Struggling to Start Exercising? Here’s How to Take Action With Your Fitness

“Action is the antidote to despair”- Joan Baez

struggling to start working out? here's how to take action with your fitness

Edward Harris states that “to awaken each morning is to be born again. To fall asleep each night is to die to the day.

Why do we delay doing the good we would like to do? Why do we put off speaking words of kindness, giving encouragement, writing a letter, taking care of ourselves? Why do we delay making decisions, in living our lives?

Procrastination is a dreadful and terrible malady. We may ‘do it now’ but then we wait for the ‘right time.’ There is no need to wait to live your life”

Why do we skip workouts and resort to eating out of convenience (often times in the form of fast food)? Why do we sabotage ourselves and settle for comfort in the pits of mediocrity?

Answer: Lack of action.

There’s a disconnect between wanting and actually doing.

To build a healthier physique, you need to workout, eat less processed foods and sleep more.

Simple. Everyone should easily be able to do this.

Right.

Well…not exactly. If it was simple and crystal clear, the majority of people would be walking around with a lean physique, diabetes wouldn’t be rising, and we wouldn’t be living in an era where obesity is steadily climbing each year.

Gregg Krech, author of The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology states, “taking action is doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, in response to the needs of the situation.”

Action seems simple on the surface, but once you unravel the layers, taking action involves many webs of entanglement.

The two elephants in the room stopping you from taking action

If we know what to do and why we should do it, then obviously there’s a disconnect on the execution end. Something inside of us isn’t being triggered; thus preventing us from taking action toward our fitness goals.

When it comes to lack of taking action, there isn’t a laundry list of reasons as to why you won’t start. It boils down to two reasons.

1. You know what needs to be done, and you’re not doing it– The knowledge is there, but the proper drive and motivation isn’t anywhere to be found.

People in this category, worry about minuscule fitness information and tactics such as meal timing, specific grams of protein per meal, optimal meal frequency, and optimal training protocols just to name a few.

Researching their ideas, making plans, and reading more books and blogs is a great way for these people to procrastinate from taking action (paralysis from analysis).

2. You really just don’t know what to do– It’s not lack of discipline, stubbornness, or fear—it’s lack of knowledge. This problem is easily corrected by getting a coach, mentor, reading a book or two, and just practicing.

However, the majority of people fit into category 1.

What action isn’t and it’s associated risks

When you know there’s something you need to do and you have the necessary resources to start—the biggest risk you can do is nothing at all.

Merely deciding isn’t doing (inactions)

You making a decision to workout is only a mere decision until you’ve taken an action (i.e. actually doing a workout).

Your everyday world hasn’t changed because of your decision. It may feel like progress to decide that you want to lose weight, but until you take action—nothing has changed.

Wanting something isn’t enough

I’d love to be an exceptional salsa dancer. I’d love to travel around the world. I’d love to go to the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Most people would love to lose weight. Most people would love to have more money. Most people would love to have a new job.

What’s the point here?

Creating ripples in the world aren’t caused by our desires and wants. They manifest from doing.

ripples- how to take action with your fitness
Ripples won’t happen on their own

As Gregg Krech states, “There is no merit in just thinking about doing something. The result is exactly the same as not thinking about it. It is only doing the thing that counts. I shall acquire the habit of doing what I have in mind to do.”

Start doing, less talking.

The burden we’ll endure to avoid discomfort

Many people will tolerate the personal consequences and repercussions that result from procrastination.

Participating in the game of procrastination brings about an inconvenience due to the internal discomfort of not accomplishing the goal. We want the goal, but we don’t want the struggles or necessary sacrifices required for reaching our new goal.

Instead of enduring and sitting with this discomfort, we’ll avoid and distract ourselves with short-term band-aid solutions.

The age of busyness

One of the most popular strategies for never getting anything done and pretending to want a goal is to claim “you’re too busy”.

A popular strategy by many is to do something completely opposite of the task at hand and when the work isn’t finished, blame it on “busyness” (a hidden disease).

Want to work on that unfinished book—now it’s time to check for an “important email” or go pay a bill. Want to go to the gym—suddenly the house is dirty, you have chores, and work projects are suddenly due.

The age of busyness lets people disguise their excuses in “busyness” instead of calling it for what it really is—procrastination.

