Success is something you attract by the person you become.” – Jim Rohn
I`d like to start with a personal introduction. I`m the fat kid who then became the gym rat. Unfortunately, this isn`t the full story.
After years of heavy cardio and tons of chicken breasts, I thought I finally cracked the code to a permanent healthy lifestyle, and I`d never return to my old habits. But I was wrong, and all I needed was a couple of injuries and a few months at home to lose everything I gained fitness-wise. I injured myself three times in less 18 months —a hernia, a broken leg and an injured back and soon I went back to all my bad eating habits.
I couldn`t exercise at all, not even run, so I gained all the weight I lost. Precisely, 80 pounds. And I had to find a way, not only to stop gaining more weight but also to prevent such relapse from ever happening again in the future. I began reading about nutrition, and more importantly, about how healthy people think and perceive food cause that was my biggest problem. I was in a battle, and since I couldn`t rely on working out to burn fat, I had to teach myself better ways to control my food consumption, and in the end, I won that battle.
Today, I`m not going to tell you what I have eaten to lose those 80 pounds I had previously gained. Instead, I`m going to show you how to think to stay fit for a lifetime. I will show you why some people are physically healthy and some aren`t, why most people don`t stay in shape even after losing a considerable sum of weight and, more importantly, what mindsets you should keep to lose weight and never gain it back, ever.
If this strikes a chord, then here are my tips for you:
Tip #1: Goals don`t work (Opt for Systems Instead)
Throughout my career I’ve had my antennae up, looking for examples of people who use systems as opposed to goals. In most cases, as far as I can tell, the people who use systems do better.” – Scott Adams
There`s a difference between living healthy because your circumstances demand so, and living healthy because you choose to do so. Athletes are fit because they won`t have a career if they don`t. The same thing goes for people who do physical work all day long. They`re active all the time, so they burn lots of calories. Plus, when you`re always on the move, you don`t get to think much about food unless you are starving.
This lifestyle is usually good for a while, but when these people retire or switch jobs, they gain weight very quickly because nobody taught them how to control their food intake when the stakes are no longer high. I had the same problem when I got injured.
Before, I was always into sports, and I used my competitiveness to control what I eat. However, when exercise was off the table —because of my successive injuries— I didn`t know what to do. I was sitting down all day long unable to exercise, and before I knew it, I was gaining weight like never before.
I sometimes tried to set weight-loss goals —like losing 10 pounds in three weeks — but each time I did it, I would either fail or regain the weight back 3-5 weeks later.
I had to change the way I was thinking about fitness and diet, and I soon, I began to understand that it was all about systems, not goals. People who lose the weight, then regain it back, are the ones who choose goals over lifestyle. They set goals like losing 30 pounds for the summer or before a wedding day. They may shed the weight, but they`ll eventually fail, and regain it back, why? Because in their mind, they still have a thing for Big Macs, stuffed-crust pizzas and Ben & Jerry`s.
They think they`ve given up all the fun, and walk their journey with resentment and deprivation. Soon, these people will return to their old eating habits and gain all the weight back. Don`t believe me? Then read the story of Ryan Benson who gained 150 pounds short after winning “The Biggest Loser.”
In his mind, and I`m quoting his exact words, Benson saw food as a “reward” for his hard work on the show, so it didn`t seem strange when he couldn`t resist it after the show was over. He picked a goal, he worked hard for it, and he won. But once the goal was over, Benson went back to normal, all because the man didn`t settle that inner battle between his love for junk food and his desire to live healthily. In other words, he lost because he didn`t have a system.
So, what is a system?
The difference between a system and a goal is the same difference between becoming vegan by choice and doing it because you think eating veggies will help you shed off some weight.
A system is a lifestyle, not a goal. You choose to run in the morning, eat no meat, or wake up at 4 a.m. every single day because this is how you want to live the rest of your life. And the beauty of systems is that if you stick to them long enough, goals will come to you effortlessly.
When I understood that, I started looking for a lifestyle that allows me to eat what I love and, at the same time, live the healthiest life I can ever have. And my breakthrough came when I chose intermittent fasting to be my eating system. It allows me to eat all my calories in one or two meals and I love the thrill of challenging myself to stay +16 hours without food.
And because I thought of fasting as something I`d like to do FOREVER, all of a sudden it became easy and before I knew it, I lost close to 50 pounds in less than five months without exercising or feeling deprived. And most importantly, I`ve never regained a pound of that weight since then.
(P.S. you have to check with your doctor before fasting, especially if you have diabetes)
How to design your system?
It`s simple. Just follow these two rules:
Rule #1: Choose the healthy habits that you`re more likely to stick with months or years ahead.
I.e., If you can`t stand cardio, then forcing running into your schedule won`t be the right thing to do.
Rule #2: Don`t deprive yourself of the food you like
If you think you can`t survive a month without pizza or burgers, then why don`t you design your eating habits in a way that allows you to eat the food you love guilt-free? Whatever you choose, remember that consistency is the only thing that matters.
Tip#2: There`s no substitution for meditation
Meditation brings wisdom; lack of mediation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what hold you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.” – Buddha
I didn`t move much when I was injured which was terrible, but it also helped me find alternatives, one of which was meditation. I always thought about giving it a shot, but I never stuck to meditation long enough to know why many people swear by it. Thankfully, I did it this time, and it was one of the best things I`ve ever done.
Meditation is a big game changer. It lowers the risk of Alzheimer`s, eases chronic pain and asthma, and more importantly, makes you sleep better and lowers your impulsiveness. As an injured foodie who couldn`t get out much, it was vital that I understand and practice mindful eating and learn how to master my emotions around food. Luckily this gets much easier when you practice meditation each day. You`re now able to control what you eat, and enjoy it at the same time.
Tip#3: Recovery Is A Must
Coaches and doctors don`t bluff when they tell you to consult a doctor before committing to a particular diet or weight-loss program. They say that because working out is more than just lifting weights or doing heavy cardio. You must be well-informed and have enough knowledge regards how to stay in good form and more importantly how, and when, to rest.
There`s a fine thread between going all-in in the gym and listening to your body when it tells you to stop. I didn`t listen, and I paid the price of forcing high-intensity exercise on my body six or seven days a week. I thought my body didn`t need much recovery because I`m young but I was uninformed, and that ignorance did cost me a lot. So here`s my advice: Read and read and read more and consume all the knowledge you can learn about nutrition, recovery and proper exercising. It may not entertain you, but it will help you avoid much pain.
Wait a minute!
Now that you know the importance of systems, meditation, and recovery, I want you to leave an answer to this question: If there`s one healthy habit that you wish to make it part of your life, now and forever, what that habit would be?