All Posts by Josh Hillis

About the Author

Josh Hillis is the Chief People Officer for One by One Nutrition, Author of Fat Loss Happens on Monday, and Nutrition Habits Coaching Expert for Strength Matters Magazine

Aug 18

Why We Don’t Do Cheat Days

By Josh Hillis | Cheat Day

We know that rigidly adhering to diet rules is a short road to failure. It works for a small percentage of the population, for a short time. When you hear about it “working” for someone, you’re hearing about one of two things:

  1. You’re hearing about it working for someone for the month or two that they were able to keep doing it.

  2. You’re getting “survivor bias” you’re hearing from one of the small percentage of people who can make it work. You aren’t hearing from the much larger percentage of people who struggled and failed with it.

Again, for the small percentage of people that a cheat day can work for, that leaves most of us that it makes things worse for. The majority of people find that a cheat day sets them on a mentally draining cycle of restricting too hard and then cheating too hard.

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The majority of people find that a cheat day sets them on a mentally draining cycle of restricting too hard and then cheating too hard.

The cycle of too much restriction and too much cheating is a downward spiral that keeps getting more and more extreme until it you break.

Fortunately, there’s a better way, that works for more people, more often. It’s amazing how powerful and effective it is for people to start to even out their diet intake each day, and continue to practice their food skills with treats.

A Smarter, More Effective Way

What we’ve found is that most people get much, much better results when their food consumption is pretty even from day to day.

  • We take the “too little during the week,” and bump it up
  • We take the “too much on the weekend” and bring it down

We even things up.

We work on "eating just enough" all of the time. We always pay attention to how our stomach feels and what's going to have us feel good during and after the meal.

We find that we can have treats from time to time, but we don’t really ever have to go overboard.

Why People Want Rules

People want hard diet rules like “Don’t eat this food!” or “No carbs after 4pm” or “No treats except for your cheat day” because it feels like it's going to be easier and simpler than taking the time to practice actual skills.

Unfortunately, it just doesn't work if you don't have the skills.

It takes time and practice to build your own food flexibility skill-set.  It takes time, but it's worth it.

No one set of rules is going to work for everyone. You need to have food skills and philosophies that are tailor made for you. You need to practice the skills, and hone them to a perfect fit for you.  Fortunately, we're going to go over some of the skills you can use for this in the second half of this post.

Example: Samantha

Samantha has been really focused on “eating clean” for the past few years. She’s really careful about what she can and can’t eat during the week. Then, on the weekends, she “does ok for breakfast and lunch” then “falls off the wagon at dinner” with a appetizers, the bread basket, a big dinner, desert, and alcohol, if she goes out. If she has a weekend in, it’s mostly just eating desert all weekend. Often, she’ll look up from a bag of cookies to find she’s eaten much more than she wanted to.

Either way, she feels gross in her body, and thinks about how guilty she feels. Sometimes she feels stupid, knowing that even for a free day, somehow she had too much. She steps on the scale on Monday, which leads to feeling like a failure, feeling ugly, beating herself up, and renewing her commitment to eat even “cleaner” and restrict even more this week. The cycle repeats with regularity, and you could plot how badly she’s going to feel about herself each week on a calendar.

She feels like once she starts eating treats, it’s like she can’t stop. She feels frustrated and stuck, and often feels like her body is her enemy.

Why Rigid Diet Rules are a Recipe for Failure

With or without a coach, you need to ditch the rigid rules. Rigid plans always break when something in your life comes up or you get stressed out. Said simply, rigid dietary rules have been consistently shown as the path to failure.(a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)

"Are made to bend in the wind
To withstand the world
That's what it takes
All that steel and stone
Is no match for the air, my friend

What doesn't bend breaks

What doesn't bend breaks"

—Ani Difranco

It’s like buildings and bridges. Buildings and bridges look rigid, but (to quote Ani Difranco's song "Buildings and Bridges") they’re made to bend and sway in the wind. If they’re completely rigid, they break. Diets are exactly same way — if they have rigid rules they break.

Video above: How the Golden Gate Bridge can sway

Food skills, on the other hand, can bend and sway in the wind of your changing schedule and commitment and stress levels. That’s why we work on food skills — they have the kind of flexibility that works in real life.

