Depriving Yourself for Fitness Success Doesn’t Work

“8 out of 10 dieters fail.”
“95% of people who diet gain the weight back.”
“New Year’s resolutions fail.”

You’ve probably heard all these alarming and pessimistic statistics and maybe even felt quite defeated by them. Well, if you’re a nerd like me you’ve looked up a few scientific studies on diets, weight loss and willpower and while the results regarding the possibility for diet failure (i.e. regaining the weight) are inconclusive, the studies often lacking in proper sample size and sometimes using unreliable methods, there is one thing I am certain about: You are not doomed to fail if you decide to make positive changes in your life.

Unfortunately, many diets don’t focus on positive habits. Instead, they remind people they need to sacrifice, just try harder, give up things we love to get smaller and ban certain foods altogether. Even if there are certain bad habits and poor choices in our lives, we will do better without, I have found that focusing only on trying to quit them is not as effective as you would think.

There is a huge difference between dieting vs. creating new healthy habits. Dieting is depriving yourself ample calories so that your hangry outbursts make your friends want to shove giant chocolate croissants in your mouth to shut you up, becoming a cardio bunny who runs for hours on the treadmill and eats nothing by carrots, lettuce, ice cubes, Balance Bars and fat free Jello pudding snacks, and telling yourself that your favorite foods are now “Off limits!” which lasts until about 7 pm when you then eat the fridge and then in a final act of “fuck it” thinking make a trip to the 24-hour drug store for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.  Positive lifestyle changes i.e. adding healthy habits into your life that modify the way you make decisions is a much saner, happier approach.

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Overcoming Pre Fight Nerves

sealing the ring muay thai

“Sealing the Ring”

You can feel your sweaty palms underneath the gauze and tape your coach masterfully bound over your hands. You tried hard not to let your hands shake while they worked. You begin to stretch and warm up, shadow box and you notice your mouth is dry. The gloves get taped on by a commissioner, and you realize now there is no going back, not even another bathroom break. Maybe at this moment, you have a twinge of doubt. Why am I here? This is crazy! I could get hurt. We have all thought something like this before.

When you begin to hit pads your body feels “gooey,” legs a bit heavy, timing slightly off. You notice how that first couple minutes of pad work leaves you more breathless than you are used to in training, but you power through until the punches feel crisp and your kicks feel strong. Second wind, they call it. Once you have broken a sweat, you wait on deck for your name to be called. You hear the crowd cheering for the fight before you, maybe you glance at your opponent who is waiting too. What are they thinking?

Stepping over the ropes into the ring, you hope you don’t fall, you feel the knot in your stomach, the bright lights are jarring to your eyes. After the ring is sealed you are called to the center; now it’s okay to stare at your opponent. You look them straight in the eye, trying to project confidence, trying to instill fear. You take a good look; your mind is racing, you probably don’t even hear what the referee is saying, you just nod. Your mouth is still so dry. Clean fight, good fight. Okay, got it.

Back to your corner. This is it. The bell rings. Fight! There is only one winner. Will it be you?

…The answer lies in your ability to excel at overcoming pre-fight nerves.

No fighter is exempt from fight nerves. Some fear, some anxiety is a good thing. After all, you are about to do something dangerous, courageous and difficult; it’s important your senses are heightened, and you are extremely alert; something that a being a little anxious will do for you. The important part is how you deal with the fear. Will you use it in a positive way, channel it into your punches and kicks or will you let it own, making you tired, weak and ineffective?

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How to Create a Success Mindset in Work, Life and Fitness

“Success isn’t just about what you accomplish in your life it’s about what you inspire others to do.”
– Anonymous

I think about success quite a bit and how to create a success mindset and tools. As far back as I can remember, I have wanted to make something of myself, I just didn’t truly know what that something was until I found Muay Thai in 2002. The idea that I could be anything I wanted as long as I set my mind to it was something my mother gave me at an early age and I am grateful for her optimism. Unfortunately, limitless possibilities and big dreams where some of the only tangible tools she gave me in regards to success and I had to figure out the others on my own; it’s a good thing she also taught me the importance of independence at an early age. In my youth I encountered quite a few road blocks to success. After spending most of my teens and early twenties pulling a crashing world around me due to my love of all things pleasurable and my inability to delay gratification I was saved by finding Muay Thai. I attribute much of my success in sport, work, love and life to my passion for Muay Thai, but underneath that love, for a long time I still had a ton of fear. That fear is still with me, there is just much less of it now. Each training session, each fight, each victory, each lesson I would squeeze out a little bit more of the fear every day as I worked on my self development both as an athlete and a person.

My journey is not nearly finished. I want to keep growing until the day I die. There is always more I want to learn and accomplish, but the tools that have helped me succeed this far, I’d like to share with you now…

 

aquarium_fresh1. Create the space in your life to grow bigger

I’ve been thinking about this one a lot lately. I compare this thought to a fish tank. A few years ago my boyfriend wanted a big fish tank. The kind you see in movies, artistic placed in the middle of a room in a big, baller mansion. I was hesitant at first and thought they would be a pain in the ass to keep up with and clean the tank (I was right), but they are also pretty to look at (he was right) and they have taught me an important lesson.

When fish are in a small tank, they won’t grow to their full potential, instead they remain small to fit the tank and it’s limited resources. Many types of fish if you put them in a bigger tank, will grow and flourish to the size of the tank provided. However, some fish, even different ones of the same breed just never grow. When I asked our pothead fish cleaning guy (yes we had to hire a cleaner because I was tired of arguing over who would clean the damn tank) why one Angel fish got really big and another stayed small he just replied, “Oh, well some are just like that… maybe they don’t wanna get bigger.”

