I recently reached out to one of my Internet mentors and buddy, Mike Vacanti, with this question:
That’s right. I’ve got feelings of worry, anxiety, and self-loathing just like you do my friend. Since you’re on my site, these feelings are probably more related to fitness struggles.
It could be when you look in the mirror, while working out, or when in your bathing suit at a public pool.
These scenarios are already shitty enough, but there’s one element that can make them way worse ⏤ when you have these negative emotions pop up, even after working hard for months.
You know what I’m talking about.
Let’s say you picked a goal of losing 20 lbs and increased strength on the main lifts.
You probably saw some solid results in the beginning.
- your weight was coming down
- your motivation was high
- hell, maybe you even noticed a new striation or vein in your shoulder.
“Feeling good about this!!” ⏤ you told yourself.
And then, a few weeks (or even a few months) passed, and progress started to slow a little bit.
You’re still hitting the gym and eating healthy meals most days, but the weight isn’t dropping as fast. The gym is slowly starting to become a chore. And now you may feel kinda “soft” and “flat” with your shirt off.
These sharp realizations start to poke holes into your motivation stores.
You start questioning what you’re doing and try something new.
Works for a couple days, but meh, right back to minimal progression.
“SCREW IT.” you declare.
Nothing’s working anyway, so helloooo pizza, ice cream, and midnight cinnamon rolls.
If you don’t have anybody holding you accountable, it’s very easy to self-rationalize out of doing the hard shit (like resisting that “screw it” moment). Especially long-term.
If you’re lucky, this only lasts a weekend or so and you get it out of your system enough to start back again on Monday.
If this sounds even remotely familiar, you better keep on reading because, BOY, I’ve got some solid strategies for you to apply ASAP.
1. TRACK EVERYTHING.
For some reason, the idea of tracking scares the shit out of people.
I have two guesses why:
- People assume it’s too tedious.
- People are afraid of exposing their shortcomings.
There’s likely some merit to each of these, but the benefits of tracking HEAVILY outweigh the downsides.
OBJECTION: TRACKING IS TOO TEDIOUS.
First off, those touting this have likely never tracked before in their entire life.
College is tedious.
Learning how to drive a car is tedious.
Figuring out how to launch a car into space is (probably) tedious.
Tracking your calories, protein, and what you do in the weight room each day is NOT tedious.
OBJECTION: IT EXPOSES SHORTCOMINGS.
The reason I love tracking so much is because it provides emotionless, objective data for problem solving.
Case in point: you start weighing yourself each morning after a month off = you realize you’re heavier than when you weighed yourself last month.
To be very simplistic, but blunt, eat less and/or move more. You’re not in a calorie deficit because you’re eating more than you’re burning.
“But Matt… ehh, ehhh, the scale MaKeS mE oBsEsSiVe anD GiVeS mE AnXieTy?!”
Look. I understand many people have issues with the scale. And I’m not trying to poke fun either, but some people make these excuses to avoid executing.
Do you HAVE to do it this way?
No, there are other ways. If it truly drives you crazy, try a habit-based approach and educate yourself on WHY the scale fluctuates.
If you realized the scale is only ONE tool (monthly pictures, body measurements, the fit of your clothes, energy, confidence, etc., are all tools) of providing feedback and not a predictor of self-worth, you would likely make much quicker progress.
The research also supports this.
Via a systematic review from Burke et al. (2011):
“In the weight gain prevention trial, only daily weighing was associated with weight losses, and less frequent weighing was associated with weight gain. However, in the weight loss trial monthly, weekly and daily self-weighing were associated with weight losses; more frequent self-weighing was associated with a greater 24-month weight loss.”
Not stepping on the scale gives it power over you.
If you started to get high blood pressure and you told your doctor, “Nah, it hurts my feelings when I see the number increasing. I don’t want to measure it.”
Sounds ridiculous, right? Your doctor would slap you and say it’s a vital part of the process.
Thus — pony up, tell your emotions to fuck off, and let’s be adults by taking care of our health.
The short-term pain of “tedious” tracking will be worth the long-term happiness of continual progression.
Logic > Feelings.
2. HIRE A COACH WHO KNOWS WHAT THEY’RE DOING.
I’ll keep this one short because I know you’re expecting me to pitch you, so you’ll probably skip over it anyway.
I’ve had four coaches in the past 5 years: two for bodybuilding competitions and two for business.
I’ve spent thousands of dollars on these coaches.
Because I care about TIME.
Time is more valuable than anything else because it is irreplaceable.
Plain and simple, a good coach can help you shave off years of screw-ups and confusion. They’ve already done exactly what you’re trying to accomplish (hopefully).
But a GREAT coach can change your life and, through osmosis, change the lives of every person you come in contact with.
You may think a coach is only gonna help you make a workout plan and eat healthier.
Sure, a shitty one is. But not here, dude.
We become BFFs for life and trudge through Mordor like Frodo and Sam.
So, like, consider applying and let’s be friends. ← (There’s your pitch.)
3. FOCUS ON THE PROCESS, NOT THE RESULTS.
Remember when I DMed Mike in the beginning of this article
Well, here was his response:
I already knew the answer in my head, but it felt good to hear from someone else who has been in my shoes.
We can get so eager to accomplish our dream goals, yet underestimate how long it can take to reach them.
Just like the aforementioned goal of losing 20 lbs, we get discouraged when it’s been 6 months and we’ve only lost 10 lbs.
This can tank our motivation and we might even give up altogether.
But if we shifted our thinking from the outcome (lose 20 lbs) to the process (the daily systems to reach that outcome), we narrow down our focus.
Do this instead:
Break that process down. Like REALLY down.
You can even set goals by the minute when shit gets hard.
One of my favorite quotes is by Tom Peters,
“Excellence is not an ‘aspiration.’ Excellence is the next 5 minutes.”
Or this one by legendary philosopher, Seneca:
All we have is now.
Whether we like it or not, now is all we can control.
Accept this and embrace the only possible next step to break through your plateau: action.
- Burke, L. E., Wang, J., & Sevick, M. A. (2011). Self-Monitoring in Weight Loss: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(1), 92–102. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.008