Cheat Days Are The Consolation Prize for Diet Rules

Cheat days are a way to reward yourself for your rigid dietary restraint, which as we remember, doesn’t work. The black and white thinking is actually reinforced by deliberately having on/off days.

A “cheat day” is simply a free-for-all consolation prize
for white-knuckling your rigid diet rules all week

Essentially, what you’re teaching yourself, is to rigidly restrain your diet all week (which doesn’t work) followed by over the top eating for a day (which also doesn’t work). The cycle tends to get worse over time — people feel like crap after massively over-eating on their weekend, and then restrict harder during the week. Restricting harder during the week increases the over-eating on the weekend, which can even turn into binge eating.

One thing we want to be absolutely clear about — more dietary restriction during the week doesn’t help. More dietary restriction leads to more binging and lower weight loss.(b)(f)

Example: Jessica

Jessica used to cycle between eating clean and cheat days, but has been practicing a habits/skills based approach for the last year.

Her weekends have started to even out. She’s slowly been practicing “Eating Just Enough” with both meals and treats, and is experimenting with leaving room for treats when she wants to have one. She’s noticed that, since she can have treats “whenever she wants” she no longer feels like she “loses control” when she’s around treats. She’s practiced starting and stopping having treats, and now trusts herself to do so. She really likes how she feels now, in general. She likes that she can listen to her body and stop when she’s full. She also knows that some treats are harder to stop with, so she uses the strategy of separating herself from where she can get more, and/or having those treats with friends instead of when she’s alone.

Before, treats would often often completely get away from her if she was feeling sad, bored, or tired. Now, she has treats when she wants treats, and she has treats she really enjoys. When she’s sad, she goes for a walk or calls a friend. When she’s tired, she goes to sleep early. When she’s bored, she reads a good book, watches a good TV show, or weaves on her loom (which is a hobby she really likes, but often forgets to do). She finds she takes better care of herself in general.

Jessica now isn’t afraid of treats, and doesn’t feel like she “needs” or “deserves” a cheat day. She follows her food skills (eating slowly, eating just enough, 3-4 meals per day without snacking) because they make her feel good. When she has treats, they fit into the same skills she always works on. She always feels good after meals, and she likes her body just as much on Monday as she does on Friday, or any other day.

What To Do Instead of Cheat Days

What you want to do instead of cheat days is even it all out.

You want to have the flexibility to have treats sometimes, but still not go massively overboard on the quantity of food that you normally eat.

Your flexibility in food skills determines your success.(d)(e)(f) You want to learn how to have treats, practicing the same skills you are practicing for all of your other meals.

In other words — if you are practicing the skill of Eating Just Enough, you can practice that all of the time, including with treats. We know it’s going to be way too much if people eat just enough, and then eat treats on top of that. Instead, if you are going to have some treats after dinner, you can probably have a little less dinner to save room for the treats.

If you’re practicing the skill of Eating 3-4 Meals, Without Snacking, you can practice that all of the time, including with treats. We know people will eat more treats if they have dinner at one time, and then an hour or two later, go have treats. Instead, you can eat your dinner, and have the treat immediately after dinner.

If you are practicing the skill of Eating Slowly you can practice that all of the time, including with treats. We know if people wolf down their treats super fast, they’re going to want more immediately. Instead, you can eat your treat slowly, savoring every bite, and actually be satisfied with it.

People Need a System to Learn Moderation

Fortunately, we have a four step system for learning how to moderate treat intake. Moderation isn’t something most people can do immediately, they usually need to be taught the skills, in these four steps, and practice them progressively:

Georgie Fear and Sohee Lee created the infographic above, and wrote this article about then about how to do each step that you can read here:


The Cool Thing About Skills Is That Treats Fit In

Instead of relating to a diet, where it’s always on/off with rigid rules, skills give you options and flexibility. You can have treats sometimes, and still practice paying attention to your body and eating in a healthy and reasonable way.

Practice the skills, get better at them over time, and you’ll be able to actually fit treats into your life without compromising results or feeling guilty. You’ll have a reasonable, flexible program that you can maintain for the rest of your life, and hit all of your goals.

