Body transformation challenges: 4 keys to success
Been on any social media platforms lately? Hard to miss the countless body transformation challenges out there. For the record, I respect coaches who guide their clients to achieve fantastic results through hard work, discipline, commitment and dedication. I am not however a fan of any extreme challenges, where people are undernourished and pushed to physical limits far removed from healthy behaviors, maintainable lifestyle choices, and common sense. That’s not a challenge. That’s purgatory. Good transformation programs usually succeed because they give the hopeful three keys to success: a deadline, motivation that change will happen and sound advice. The fourth key really shouldn’t need to be mentioned but I will: YOU HAVE TO DO THE WORK. Few things in life magically appear regardless of how hard you wish it into existence.
What I notice when looking past the fancy marketing and packaging from one challenge to another, things are rather similar. Drink more water. Cut out refined carbohydrates and added sugar. Limit your treats. Eat more leafy plant food. Exercise more – and hopefully smarter. Track. That’s pretty sound advice. And honestly, after the usual 8 to 12 weeks, folks that followed the advice are transformed. I’m always so very proud of my students when we create these opportunities for them.
But what about those on the outside? People who can’t fathom having 12 uninterrupted weeks to metamorphose? Given our kids’ school holidays in Dubai, such stretches are near impossible. Are these people doomed to “if only” and “I wish”? I don’t think so. The answer lies in our interpretation of transformation. Small changes in the right direction are still changes. So how do we marry small changes with the success keys of challenges?
Get your fitness started in 21 days?
Today’s question is whether you can impact your fitness in just 3 weeks? My resounding answer: YOU BETCHA. You can make a difference in your fitness in just ONE day, since every decision that you make towards a healthier you is a difference. Every little positive decision builds the foundation for lasting change. Now you didn’t get out of shape overnight, so you aren’t going to reverse that in a day or a few weeks either. But here’s why 21 days is a great time frame to get your fitness started:
- It’s close enough to light the fire under your backside to get started. Deadlines are critical to achieving goals since, without them, goals are just wishes. So you’ve got only 3 weeks to build momentum on habits that will fuel your future fitness.
- Sort of the reverse of number 1, it’s not so far away that you have time to mull things over, over analyze and procrastinate. DO IT. I’ve made it easy with three weekly action sheets so you know what you need to do every day for 21 days.
- It’s long enough to build supportive habits – and to start to break bad ones. I’m a firm believer in having the strength to make tough choices for the things that are truly important to you. You’ve got good time in 3 weeks to also get rid of sabotaging habits. Don’t kid yourself – it’s your habits that make or break your fitness. Invest time replacing bad with good and the tradeoff will become easier the more you do it. Go ahead, try me.
- Twenty one, shmenty one. There’s nothing that says that you can’t extend it to 28, 35 or more building on all that you’ve learned in the first three weeks.
- 21 days = 300+ opportunities. When we consider the 15 to 20 daily opportunities to make a positive and supportive fitness choice, 21 days actually becomes over 300 actions. Each one brings you closer or farther away from your goal…choose more positive ones and find them getting easier. Simply being conscious of the fact that these are your CHOICES goes a long way in supporting your mettle. And be grateful for actually having a choice to make. Practice makes permanent. Practice well.
T minus 3: Your 3 day preparation countdown
Now before the countdown clock starts, I’ll give you three days to figure some stuff out and put you solidly on the starting blocks to success:
- Journal or Notebook. GET ONE. USE IT.
- mood, sleep, stress level?
- exercise & physical activity: walking, playing with kids, dancing, whatever.
- how did you feel after your exercise?
- supplements: i.e. vitamins, Omega, D3, etc.
- water consumption? # glasses
As for food, I want you to know everything that crossed past your lips, how much and when. This is often most useful as a breakdown per meal of the following:
- beverages: what? quantity?
- vegetable servings
- fruit servings
- protein servings
- sweets / treats servings
- complex carbs (bread, rice, pasta, grains, etc.) servings
- For example: Breakfast 7am – 3 egg white + 1 yolk omelette cooked in 1tsp butter plus ½ cup broccoli, ½ a red pepper, 4 mushrooms. 2 cups black coffee. (Yes, really.)
