Holiday Body Composition Rescue Strategies

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As we’re currently in the swing of the holiday season, with a little over a week until Christmas day as of the time of this writing, I wanted to share a few of the strategies I have been recommending to clients as they begin their travels and their preparation for what to do when confronted with a seemingly limitless number of high sugar, high fat treats and desserts, whether it be at the office, at social gatherings, or at family dinners.

Strategy #1: Re-Allocating Your Food Intake

While how you spread out your food intake can have an impact in the long run on your body composition, at the end of the day, your total intake is going to have the largest contribution.  So, the simple act of shifting the majority of your intake into “high pressure” situations can make a huge difference.

For example, let’s say I’m a 40-year-old male who is eating about 2,200 calories per day to lose fat.  All I need to do is ensure that I try to stay as close to that number as possible so that, even though it may not be optimal for fat loss, it won’t encourage any significant amount of fat gain.  Again, using some hypothetical numbers, let’s say that I usually split my intake up over 4 meals relatively evenly, which would break out to about 550 calories per meal (2,200/4 = 550).  Instead of continuing on my normal pace and then adding a bunch of holiday food, I want to simply replace my normal food choices with whatever I want.

So in this case, let’s say I’m meeting my family for a late lunch at my parents’ house and plan on staying until late evening.  My plan for the day might look something like this:

Meal 1 – Breakfast

4oz ground turkey burger patty

1 hardboiled egg

2 cups sauteed peppers

Calories = 200

Meal 2 – Mid-Morning Snack

1 scoop whey protein

12oz almond milk

1 large whole cucumber, chopped

Calories = 150

What I’ve done is still make sure that I’m giving myself adequate nutrition (protein, vegetables) without a huge calorie impact.  In fact, at only about 350 calories before lunch, I’ve left myself a pretty solid amount of wiggle room for the later meals.

I should note that it’s not incredibly important to track the calorie intake at these meals specifically, although you definitely can.  Just understand that the goal here is to keep your body fed with the bare essentials and prevent any significant hunger from accumulating.  No extra fats (cooking oils, nuts, avocados, high-fat meats) or sugary or starchy carb sources (fruits, sweet potatoes, rice, etc) at the early meals since there will be plenty coming later in the day.

So now I’m left with around 1,900 calories to do with as I want the rest of the day.  While 1,900 is definitely a lot of food, it goes by pretty quick with processed and refined foods, so you’ll still want to take a few steps to help regulate your intake later in the day.  Here is what I would suggest:

Meal 3 – Late Lunch

For your first plate, split it 50/50 with the leanest protein you can find (fortunately, things like turkey and ham are pretty easy to come by at holiday parties) and whatever green vegetables you can find (salads without a ton of dressing, green beans, whatever is available).  Finish that, and then drink a big glass of water – around 16-20 ounces.

Then, for your second plate, eat (and drink) whatever you like.  By getting the protein and greens out of the way first, you know that you’ve done a few things:

  1. You made sure you fulfilled your basic nutrient needs for the meal
  2. You took in food that digests more slowly to help keep blood sugar reasonably stable compared to if you hadn’t
  3. You filled up on dense foods so there’s less room overall for the high-sugar, high-fat stuff

You can simply repeat those same steps at your next meal if you so choose, or you can simply switch back to a regular meal composition based on personal preference and how much you ate at Meal 3.

Strategy #2: Feast & Fast

This particular strategy works very well either on its own, or paired with the above steps from strategy #1.

The concept is pretty straightforward – all you are going to do is fast for approximately 14-16 hours after your last meal before eating again.  So if you eat your last meal around 8pm on Thursday night, you wouldn’t eat again until 10am-12pm on Friday.

Why is it valuable to fast?  There are a few reasons.

  1. You just ate A TON OF FOOD.  Your body needs time to digest and to cope with the excess.  Eating before your body has had a chance to work its magic with all those fatty acids and glucose just increases the odds of some of it being stored as fat.
  2. You’re re-allocating some of your calories.  By pulling back on overall intake on Friday, you can again limit or even prevent fat gain.

