Every time I’m on Instagram, I come across one of those amazing 9-week transformation photos. It’s usually a before and after picture that looks nothing short of remarkable.
Most people look at those pictures and think: “Wow! Good for them, I wish I could do that.” These same people assume that it must have been somehow easier for the person they see in that picture.
That includes me!
I know that it’s possible and I know that it just takes a few adjustments to see that kind of success. So why is it that I (along with so many others) keep falling into the same trap?
It’s because deciding to make a change takes effort and effort requires energy. We’re naturally wired to conserve energy whenever we can. However, that mechanism seems like it’s starting to fail us in the 21st century.
Deciding to change your eating habits and training takes overcoming peer-pressure to eat out at restaurants, it takes the discipline to hit the gym without excuses and the understanding that every meal matters. This is ultimately what leads us to future success.
The challenge that is body transformation may look like an unachievable feat but it isn’t. In this article I’m going to cover the reasons why transforming your lifestyle and your body may seem so difficult. Expecting some of these things will help you to adjust and achieve your fitness goals.
Overestimating What it Takes
0 to 100 real quick. That’s often the underlying goal when it comes to making a healthy change to your lifestyle. That’s especially true with new year’s resolutions. That’s exactly why they fail you.
The new year is around the corner and you finally muster up the energy to say: “I’m going to start meal prepping, doing cardio and lifting weights every day.” Why does it all eventually fall apart?
Committing to something like this with the intention of being perfect is the problem. As soon as something starts going wrong, you get discouraged. That eventually leads to the same lifestyle you were living before you started.
WHY NOT TRY STARTING SLOW?
Instead of diving straight in, it’s better to split your ultimate goal into smaller chunks. Figure out what the first most accomplishable chunk would be, and work on mastering that. Progress over perfection.
“Slow progress is better than no progress.” – Anonymous
Even worse than trying to do everything right from the beginning, is not even starting at all. That’s another reality of lifestyle changes. The change is perceived as a mountain rather than a series of much smaller hills.
This perception leads to nothing. It gives you the illusion that if you even try changing anything, you’ll have to give up on everything you already have going on.
It’s just not true. At least not in the way that you think it might be. It all goes back to the same idea. Start small. Find out how you’ll fit a new small chunk into your lifestyle. Once you work that in, move on.
Just make sure you do something rather than nothing.
Having too many social obligations can make it difficult to stay on track. It’s true, some of these occasions may have to be sacrificed for your own greater good. But you can still enjoy the occasional change from the routine.
When you eat at restaurants or at party’s, it’s important to know what foods to avoid and how to make special requests. At restaurants, you’d be surprised how many modifications they’re capable of making.
Family members, colleagues and friends can have a big impact on your motivation. Deciding to deviate from the norm may have the people around you become pushy. That’s where it helps to remember what your end goal is. Visualize it and keep it in mind, when things get hard. Learn to work around changes in your usual schedule.
Not Always About Calories
The media has reduced the fat-loss/muscle building challenge to a matter of calories. Too fat? Eat less. Too skinny? Eat more.
Believe it or not, that’s a severe over-simplification of a bigger problem. Food is addicting. It’s made to be addicting! There’s one thing you can thank for that. SUGAR!
Sugar is literally in everything. Sugar has been shown to stimulate the brain in a similar way to cocaine. This is wonderful news for food companies because sugar is legal. If these companies put it in their products, you’ll keep wanting more.
Sugar also plays a role in regulating your hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin. The balance between these hormones is what regulates your impulse to want to eat more. If you constantly eat foods with sugar, you’ll feel hungrier than you should be.
That’s not all. Whether we’re talking about mass gaining foods or low-calorie foods, there’s a long list of options that are devoid of essential nutrients. Your body has a way of keeping you hungry when it’s starving for certain vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats or carbohydrates. It makes you feel like you need to eat more of those foods to fill the void.
If this teaches you anything, it’s that will power is not always at play when you’re trying to stay on track.