- Get your fitness clothing and footwear ready to go. Pack a towel and water bottle (which will become your new best friend).
- Get your schedule out and plan when you will exercise, and if appropriate, where for the entire 21 days. Even if it’s just a quick 10 minute fast pace walk, schedule it. 7 days a week. While you are at it, plan when you will do some preparation for healthy meal choices…cutting veggies for snacks, cooking larger batches of chicken breast, making soup, whatever.
- Go shopping. Get what you’ll need for your meals for the next 3-5 days. Don’t over complicate things. It’s ok to have food re-runs, especially when we’re on a 21 day time crunch! Remember, you can have it all, just not all at once. Plan ahead so you can’t fail.
- Involve your family. Explain to them what you’re going to do and have them help you…get them excited about taking walks, bike rides, at home fitness time, preparing food and eating well.
- Recruit a buddy. Next to having a deadline, having an accountability system is another huge success strategy. No one can lose here, well…other than for a few pounds, some negative self talk and unhealthy habits. You’ll both benefit.
Reality check: what was your reaction to T-3 plan?
If you rolled your eyes at the T-3, I’d say you are likely not ready for a change just yet. It does not make you a bad person. It simply indicates that it isn’t really that important or you may not yet trust yourself to make difficult tradeoffs. Save this plan then for when you are ready. I’ll still be here.
Your 21 day action sheets
FEED YOUR BODY
Using these three weekly actions sheets is easy. You’ll need 7 of the week 1, 7 of the week 2 and, obviously, 7 of the week 3 action sheets. Some of you may ask “What’s a portion size?” Well, look at your hand. For ladies it’s a fist size for fruit and veggies, and the size of your palm for protein. Men, you can double that. You’ll note that I didn’t mention anything about carbs. You’ll be getting plenty of them with your veggies but I don’t want you to necessarily limit your starches, other than perhaps choose the best quality and most whole food ones you can (sweet potatoes anyone?). Start with veggies and protein at every meal. Then if you have room, eat a serving of starchy carbs (about the same as a veggie serving if not a little smaller). See how it goes. If you turn really nasty – eat more. How to use the sheet? Just tick off the boxes that apply. For example in week 1, I’m asking for you to drink 8 cups of water per day – that’s 2 litres. I’ve given you an extra 2 little cups there for bonus points. Come 6pm if you see that you’re short on water or veggies, EAT/DRINK. Don’t worry about fruit and don’t eat more protein than with every meal – you have 5 little egg cups there, but if you only eat 3 times, that’s all you need to tick.
MOVE YOUR BODY
I’ve provided a daily workout suggestion. You have a bunch of 10 minute increments that you can check off for your planned exercise. Aim for at least one tick EVERY DAY and between 2-3 ticks 3x per week.
Let me know how it goes. While I’d be very happy for any fat loss you’ll achieve, I’m really interested in whether you now consider yourself a little fitter than when you started? Consider this your 21 day kick in the pants, compliments of me!
Today I expand a little on a topic I spoke of a few weeks ago jump starting your fit lifestyle. It’s not that I’m trying to be redundant, it’s just that food is intimately linked to your body shape and your health. Want to change your body? Then you MUST clean up your eating and embrace healthy eating habits.
Indeed a source of great pleasure for many people. From delicious smells, to evoking good memories, to luxurious textures, to unexpected flavors, to satisfying cravings, to tantalizing tastes, food seems to hold enormous powers of seduction over our ability to make choices that support our goals. But just because it has power doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t resist, or at least maintain the upper hand with regard to our choices. It only has power because we gave it to it in the first place. Good news – we can take it back.
What does eating well mean?