Now, why can’t you just cut your calories for the day by, say, 500, and eat your normal meals?  You could do that.  The problem is that, especially after coming off of a high-calorie day, your appetite might be up a little bit.  Cutting 100-200 calories out of each meal might leave you feeling unsatisfied at the end of each meal, leading to a higher likelihood of giving in to additional temptation and binging on more than you need.  By fasting, you still get to enjoy a few pretty decently-sized meals and get the feeling of fullness, which can be a huge mental key in controlling your urges for more treats.

Strategy #3: Burn As Much As Possible

The premise here is pretty simple – if calories in are going to go up, you need to make sure that calories out are increasing as well.

The idea is simple – before you go crazy at the dinner table, sneak off for 15-20 minutes and get some work done.  You can do sprints, you can go for a run, if your gym happens to be open you can head out for a good workout before heading to your family gathering, whatever works.  You don’t have to do it literally right before you eat – not everybody feels comfortable sneaking off to the guest room at Grandma’s house and grinding out a few bodyweight Tabata circuits.  Just do it whenever possible.

No equipment?  No problem.  I have a few of my clients doing this:

Bodyweight Circuit
20 reverse lunges
10 pushups
20 bodyweight squats
60 second front plank

Keep rest as limited as possible.  Repeat for 15-20 minutes.

Hell, I even have a few guys doing 100 pushups before every meal.  Not only do you burn extra calories, but how many guys are satisfied with their chest development anyway?  Two birds, people.  TWO.  BIRDS.

As you can see, there is plenty that you can do to keep fat gain at bay.  It just takes a little planning, and you’ll be able to avoid having to burn off an extra 10 pounds that you gained over the holiday season.  Whether you end up ultimately losing some extra fat, or even just maintaining your current composition, ultimately that’s much better than developing a belly that’ll rival Santa’s.

3 Keys to Overcoming Roadblocks

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Doing a photo shoot has always been one of those things that I thought was for “other people”. I always had excuse after excuse of why I could never do one – I will never have the right body, I completely lack the confidence, and what if I get bloated the day before! I never set out to do a shoot, it just kind of . . . happened.

#1: It sounds cliché, but don’t give up

After having my third child in February 2013, I remember driving home from the gym hyperventilating between tears. I felt chunky, fat, weak, and all of the other self-sabotaging emotions. I couldn’t even visualize being fit again, let alone seeing my abs. For the next several months, I took it a day at a time. Some days I would feel strong and in control of my food. Other days I would put away a half gallon of ice cream and brownies while feeling like an utter failure. I made a resolution – Have more good days than bad. I wasn’t telling myself it was OK to screw up, but I WAS telling myself not to feel guilty when I did. I was being real. I knew that if I started having more good days than bad, the body I wanted would follow. At that point, my goal wasn’t about a number on a scale or a percent of body fat, it was about not giving up. I did not see a photo shoot as the light at the end of the tunnel, but persistence made it happen. Focus on an action, not a result – you can control the action.

#2: Partner with the Right Coach for YOU

I have had three coaches in the past 18 months. Although all of them were great, credentialed, and produce results, I had to find the one that was the perfect fit . . . for ME. By the third coach, I had found a coach that I could partner with, could ask anything, tell him anything, could be honest and feel no reason to hide anything. I trust him. He has never shamed me or made me feel guilty when I mess up. I respect him, and because of that, I push myself harder in the gym, eat more mindfully, and definitely have more good days than bad. He holds me accountable, and I want to be able to tell him “I killed that workout”.

The value of having an honest relationship with my coach is immeasurable. At one point, I had told him that I had been feeling run down and weak. This feeling persisted for quite a while. He listened and had me de-load my training for a week. He didn’t shame me, he told me I NEEDED to and required me to have a week in the gym where I just had fun. He listened to me and listened to my body. Because of our partnership and full disclosure relationship, he knew I was being 100% honest which allowed him to do his job – take care of me and my body.

