I love talking to people and hearing their stories. One of the questions I ask over and over again to the hundreds of people I talk to on a monthly basis is, “when did you start thinking about health, fitness, and body composition?”
Know what the answers are?
Usually something like, “twelve.” “Sixteen.” “Eight.”
Is that shocking to you? It was shocking to me at first. But, then I thought about my own life and realized that I’m in pretty much the same boat. I start thinking about my body and health and fitness in my early teens.
Anyway, back to my clients. I work primarily with people who are struggling and stuck in a cycle of failure and frustration.
I’m not a “biohacker.” I’m not helping people eek out the last 2% of “excellence” from their body.
I take people who are 2s, 3s, and 4s on a scale of 1-10 and I make them 9s.
Most of my clients have been struggling for decades. They’ve been thinking about this stuff since they were twelve and now they’re 42. And they’re still not successful.
You know what else they have in common? They’ve tried *a lot* of diets. So many that they constantly proclaim they’ve “tried everything.”
This is why I rail so hard against the fitness and dieting industry. They’ve had so many opportunities to help people who are in this boat and they’ve let the boat sink every damn time.
If this resonates with you, listen up because I’m going to tell you in clear and precise terms the 3 primary causes of your failure.
Once you know and understand the three causes, we can get to work on each one of them in an appropriate manner.
Reason #1: You have a dysfunctional relationship with food, body, and Self.
Our research, assessments, and coaching work with thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world indicates that over 80% of men and women have a dysfunctional relationship with food, body, and Self to a relevant degree.
What does that mean?
If you have a dysfunctional relationship with food, food to you is more than just nourishment and simple enjoyment. It’s love, connection, control, medication, and so on. Or, you could fear food. When things get tough, food, or the control or avoidance of it, becomes a symbolic substitute for what’s missing in your life.
If you have a dysfunctional relationship with body, it can mean that you have a disordered body image, a deep-rooted dislike or disgust of body, a pattern of self-mistreatment, and so on.
If you have a dysfunctional relationship with Self, it can mean that you harbor shame, guilt, fear, mistrust, regret, and so on. You may believe you aren’t good enough, aren’t worthy, aren’t capable. You have a track record of speaking poorly about yourself and thinking poorly about yourself. You lack healthy self-esteem (and this can be hard to self-assess because you may not want to believe these things about yourself).
You can also have a dysfunctional relationship with specific behaviors or substances, exercise, and other people. It’s all related. The mechanism for driving inconsistent behavior is two-fold.
First, this dysfunction drives seeking behavior. In other words, there’s an underlying need to medicate and cope, which drives you to seek out coping mechanisms (food being a very common medication).
Second, this dysfunction leads to a deficit of physical, mental, and emotional (PME) resources. Because our modern environment is often hostile to health and wellness, we need enough physical, mental, and emotional resources to make healthy habits happen consistently. I use a “health bank account” analogy to help clients shift their mindset on this
If you hope to have a body and life you love for the rest of your life, this dysfunctional relationship with food, body, and Self must be addressed and healed. Our flagship program (and the only one of its kind in terms of curriculum), Decode Your Cravings, is designed to do exactly that.
If you’re wondering whether or not you have this dysfunction, I recommend taking our free Emotional Eating Evaluation. You’ll quickly have a very clear answer.
Reason #2: Your reasons for changing your behavior are weak (and nobody has told you).
Most people who commit to getting a body and life they love have weak, superficial, and ineffective reasons for doing so. In other words, they have what we call, “weak whys.”
When we ask people what their why is for doing a health and fitness program, we get the following common answers:
- “I want to be healthier.”
- “I want to be thinner.”
- “I want to be more fit.”
- “I want to look better.”
- “I want to be stronger.”
While these things might seem like good reasons on the surface, they’re statistically powerless. Why? A few reasons. But, one big reason is that the benefits that you’d get from accomplishing those things all exist at some arbitrary, non-guaranteed point in the future.
Human beings are hard-wired for instant gratification. If you have two competing interests (such as enjoyment now, versus weight loss later), the only way to consistently align your choices with the future weight loss goal is to use willpower or discipline. This, of course, is the typical—and awful—advice.
Willpower is a horrible tool if you’re hoping to achieve long-term success and neither willpower nor discipline are required for success (they’re actually very common failure triggers, so use them at your own risk).
This is why the research clearly indicates that people who cite “health” and “weight loss” as core motivations to exercise will spend up to 32% *less* time exercising than people with other goals. The vast majority of the men and women who fail at achieving long-term success have “health” and “weight loss” as their goals. This is not just a commonality in failure, it’s a contributing reason for failure!
The first thing we do with new clients is lead them through our Powerful Whys process. Part of this process is leveraging our instant gratification programming instead of trying to ignore than programming, fight against it, and allowing that programming to become an obstacle.
When you have powerful whys, and when those whys are aligned with your instant gratification programming, you won’t falter if things get tough and you won’t stumble over the common obstacles that trip up everyone else. In fact, setting up this powerful mindset shift from the beginning is one of the key ingredients in making success feel somewhat effortless.
Reason #3: You’ve been following ineffective, impractical, destructive advice.
Conventional nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle advice is notoriously awful. The problem is that some of it is backed up by science (like calories-in, calories-out) and that leads people to believe that it’s the “right” strategy.
The science of weight loss, though, has nothing to do with human behavior. The human body is not a calculator or a robot. Following “the science” of weight loss is what leads so many people directly to failure and causes further dysfunction in their relationship with food, body, and Self.
Almost all Diets (the branded kind) can be boiled down into a proprietary calories-in, calories-out process. Usually, they require quite an extreme approach. They require lots of exercise (that you hate) and lots of food restriction (both in terms of what and how much), both of which are an amazing recipe for failure.
If you ever want to achieve the elusive “healthy lifestyle,” your diet must align with your biological and psychological programming. In other words, it must meet your body’s needs for calories and nutrients and it must also be enjoyable, flexible, and practical.
The same needs to be true in terms of fitness. Engaging in excessive exercise that you have to “willpower” or “discipline” yourself into doing (because you don’t really enjoy it) goes against your biological and psychological programming. Thankfully, with a little guidance, every single person can build a fitness and movement practice that they are intrinsically motivated to do, making consistency relatively effortless.
Lastly, all other conventional dieting strategies and tactics must end, as these too go against your biological and psychological programming. We teach our clients how to win without calorie counting, portion control, tracking, weighing, short-term challenges, detoxes, shame, guilt, fear, or any other classic tactics of the dieting industry.
Lifelong success requires a principles-based approach that respects individuality, human behavior patterns, and the world we currently live in (which can be quite hostile to being healthy).
Are any of these areas unexplored for you?
When you look at this list, does anything stand out to you as being previously unaddressed in your life? Which areas? Did you have any lightbulb moments?
Leave a comment below and let us know which parts of this article resonated with you most and what your plan of action is going to be…
Kevin Geary is the founder of RebootedBody.com and a respected expert on cravings, eating psychology, and long-term habit change. He’s helped tens of thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy and now offers all of his signature programs through a “pay what you want” model.