Here are your three big takeaways:

  1. Being flexible like a suspension bridge is the key to long term weight loss success.
  2. Use the same skills (like eating just enough, meals/not snacks, or eating slowly) for everything you eat, regardless of what it is.
  3. Use the four step system to build your skills with foods your normally have a tough time moderating.

Remember to keep your food plan flexible, like the Golden Gate Bridge.

Huge thanks to Georgie for help with the research on this one —


(a) Palascha, A., van Kleef, E., & van Trijp, H. C. (2015). How does thinking in Black and White terms relate to eating behavior and weight regain?. Journal of health psychology, 20(5), 638-648.

My notes: Thinking about food in black and white “good” and “bad” foods relates to regaining weight that was lost.

(b) Blomquist, K. K., & Grilo, C. M. (2011). Predictive significance of changes in dietary restraint in obese patients with binge eating disorder during treatment. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 44(6), 515-523.

My notes: Restrictive eating did not reduce binge eating or increase weight loss. Flexible dieting did cause weight loss and reduce binge eating.

(c) Sairanen, E., Lappalainen, R., Lapveteläinen, A., Tolvanen, A., & Karhunen, L. (2014). Flexibility in weight management. Eating behaviors, 15(2), 218-224.

My notes: Rigid dietary restraint = harder time managing weight and lower well being. Flexible dieting = easier time managing weight loss and higher well being.

(d) Byrne, S. M., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C. G. (2004). Psychological predictors of weight regain in obesity. Behaviour research and therapy, 42(11), 1341-1356.

My notes: The biggest psychological predictor of weight regain is black and white thinking about food.

(e) Meule, A., Westenhöfer, J., & Kübler, A. (2011). Food cravings mediate the relationship between rigid, but not flexible control of eating behavior and dieting success. Appetite, 57(3), 582-584.

My notes: With rigid dieting, food cravings determine your success (you have very little control). With flexible dieting, your dieting flexibility predicts your success, regardless of cravings (you are in control). Flexible dieting = win.

(f) Smith, C. F., Williamson, D. A., Bray, G. A., & Ryan, D. H. (1999). Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes. Appetite, 32(3), 295-305.

My notes: The highest predictor of failure was dietary restraint. The highest predictor of success was dietary flexibility. People who believe themselves to be on strict diets are unsuccessful with weight loss maintenance. Also, dealing with binge eating by being more restricting during the week REALLY don’t work.

Jun 02

How To Fix Emotional Eating With Self Care

By Josh Hillis | Uncategorised

There’s something we’ve noticed a lot of the time when people have trouble with emotional eating or stress eating — eating is the only thing they do to treat themselves.

Problems, Stress, or Emotion

When people try to work with emotional eating, they assume that the treats they eat are the problem. They remove treats, and then tro to white knuckle not eating them when they have stressful or emotional days. Eventually, something happens, and they can’t hold on any longer — they break down and have even more treats. Then they feel terrible.

Or, sometimes they assume that their emotions are the problem. It’s easy to think “If I didn’t have these emotions, I wouldn’t have an issue!” Like, the assumption that what you need is a life without problems or stress. The only problem there is that most of the clients we see actually have really stressful lives. They have important jobs or families or even charities they sit on boards for, they have all of these big priorities in their lives, and they have to work with those things. And all of these important things in their lives have normal cycles of ups and downs. Sometimes they’re really stressful. Sometimes it’s really emotional.

Two things we need to look at:

1.) You’re human. You’re going to have emotions. You’re going to have stress. We need to accept that that’s a normal and recurring part of life.

2.) We need to look at what is really effective self-care.

It’s About Choices

The goal isn’t to never have treats again. We aren’t even saying that you can never soothe yourself with food again. The goal, simply, is flexibility. We want you to have more than one option.

If the only thing you have to soothe yourself with is food, you’re going to gain weight.

So, what we really need to do is build a personal library of “real life treats.” We need to look at what actually makes us happy. It could be as simply as petting your dog or cat, listening to music, getting outside and going for a walk, reading, going to a movie. These are all things that make us feel better, that don’t involve food.

The goal is to have more than one option. If you have a rough day and you’re used to going straight for food, you’re still going to have that habit. We just want to loosen that up. Maybe try going for a walk first, and then if you still want the food treat, then try that.

