How to Stop Information Overload in Fitness (aka The Gift That Keeps on Giving)

“Generally, beware of dissipating your powers, and strive to concentrate them.” -Goethe

how to stop information overload in fitness (aka the gift that keeps on giving)- information overload in fitness
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“The gift that keeps on giving” originally was a positive, uplifting, and valuable marketing strategy. This catch-phrase, first introduced into the world in 1924 was originally used to describe the phonograph—later trademarked in 1927.

What’s the purpose of this random history lesson?

Nothing much besides curiosity and to remember that this catch-phrase originally served as more than a term used to describe various sexually transmitted diseases in today’s time.

Humans love receiving gifts (the good ones of course). Gifts make us feel wanted, appreciated, and as I recently discovered, receiving gifts is one of  The 5 Love Languages that Gary Chapman describes in his immensely popular book.

However, one of the best gifts received over the last few decades is the Internet and technology.

Now so, more than ever, information—no matter the subject is a few keystrokes away from your disposal. Anything you want to learn, Google has you covered.

With a simple search, you can discover…

“What’s the best fat loss diet?” (23,700,000 results)

“What’s the best workout program?” (23,900,000 results)

“Which diet should I use to lose fat the quickest?” (28,200,000 results)

“What’s the best methods to pick up girls?” (258,000,000 results)

“Why are men so stupid?” (53,300,000 results)

“Who’s the best band in the world? (Jamiroquai…right?)” (479,000,000 results)

“How to potty train a flying squirrel?” (13,800 results)

Welcome to the age of information overload

Information overload was first coined by Alvin Toffler back in 1970 from his book Future Shock, where he (accurately) predicted that the increasing amounts of information being produced would eventually cause problems for people.

What exactly is information overload?

If you desire to appear vastly intelligent, want to impress a date or friends, you can call it “cognitive overload” due to the “brain being able to process vast amounts of information depending on the form it’s presented in.”

In simpler terms (which I prefer), information overload is when you’re dealing with more information than you’re able to process to make sound and sensible decisions.

What typically follows after being flooded with information is usually a delay in making decisions, or flat out making the wrong decisions.

According to Daniel Levitin, author of the The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, states that “we’ve created more information in the past few years than in all of human history before us.”

In fitness, many people receive the gift that keeps on giving in the form of spammy and emotionally baiting information products designed to make us feel less than.

Information overload in fitness is one of the biggest detriments in people’s quest for fat loss.

Our minds can maybe handle three, perhaps four things at once. However, after that, shit hits the fan and we start to exercise poorer judgment; fail to take action, and lose our focus.

The dangers of information overload in fitness

From a beginner being paralyzed about which workout and diet to start, to an intermediate deciding upon which routine to implement to carry forth the momentum from his beginner program—information overload shows no mercy.

Living inside a world where information overload is unregulated brings about a huge state of unresolved anxiety and stress as you can’t meet the ongoing demands of hearing about, yet, another diet that someone claims are the best one to use for fat loss.

One of the most crippling aspects of this dilemma isn’t the information available, it’s often times the feeling of not having any control of direction on the specific task (i.e.fitness goals)

These feelings ultimately lead you down a highway to suffering from paralysis from analysis.

Fitness overload leading to paralysis from analysis

Desire fades away. Motivation vanishes into thin air. Status quo starts to sound alright. That initial vision of transformation seems like a fantasy. The next logical step is to stop altogether due to feeling overwhelmed.

Sound familiar?

Should it be Paleo? 6 meals a day or 3? Fasting or not? Are carbs at night okay? What carbs at breakfast, how many for lunch? Organic or not? Is sugar really toxic? Will fruit make me fat? Do I really need to put butter in my coffee (hell no!)?

It’s not just nutrition.

Everyone has an opinion on training programs.

Should you train full-body? Bodybuilder training? What about body pump classes? Upper/lower splits? Push/pull splits? Powerlifting? Do I need to kick my ass into the ground at every workout session (absolutely not)?

On top of the metric ton of options available, our ambition and desire to be 100% correct is playing a starring role; thus making us doubt our choices and delaying making a decision until we’re absolute certain.