Three philosophies on how to take action with your fitness

1.Morita Therapy

With psychological principles heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism, Japanese psychiatrist Dr. Shoma Morita started this method of therapy as a way to deal with “ anxiety-based disorders and neurosis” called “Shinkeishitsu”.

At its core, Morita proposed that human motivation is influenced by two simple, but opposing practices: (1) the desire to live fully (self-actualize), and (2) the desire to maintain security and comfort.

The main goal of Morita Therapy is “Arugamama” (acceptance of life as it is). Morita’s premise is to “Accept your thoughts and feelings. Rather than fight what goes on in your mind, simply accept.”

However, as we all know, this is easier said than done, especially in our informational overload world, instant gratification seeking, and entitlement culture.

Krech states that “when we are caught in our idealized views about how we should be, we cannot accept things as they are.”

We have difficulty accepting our current fitness levels because we avoid discomfort and seek shortcuts by 3 common methods.

I. Avoidance– Trying to escape our feelings and thoughts; running from the uncomfortable; avoiding the unfamiliar.

Our workouts become challenging and push us past our level of comforts—we’ll use lack of time and obligations to avoid the discomfort.

We’ll choose the convenience of fast food and pretend health foods in the frozen foods section instead of cooking and preparing our meals.

II. Resignation– We accept the status quo as is. We give up too easily. We lose our soul and spirits.

Discomfort sucks, but what sucks more than that is doing activities and not seeing the expected results or any indication of progress.  A couple shortcomings with fitness, a couple meals off our plan—we start to sulk and languish in our feelings.

III. Complaining– We’re not lifting at our ideal times. We’re not eating every few hours like we planned.

Complaining is one of the most popular ways for why we don’t take action. Something will never be ideal. There is no optimal time to start. The best time is right now.

2. Kaizen Principle

“Small actions take very little time or money, and they’re agreeable even to those of us who haven’t laid up bulk supplies of willpower. Small actions trick the brain into thinking: Hey, this change is so tiny that it’s no big deal. No need to get worked up. No risk of failure or unhappiness here.

By outfoxing the fear response, small actions allow the brain to build up new, permanent habits—at a pace that may be surprisingly brisk”- Robert Maurer (author of One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way)

In Japan, the word Kaizen simply means to “change for the better”.

Whether in fitness, creativity, business, or any personal development arena—the kaizen method provides an easy-to-implement tool for improvement.

The goal of Kaizen is to make a continuous improvement but in a slow, consistent, and incremental manner. Think 1% daily improvement. The way to apply Kaizen to your fitness is to start small and make one small change; build on that habit; then form another small and measurable habit.

These small changes become significant results over time.

If you’re developing a healthy eating habit from scratch—start by focusing on eating one complete balanced meal per day. Trying to change all your meals at once is tough, just focus on winning breakfast at the beginning.

breakfast- how to take action with your fitness
One meal at a time, no rush

Once breakfast is easy, build upon that and aim for two balanced meals per day. While working out, maybe you’re into circuits, the 1% rule would have you cutting your completion time of the circuit in small increments (a few seconds each time).

3. Naikan (”introspection”/ “inside-looking”)

Out of the three discussed, this Japanese philosophy has been most beneficial to my life.

Naikan, developed in the 1940’s by Ishin Yoshimoto, requires you to look at yourself, your relationships, your work, and most importantly your actions from a new perspective. Self-reflection helps us to appreciate what we have, where we are, and our capacity to carry out general functions.

Naikan is constructed upon 3 simple questions:

(1) What have I received?

(2)What have I given?

(3) What troubles and difficulties have I caused?

Ok, this seems cool, but why is this relevant to fitness?

Applying a Naikan practice requires you to look through a new set of lens, which often results in the discovery of long-held beliefs that were inaccurate and irrational (aka creating invisible scripts).

These new sets of lenses will help you see situations for what they really are and remove your fitness excuses. Nothing to hid behind. No ego, only truth. Your excuses for not eating healthy, not making time for working out has nowhere to hide, and no one to blame, but yourself.

What’s the real reason why you’re not working out, creating art from the heart, and eating healthy?

Once you discover the truth, it’s time to move to the next stage.

The biggest mental shift for taking action and always winning

Most people give up before reaping their rewards for their hard earned efforts.

Why?

Besides impatience, most people are motivated by extrinsic values, external validations, and the specific outcomes of their situations.