Now I get that the term eating well will mean something different to different people so I will define it here for my purpose (it is my blog after all). Eating well here implies making food choices that support three objectives: a well functioning body (health), a body composition in the desired range (look), and an ability to perform well in my physical pursuits (performance). The intersection of these objectives is where eating well happens – it’s what I call good nutrition. Yes, as goals change so does the profile. But what doesn’t vary is the mindset that food’s primary purpose is to provide the necessary building blocks for a healthy body to support a happy life. So many people become obsessed with how they look that they forget that food is there to nourish above all else. It is a distorted reality when people contemplate surgical procedures and risky diet aids rather than clean up their eating. So what exactly does clean eating entail?
Clean eating basics
Sometimes, it is helpful to define something by what it does NOT include. So eating well does not include mindless eating – or the action of putting food in your mouth without being conscious of it and without needing the nutrition or calories (i.e. snacking at social gatherings when you aren’t hungry comes to mind). It also doesn’t include bingeing of any kind, filling our stomachs with low nutrient-density foods (i.e. drinking sugar-filled juices, convenience snacks, highly processed foods), or repeatedly making unsupportive food choices because we’ve failed to plan in advance. A few more NOTs come to mind, but I think I’ll wait for another post since I’m hoping to present Basics here.
So while we’ll be looking at more detailed views on eating well in future posts, let’s review 3 Basics that everyone can adopt now: know what you eat, drink water, protein and veg at every meal.
- Know what you eat. More than 80% of successful body transformation participants used a food diary to keep track of their food intake. Why? Firstly it’s being mindful. No one truly knows how much they snack, or underestimate their portions or whatever until they write it down. Next, the simple act of having to record what you’ve eaten helps you make better choices later on (or ideally right on the spot). Lastly, you can’t change what you don’t know. Write it ALL down. Or better yet use a smart phone application – there are tons out there. Is it a pain in the butt? It sure is. But remember when you said you’d do anything to change your body…here is a simple, proven strategy that will deliver results. Stop whining and do it.
- Drink water. Your body is made of water and critical metabolic processes are facilitated by water. Plus it fills you up, controls hunger, helps flush out toxins, keeps your skin healthier (it’s the cheapest, effective anti-aging potion out there). Even low levels of dehydration have shown to decrease performance. Drink at least 2L per day of water. Don’t like it? Too bad. Do you like your body more than you dislike water? Find a way to drink it. Add some fresh lemon, orange slices, cucumber or apple slices, maybe some mint. Whatever. Just drink it.
- Protein and veggies at every meal. Paleo folks love me for this, but it’s really not so much about wanting you to eat more protein for the sake of it – it’s about the fact that protein takes more time to digest so it keeps you fuller and bodies use proteins as building blocks. Keep portions the size of your palm. Veggies are all about high nutrition, low calorie options. The more veggies you eat, you get fantastic nutritional bang for your buck, while leaving a little less room for higher calorie carbohydrates like grains and legumes. Shoot for at least 2 servings of veggies with every meal – yes, breakfast too (I had broccoli and mushrooms in my omelette this morning).
Decide if changing your body is important. Decide if the eating habits you may be teaching your children is important. If they are, then act. If not, then don’t feign surprise when your body stays the same or things get worse. The best time to start eating well was likely some time ago. But that’s ok since the next best time to start is right now.
Ahhhh the end of summer. For some it brings welcome promises of relief from the heat (check), too many travels or even children having gone a bit squirrely from too few friends or too much home time (check). For others, it’s a more melancholic goodbye to slow mornings, special summer foods and activities (check), and reconnecting with far away loved ones (check). Regardless of which side of the fence you might sway (back and forth is perfectly fine), we can all embrace fall for the new opportunities it brings to reengage your fit lifestyle.
ABCs of your Fit Lifestyle
In a nutshell, a fit lifestyle is one where your Actions, Behaviors and Choices support a healthier life for you and your family. Repeatedly done, these ABC make up your habits. The power of your habits is what dictates your successes and misses because you get very good at what you repeatedly do. When you become a pro at dismissing exercise or at sitting on the sofa, changing those habits can seem and feel really hard. But being difficult is no reason not to do something. If it’s important to you, you will find the discipline to do it. Not so important? Excuses will come easily. You need to decide whether living a fitter lifestyle is important to you or not. Only YOU can make that call. If it is – then make your ABCs reflect it. Don’t whine about it, just do it.