Our minds can become so full about “what might happen”, or “what we should do” that you can’t think past those possibilities to make a decision to even start (some might call this failure to launch).

I know this too well.

I wanted to write for years, learn a language, learn to actually dance (not the drunken monstrosity they call dancing in some of these clubs), public speak, and become a better communicator.

Gathering information is always a good thing; thus allowing us to evaluate the best possible options and weigh the pros & cons. But after awhile, the laws of diminishing returns takes in effect.

Instead of helping and educating yourself—“analyzing”, “studying”, or whatever else you want to call it starts to stump your growth and development.

information overload in fitness- start sign
It ultimately comes down to “just starting”- Photo Credit: iova.design via Compfight cc

By continuing in this process without applying or taking action, you cripple yourself and start to second guess yourself because all the excess (and often times contradictory) information swimming inside your brain—thus putting a stop sign on taking action.

Combating information overload

The very first step to eliminating information overload and becoming action oriented is to become conscious of the issue. If you aren’t present, then you stand no chance of creating a solution. After all, being in the present moment is only when change is a possibility.

Most situations, whether it’s tackling a fitness or creative goal—studying and planning is a discreet and gentler form of procrastination and fear settling in.

Reading more books, listening to more podcast, watching more health shows, reading more fitness blogs isn’t the answer to taking action—that resides inside of you.

In order to remove, or at least negate the effects of information overload and not let analysis from paralysis set in—try out these questions and thoughts when it comes to why you’re doing something.

Random questions, observation, and exercises to try for minimizing information overload

No need to try each and every suggestion below all at once, read them over and decide which ones look implementable to you.

1.Use the power of why– I believe I first heard this on Tim Ferriss’s podcast when describing why we have to do things.

More often than not, the things we think we have to do aren’t as dire and necessary as they initially feel. A way to combat information overload is to ask yourself “why” three times before deciding on an action or adding new material into your regimen.

Do you really need to add another rule to your diet or exercise program? Are you creating limiting beliefs within your mind about why you can’t do something?

Asking “why” three times allows you to dig deeper into the root of the issue.

2.Pack only the essentials– Ask yourself “what do you absolutely need to do” for your fitness goals to become a reality and leave everything else by the waste-side.

3.What actions are an absolute no ifs & buts in your daily regimen? -We all have activities, hobbies, or things that are a necessity for daily pleasures and improvement; without it, we feel the day wasn’t as productive or accomplished as it should’ve been.

4.Do you have too many commitments? – Ask yourself and analyze “what are the true commitments that I really want to do; which ones are adding value to my personal life and positively supporting my fitness goals?”

Which ones do you say “yes” to because of guilt, obligation, protecting others feelings, or expectations placed by norms and rituals?

Regardless of the reason, learn how to say “no”—it’s your best friend. No opens the door for you to say “yes” to what truly matters most to you; thus allowing you to flourish in fitness and your personal life.

5.The worst case scenario game? You’re trying something new and there are some initial fears and hesitations (everyone has them). You’re wondering if you know enough or if you’re looking stupid.

To remove this mental cloud, think about the worst thing that could possibly happen and then think about the actual probability of that happening.

Ask yourself, “What could actually go wrong and is it even a big deal if it does go wrong? Could I live with the worst case scenario?”

how to stop information overload in fitness - roll the dice
Just take a chance and roll the dice- Photo Credit: shes_so_high via Compfight cc

Is the worst case scenario actually going to hurt you or just cause a little discomfort? 

6.Don’t multi task– Pick one goal and task at a time. This is single handily one of the biggest mistakes people new to fitness and those stuck in a seemingly never-ending plateau commit.

Most people want to lose fat and build muscle simultaneously (aka the holy grail of the fitness world). This sounds good in theory, except these two objectives require opposite approaches—especially in regards to nutrition.

One needs a caloric deficient and the other needs a surplus. Taking this approach will leave you spinning your wheels with the ignition stick stuck in neutral.