Hug a pet

It’s About Self Care

If you’re really feeling down, cookies probably sound awesome. But after you eat the cookies, you don’t actually feel any better. Likely you feel worse.

Food treats often do a really poor job for self-care.

Instead, you want to take a look at what is actually effective self care for you. When you feel bad, what if you called a friend? What if you had some really good alone time? What if you meditated? What if you get a massage? Or watched your favorite funny movie?

There are things that you can do to take care of yourself that are going to do a much better job of taking care of you than food. You want to start putting together your personal list. You want to have options of things that are good for you.

Relax and listen to music

It’s About Your Values

Lastly, it’s about what’s important to you in life. Make a list of things that matter to you, people who matter to you, and who you want to be about food and health.

If you want to be someone who has a reasonable, balanced, healthy relationship with food, what does that mean to you when you have a bad day? It might mean that sometimes you have food treats and other times you have real life treats. That sounds balanced and reasonable.

Color a grown-up coloring book

Ultimately, the goal is flexibility.

If your only answer is to eat food treats, that probably doesn’t fit your values and goals. We want you to have lots of options.

Most of the time, have treats when you want to have treats because it’s a special occasion. Have treats when you’re hanging out with your best friend. Or have treats just because, and have your favorite treat in the world. But have those treats intentionally, and enjoy them and feel good about them.

And when you have a stressful or emotional day, take a look at what self-care is going to be best for you.

Deep breathing and/or meditation

Jun 01

Meal Planning as Simple As 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

By Josh Hillis | Uncategorised

Meal planning is much simpler than most people have been led to believe. Diets deliberately complicate things for marketing purposes. As long as there is a “magic food” or “secret macro ratio” that makes it work, you’ll always need to buy another diet.

There is no secret, it’s just basics of feeling full, repeated over and over again. Let’s take a look:

The four elements of fullness:

  1. Protein
  2. Vegetables
  3. Carbohydrates
  4. Fat

The master element of consistency and success: Taste

  1. Flavor profile

News and diets live on crying wolf about the evil magic of carbohydrates, or protein, or fat, or whatever. In truth, people are going to feel the most full with some of all of the above in each meal.

People get freaked out about carbohydrates, like “I gain weight any time I even see carbs!!!!” This is false. Most people eat five servings of carbohydrates at a meal. Have you ever tried one serving?

Why it can work to cut out carbohydrates: Because most people have 4-5 servings of carbohydrates at every meal. Obviously this is too much.

What works best for fullness and weight loss: One serving of carbohydrates at every meal. A totally reasonable and healthy amount.

Same thing with fat. Fat was demonized for years because it’s so calorically dense. It is calorically dense. Don’t go crazy with it. One serving is usually fairly small.

Why it can work to cut out fat: Fat is pretty dense, and it’s easy to go way overboard with it.

What works best for fullness and weight loss: One serving of fat at every meal. A totally reasonable and healthy amount.

Protein is super popular right now, so we won’t go too deep into it. Just know that most people feel full when they have a serving of protein in their meals. If you’re noticing a trend in this plan so far, it’s this — one serving of everything, at every meal.

Lastly, vegetables are magic for feeling full after meals. We often tell people to shoot for 2 servings of vegetables. This isn’t rocket science, add some veggies.

How Big is A Serving?

Well, it’ll be a little different for everyone. Here’s the simplest way to look at it:

If you are gaining weight:
Your servings are too big for weight loss.

If your weight is staying the same:
Your serving sizes put you at maintenance.

If you are losing 0.5 pounds per week:
Your serving sizes are just right for weight loss

If this seems to simple, it’s because it is. There’s no magic to this. But there is a simple system that you can use to experiment and guide yourself. Your plan won’t be the same as everyone else’s, it’ll be custom tailored for you.

Do I Need All Four At Every Meal?


The more you have at one meal the better. If people have just one, like carbohydrates, they’ll be likely to feel starving in an hour or two. If they add a second one, like carbohydrates and protein, they’ll be more likely to be full. If they add three, they’re really doing well. And, of course, with all four, you have the best shot at feeling full and satisfied between meals, while still losing weight.

