Why We Should Focus on Habits, and Not Outcomes

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“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”  James Clear, author of Atomic Habits

What you are going to learn:

  1. Why a Focus on Short-Term Results Causes us to Choose Ineffective Programs
  2. Why Habits are the Key to Sustainable Results
  3. Why What is Popular is Not Always Effective
  4. Why Unethical Fitness Guru’s often Recommend a Low Carb Diet, Praying on the Eagerness of People to See Quick Results

We all want to achieve results, but when we focus on outcomes and not habits, we make bad decisions. When we are too focused on outcomes, we look for short cuts. What is quickly done, is quickly undone.

Biggest loser

NBC – Ali Vincent was the first female to win on the show with an 112-pound weight loss. Vincent recently posted to Facebook about gaining the weight back.

What is popular isn’t always effective. Look at the popularity of the reality TV program, The Biggest Loser. Forcing 400-pound people to work out four hours a day on a low-calorie diet makes for good TV, but the results are abysmal. Virtually all the contestants fail to keep the weight off. Approximately 14 out of 15 contestants gain back all the weight months after the program ends. Learn More, How to lose weight fast? What we can learn from the Biggest Loser Program.

The key to sustainable results is sustainable routines. Most people wrongly believe that a habit takes approximately 30-days to develop. If that is the case, why don’t these people develop better eating and exercise habits? After all the program lasts several months. The answer has many components. First, the program is unsustainable. No one that has any real-life commitments can work out four hours a day. Another reason these people don’t create better habits is that everything is being forced on them. You don’t develop self-discipline when you are being forced to do something. When these contestants finish the program, they are probably eager to exert their autonomy and reward themselves for all their hard work, with the one reward they have all been conditioned to crave, FOOD.

Another reason that these people don’t develop healthy habits is that they are taken out of their normal environment. When they go back home, they are surrounded by the same triggers and temptations they experienced before. Habits never die; they simply go dormant until they are jolted awake again. These people are food addicts. The only thing an addict needs to change is EVERYTHING. I was always amazed by the stupidity of parents that sent their kids to rehab, only to allow them to go back to the same school, associate with the same druggie friends, only to discover their kids were using again.
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When everyone in your family is overweight it is easy to blame your genetics, but changes in our genetics aren’t driving the obesity epidemic, it is the changes in our eating behavior that is driving it. It is easy to blame our genetics, and it gets us off the hook, it isn’t our fault, it’s the crabby genetic hand of cards we were dealt. People from overweight families rarely look at their families eating habits. If your family eats out a lot at the Cheesecake Factory, consumes a lot of highly processed junk food, and doesn’t exercise, then perhaps it’s their lifestyle to blame and not their genetics. Obesity runs in my family, but I haven’t been overweight since I was ten years old and I made a commitment to fitness. Poor genetics is a common excuse given by people that have no idea how many calories they are eating each day. How can you say you have a slow metabolism when you don’t know how many calories you are eating?

Extreme programs can produce fast results, but you’ll discover the faster you achieve results, the harder they are to sustain. Unless you are going to die in 10-weeks, who cares about a 10-week program. I do encourage people to occasionally set a short term stretch goal, to generate a sense of urgency, but we should never follow an unsustainable diet.

When people are too focused on short term results, they gravitate to unsustainable programs. The absolute best examples of this are the low carb diets, Adkins, the uber-popular Ketogenic Diet, and now the Carnivore Diet. Do you think any of those diets are sustainable? Before you answer, let me put it this way, do you think you will never eat another tasty carb in your life?

The reason these stupid approaches to dieting are popular with people that are focused on quick fixes is that they produce stupid fast results. When you cut carbs from your diet, you’ll drop five to ten pounds in a week. It isn’t fat loss, because that would be impossible. You would have to create a weakly caloric deficit of 18,000 to 36,000 calories. To help put this in perspective, the weekly maintenance caloric intake for a 180-pound man is between 12,600 and 15,120 calories a week.

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There are a lot of unethical people that will sell an attractive lie, instead of an unattractive truth. Many of these experts know that people are looking for quick results, so they advocate low carb diets because when you illuminate carbs from your diet, your muscles store less water. Since our bodies are approximately 60% water, instant weight loss. Even when you tell them it’s water weight, that doesn’t improve their appearance; they don’t care. The scale has moved. Even when you tell them it isn’t sustainable, they don’t care because they are looking for a quick fix, not a long-term solution. I focus on habits and lifestyle because those are the only weight loss strategies that are effective in the long term. How many of the people that you know who stay thin year after year eat a low carb diet? How many simply control their portion sizes and eat a relatively clean diet.

I don’t know how many times people have told me they are doing a low carb diet and it is working amazingly well. They are dropping the pounds like crazy. You know how many of them have been successful long-term. NONE. Zero. Big goose egg. How many people do you know that have kept the weight off with one of these extreme diets?

When you are focused on quick fixes you only look at the short-term results. I don’t know how many people have tried to convince me that low carb diets work for them because they lost a lot of weight. When I try to explain that they should reduce their carbs, especially processed carbs, but they should avoid eliminating a whole category of food, they will tell me that low carb is the only diet that works for them. They go on to tell me they need to do it again because they gained it all back. When they tell me this, I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. The poor dumb bastard doesn’t realize how ludicrous their argument is. If the diet isn’t sustainable, then the results won’t be either. That is why they are going to have to “do it again.”

You don’t do a diet. The whole mentality of doing a diet connotes a quick fix mentality. It is our habits that make us who we are, not what we do for 10-weeks. When someone tells me that I don’t need to work out every day or eat perfectly all the time, because I am thin. They just don’t get it. It is the habit of daily exercise and eating healthy unprocessed foods that is responsible for me being thin.