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The Secret to Being Great is to Admit Your Weaknesses

My attitude is that if you push me towards a weakness, I will turn that weakness into a strength.  – Michael Jordan

I used to suck at pull ups. My reach is two inches longer than my height, and therefore I have a long way to pull myself up. Great for punching people, horrible for body weight exercises and pressing heavy things over my head. However, today I can do several pull ups, and my favorite lift is the kettlebell military press.

As an athlete, I know that the secret to getting good is to shine a magnifying glass on yourself, pin point your weaknesses (because you know your opponent is doing that) and get better at what you suck at.

When I first started training Muay Thai, I gravitated towards being a puncher. I loved everything about the jab and cross. I used the occasional kick to set up my straight punches. I was a forward fighter and somewhat one dimensional. While certain strengths can carry you far, I knew that I wouldn’t be turning pro if I was a one trick pony.

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Calorie Counting vs Macros

I used to count calories in my head while I was running. I distinctly remember the feeling of pounding the pavement as I rounded the bend at the Hollywood reservoir trail adding up the sandwich I ate for lunch and the cereal I had for breakfast and subtracting the 380 calories I had burned in three and a half miles and wondering if I should do another loop so I could have dessert after dinner. It was a horrible feeling. I don’t wish compulsive calorie counting on anyone and that is why I want to share with you how I more mindfully track my nutrition now.

calories

Calorie Counting is Only a Fraction of the Big Picture

I’ve spend a lot of time researching how to lose body fat and gain lean muscle (i.e. “get toned”). It’s my job, so I’ve done a ton of research, tried everything under the sun for myself and worked with a bunch of clients in the 10 + years I’ve been a trainer and here’s the bottom line: Calories matter, but there are a BUNCH of other factors that also matter to fat loss and muscle gain. Here are just a few: macro-nutrients, food quality, sleep, stress, hormones (that’s a BIG one), current muscle mass, genetics, intensity of exercise performed, mindset (yes, the way you think matters!), gut health. This list alone is enough to make your head spin and it’s only a partial list of all the factors that affect fat loss and body composition. Also, if there is anything certain I have learned in counseling people it’s the different approaches work for different people.  You cannot tell someone to do something  you do and expect them to get the same results you do. Just because it worked for you doesn’t mean you should write a book (or blog) telling everyone you found the definitive answer to fat loss, individuality matters.

Basic Take Away: Instead of only focusing on calories in and calories out, focus on creating healthy habits that will stay with you for a lifetime. Here’s how…

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Fear in The Ring and Fear on Paper

Muay Thai Female Fighter _Pre Fight Focus

I grit my teeth and hit “publish” and the familiar, yet never an easier sensation of excitement and anxiety consumes me. It’s a feeling similar to entering the ring to fight. I don’t fight anymore, I retired in 2011 from fighting Muay Thai, but writing, something I have done all my life is a constant reminder of what I love about fighting.

Fear. We all have it. Fear will never completely disappear. We just have to find a way to own it, to cut through its thick air with a knife.

My fighter Emily fought last weekend. We had just finished the last round of pad work to warm her up. She was greased up and ready to go, the first glistening sweat on her brow, her second wind getting ramped up, her mouth dry and her eyes full of feeling.

As I talked her through some mental visualization techniques to keep her energy focused, I was reminded of what has been missing in my life these past few months: fear; or more specifically stepping through fear.

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How to Set Action Goals & Get Results!

 

How many times have you set a weight loss goal or made a resolution in your life and not been successful?

…Or been temporarily successful, only to put the weight back on or backslide later? Some of my clients come to me with a history of repeated failed attempts at weight loss. I know this can be disheartening at best and at worst can lead to a vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting and self-loathing. As an athlete in a weight class sport for ten years, I sympathize, the scale can feel like your worst enemy.

The scientific and nutritional reasons why diet and exercise often fail people is a topic for another blog. I’ll touch it briefly by saying that successful clients don’t focus on calorie restriction (especially low calorie, low fat and hi carb diets) and excessive exercise. Instead, they focus on real food choices, food quality, lifting weights & finding joy in sports (like Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, basketball, rock climbing or tennis).

Today I would like to focus on how to set a fitness, health or even a life goal, something that when done correctly can bring great happiness and fulfillment to our lives. I’ve written before about willpower and neuropsychology has lately been the research topic that is most interesting to me. Goals setting is just a part of the willpower and habit human experience. If you want to know more, see the end of this blog for recommended reading.

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How to Find More Purpose & Increase Health

Finding Purpose

This is me, probably thinking about something to do with purpose 😉

When I have a consult with a new client I ask some unorthodox questions about their life. I want to know if they have long term and short term goals. I want to know if they enjoy their work. I want to know their priorities, passions and focus. Essentially what I am getting at, is do they feel they have a purpose? The average client usually looks to hire a personal trainer because they want to lose fat, feel good physically and look better naked. What I have discovered over the years is clients rarely succeed at this if they are stressed, unhappy and/or hate their life. I’m not a therapist, but find my job does include a good deal of life coaching, as well as fitness and nutrition tip; especially since what motivates people is so closely tied with their priorities and their general attitude.

Today I’d like to take a closer look at one area people usually think is unrelated to their health goals, but is incredibly important: Purpose. There are many aspects of wellness. As a culture we tend to think that if we just control what we eat and do enough exercise our bodies will magically be what we want them to be and we will automatically be free from disease and illness. This black and white thinking based solely on calories in, calories out leaves out a major component of wellness, the mind. If our minds are not healthy, we are not healthy.

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