My coach has always had my best interest at heart and isn’t afraid to tell me “no”. I sent him a picture of my ideal look and he did not respond with “Sure, let’s do it!” He responded with a challenge, “Take a step back. All of that is wonderful and very good, but needs to be done from a place of self growth, and self love. Not out of a place of pure dissatisfaction and not loving yourself” and a bit of brutal honesty “If I’m being very honest, her body fat percentage is likely messing with her cycle (non-existent). You can maintain NOT FAR off of that. In my opinion, she’s a bit TOO lean to be walking around like that all the time. Some people are genetic freaks – but she’s not one of them haha.”
See – best interest at heart. Conversations like these let you know you have a good coach.

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#3: Understanding Needs vs. Wants

It takes time to get to know your body, to understand hunger versus stress, understand muscular fatigue versus emotional exhaustion. It takes time to know when it is OK to have a “cheat” meal and when it is not. It takes practice listening to your body. The ultimate goal is to learn to understand what your body needs versus what you want. As my coach did, he told me to take a de-load week because my body NEEDED it, not because I was bitching and moaning and asked for it.

How do you know when you grasped need versus want? The guilt is removed. If you justify having a donut, but know deep down you shouldn’t, there will be a tinge of guilt attached. Conversely, if you take a day off from the gym because you know yourself well enough to know that your body is zonked and needs a break – there won’t be guilt because you are educated enough to recognize the signs your body is giving off. This understanding goes hand in hand with having a good partnership with a coach. Until you understand your bodies feedback, a good coach can help you interpret what you are feeling.

Deciphering your bodies needs versus wants takes time – but once you grasp it, you will be unstoppable.

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I never set out to do a photo shoot, but taking things one step at a time allowed me to get photo ready without crash dieting or over-stressing about it. Give yourself realistic action-based goals, find a coach that you trust, and get real with yourself.

For more about my background and struggles, stayed tuned for more updates.

Are You the Person I’m Looking For?

This went out to all of our newsletter subscribers and clients a few days ago, and now I’m opening it up to all of our social media readers. I am writing this because I have something special to share. If you’re reading this, I think it COULD apply to you. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but I would rather let you make that decision instead of me, as I have been wrong more than once. As some of you may or may not know, I recently began competing in Physique competitions (which I have been thoroughly enjoying, by the way). But this isn’t about me. 52544-zach-trowbridge-11_final It IS about the fact that I am looking for TWO people with similar interests. I am looking to take two people to the stage within the next 12 months. Why? Because it isn’t enough for me to do it myself – if I can’t reproduce the results then it doesn’t really help me continue to grow even more as a coach. So, who am I looking for? I am looking for one client to work with one on one with me personally, as a private client, 4 days per week, for an hour at a time. This person, male or female, should be highly motivated to get into more than just good shape – they need to want something more. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re already a client at All Strength Training or not – it’s open to anybody! I am also looking for one person to work with remotely. This person probably won’t live close enough to train with me one on one, but you’ll get the next best thing. Customized nutrition, programming, and weekly Skype consult, and more. Now, the good part. I am not going into this with a particular set cost in mind. I would rather have the right people who will do what’s needed, rather than just those with the most disposable income. So I’m not putting a price tag on it yet – if you’re the person for the job, we can work that out later. 12 week transformation So what do I get out of it? 1. Promotion. Yes, I will use you to promote our services. On our website, through social media, in print, etc. Consider it a trade for offering this at well below what I would typically charge. 2. Data. You’re a beta tester for all of my nutrition, training, and supplementation protocols. So we will keep lots of records together, you and I. Workouts, pictures, measurements, consistently and regularly. How Do You Apply? Reply to this e-mail or send an e-mail to me personally at Zach@allstrengthtraining.com. In about 500 words (a few paragraphs), describe what you want from me. How you want to look, what competition you would like to do, who you would like to look like, and tell me why I should pick you. Please, also specify if you want to be considered for one on one or remote training. Lastly, tell me what inspires you. People, places, activities, anything. I want to know what drives you to be a better person and motivates you to get out of bed each day. If you read this and think this isn’t for you, I understand. Not everyone wants or needs to go to the level I’m asking for this project. I would ask, however, that if you know someone who fits the bill, that you share this with them so that they might have the opportunity to be considered. Until Next Time, Zach Trowbridge

Special Summer Tank Pre-Order

Summer is here, and so is All Strength Training’s FIRST custom designed tank top!  Perfect for showing off all of your hard work logged over the cold months, wear it to the beach, to the gym, or anytime you just want to look a little more awesome.

