The Two Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Getting In Shape
TL:DR: Getting in shape is not inherently difficult, impatience ruins your chance of success, and small changes compound to incredible results.
Despite what you have been lead to believe, there are no secrets when it comes to fat loss, muscle gain, or forging the body of your dreams. The media loves to sensationalize the results of new scientific studies (without really understanding them, mind you). "Influencers" love to promote sketchy (at best) fitness routines. And you can't swing a cat (please don't) in a gym without hitting someone more than happy to put you on their program.
Look, I get it. You're busy. You're successful professionally and you're wondering why you haven't figured out this whole "fitness" thing yet. You just want to feel strong, confident, healthy, while liking the way you look.
I also get that it's a lot to take in and it's hard to know what to trust and believe. You read something that sounds pretty good only to have the next thing you read say the exact opposite. Maybe you’ve heard some of these:
"Carbs are good, you gotta go high carb man!"
"Carbs are bad, low carb is the law!"
“Carbs? What carbs? High fat all day!"
“Fat? You mean that stuff that makes you fat!? Low-fat is what you need."
"High reps and low weight are best. You want a good pump don’t you!?”
“High weight and low reps are best. You want to get strong don’t you?"
"You gotta go keto man!"
"No way, paleo is where it's at.
"Bro, if you're not taking a pre-workout why are you even at the gym!?"
All of that is noise and most of that is nonsense, at least in the sense that one way is the only way.
You don't have time for that.
That's why I'm here to help cut through the noise, nonsense, hype, and hyperbole.
There are two things I wish everyone knew about getting in shape. These may not come as a surprise, but they can't be ignored.
It's Easier Than You Think
Getting in shape is not inherently difficult. Don’t think I’m trying to downplay any challenges you’ve faced in the past. But I’d venture to say that many of those challenges were because things felt too overwhelming and complicated.
Because I’d bet more often than not you know what to do. You know you need to eat right. You know you need to move more and get to the gym. You know you need to drink enough water and get enough sleep.
Doing what we know is where things get a bit more challenging (more on that later).
Let’s clear out the clutter and simplify what it takes to get in shape. Here's a list that I use with about 80% of my clients. Call this the Foundational 7.
Three meals a day made up of 50-60% plants/vegetables, 20-30% protein, and 10-20% fat. No snacking. Limit starchy vegetables like potatoes and grains like rice to roughly half of your plant/vegetable intake.
Be consistent, not perfect. Eat the above about 80-90% of the time. Give yourself some flexibility.
Eat slowly. Eat until satisfied, not stuffed. Chew each bite 20-30 times.\
Drink 60% of your bodyweight in ounces a day.
Have a consistent bedtime, aim for 7+ hours a night.
Track everything you eat and drink, even for a set duration like 2-4 weeks.
Move daily. 8-10k steps should do it. For a more lean, athletic look, hit the gym 2-4x each week for 30-60 minutes and increase the weight you use every couple of weeks, especially in your squat, deadlift, row, and press.
That's all there is to it and more often than not that’s going to be enough for you. Yes, we all come to this with a unique set of circumstances but rarely do we deviate from the Foundations rather we deepen and expand on our application.
Maybe you have to be at a certain weight by a certain date or are preparing for a performance-specific event. Then we might change things up a bit. But even then, it's an expansion of the above, getting more precise and more consistent. It doesn't matter who you are, what you do, or where you want to go, the Fundamentals apply to everyone.
99% of what lives outside of those 7 fundamentals is just noise for most people. Meal timing, carb-cycling, keto, paleo, supplements, high-reps, low-reps, HIIT. All of that is the minutiae. Don't major in the minors. Most fitness and nutrition programs are more similar than they are different. The reason why so many different things work is they connect with different people in different ways.
Consistency is the name of the game. What holds true is all programs help bring the above fundamentals to life. They might sprinkle in something fancy to stand out, but ultimately their foundation is in the fundamentals.
Remember, everything works but not everything is going to work for you. Find a way to bring the Fundamentals to life in a way that works for you.
It Takes Longer Than You Think
I'm close to 100% confident this is where most people get tripped up and struggle to make lasting change in their lives. We live in a society that all emphasizes and glamorizes instant gratification. We want what we want and we want it now.
I'm as guilty of this as anyone. Being an Amazon Prime member for years now, I scoff when buying something takes longer than two days to ship. What a time to be alive.