Just one macro: Probably going to be hungry

Two of the three macros: Little bit better shot at feeling full, but might still be hungry

Three macros or two macros + vegetables: Pretty good shot at feeling full and satisfied

Three macros + vegetables: Best shot at being full and satisfied and losing weight

Lets Add Some Flavor

The last thing we want to look at is adding flavor. For some reason, when people first start eating healthy, they assume that it has to be flavorless and tasteless, which is a super sad way to go.

Go to a local spice shop and get a spice mix for your protein and a spice mix for your vegetables. Add sauces. Add salsa or green chile. Add garlic. Add onions. Put salt and pepper on everything. Get Mexican seasoning and cumin and cilantro. Get Italian seasoning and oregano and basil. Maybe even grow your own basil!

Don’t be afraid to add flavor.

People make a silly mistake with health food — they buy diet books! You can throw away all of your diet books. Replace them with cookbooks! Cookbooks are these amazing books that are filled with delicious meals you can eat. They literally teach you how to cook stuff, and make it taste good. You may find that sometimes you want to adjust the ratios of protein, carbohydrates, and fat in a recipe. Or you may find that some recipes are predominantly carbohydrates, and you need to add a protein. Feel free to adjust the meals to suit your needs. And then, definitely use the chefs’ flavor knowledges to make your meal taste good!

Here are a few cookbooks to get you started:

It’s Really Is As Simple As 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

There’s no magic to it. Just combine the 4 elements of fullness, to create meals that are healthy and satisfying. Then make sure to add flavor!

The four elements of fullness:

  1. Protein

  2. Vegetables

  3. Carbohydrates

  4. Fat

The master element of consistency and success: Taste

  1. Flavor profile

Lastly, you know that if your scale weight is trending up, your portions are too big. If the scale weight is trending down, your portion sizes are just right for weight loss.

Don’t let any gimmicky infomercials or hypey magazine articles try to convince you that it’s any more complicated than that. Keep it simple, stay consistent, and you’ll hit all of your goals.

Josh Hillis

Mar 10

What If Losing Weight in 2017 Doesn’t Make You Feel Any Happier or Better About Yourself

By Josh Hillis | Uncategorised

I’m going to offer a radical perspective. It’s an alternate perspective from how most people are wired. I’m not saying it’s the ultimate truth. It’s not the truth, but it can be a really useful and effective perspective in your weight loss journey.

The radical, alternate perspective: Losing weight won’t make you happier. Losing weight won’t make you feel better about yourself.

I was listening to a podcast with Joanne Dahl, PhD, talking about how looking at neurology, we know humans have 5 times more negative thoughts than they do positive thoughts. That means you’re probably going to have some negative thoughts about yourself, from time to time, for the rest of your life.

Most of the really good personal trainers I know really doubt their abilities a lot of the time. I’ve met people who’ve gotten PhDs try to escape feeling like they aren’t good enough, and still feel like they aren’t good enough. For those curious, it’s called “imposter syndrome,” and most people who aren’t sociopaths feel it at least part of the time.

I’ve had clients who got down to 16% (amazingly lean) or 14% body fat (which is pretty much as lean as a woman can get), with other gym members asking if they were cover models for fitness magazines, and who still didn’t feel good about themselves. I hate to even use numbers in this discussion, but I wanted to illustrate that someone can get to as lean as a person can get, and still not feel good about her body most of the time.

So, if a trainer can get as much education as is possible, and still not feel educated enough, and a human can get as lean as possible, and not feel lean enough, what are we left with?

That humans are wired to have negative thoughts sometimes.

And that’s ok.

There’s A Better Option

I like to get my clients results, because that’s what they are paying me for. That being said, I’d also like them to feel proud of what they are doing.

And that’s the closest thing I can find to a secret: What they are doing.

I don’t want people to pursue feeling better, or happier, or have more self-esteem, or any of that crap.

I want to help my clients take actions that they can be proud of. I want them to take actions that are in line with their personal values, and what matters to them. I want them to take actions that they feel like are good for them in the long term. I want to focus on what they do.

Happiness is like the weather, sometimes it comes and sometimes it goes. But no good comes of chasing it. Likewise, sometimes people feel good about themselves, other times they feel bad about themselves, we aren’t going to chase that either. Instead, we’re going to work on taking actions they can be proud of.