Inflammation is a broad subject. It’s an important aspect of your immune system and helps to defend from infection. A healthy amount of inflammation is a good thing. When inflammation starts becoming too high and you aren’t suffering from an infection, you can start to see your health dwindle.
There are so many causes of inflammation. Food allergies, food sensitivities, food intolerance, sugar, unhealthy fats, over-eating, smoking, stress and environmental toxins, just to name a few.
Depending on your specific make-up, high inflammation could mean you struggle to gain weight or you struggle to lose weight, REGARDLESS OF CALORIES.
Reducing inflammation means: reducing stress, monitoring symptoms after certain foods to make sure that you don’t lose your energy or focus, reducing environmental toxins and eating right.
Believe it or not, it’s not about how much food you eat, it’s more about how much food you absorb. Digestion is at the root of that.
Digestion starts in the mouth and moves through the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. Throughout that ride, the food is being broken down and churned. At any of those steps, something can go wrong.
Are you chewing enough? Are you focusing on only eating? Are you producing enough stomach acid? Is there a healthy colony of bacteria in your large intestine? All of these aspects of digestion influence your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Focus is a big one. Simply focusing and smelling your food, helps your body to release the right enzymes to break down those foods. Think of biting into a large bright yellow lemon that’s dripping with lemon juice. What just happened in your mouth? You drooled a little, didn’t you. That was your body preparing to eat a lemon.
Ways to ensure that everything stays pristine are:
- Make sure that you’re focusing your attention on the food
- Make sure that you chew your food enough
- Make sure your food is completely covered in saliva before you swallow it
- Make sure that you’re eating a high fiber + low refined carb diet
- Make sure to find some sources of healthy probiotics (such as kombucha, kefir, yogurt or sauerkraut) to maintain a healthy intestinal bacteria colony
Imbalanced Blood Sugar
This section ties back to the “Addictive Foods” section up above. That’s because imbalanced blood sugar also has an influence on how well nutrients can make it into your cells.
Every time you eat most forms of carbohydrates, your body begins breaking them down into simpler sugars like glucose or fructose. Some of the fructose that is made, gets turned into glucose whereas the rest get turned into triglycerides and turned into fat.
Once glucose is in your blood, insulin is released by the pancreas in order to bring the blood sugar levels back down to healthy levels. Repeatedly consuming large amounts of carbohydrates or sugar causes insulin responses to repeatedly be elevated.
When this keeps on happening, your muscle cells adapt by removing insulin receptors and moving them to fat cells. What does that mean? You need more insulin to do the same job. Eventually, the demand outweighs the pancreas’ ability to supply and blood sugar keeps going up.
This is detrimental whether you’re trying to gain muscle or lose fat. That’s why although it might help you to put on some muscle, it’s not ideal since undoing the fat gain may be more difficult when it’s all said and done.
The careless “eat everything” mentality is known as a dirty bulk and is used by a lot of bodybuilders but I wouldn’t recommend it. It costs you more than a little fat gain, it takes away from your mental capacity and your overall productivity as an individual. You can no longer effectively transport nutrients into the cells you need. It’s actually less effective.
To add to the mess, crazy insulin levels also cause for other hormones in your body to be out of balance including: adrenaline, cortisol, testosterone and estrogen, just to name a few.
Having your hormones out of balance (that includes insulin) also influences your ability to physically transform.
What Should You Focus On
The purpose of this article was to show you that there are reasons why physical transformation is so hard. Expecting these things before you start can help you to make the small tweaks that keep you on track along the way.
So what should you focus on? Here’s what I suggest:
- Break your goal up into small chunks
- Clean up your diet:
- Remove trans-fats
- Remove all sugar and refined carbohydrates
- Monitor how you feel after the meals that you eat (including mental focus, energy and mood), remove foods that cause you problems
- Pay more attention to the digestive tips that I mentioned above
Again, your experience will be your experience. You have to make adjustments on the fly and start small. Don’t consider failure an option. Your small victories will compound into long term success. You just need to keep believing you can and that YOU WILL.