7.Opt for efficiency and only spend as much activity on your goal as needed– Less is better and more is often times a waste of time and life better spent living the good life and having experiences.

Opt for efficiency and effectiveness over duration and quantity. An intelligent designed 45 min workout is better than a 90 minute workout all over the board.

8.Take some breaks and rest– No one is “beast mode” 24/7 (if they tell you anything otherwise, they’re full of shit).

No one is firing on all cylinders 24/7. Everyone needs to rest, recover, and decompress.

9.Adjustments are normal– The real learning comes from the work inside the trenches. You won’t develop flawless squatting technique studying at home, you practice at the gym.

You won’t become a dazzling salsa dancer reading articles on salsa. You won’t become a proficient and effective writer by only reading about writing.

You won’t lose fat just by knowing the biochemistry of fat loss.

You only achieve and receive by doing. By doing, sure mistakes will happen, and that’s when you assess what worked and throw away what didn’t while bringing some new tools to the mix.

10.Is there really a certain thing as not making a decision– Technically, there isn’t such a thing as not making a decision, when you procrastinate, you’re making the decision to let life, your body, circumstances, and randomness become the default deciding factor on your fitness progress.

11.Limit, curate, and take breaks from the consumption of information– One of the best decisions (albeit difficult) I made was to take an extended break from the Internet and public eye in general.

Over the course of that break, I wrote a little, didn’t publish anything but most importantly, I gained my sanity back.

I re-established my identity and remembered my mission and what I wanted, not want what I was expected to want.

In fitness, we see new trends each day, what this person did to lose weight; even if it weren’t our plan, we start to sub-consciously doubt ourselves and have the urge to jump to their program.

Put a limit on how much facebooking you’re doing, the more facebooking, the less happier you’ll feel about yourself .

Be mindful of the information you’re consuming on a daily basis. If the majority of your information is reality TV, gossip, click-bait news articles, and cat videos—expect to have a junk food mindset that isn’t serving any value.

Your challenge

Think about something in fitness that is giving you fits? Think about your approach with those challenges and assess whether you can start to trim some of the excess fat (information) from the challenge?

Start with at least 2 of the 11 options from above and allow some time to see if those tools help.

 

Mindless Eating: The Behind the Scenes Food Behaviors Ruining Your Fitness

Food Behaviors Ruining Your Fitness
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69% of adults are either overweight or obese. With the wealth of information circulating on the Internet it’s interesting that we have such a high rate of people with poor health.

This just goes to show that while we live in a society that is obsessed with looks and health—the method of delivery  is wrong.

We have a tendency to focus on macros, diet plans, meal timing, stoking the metabolism, and other nutritional metrics. Those are insignificant compared to the large elephant standing in the room laughing as we parade around trying any and everything to level our fitness up.

The large elephant isn’t the sexiest in the room. It’s not trendy, but it’s damn essential.

What’s this elephant I’m speaking of.

It’s our food behaviors. Food behaviors operate mostly on a subconscious level.

We know which foods we’re supposed to eat. We know total calories play a pivotal role in building the bodies we want. We know what to do, but aren’t doing it because our minds are playing on another playing field that we haven’t arrived at yet.

While actors (your outside appearance) get all the attention, it’s the filming crew and producers (your mental being) who ultimately pulls the strings and develops a great product (i.e. a body you can be proud of).

This eating without awareness, without focusing, without intent is what we call mindless eating.

What is mindless eating

Mindless eating is when you eat without thinking about what you’re doing. You’re essentially playing the role of a nutritional zombie.

Mindless eating often occurs through overeating, not because of greed or any other self-centeredness, but because of our environments.

Brian Wansink, author of the interesting book ‘Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think’, explains that “we overeat not because of hunger but because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers”.

Temptations to fall into mindless eating habits surround us at every corner and turn we make. Let’s look into 6 common scenarios where the potential for food behaviors ruining your fitness is high.

6 common areas where mindless eating can zap your fitness progress

Our minds are programmed from the time were a toddler to behave in specific ways with our foods.

All 6 scenarios below are detrimental to our goals unless we become mindful of them.

