go to the gym or run outside. Here’s a picture to show you the progress I made.
Initially I have no idea what I was doing. I had no concept of what body parts I should work out, or routines. I felt incredibly frustrated and intimidated on what to do. But I told myself, “What is the worst that can happen?” At worst, I go back into my old pattern of laziness, and excessive food consumption habits and lifestyle. At best, I will not only achieve my goals and create a new lifestyle that I desired, but I will also overcome a limiting belief.
Earlier I introduced the 30 day trial for working out. If you know anything about the human nature, you know that humans love comfort and familiarity. We don’t like change. Change scares us because we fear the unknown and the discomfort it may bring to our lives. The 30 day trial for working out is temporary. It gives you time and space to try this new lifestyle out. If you know that this is temporary, wouldn’t you give it a try at least? I mean after all it is only 30 days! You can quit afterwards if you want.
However, if you stick with the 30 days to establish a new lifestyle, you will benefit from it. First, it will make it easier for you to actually transition into a fitness lifestyle because you are already familiar with it. Second, by taking up this new lifestyle, you break away from your old lazy habits for 30 days, giving you a new perspective. Third, you have 30 days of success and results which can further drive your motivation and momentum into new heights! It is a win-win-win situation.
Let me give you my perspective on health and fitness. Being healthy and fit is easy and simple. Working out does not require hard work or dedication at all. There is repetition in what you do, but it should be repetition with effortless ease. Just as taking a breath takes no effort, working out takes no ‘effort’. What I mean here isn’t physical effort, but mental effort. There should be no mental resistance to working out or living this new lifestyle. Instead, there is passion, ease, and calmness.
Take a look at all those fit and healthy individuals. To them, working out regularly is a normal routine. They love what they do. It is just a part of their life. If you want this lifestyle for yourself, then educate yourself. Learn from those who are already there. Copy routines from others at the gym, the internet, or exercise programs. Everyone starts somewhere. Nobody is an expert in the beginning. If you are still clueless about routines, you can have mine for free. This can serve as a simple template or guide for you. Customize it, trash it, or make something new that caters to you. The possibilities are endless.
I really dislike thinking about ‘hard work’ or ‘dedication’ when it comes to getting in shape. If you have to keep thinking about ‘hard work’ every time when you work out, wouldn’t you come to associate working out as something hard? If you keep thinking about ‘dedication’, wouldn’t you come to associate the idea that only dedicated individuals can become healthy? All these do is create an uphill battle to success.
Yes, if one overcomes his uphill battle, one can become healthy and fit. However, why take that approach when you can make things simple and easy. Why not make it just a part of regular, normal everyday living? I can’t answer that for you, but at least I can put forth the question for you. I know that there is no right or wrong answers. There are lessons that hard work and dedication teach that are invaluable. It is just my personal opinion that they are inefficient.
Think about those who are healthy and fit all their lives. Most of them have established a lifestyle. Most, if not all of them, love what they do. When you love what you do, what effort, motivation, dedication or hard work is needed for you to take action? None whatsoever. This is what I meant for you when you embrace this fitness lifestyle. It should be one of effortless ease, always.