All or Nothing?
I believe that your ABCs move you either towards or away from living fit & healthy. There is no Switzerland in fitness. Moving is better than not moving. Mindful practice beats mindless workouts. Eating clean whips bad food choices. Sufficient recovery trumps going hard all the time, anytime. But while it may seem helpful to evaluate each ABC in isolation, you should never forget the context of living. Living is where shades of grey come in. For example, sweets are not ‘healthful’. And yet, we feed our emotional health when we guiltlessly share cake on a child’s birthday. Conversely, our ‘indulgences’ need to be viewed in the context of fitness. When a fit lifestyle is important, then we need to tip the scales towards fit enhancing. Do this enough and you’ve created a fit habit so temptations on the other side have less hold on you. Rather than being a question of all or not healthy, it’s more a question of more fitness and less indulgences. Don’t delude yourself – these are your CHOICES.
5 Fit Lifestyle Tips
With September just around the corner, here are 5 tips to jumpstart your fit lifestyle:
- Drink more water. Sounds simple but it’s true. The amount of water in the adult human body ranges averages between 50% – 65%. Water feeds your body since it is essential for proper circulation of nutrients and is a medium for energy production. It boosts performance since dehydration can lead to weakness, fatigue, dizziness and electrolyte imbalance. It helps promote a healthy bodyweight by controlling your appetite and keeping you full. It helps flush out waste and toxins. It reduces fine lines and makes your skin glow. How much? Shoot for 2L per day as a general rule.
- Keep a food journal. Unwanted, unplanned and surprising. Extra calories creeping into our bodies that we didn’t even enjoy simply because we were not mindful of eating them. Keeping a food log or journal for seven days gives you two of the most effective tools for changing your eating ABCs – acknowledgment and accountability. You can’t change what you don’t know or acknowledge. Pain in the rear end – absolutely. But it works. You decide what’s worse…the inconvenience of keeping a journal for a week or a softer than desired middle.
- Eat more vegetables. Add some…everyone can improve on their rainbow. Every meal – yes even breakfast. How much? Half of your plate.
- Forget juice (not to mention soft drinks). This goes hand in hand with drinking more water. Juice has a lot of sugar with very little fibre. Soda is crap. Instead of a glass of apple juice, try this: alternate drinks of water with bites of an apple. Continue until it’s done. Real hydration, natural vitamins and phytonutrients, lovely fibre…all from real sources.
- Limit extra sugar. I’ll talk about this in a separate post but added sugar is not good. Make small changes: cut ¼ tsp sugar from your tea or coffee. Reduce sugar in your baking. Cut out highly processed & refined foods or at least reduce your consumption. Don’t believe packaging: question all marketing claims and judge for yourself.
A Fit Lifestyle is yours for the taking and starts with your daily ABCs – actions, behaviors and choices. Notice the word YOUR twice so far? It’s because it’s all about you. Not your job, nor your family, nor your sore knee, nor your medical history. If it’s important to you, you can CHOSE to make changes. Yes it might take time, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t worth it. Remember that small changes are what bigger changes are made up of so it’s not an all or nothing thing. Make your choices. Own them. And if you need help to get started, or for a kick in the pants, I’m here.
And because you’ve been so nice reading up to here, I’ve included a few extra bonus tips to consider.
- Think. As you face ABCs think of the consequences of your actions. You have the power to make choices: either towards or away from your fit lifestyle. It’s ok to chose an indulgence once an a while…we’re just getting used to being mindful about them to diminish their power as less healthful habits.
- Plan ahead. Pull out your calendar and start to find opportunities for regular exercise and more active living. Set aside some time every week to prepare foods – cutting vegetables, preparing meats, portioning snacks.
PS: Today’s post has been about the general context of a fit lifestyle. I’ve purposefully not delved in the realm of working towards specific fitness goals, nor have I addressed the pursuit of physical excellence. For either, the scales are a stricter and in some cases, such as elite levels of performance, ABCs to achieve it often comes with a price. I’ll cover each of these in future posts.