If people don’t see results, they quit and begin to place blame.

However, a simple shift in your mindset will prevent this from happening.

What is it?

Instead of focusing on rewards and outcomes, reward yourself for taking the necessary actions and behaviors. Reward yourself for following a system and sticking to your specific commitment.

You have a goal to lose 20 pounds. The worst thing you can do is think about those 20 pounds each day.

Instead, base your rewards and achievements around a system of losing 20 pounds through adhering to daily movement, eating healthy meals each day, and getting quality and consistent sleep each night.

This approach of focusing on systems creates less pressure than basing everything (including your self-worth) from a goal of losing 20 pounds. Those 20 pounds aren’t sliding off in a week, therefore if you base your worth on those 20 pounds, you’re going to be disappointed for awhile.

Think systems and process—not goals.

Small actions to start exercising immediately

1. Get started as soon as possible– It doesn’t matter what you do nor how you do it—all that matters is that you do something…anything.

Your main objective is to generate momentum and develop confidence. Confidence only manifests from doing.

Make the barrier to entry as simple and stress-free as possible. Starting with an exercising commitment for as little as 10-15 minutes is perfect when you’re coming from a place where exercise is non-existent.

2. Forget your feelings and move in the slightest direction forward– One of the core principles of Morita Therapy is that we have much more control over our body (i.e. actions) than our minds (i.e. thoughts & feelings).

Do and think action and to hell with what the voices tell you.

Example: Don’t feel like walking, lifting weights, or cooking a healthy meal. It’s too cold, too much traffic, yadda, yadda, yadda—nine out of ten times, these are excuses and your minds way of trying to keep you comfortable. Once you start (an essential step), there will be a natural swing in your emotional pendulum  that will tell you “it isn’t so bad”.

3. Do the work regardless of your current conditions– It’s easy for us to complain about our situations and blame people for why we aren’t achieving our goals.

By complaining, we contribute to our own suffering and make our lives more difficult. Our conditions and situations will always be less than ideal. We can’t always control our scenarios, events presented our way, but we can control our responses to those scenarios and events.

4. Find some excitement and reframe into a positive mindset– Think about when you were a kid and your birthday was approaching, odds are you were excited and overflowing with positive thoughts.

When you approach fitness from this same angle—more abundant situations will magically follow suit (you gotta believe).

Visualize what succeeding with your fitness goals feels and looks like and connect it to how it’s going to benefit aspects of your life. Don’t just want to lose fat for the sake of it. Think about how losing fat will level up the rest of your life.

5. Seek rhythm like James Brown– What separates those that are consistent to those that sporadically show up is an ability to develop a ritual and find a consistent flow to their days.

james brown- how to take action with your fitness
The ‘godfather of soul’-Photo Credit: Stephanie Arbaugh via Compfight cc

***Feel free to pause and take a three-minute dance break or a ten-minute break if you really need to unwind.

6. Approach with a deadline mindset– Duke Ellington famously said: “I don’t need time, I need a deadline.”

A deadline mindset brings a sense of urgency and forces you to determine what’s essential and what’s filler in your days.

Shift yourself from a“what do I feel like doing” mindset into a “what needs to be done rather I like it or not” mindset.

7. One thing at a time– When you eat, train, or go out to dinner with friends or a date—focus on doing that one task (and only that task).

Throw multi-tasking to the wayside.

8. Accept that fear never disappears– Fear is one of the biggest obstacles to taking action. You get this intense bubbly feeling along with your body tightening. You start forecasting about the road ahead being filled with failure, embarrassment, rejection, and pain.

Nevertheless, move forward with action and co-exist with this fear. Fear never vanishes nor does it need to. You learn to accept that fear sometimes is irrational.

9. No more spectating, leave the audience– You watch movies; you watch sports; you watch sitcoms; you read books; you listen to music; you scroll through countless fitness transformations on Instagram (albeit most of them are an illusion); you read others Facebook status (most of them are complete rubbish).

Are you making time to create things for yourself? Are you taking the time to create a healthier life for yourself instead of just witnessing others? Are you adding something to the universe? Are you just consuming and taking in instead of being a maker and doer?

It’s easier to sit in the audience. It’s safe and secure.

But, to build a world-class body, live a world-class lifestyle, and create ripples within your life—you must become a participant.

That 1st step is damn hard, but who says it can’t be a baby step (all that matters is that you get started)?

