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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

relaxed/stressed

engaged/bored

day/night

happy/sad

summer/winter

confident/underconfident

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.

Mar 08

Eating Out is Simple

By Josh Hillis | Uncategorised

Our clients are often shocked to find out that they can totally eat at Chipotle or Garbanzo as often as they want.

But if you look at the picture above, it’s really pretty simple:

  • 1/2 plate veggies
  • 1/4 plate protein
  • 1/4 plate carbs
  • Sauce

That meal is a meal from Garbanzo, ordered exactly like this:

  1. No hummus or pita
  2. Half the plate lettuce
  3. Rice
  4. Double chicken
  5. Seasonal vegetables on the lettuce
  6. Cilantro sauce

It’s a pretty delicious and tasty meal! Available almost anywhere, quick, reasonably priced.

Of course, you get to pick whichever carbohydrate you like. You might want to do the pita instead of the rice. Awesome, rock out with your pita. You get to choose.

You can eat anywhere you want. It’s just a matter of noticing that places will mostly serve you like 5 portions of carbohydrates, and somewhere between half a portion and a full portion of protein.

The biggest thing is to order one portion of carbohydrates, and then fill in the rest with vegetables. Between the portion of protein and the double portion of vegetables, the meal will be healthy and filling.

And you don’t need to be afraid of carbohydrates! Just pick one.

This pattern works just as well for any place you go eat or any meal you make at home. If it’s a meal where everything is “stirred together,” just make sure the portions are right before you stir it all together =)

Also, note, you can adjust these plate ratios based on your individual needs. Someone who is training for a triathlon two hours per day will need more portions carbohydrates than someone who works out two hours per week. Someone who is six feet tall would need more than someone who is five feet tall. And so on. This is just a starting place, adjust as necessary, and use common sense.

—Josh

Mar 07

The Motivation Superstition

By Josh Hillis | Uncategorised

The fundamental lie (superstition) of working out and eating well is that motivation comes before action.

Lets take a look at the reality:

  • Jessica doesn’t want to work out today. Feels like skipping it. Goes and works out anyway. 15 minutes into the workout, she starts to feel “motivated”
  • Sarah is has been planning and cooking healthy meals now for 10 weeks, and seen results, but is just so totally over doing it. Does not want to cook this week. Goes to the store to buy the food she’d planned anyway, by the time she gets home, she feels “motivated”
  • Joe has been doing the same workout program for four months (it’s a six month program). He’s bored, wants to do something else. Goes to the gym, does his program anyway. By the end of month five, he’s “motivated” to finish all six months.
  • Melissa is so frustrated with getting slow and steady results using food habits. Wants to jump on a new magical macro plan she read about. She keeps doing her smart, reasonable program for another year, and hits all of her goals. At some point, a few months after hitting all of her goals, she finally starts to feel “motivated”

What do you notice about all of those examples?

Yes, motivation came after action.

Sometimes, motivation comes immediately after taking the action. Sometimes motivation comes a month after taking the action consistently. Sometimes it takes a year.

The Only Game Worth Playing

So, we start to see that if our plan is to look for motivation to take the action, we’re pretty much screwed right from go.

I’m not saying that never happens. Once in a great while you can get lucky like that, and get motivated before doing something. Which is terrible, because that starts the motivation superstition: “I felt so motivated yesterday and went and ate all of my meals slowly! It was awesome!”

And then you start to think that that’s how it’s supposed to work.

In reality, motivation is fleeting. Motivation is like the weather. Some days are sunny, some days are cloudy. If you only went to work on sunny days you’d get fired. You’ve got to go to work even when it’s cloudy.

So we start to see that there’s only one game worth playing: Taking action when we aren’t “motivated” and when we aren’t “feeling it”

Action Without Motivation

Now we’re talking! It turns out there are some great ways to keep taking the actions that matter to you, even when you aren’t “motivated”.

  1. Other people — Whether it’s a coach, a workout buddy, a group of friends you prep food with, a habits coaching group, a workout group, any time you involve other people, you’re more likely to follow through on your actions.
  2. Be good at/getting better at it — No big surprise we’re more likely to do things we’re good at, even when we don’t want to. The trick with new food or workout habits is that they’re new, so we aren’t awesome at them yet. We need to constantly look for evidence that we’re learning about what we’re doing and getting better at doing it. Learning and getting better are what being good at something looks like in first steps and in action.
  3. Connect it with your values — If the doing of it is connected to your values and who you envision your best version of yourself would be, that’s a strong pull to express yourself in action. Even when you aren’t “motivated” you still want to act in line with your values.
  4. Outside triggers — Put things on your schedule, or in your phone. Set alarms. Do them before _____ or after ______ (something you already do automatically).

The War of Fitness

There’s a great book called “The War of Art”, that has a basic premise that waiting for inspiration and motivation are stalling techniques. That the real work of creating art happens after people have done so much work on their art that they’ve actually started to hate it.

I really, really want people to enjoy their workouts, and enjoy eating well. But I know it doesn’t show up like that every time. Sometimes you aren’t feeling it, and you do it because of someone else waiting for you, or because it fits your values, or because it’s on the schedule.

And if you do that often enough, you just might even feel “motivated” sometimes also.

The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

To Recap:

Your most reliable access to motivation is taking action.

The game you should be most interested in is finding ways to consistently take action when you aren’t motivated: Involving other people, noticing learning, noticing progress, doing it just because it aligns with your values, and having triggers in your life and doing it at a certain time.