Tank tops are available in both men’s and women’s sizes through Next Level Apparel.  If you got one of our last t-shirt designs, your size shouldn’t change, but they are athletic fit, so if you want something a bit looser, just order a size up.

Men’s style: Click here to view

Women’s style: Click here to view

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All shirts are $20 plus 3.95 shipping.  Orders are due by July 7, 2014.  We cannot guarantee any orders received after July 7.

Men’s Sizes




Women’s Sizes



What Nobody Tells You About Body Transformations

Let me start off by saying that I do really enjoy seeing impressive transformation photos – I think that any example of the human body being pushed to its limits can be a very inspiring thing.  However, thanks to social media, this notion that anybody can lose 25, 50, maybe even 100 pounds in a matter of months has permeated our senses to the degree that it’s expected by many uneducated observers to be the rule, rather than the exception.

In reality, just like Kim and Kanye’s wedding, there is more hype than substance behind most before and after shots.  Let’s not even get into the prevalence of illegal drugs, Photoshop alterations, and even using two completely different people in the before and after shots.  As a hilarious side note, I have actually seen real transformations called out as fake by internet trolls because “hey, that tattoo switched sides between the before and after picture – it’s obviously not even the same person!”  Yes, it’s either that… or you don’t know how mirrors work.  Anyway, where were we?  Oh yes…

The Actions Don’t Match the Words

This is a very common one in, shall we say, less than ethical marketing – you’ll see something like “lose 15 pounds in 30 days with this miracle pill!  No diet and exercise needed,” plastered over a woman standing inside her now-oversized pants.  The picture might be real, but sad to say, if you ever see the words “without diet and exercise,” what you are being fed rhymes  quite well with “morse pit.”  Pills alone have never, and probably will never, produce dramatic results.  And if you see a weight loss drug or pill that notes that in the fine print “results not typical” (i.e., EVERY ad ever), that’s the company’s way of saying to you, “well, we never promised that YOU could do it.  So we’ll just keep your money, thanks!”

Stop looking for the miracle pill, people.  It doesn’t exist.

They’re Not Always Healthy

Look at any of the advertising for some of these “nutrition systems” that have flooded the market in the last few years – Herbalife, Body by Vi, Isagenix, Whey Awesome (okay, that last one isn’t real… but give it a month).  They all follow the same M.O. – take away real food for 3 months, and live off of shakes and questionable supplements.

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See that?  That’s the “Transformation Kit” for Body by Vi.  What do you get?  2 shakes a day, some fish oil, some “Flavor Mix-Ins” with artificial sweeteners, fat burners, energy drinks, and appetite suppressants.

So how does it work?  Do I just drink the shakes?  Do I get to eat real food?  Hell if I know.  I looked over all of the information provided with the kit on their website, and not a single mention was made of what to eat outside of the crap they send you.  I don’t even actually know if you’re SUPPOSED to eat other than what they send you.  So I imagine a lot of people see the photos, order the kit, eat twice a day and load up on energy drinks and fat burners for 3 months… and then stop, and go back to real food…

and then what?

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Their shake has 90 calories.  NINETY.  GODDAMN.  CALORIES.  No wonder they load you up on fat burners and energy drinks – 90 calories would barely get a normally functioning adult through their morning bowel movement.  Which you probably won’t have.  Because you’re only getting 180 calories a day.

But what if I can’t live off of 180 calories a day?  Never fear, dear reader, we have more bullshit in a bag to sell you.  Let’s take a look at the rest of their product page.  We have some artificially colored, artificially sweetened pseudo-healthy Cocoa Puffs ripoff, we have a low fat protein cereal, and we have whatever the hell a “Nutra-Cookie” is.

There it is, folks, pack it in.  Body by Vi has it figured out – the key to weight loss is shakes, cereals, and cookies.  But hey, at least it’s really expensive!  And now that you’ve gotten used to maintaining your “health” off of cereals and cookies, what do you think you’ll eat lots of when you inevitably blow your diet from being literally starved to death?  If you said cereals and cookies, high-five yourself before the bone loss sets in and you fracture your own hand.