10. What’s your purpose– Ask ‘what is the purpose of this activity’ and “why am I doing this”.

11. Reflect on your life– Sounds really deep, but it’s essential. Is whatever activity you’re doing an essential and vital task to your fitness goals? Are these choices in alignment with your vision and values?

If you enjoyed this article, enjoy dancing, or know someone who is struggling with their fitness, would you be a good human and please send this article their way (many thanks)?

4 Popular Childhood Behaviors Sabotaging Your Fat Loss

pretty child-4 Childhood Behaviors Sabotaging Your Fat Loss
Photo by Eric Montfort

As a native southerner and minority, I grew up in a culture where portion sizes were astronomical; the more butter the better; sweet tea (aka sugar tea) actually exists; everything is fried.

What is baked or sauteed chicken? It’s rude to turn down someone’s made-from-scratch-homemade pound cake or whatever the hell else is made-from-scratch.

You get the idea.

No one is checking macros. We’re not worried about if the ingredients are gluten free.

Food ideologies and behaviors are engineered into us starting from the time we’re little kids. Our respective cultures and environments play a pivotal role in the development of our food behaviors from a psychological and physiological standpoint.

There’s a section of the brain called the hypothalamus, which plays a starring role in your eating behaviors.

Your hypothalamus is going to relay to other cells within your body on regulating how much and what to eat. Various chemicals (neurotransmitters) in your brain create feelings of satiety or hunger in response to the various sensory information and messages going on in your body.

Your brain is highly susceptible to the pleasure response. Food stimulates your brain to produce these “feel good” chemicals such as dopamine, which seduces you into a continual eating frenzy.

This factor is single-handedly one of the biggest causes for emotional eating and various food addictions. There are some in the scientific and research community who state the more obese someone is, the fewer dopamine receptors they have.

Why is this so important and what does it mean?

It means that they are more likely to overeat and practice bad behaviors in order to stimulate their “pleasure” response.

This is a big reason why I despise hearing some random bro dish out “eat less, and move more” bullshit rhetoric as their solution to obesity. That logic disrespects and disregards the psychological and physiological elements operating within our bodies.

Ok, the science class and mini-rant are over.

Using food to deal with your emotions and problems is going to create unhealthy relationships toward food; thus creating a habit of eating anytime something uncomfortable (i.e any emotion or a bad situation) flares up.

This type of behavior prevents you from resolving the core issue. By avoiding the issue, you’re storing that particular emotion in your body and creating further problems down the road.

Below are four childhood behaviors sabotaging your fat loss. These detrimental behaviors are habitual in nature and operate in secrecy.

1. Food as comfort

Food for comfort started as soon as mommy pampered us and fed us our favorite baby food. Throughout childhood, we’re told to “eat this pudding, soup, or insert whatever snack here, and it’ll make you feel better.”

Various emotions ranging from sadness, boredom, loneliness, or frustrations with various aspects of our lives causes us to resort to food as a way to satisfy our need for happiness and pleasure (aka dopamine).

The idea of consuming particular foods and our moods magically elevating is scintillating. It’s natural for us humans to look for a mystical genie in a bottle solution to our problems. However, feeling better has nothing to do with the foods we’re consuming—this is a weak psychological excuse.

An investigation into comfort foods

Example: You’re feeling down. Work is an abomination. Your date was a nightmare (they give love a bad name). You’re not happy with your body and the rate of progress.

When you’re feeling like dog poo—what better way to make yourself feel better than to eat some “good ole comfort food”.

Nothing soothes the soul and turns your frowns upside down better than chocolate ice cream or homemade donuts.

Right? Not exactly.

childhood behaviors sabotaging your fat loss
As tasty as they may be, they won’t provide a cure to what ails you.

Traci Mann, author of Secrets From the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again and professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota along with her colleagues conducted several research studies on comfort foods and their effect on our moods.

In one study, they took 100 college students and made them watch clips from sad movies; thus lowering their moods. Half the students were fed their favorite comfort foods and the other students ate foods they enjoyed, but wouldn’t necessarily consider comfort foods.

After eating, the researchers asked the students “how they felt”. The conclusion to this was that all students felt better, regardless of what they ate.

In a totally separate study, half the kids ate comfort foods and the other half ate nothing. After a few minutes, both groups felt equally better. The comfort foods were a moot point.