1. The size of your plates, bowls, packages, & buckets– As crazy as this might sound, the presentation of the way your food is delivered plays an important role in determining your eating behavior.

Researchers at Cornell University’s Food Brand lab, discovered that people who used larger plates overserved themselves compared to those who elected to use smaller plates, hence undeserving themselves.

People will eat food just because it’s there. We’re instinctively engineered to desire food when it’s placed in front of us. We might have a beating pulse, but inside each of us, lies a little robotness, which allows us to fall prey to programming and losing our minds.

Movie goers in a study conducted by Wansink and his students were given 5 day old popcorn. Many of them, haven’t eaten lunch, were given a soft drink and a medium or large bucket of popcorn to indulge in. Not surprisingly, the large bucket group ate more.

Asked if they ate more due to bucket size, they replied “no”. People didn’t eat because they were hungry, they ate because of the movie distracting us, the sounds of people munching on popcorn, and the general societal expectations of going to the movies and being expected to snack.

2. Your perception of the situation– The stories we create in our heads become manifestations of our realities after a time period of feeding ourselves the same story.

 food behaviors ruining your fitness-
Be careful of what you’re pouring into your brain- Photo Credit: Toodeloo! via Compfight cc

If we’re in a situation where it’s expected we stuff our faces (talking to the ‘all you can eat buffets’)—then we’ll pig out, regardless of whether we’re full after plate 1.

If we’re in a fancy schmancy restaurant on a date, we’re likely to eat with restraint and not pig out because of the expectations.

There was a study conducted on North Dakota & California wine, where the same wine was given out with different labels.

The North Dakota wine consistently rated lower due to the expectations that wine grapes aren’t grown in North Dakota as opposed to them growing in California.(I always wanted to try this on the so called wine connoisseurs.)

3. Your eyes (out of sight, out of mind)- Often times in relationships, we operate with an out of sight, out of mind mentality. We treat food the same way.

If we walk into grandmas house and see a delicious white cake sitting, odds are, we’ll suddenly have the desire to eat white cake.

If you’re at the bar and your waiter hasn’t come to collect your 4 empty bottles, odds are you’ll have more reservations about ordering another drink.

This logic was supported in the famous chicken wing study where a group of individuals were left with the bones in front of them and another group had their bones taken each time.

No surprise here, but the group who had the bones left in front of them ate fewer compared to the group who had their previous plates removed.

4. The middle grounds (aka the land of nowhere)– We’ve all been in a place where things aren’t going bad, yet things aren’t moving forward. You’re moving so slow that it doesn’t feel like you’re moving at all.

In the nutrition world, this can be a dangerous recipe because it allows us to run on autopilot and lose our focus.

Wansink describes this middle ground of drudgery as the “mindless margin—we can slightly overeat or undereat without being aware.”

If you undereat by a sizable margin, you’ll start to feel weak, lethargic, moody, and have crappy training sessions. If you start to overeat by a sizable margin, you’ll start to feel bloated and slow as molasses.

However, in this dangerous middle zone of eating, we aren’t aware of the small differences. A small crack in a dam eventually overflows.

Snacking here and there multiple times a day secretly throws your daily caloric intake off. Months later, you wake up with an extra 10 pounds and outfits aren’t fitting the same.

5. The party don’t stop till the food is gone (aka our all or nothing food mentality)– Party till the sun comes up. Pulling all nighters for school. Celebrating chugging energy drinks to keep working on projects.

Our culture has an extreme personality. More and more isn’t always better. Often times, this attitude comes back to bit us in the rear.

We have to finish everything. Our approach to food isn’t any different (especially here in the southern states).

We’re done eating when our plates are empty. We’re done drinking when our cups are empty.

This mentality is hard to break, especially since it’s been ingrained into our subconscious since we were kids.

Being told that you can’t have dessert till you finish your plate or being called wasteful for not finishing your food has added fuel to the fire for our eating habits.

Instead of eating till we can see our reflections on the plate or eating out of guilt, pull the eating brakes at 80% capacity.