You Got Me Feeling Emotions

(Sorry, couldn’t stop the Mariah Carey reference!)

Said another way, I’m not going to go to work on your emotions. And, being a personal trainer, that makes my life a lot simpler.

People get caught up in emotional eating because they eat to avoid feeling bad. I recommend just feeling bad. People drink to avoid feeling bad. Again, I recommend just feeling bad. “Bad” is something humans feel sometimes.

If you look at nature, there is always a mixture of both sides:

feeling good/feeling bad







blue sky/rain storm

But most people try to avoid feeling bad. As if feeling bad is soemthing that should never happen. Most people do this cycle: Feel bad -> emotional eat -> feel bad -> emotional eat -> feel bad -> emotional eat -> feel bad -> emotional eat. It’s a downward spiral.

I’m not concerned with what’s going on inside, because I know that inside feelings and thoughts are like the weather. In personal training we aren’t going to “fix” your internal weather (if anyone anywhere can). Instead, we’re concerned with if you are taking actions that are in line with your personal values. I’m concerned if you are taking actions you’re proud of.

I recommend: Feel bad -> Take an action that you will be proud of -> feel bad -> take an action you will be proud of -> feel bad -> take an action you will be proud of.

Not even all of the time. Heck, if we do that part of the time or most of the time, that’s usually enough for most people to hit their goals.

Now, a person might think, “Hey, if I take actions I’m proud of, I’ll probably feel good!” And you might. But we don’t actually care about that. We just care about you taking actions that you could be proud of. Then you feel however you feel.

Again, we’re just going to assume that part of the human condition is going to include feeling bad.

Another acceptance and commitment therapy researcher, Russ Harris, PhD, wrote a book called “Things Might Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong.” He’s said that the truth of human life is that there is no “might,” that the title really should have been “Things WILL Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong.” Bad stuff happens, even to good people.

We’re looking at not trying to control what happens to us (we can’t) and not trying to control how we feel (we mostly can’t), but instead control what we actually can control: The actions we take.

Habit Based Weight Loss

What’s cool about this perspective, is that we just accept that it’s normal for humans to feel bad sometimes.

That’s ok. We just work on the actions (those are your food habits) that you’ll be proud of doing. We work on actions that are connected to things that are important to you.

For people who are concerned about producing results, don’t worry, taking action is the only path to results anyway. Taking actions. Taking actions. Taking actions.

So we’re just going to work on you taking actions that you can be proud of. And, we’re going to work on taking actions with a consistency you can be proud of.

And that’s where it comes full circle: They people who’ve lost weight who say it “changed their lives” are missing the point — what changed their lives was taking actions they could be proud of, and being consistent in a way they could be proud of.

It was a day in, day out, taking actions
in alignment with their values
that changed their lives.

And it’s the same for you — It’s the actions that make a difference for your life.

If we can’t control being happy or sad, we instead pursue a life lived in actions that have meaning for us, doing things that matter to us, and doing things that fit with our personal values.

Living Your Values is Totally Scaleable

Let’s say you choose that your health and fitness matter to you, and that consistency and longevity matter to you. You can take actions that align with that today.

You can do a workout that builds your fitness, that’s a workout you know you can do consistently, and working on things that matter to you long term. You could do that immediately, today.

And then, what that workout looks like 10 years from will be different. But that workout today and that workout 10 years from now are both in alignment with your values.

A huge mistake people make is thinking that they have to do the workout for 10 years from now, today. And they try and force it. They try to cram, and cheat, and skip ahead. And that always sucks. Maybe they even get hurt. Or maybe it’s miserable and they feel like a failure.

The lie people tell themselves is that skipping ahead is in line with their values. But it isn’t. No ones values include forcing it, cheating, and trying to skip ahead. Your values are what’s important to you and healthy for you in the long term.

People’s values usually have things like doing the work, being consistent, being someone they can be proud of. But you can’t skip ahead. You just have to take an action that you can be proud of taking today. And you can be smart about taking that action, and be proud of being smart about it. Be proud of taking an action that aligns with your values, whatever that looks like today.

It’s Work

Wait, figuring out my values is hard!

