Given its that classic time of year when the New Year’s fitness resolvers start to dwindle away from gyms across the United States, I felt compelled to provide some insight into why most of those people don’t make it past the month of February with their aspirations (and what you can do to avoid the vicious cycle of failed resolutions/goals).
When you set out to achieve something in your life, what is your usual forethought? Do you find yourself imagining the finale/endpoint and the elation that may come from such an achievement? Are all the steps between today and that finale a deep, grim haze to you? Is the thought of actually putting in the effort to achieve your goal(s) something you loathe?
Hypothetically, let’s say company XYZ develops a "wonder" pill that gives you your ideal physique without any diligent effort (e.g. no lifting, no dieting constraints, no cardio, etc.). Would you take that pill? Do you truly enjoy the journey of developing your body and overcoming obstacles, or do you just want the end result without facing the trials and tribulations?
Would you actually enjoy having your ideal physique knowing you didn't do anything to deserve it? Obviously this hypothetical scenario is wildly unlikely to ever happen, but nevertheless there is some intellectual significance behind the way you choose to approach it.
If you find yourself answering the previous predicament with a resounding, “Yes, I would take the pill and bask in the ensuing shower of undeserved praise for my lean, muscular physique!” Then chances are the rest of this article will likely preclude you and those with a similar train of thought. However, if you’re interested in learning the importance of embracing your journey on the path to improving your health, body, or any other goal for that matter, then I hope you find the proceeding prose insightful.
Are we just a Nation of Underachievers?
I could probably count on one hand the number of people I’ve known that actually followed through with their New Year’s fitness resolution. At first you might be thinking “Damn, you must really live around some underachieving slobs.” Well, after doing some quick research, findings would say my experience is far from an anomaly.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, less than 40% of people in their twenties achieve their resolution each year, and that number continues to drop as age increases.[i] Furthermore, the number one resolution folks set out for in the United States is…yep, you guessed it, weight loss; ironically enough we are also the most obese country.
It’s a bit disconcerting to think that we have this epidemic of overweight issues on our hand and we know the lifestyle changes that need to be made, but yet few people follow through with actually doing something about it. How does this reflect on the willpower and resiliency of our country as a whole? Not well, if you ask me. But fear not, there is a way to circumvent this situation with proper planning and execution.
Underachiever’s? No. Poor planners? Yes.
It’s frustrating to hear people say we are underachievers here in the U.S.; I would argue that we don’t lack willpower or resiliency, but rather we just fail to plan properly when it comes to resolutions related to our health and body (and failing to plan is planning to fail). It does make one wonder though, why are we such overachiever’s with pretty much everything not related to looks and health?
Think about it, we have no shortage of people ready to work their butt off to achieve wealth, but the second the goal becomes health-related everyone seems to give in without putting forth some diligent effort (or they want to put in as little effort as possible while seeing some results).
Sure, the American lifestyle does emphasize sedentary environments and fast food, but conforming to those things is still your decision. There are always a million reasons not to do something, but if you really want to change your health and body for the better then you will find a way, trust me. And if you are truly serious about it, then planning properly is the first step on making your resolution for a better body stick.
You don’t have to eat a Baconator everyday just because Fat Joe sits in the cubicle adjacent to you and polishes them off on the daily. You want to change? There’s this thing you can do called preparing your meals ahead of time. Yes, that means taking the whopping 5 to 10 minutes out of your day to prepare some food that will fit your dietary needs. Don’t want to do that? Use your head; don’t order the greasiest burger on the menu. You can still find decent options at most any food joint nowadays.
You don’t have to sit at your desk all day either. Get up and take a walk around the office, install a standing desk, get a yoga mat and stretch for a bit, just do something, anything.
Moreover, if your goal is to build some muscle and strength, it doesn’t take much more than a quick Google search to find myriad training routines to follow. Make no mistake that a smart, methodical training program is great, but pretty much any halfway decent training program will yield solid results if you’re consistent and actually follow through.
At the end of the day, having a plan is priority number one. Once you’ve done that, you need to act on it, and let time (patience) take care of the rest. Don’t expect results overnight; this is why you need to embrace the journey and not the destination. If anything, knowing that there is no “happily ever after” should be the most liberating thing; the possibilities of what you can achieve are limitless when you realize that.
[i] Wing, R. R., & Phelan, S. (2005). Long-term weight loss maintenance. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 82(1), 222S-225S.