This mentality carries over into almost every other area of our lives. It's a blessing and a curse that nothing exists in isolation. But it's ruining our chance of success when we don't realize the damage this is doing to our health and to our long-term fitness and nutrition goals.
I see this scenario play out all of the time. You're excited to make a change, to finally work toward a body you can be proud of so you go all in on everything. You clean out the refrigerator, you get a gym membership, and you buy all of the gizmos and gadgets that "guarantee" results or your money back.
You start off strong but slowly that motivation fades. You start to get frustrated because you're not making fast enough progress. Soon, your old habits creep back in and your refrigerator is once again stocked with take-out lefts overs, you maybe make it to the gym once a week, and all of those fancy gadgets start to collect dust.
You got impatient.
We often forget that progress is progress. Even maintaining your progress is progress. But, because you didn't feel like it was happening fast enough you assumed it wasn't working. It was your expectations that got in the way of making a lasting change.
I get it. You feel like you're doing everything right but it doesn't feel like much is happening. That's the kicker; A LOT is happening. Your body IS changing. Your mindset is changing. Your habits are changing.
Like James Clear mentions in his book, Atomic Habits, every time you practice the fundamental, you're casting a "vote" in favor of becoming that person. Just like an election, you don't need to have all of the votes, just the majority. A vote is a vote. Obviously the more votes you cast, the faster you'll "win," but "faster" is relative. I'm not talking fast in the sense of immediate rather faster than you otherwise would have.
The same thing applies here. The more votes you cast in favor of becoming a healthy, happy, fit person, the faster you'll become one and the longer it will last.
It just takes time to become proficient with the fundamentals. Earlier I mentioned that doing what we know is where things get a bit more challenging. You're not likely to be very good with the fundamentals when you first get started. And that’s ok. You might think you are when you come out of the gate hot and heavy but "life" hasn't gotten in the way yet. Doing too much too soon doesn’t allow new habits to take hold.
But, you can and will get better with practice. Simply focusing on getting 1% better at some or all of the fundamentals will compound into incredible results.
If I had to paint a picture of this, it would look like a graph of what's referred to as "the dip." In any new endeavor, fitness-related or otherwise, we almost always go through it.
You start out hot and enjoy some near-immediate results. Those initial shifts, while probably more aggressive than they need to be, produce some results. But then, things taper off and the frustration and discouragement sets in. This is the dip. This is where most of us give up.
But, on the other side of the dip is where the real transformation happens. Those 1% compounding gains start to add up day-after-day, week-after-week, month-after-month. Progress is no longer linear, it starts to become exponential. This is where the magic happens. Not that magic. But the magic where you're almost blown away that such small shifts could produce such incredible results. Those results rarely live in the land of 30, 60, 90 days. We're talking 180 at least, typically closer to 365+.
I just want to drive this point home because it's the most important thing I want you to take away from this article: progress is progress, even if it feels slow. And if it does feel slow and you want to do something about it, take a good look at how well you're executing the fundamentals. Always come back to the fundamentals. Get better with the fundamental. Become more consistent with the fundaments. Stop looking for answers to questions that have already been answered.
You know what to do. Now go do it.
#HDHUHero Body Action Plan
Review the Foundational 7 above. On a piece of paper, make two columns. On the left side, list out the Foundational 7. Write them by hand. On the right side, score each of the Foundational 7 on a 1-10 scale based on how well you feel you’re doing with each - 1 being “barely ever, if at all” and 10 being “all day every day.” Be brutally honest here.
On the back of the same piece of paper, list out the Foundational 7 in ascending order. So, the one with the lowest score will go at the top and the one with the highest score will be at the bottom.
For each of the Foundational 7, think about what a +1 would look like for each. Not a +2 or a +4. If you scored a 5, what would you need to do to make that a 6? Add this information to your list. If you find yourself writing a paragraph, you’re thinking too much. There shouldn’t be more than a sentence, two max, for each. These are your Action Steps.
Starting at the top of your list, starting bringing each Action Step to life one-by-one. Don’t try to improve upon all 7 at once. Pick a one or two at a time, three max, and have at it.
Once you’ve worked through your seven +1’s, repeat this exercise again. If you went from a 5 to a 6, what would you need to do to score yourself a 7? Continue this exercise until you start seeing the results that you want.
Note that there’s likely no need to ever work toward a 10 for each. It might make sense for you but you also might be perfectly happy with 7’s across the board or maybe an 8 or a 9 sprinkled in there.