Being poor is a lifestyle. People that become overnight millionaires usually lose their fortune as quickly as they gained it. That is because they never learned how to manage their money. We aren’t poor because of what we earn; we are poor because we don’t save. It doesn’t matter how much money you make if you blow it on stupid things you don’t need. People sometimes criticize Warren Buffett for being cheap, but they are just putting their ignorance on display. He is wealthy because he is frugal. He says, “If you buy things you don’t need, soon you will have to sell the things you need. Don’t save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.”

Even when you understand the importance of habits, if you are primarily focused on quick results, you’ll be too ambitious with the daily habits you connect with achieving your goal. We want to shrink the habit down so small in the beginning that we can do it on our worse day. The following is an excerpt from the 2nd Edition of the Fat Loss Habit we will be releasing at the end of 2019. It discusses two of the Five Rules of Behavior Change that I think will help illustrate a more effective strategy for long-term fat loss.

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The First Rule of Behavior Change, Shrink the Change, is the most effective way to create a good habit. Shrink the new behavior down so small in the beginning that even on your absolute worst day, you could keep your habit streak alive. We don’t rise to the level of our aspirations, we sink to the level of our standards. Set the bar so low, you cannot fail, but that bar is just a minimum.

You can always do more when you feel motivated to do so, but you never want to do less. You cannot build on a habit until you have established it. We establish habits through repetition. Repetition is the learning language of the subconscious mind. Set the bar too high, and you’ll never develop the habit; moreover, you’ll become discouraged and erode your self-esteem. Set the bar low, build self-confidence, willpower, and motivation through small daily wins, and you’ll be much further along in five-months than the person that set’s lofty goals, but fails to build consistency because they were too ambitious with the daily actions they tied to their goal.

The Second Rule of Behavior Change, Tweak the Environment, is the most effective at breaking a bad habit. It is also useful for establishing good habits. No environment is neutral; as you will learn in the coming chapters. The environment is this invisible force that shapes our decisions. Decisions produce actions. Actions repeated, produce habits. We want our environment to encourage the right behaviors and discourage wrong behaviors. It is almost impossible to sustain positive behaviors in a negative environment.

Willpower is not an effective long-term strategy for behavior change. In a phenomenon called bounded rationality, we are rational until we are not. When we are stressed out, tired, hungry, lonely, or depressed we don’t make rational decisions. Any strategy for behavior change that relies too heavily on willpower is doomed to failure. Based on the widely accepted theory of ego depletion our willpower depletes with use. On days when we are forced to make difficult decisions or exercise a lot of self-control, our willpower will leave us completely exposed to any temptations in our environment. If we remove the temptations that reward bad habits, you extinguish the habit without the need to exert any willpower.

It doesn’t require willpower to shape our environment, it requires commitment. If you aren’t committed enough to do what is easy, like removing the junk food from your home, then you should probably give this book to someone who is. The most common excuse I hear from people for not removing all the junk food from their home is that they don’t want to “deprive their children.” Deprive them of what exactly; a lifetime of sugar addiction? Anyone that makes this argument is literally arguing to feed their kids junk food that is so processed it can hardly be called food. If you cannot get rid of the junk food in your home, stop blaming your children. Having children in your home should be one more reason to get rid of the garbage, not keep it stocked in your pantry. You don’t want to keep these items in your home because it will lead to overconsumption. It is much better to purchase these things in small quantities to avoid over-consumption, for example; ordering an ice cream cone is better than bring a container of ice cream home. Desserts should be an occasional indulgence, not a daily expectation.

Emotional cues like stress, hunger, exhaustion, and depression aren’t something we can control, but fortunately, our environment is something we can control. Not only can we control our environment; it isn’t subject to the inconstancies of willpower due to ego depletion. Our environment is constant. Consistency is an absolute necessity for habit formation.

I hope you are as excited to learn, as I am to share, these highly effective strategies that will make the adoption of healthy habits easier than you ever thought possible! You’ll discover that change is not only possible, it is absolutely doable. I am committed to providing you the most effective strategies based on the latest studies. This is not the first edition of this book, and it will not be the last. As I learn new strategies and tactics that will help you to successfully cross the abyss between inaction and action, I will update this book. When I discover a more effective way of training, I will revise this book.

This book gives you the strategies and tactics that will transform your body, but no one ever got fit by reading about it. Strategy without execution is useless. You must implement the strategies and tactics to develop the habits if you want to achieve a leaner, stronger body. Rituals reap results. Execution is your responsibility, but don’t be intimidated. I will only ask you to perform silly small steps in the beginning to build momentum. Once you have the habit established we will build on it. You can do this. Don’t be discouraged if you have failed in the past. Now that you are armed with effective strategies, you have a much better chance of success. You can do this. You are going to discover this fact in just a few days, as you develop the healthy habits that will make you feel better than you have in years.

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Are you ready to reboot and reset your relationship with food and exercise? Most programs focus on the mechanics of weight loss but fail to adequately address the psychology of change required. Most people know more than enough about nutrition and exercise to lose weight, but fail to act. This book takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger. 

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 The book contains:

  • 7 Change Strategies for Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle
  • A Flexible Diet Program that Doesn’t Put Any Foods Off-limit,  including Alcohol
  • 20-Week Workout Log with Progress Assessments (Downloadable PDF)
  • 3 Strategies for Resetting your Body Weight Setpoint to Keep the Weight Off
  • A Nutrition and Training Program Based on Science, not Bro Science.

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