 Using comfort foods as your crutch is an excuse to indulge in junk food and avoid the real issue that’s brewing.

At the end of the day, if you want ice cream, cake, wine, or cookies—just eat it and drink away, but don’t lie to yourself about why you’re doing this.

Solutions to comfort foods:

1. Ask yourself why you’re eating– Is it boredom, anxiousness, nervousness, emotions stemming from work, or peer pressure from friends and family?

2. Rate your hunger on a scale of 1-10– Are you a 10, which indicates you’re absurdly hungry or are you around a 6 which indicates satiety, but not overly full. Maybe you’re a 3, which equates to eating only out of emotional reasons.

3. Practice pausing & assessing– Before eating, take a walk, meditate, draw, or dance for 5-15 minutes. Try to occupy your mind briefly to determine if it’s true hunger or eating to cover up another issue.

2. Food as punishment

Many gamers heard this sentence:“Finish your food or no video games for you.”

For example, as adults, food becomes punishment through two different, but equally damaging scenarios.

1.“I’m removing all ice cream because I weigh ‘x’ amount”– You’re punishing yourself because you didn’t hit your goal. Using food as punishment is a secretive and unassuming behavior. To many people, it appears that you’re making the necessary sacrifices in order to elicit amazing results. However, deep down you’re psychologically hardwiring yourself with skewed perceptions of food.

2.“I’ve already failed with my diet, might as well finish this ice cream since I’ve failed”– You further indulge because you already feel defeated for slightly indulging earlier, creating a compound effect which adds up over time.

This behavior creates a negative cycle of actions and self-pity within your decision making. Someone who eats ice cream when they told themselves that they wouldn’t—starts to feel guilty—leading them to eat the remaining tub of ice cream due to feeling the day was lost (aka waving the white flag).

This cycle manifests because your thoughts lead to your feelings, and your feelings lead to your actions.

Solutions to food punishment:

1. Are you using food as a way to nourish yourself or as a way to punish yourself? Food is medicine and a tool for enjoyment, not a device for pain and depression.

2.Are your food decisions entirely based on emotions?- Relying entirely on emotions is a dangerous game due to being caught up in the heat of the moment and not having the big picture/long-term view in mind.

3.Even when you slip up on your diet, are you using that as an excuse to binge due to feeling like you let yourself down.-One mistake isn’t the end of the world. What separates the successful from the almost successful people of fitness is their ability to climb back into the ring and get back to work.

Splurged on junk food earlier in the day?

Big deal.

There’s plenty of time left to make healthy decisions. Finish the day strong. The journey isn’t a straight road—it’s one of many steep hills and steep declines.

3.Food as guilt

As children, we’re told to “clean our plates before leaving the dinner table”, “why are you being wasteful and not finishing your food—there are plenty of people who would be grateful to have this food”, and “it’s rude to not eat all of your host’s food”.

childhood behaviors sabotaging your fat loss
Everything must go.

As adults, we continue the trend of guilt with statements like “I shouldn’t have…”, “If I eat this, I…”, “I had three glasses of wine, I let myself down”, “I had too much dessert, now I have to do 60 minutes of extra cardio to burn “x” amount of calories”.

The inner voice of guilt delivers subtle jabs and roundhouses before you eat that piece or two of cake. That inner voice makes you feel like dog poop after you indulge in a couple glasses of wine.

Guilt is tough, and as a person who has personally struggled with guilt—it takes time and compassion to gain back control.

Combining food and guilt potentially leads to various eating disorders and throws your daily life into a tailspin.

Allowing guilt to spiral out of control leads to self-loathing, shame, and hopelessness towards achieving a healthy median between enjoyment of foods and fitness.

The battle of good vs. evil

When suffering from food guilt, one of the worst mistakes is to label food as good or bad. Labeling food as either good or bad prevents you from enjoying foods and developing a proper mindset towards food.

Food isn’t good nor bad. Your food isn’t involved in a war. It’s something you should take pride in, enjoy, and not resent.

Beer isn’t an evil doer. Wine isn’t a part of the evil empire. Cookies and pastries aren’t guaranteed physique killers. These foods and drinks wreck your goals only if you don’t keep them in control. Without awareness and control, you can make almost anything you consume a negative when consumed in excess.