I know right?!?!

If I just gave you a meal plan, or some ridiculous rules about foods that are evil, it would be a lot simpler.

I know it takes work to think about what matters to you (your values) and what’s good for you in the long run (your values) and the kind of person you want to be (also, your values). But that’s the kind of work that matters.

Take some time, go for a walk, do some journaling. Brainstorm. Write down a million things, then rank them. Edit. Narrow it down to what’s most important. Work on this a little bit every week or every month.

Then, you have a filter to look at which actions to take. You either have actions that move towards what matters to you…

…or you have actions that take you away from thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable.

And you can sort those actions.

You can notice which ones are which: Which actions are aligned with your values… and which actions are about avoiding thoughts and emotions.

And you can take the actions that connect to what matters to you. You can live a life based on what you say is important.

None of This is The Truth, It’s An Optional Perspective

It’s just a perspective.

It’s a perspective that’s heavily influenced by looking into Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Georgie found a randomized controlled trial with ACT where the people got really solid weight loss results, so I started looking in to ACT and the research associated with it. Some of the basic tenants of ACT inspired this post.

What’s great about everything I found is that it’s actually really accessible: Figure out your values, and go to work on actions that align with those. It’s a great framework for working on food and weight loss. It’s a great framework for any kind of habit coaching.

Positive psychologists Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi, PhD, and Martin Seligman, PhD, have both talked about worrying and negativity being the brains default position, but that you can take actions that are positive, engaging, and bring meaning to your life.

I hope, in reading this article, you get some flexibility in how you relate to negative thoughts about yourself and your body.

Just know that you’re having thoughts, and that human beings have negative thoughts.

  • You don’t need to give thoughts and feelings any more weight, you don’t need to feed them.
  • You also don’t need to run away from thoughts or feelings.
  • You aren’t broken, you don’t need fixing, you’re just human, just like everyone else. Like everyone else you have thoughts and feelings.

You can have negative thoughts sometimes, just like all the other humans, and still take actions that are good for you in the long run, aligned with your values, and are the actions you can be proud of taking.

Josh Hillis

P.S. For the personal trainers who read this blog, this is another cool example of how we actually don’t have to sort out people’s psychological issues. All we have to do is ask them about what matters to them, (their values) and then develop a plan together where the actions align with their values. And the actions can ramp up over time. All we need to do is be really interested in what matters to them, and coach actions. You might want to check out:

P.P.S. For normal folks reading this who might want to dig deeper, a couple books you might check out are:

I just started reading both of them, so I’m recommending them on the strength of hearing Russ Harris talk about diffusion, and JoAnne Dahl talk about values. Hearing them talk about this stuff was mind-blowing, so I’m sure their respective books are awesome.

P.P.P.S If you’re into research on weight loss and acceptance and commitment therapy, here some randomized controlled trials:

Forman, E. M., Butryn, M. L., Manasse, S. M., Crosby, R. D., Goldstein, S. P., Wyckoff, E. P. & Thomas, J. G. (2016). Acceptance-based versus standard behavioral treatment for obesity: Results from the mind your health randomized controlled trial. Obesity, 24, 2050–2056. doi:10.1002/oby.21601

Nourian, L., & Aghaei, A. (2015). Effectiveness of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy on the body mass index in women afflicted with obesity. Iranian Journal of Psychiatric Nursing, 3, 11-20.

Katterman, S. N., Goldstein, S. P., Butryn, M. L., Forman, E. M., & Lowe, M. R. (2014). Efficacy of an acceptance-based behavioral intervention for weight gain prevention in young adult women. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 3, 45-50.

P.P.P.P.S. There’s way more to this, but we’re at 2000 words already. Other pieces definitely coming down the pike include mindfulness and food, and some tools to approach those thoughts and feelings that get in the way of taking actions that are aligned with your stated values.

Mar 09

Is Your Weight Loss Plan Making You an A-Hole?

By Josh Hillis | Uncategorised

A Good Metaphor for a Weight Loss Plan is A College Graduation Plan

If it takes 120 credits to graduate, and you take 15 credits per semester, you graduate in 8 semesters, or 4 years. Sometimes you can’t get classes or whatever, and it takes 5 years.