Borrow the Okinawan phrase ‘hara hachi bu’ which is used to indicate to eat until you’re 80% full. Eat until no longer hungry, not full.

6. Societal and lifestyle traps– From parties to movie nights, we allow ourselves to become preoccupied with guests to the point we unknowingly stuff our faces away. Whether it’s snacking obsessively out of nervousness at the corporate office party or snaking due to guilt at grandmas house—be weary of these traps.

How to eat mindfully and enjoy the immense pleasures of food

If you want to build the body you want and transform your health, you must find a way to control your eating behaviors. You can’t out train a diet, no matter how intense your workouts are.

However, using 7 simple lessons from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanhs’ book ‘How to Eat (Mindful Essentials)’, we can begin to control our eating behaviors.

1. Eating without thinking– Thich Nhat Hanh states that “Sometimes we eat and we’re not aware that we’re eating. Our mind isn’t there. When our mind isn’t present, we look but we don’t see, we listen but we don’t hear, we eat but we don’t know the flavor of the food.”

2. Slowing down– “When we can slow down and really enjoy our food, our life takes on a much deeper quality. I love to sit and eat quietly and enjoy each bite, aware of the presence of my community, aware of all the hard and loving work that has gone into my food. When I eat in this way, not only am I physically nourished, I am also spiritually nourished. The way I eat influences everything else that I do during the day.”- Thich Nhat Hanh

Taking time to enjoy our food is a great way to unwind, express gratitude, and take a much needed break from the hustle & bustles of everyday life.

3. Turning off the tv– “To be truly present you need to not just turn off the television or radio in your house, you need to turn off the conversation and images in your head”-Thich Nhat Hanh

Take a break and disconnect from the world, cell phones included (nothing will happen in those 20min—promise).

4. Preparing a meal- Just as fitness can nourish our bodies and mind. Just as a mesmerizing piece of art can move us physically and mentally. Just as an athlete of remarkable abilities can leave us in awe and disbelief. Food has the ability to provide a deep nourishment for our bodies and mind.

5. Chew your food, not your worries– “Sometimes we eat, but we aren’t thinking of our food. We’re thinking of the past or the future or mulling over some worry or anxiety again and again. Don’t chew your worries, your fear, or your anger. If you chew your planning and your anxiety, it’s difficult to feel grateful for each piece of food. Just chew your food.”-Thich Nhat Hanhs

Let go of thinking about work, personal stress, and just take in the moment of enjoying the food.

6. Eating is an art– This isn’t just fancy cooking. Its how you go about your daily nutrition. It’s eating well in the moments where most would crumble. “Your body is not just yours”. It is a gift and a responsibility”

7. A full life– One of my favorite quotes by Nhat Hanh states that “If we feel empty, we don’t need to go to the refrigerator to take things out to eat. When you eat like that, it’s because there is a feeling of emptiness, loneliness, or depression inside.”

Eating to fill emotional voids never solves the underlying issue. Filling your emotional voids by eating places a band-aid over your deep flesh wounds (eventually it’s going to seep through).

Question for you to think about: What are some areas of your life where you fall prey to mindlessly eating? And, what do you plan to do about it?

Pay no Attention to The Sideline Critics (A Polite Note From Those of us Trying to Level up Our Lives)

pay no attention to the sideline critics-sideline criticsOn any given Youtube video, Facebook post, Instagram share, or conversation with peers at work—you’ll hear someone share their criticism over a specific matter.

Criticism, in the correct context, serves as a great tool to help us grow as individuals and reach our desired goals. This type of criticism is deemed constructive, which is always a valuable metric.

However, the majority of criticism that we encounter is the polar opposite of constructive criticism. Today’s criticism is basically messages of hate, insecurity, and jealously.

The Sideline Critics DNA

There are two types of critics. One type criticizes and takes action toward the issue (succeed or fail, this person at least tried). The other type criticizes and sits on the sideline—offering no value besides creating extra noise. This type of critic is lazy and runs their mouth just for the sake of talking.

The sideline critic is the type of person who comments on Youtube with hateful comments such as “his music sucks, he should quit”, or “she’s fat, but I guess her singing is ok”.