Let go of good vs. evil. Re-frame your mindset and realize that some foods are better at providing optimal health (internal & external); thus making those foods the ones that need to be consumed the majority of times.

Solutions for guilt

1. Sit with the feeling– It’s not sexy, nor eye-catching, but the best way to control guilt is to feel the very emotion of the guilt setting forth. It’s most likely overwhelming, but starting internally is how you build up your external world into something positive. This act allows you to develop the powerful and essential skill of being aware of that moment of guilt.

2. Question yourself– When you feel guilt settling in or you’re questioning something—ask yourself why three times about why you’re feeling guilty and assess afterward if this guilt is warranted.

3. Have some perspective– At the end of the day, Webster (aka the dictionary) defines guilt as an emotion experienced when you feel you’ve violated a moral standard.

Look at it this way, you aren’t running someone over, looting, stealing, or disrespecting Jamiroquai—you’re only eating a cookie, enjoying a slice or two of pizza with friends, or enjoying a soothing glass of Merlot (it’ll be ok).

Life needs to be enjoyed—stressing over the little tasks steals precious energy needed for the big decisions.

4. Food as reward

As a kid, were you told that “If you get all A’s on your report card, you can go to Chuckie Cheese (don’t act like you don’t know what that is)?” Were you told, “If you clean your room and make your bed all week—you can go out for ice cream?”

When we grow up, we’ll tell ourselves “I’ve been eating so clean lately, I totally deserve to eat these brownies.” “I strength trained four days this week, it’s okay to eat these dozen cookies.” “I was on good behavior this week in addition to doing extra cardio, I deserve these wings and bloody mary’s after my good workweek.”

The logic of rewarding ourselves makes sense if we’re dogs.

Rewards also make sense if you went through a horrible treatment (think torture) or something that goes completely against you, but we’re only talking about food here.

Rewarding yourself with extrinsic rewards is a slippery slope because you’ll start to lose your intrinsic motivation. The task at hand becomes only about the extrinsic reward and the original goal of becoming healthier takes a backseat.

One of the first steps to living a healthy life and becoming the architect of your own body is designing an eating template that specifically fits your lifestyle. Your eating template shouldn’t be so much of a burden that you need to gorge yourself in order to jolt some happiness into your life.

Why reward yourself for eating healthy by stuffing yourself full of unhealthy foods?

Partaking in the occasional “unhealthy” treat or alcoholic beverage is one thing, but doing this reward system just to make yourself eat some veggies defeats the entire purpose of this healthy lifestyle.

childhood behaviors sabotaging your fat loss
Eating grilled chicken and sauteed veggies to justify the wine consumption makes no sense.

This reward feasting system isn’t the same as a normal weekend re-feed or dining out with friends. One is about integrating occasional and strategic indulgences into a healthy lifestyle. The other scenario is about partaking in healthy behaviors in order to justify binging on unhealthy foods later in the week—this is psychologically counter-productive.

You’re not forming long lasting habits; thus you aren’t truly re-framing your food behaviors.

Solutions for reward-based eating

1.Pamper yourself– Get a massage, a new book, a manicure, pedicure, fancy haircut, or treat yourself to an artist’s date.

2.Expand your comfort zone with new experiences– museums, weekend getaways, exploring uncommon paths in your own city, go on an adventure date—the possibilities are endless.

3.Use momentum to build your repertoire– take a yoga class and keep up with your punch cards. Use your calendar and mark an “x” after each session and if 100% compliance, treat yourself to some new workout clothes to go with your new body (remember gym performance increases by 13.3% when you feel sexy and have nice workout clothes on).

4. But, what if you need to reward yourself in a culinary sense because you love the subject of food?– Then buy yourself a new cookbook, a set of knives, or replace your least favorite kitchen utensil—then prepare a new, healthy, and physique friendly dish.

5.Do an activity you couldn’t do before– Maybe you couldn’t participate in a walkathon before or run around with your kids the entire time.

Maybe you weren’t confident within your own body to take a yoga class. Maybe you weren’t confident to take a salsa class or any other social activity because of your figure. But, after incorporating strength training and eating healthier—what once wasn’t possible can now become a reality.

If you enjoyed this article or know someone who’s struggling with their nutrition, be a good friend and send this article their way (many thanks). Let’s stop some of this nutritional nonsense floating around.

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
Photo Credit: PRAM Consulting via Compfight cc

“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.