If, on the other hand, lets say you really want to graduate. You’re like so motivated. Plus, you haven’t gone to college in a while, so you figure you need to make up for it. So you take 120 credits in one semester. You get burnt out, you fail everything. You’re so demoralized you don’t even really try for another year or two. That would be how you do college like an a-hole.

Most people approach college the first way: 15 credits per semester. This appeals to your values, like: Moderation, patience, consistency, intentionality, and planning. It’s the consistency of doing the 15 credit work, day in and day out, that gets you to graduation. Plus, the practice of moderation, patience, consistency, intentionality, and planning, makes you a better version of yourself.

Most people approach weight loss the second way: 120 credits per semester (aka, like an a-hole). They try to do literally everything at once. The fail, because it’s impossible not to fail this way. It’s too much for any human. They destroy themselves, fail, and then they don’t learn from the silliness of how much they took on… because next time they do the same thing again. Even worse, because they are practicing taking on too much, short-sightedness, impatience, and perfectionism, they’re making themselves worse versions of themselves. They’re rapidly becoming a-holes.

It’s About Hitting Your Goals

Looking at the college example, it’s pretty easy to see that the patient, consistent, reasonable, planned way is the only way to graduate.

It really, really, really is the same with weight loss. Your 15 credits per semester might be working on 2 or 3 food skills over a few months. By really integrating these food skills into your life, you change the kinds of results that are possible for you with fitness and leanness forever.

Most clients it doesn’t take four years, like college. But if it did take four years, that would still be faster than what most people do — because most people fail so fast, so often, they never come anywhere near hitting their goals.

It isn’t just the better way, it’s the only way to lose weight.

The No-Nonsense Way to Become Your Best Version of Yourself

Step One: Identify your values

Pick 1-3 values that are important to you. Most people get more with less; Think about one value or two values that really mean a lot to you. That laser focus will make things simple and obvious. Most people have trouble, initially, with figuring out what their values are. That’s ok. Just spend some time reflecting on it, each week, for the rest of your life. It’s ok if you pick something, and then refine it over a few years.

Step Two: Apply your value(s) to an area of your life, like fitness

You will probably find that there are areas of your life that you practice this value already. You may totally rock that value with finance, but not with fitness. Or you rock it with other people, but not with yourself. You’ll notice that some areas are different than others.

That inconsistency is an inconsistency of self. Don’t worry, we all have those. Actually, we’re mostly blind to them, because we just don’t spend any time thinking about it.

My mentor Dan John has always told me: “Be one person, all of the time. Surround yourself with people who are one person, all of the time.”

Step Three: Shrink inconsistencies and gaps

You’ll pretty immediately see where you have gaps or inconsistencies between your stated values and what you practice in real life, with your fitness. That’s great! That’s a place to go to work. That’s an area you can grow.

All there is to do is ask yourself “What would be a better expression of __________ value with my fitness?” Just try something new. Again, it doesn’t have to be the end-all, be-all expression of that value in your fitness, it just needs to be one step better than you’ve done before.

For example, if you’ve repeatedly done extreme diets and cleanses where you crash and burn after a month, but you value reasonableness and consistency. A skill based approach to nutrition would obviously be the ultimate expression of reasonableness and consistency. You don’t need to do all of the skills at once, youonly need to do one skill for now. Later, you can add another one.

It’s ok for it to be progressive. You don’t need to completely close each gap in one step — likely that’s been what’s failed for you in the past. All you need to do is take small steps, continually, that are in alignment with your stated value(s).

Rinse and Repeat

It really is as simple as: State your values, apply stated values to an area of your life, and then shrink the gaps and inconsistencies in your actions.

Every time you repeat that process, you bring your actions more in line with your stated values. And that’s pretty much the ultimate in personal growth: Living your values.

by Josh Hillis
Chief People Officer, One by One Nutrition
Author, Fat Loss Happens on Monday

P.S. This was inspired by a webinar Steven Ledbetter did with Michael Littig about universal stories and horizontal vs. vertical traditions. It got my head spinning about horizontal vs. vertical growth could look like in fitness and weight loss.

P.P.S. We, at One by One Nutrition, have an awesome coaching program, if you want some coaching and accountability in applying your values to your food and fitness.