The sideline critic appears in the fitness space with comments such as “why is he working out like that”, or “why does she eat this way, when there’s a better way to eat”.

The sideline critic has balls of steel behind the pc screen and talks behind people’s back.

Why you should pay the sideline critics no attention

It’s easy for the sideline critic to criticize someone who is trying to make a change in this world because they only give lip service about making a difference. It’s easy for them to call people’s clothes ugly when they only wear what society tells them is cool.

It’s easy to criticize someone for following their dreams when they are only making excuses for why they aren’t following theirs. It’s easy to criticize someones fitness decisions when they’re doing nothing besides going to work, then heading home to watch the latest TV shows.

It’s easy to criticize someones creativity when they don’t attempt to do anything creative.

It’s easy to make fun of someone’s diet or efforts toward living a healthier lifestyle when they don’t attempt to try themselves (deep down, they want to try, but are afraid of being vulnerable and risking failure).

It’s easy to be a critic about people’s relationships when the strongest ones they have is with a television and a gaming system. It’s easy to criticize someone else’s music when they’re not creating any themselves. It’s easy for them to turn into the next Roger Ebert when they’re not making movies.

everyone thinks they're a critic- sideline critics
Everyone wants to be a critic- Photo Credit: MikePfunn via Compfight cc

It’s easy for the sideline critic to call someone crazy and delusional when they stay safe and warm inside their bubbly comfort zone. It’s easy for them to label someone a subpar guitar player when the only guitar playing they attempted was from a gaming system.

It’s easy to laugh at someone at the gym, when they only pretend to workout and half ass everything. It’s easy for them to laugh at their co-workers for falling for the latest snake oil fitness product when they don’t attempt to give fitness a chance (at least those people were trying).

It’s easy to say this guy gives awful advice when they’re a complete mute about the topic on hand.

It’s easy to criticize from above when you aren’t getting your hands dirty and actually trying to make a change.

In their eyes, their books, workouts, advice, music ,and ideas are perfect.

Why?

Because they’re still in their head. Their ideas are vacationing in fantasy land (the only place where perfectionism exist).

A challenge for you to rise above the critics

There’s a lot of criticism being dished out, but what the hell are they doing to help the situation?

Will you let their noise stop you? Or will you continue to roll your sleeves up, get some dirt under your nails, and keep moving forward with your goals.

 Think about the courage it takes to walk into the gym and feel lost, yet continue to workout. Think about the courage it takes to venture into uncharted territories with your work, yet continue towards building your dream career. Think about the courage it takes to chase after a goal, when everyone is in the other corner shouting for you to quit.

Don’t let the sideline critics stop you from making your dent in the universe and building the body you want.

Here’s a message you can tell the sideline critics

Dear sideline critics & all others who like to criticize but take no action,

While we may at times make the wrong decisions or the unpopular choice, we’re nevertheless still sticking our necks out there, taking chances, striving to become the healthiest versions of ourselves, and trying to make our dent in the universe.

So, if you don’t mind, we are asking politely ‘that you stop your complaining’.

Keep your hateful comments to yourself if you don’t have a better idea—we don’t need your insecure manifestations. Keep your opinions to yourself if you’re not willing to attempt anything.

If you’re not going to say anything of value, or contribute positively, or share a solution, or criticize in a objective manner—then ‘stop your complaining’.

Start a revolution. Start working out. Start making healthier food decisions. Start writing that book. Start playing the guitar. Start writing. Start painting. Start going after the things you want, instead of only settling & making excuses.

Once you start to do this, you’ll understand that it takes hard work, courage, vulnerability, and lots of gusto to put yourself out there for the whole world to see and judge you.

Until you start to do this—please keep your mouth shut. Some of us have work to do.

Sincerely,

A person trying to level up their fitness and make their unique dent in the universe.

P.S. If you’re currently being affected by the sideline critics, I challenge you to immediately make a declaration of “no more”. No more of letting critics hold you back from your fitness goals or any other goals in life. Your goals deserve your full attention—not the sideline critics.