They’re Hard Work… Really… Really Hard Work

But what about some of the authentic, legit transformations that do exist that achieved their results with good old-fashioned hard training, real food, and maybe some moderate supplementation?  It can be done, right?

Yes, it can.  And it can be done in an impressively short period of time.  Here is the problem – most people don’t want to disclose how much work goes into it simply because it makes it harder to sell your system than if you make it sound effortless.  Nobody wants to hear the sacrifices that you will inevitably have to make to get there.  We try to be pretty authentic with what we put our clients through to get some of the results we advertise, and here are some examples of what to expect:

  • You will limit your food intake and your calories.  This cannot be avoided.  It doesn’t mean you’re eating 600 calories a day from powders and pills, but it does mean you will eat things you don’t want to, and that you will have to say no to things you crave at times.
  • You will train hard, and train often.  You want to look like that guy on the cover of Muscle & Fitness?  He probably dieted for 6-12 weeks for that shoot, and he was probably already in pretty damn good shape.  He still probably trained 4-5 days per week on average, and probably did some supplemental cardio or conditioning to boot.  So no, we can’t make you look like him in two months if you’re only going to work out twice a week, and not break a sweat while you do it.
  • You will probably have to say no to nights out, to ordering take-out on the way home from work, to a beer before bedtime “to help you unwind.”  Sorry.
  • You might have to bust out a food scale every now and then.  Not always, but don’t rule it out – it’s a tool to use and it works.
  • You will probably feel like giving up at least once.  It’s normal, it’s tiring.  It may be worth it, or it may not be.  It’s a decision for you to make, not anybody else.  There’s nothing wrong with being realistic and choosing the slow and steady pursuit over the “gotta have it now” one, and vice versa, but that brings me to my last point…
  • You cannot bullshit yourself.  Not having a firm grasp on what is needed to achieve the look you want in the timetable you have set for yourself is one of the biggest mistakes people make.  It’s why so many New Year’s diets fail miserably in a matter of days, weeks at best.  You can’t go from doing a kegstand out of a horse trough one minute, to no booze, no sugar, no starch, training 6 days a week and making all of your meals from scratch in the span of a day.  “I’ll start tomorrow” is the death knell of “challenge” type transformations.

But know that for those who are willing and able to put the work in, big things can happen.  And if you aren’t able to, don’t be ashamed, don’t look for excuses on why the person you see has it easier than you… just… be more patient.  It’ll take longer to get there and that’s okay, but you need to be okay with it and understand that there is nothing wrong with continually honing your body over weeks, months, and years.

12 weeks of real, hard work.
12 weeks of real, hard work.

It Can Be Rewarding

Don’t misunderstand me – there is nothing wrong with undertaking a transformation project on yourself.  But I feel obligated to make sure that you go into it loaded with the right information, because the truth is… it’s not the norm to drop 50 pounds in 90 days.  I wish it was.  But it isn’t.  It took you 10 years to gain it, it isn’t coming off in 10 weeks.  At least, not without a fight, and maybe still not even then.  But just know that whatever success you do achieve, is your own, and you will have a right to be proud of it when it is all said and done.

So give yourself a high five when you’re done.  I just hope you don’t break anything.

Quick Tip: Limit Caffeine Post-Workout

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For many people, a morning cup of coffee is a bit of a ritualistic experience.  All you have to do is spend 10 minutes inside a Starbucks at 5am and take note of the number of mental zombies rattling off an order so complicated you’re not sure if they’re getting a cappuccino or giving nuclear launch codes.

We’ve touted the benefits of caffeine on this site before, but what about timing?  Maybe you’re somebody who has to hit the gym first thing in the morning, and you don’t get around to your morning fix until you hit the break room at the office.  Or maybe you work out after work, and then brew a pot of coffee so you can stay up later to finish all the work you didn’t get to during the day.  Well, get ready for some bad news, because your coffee may be doing more harm than good the way you’re doing it.

First, let’s look at some of the things we know about coffee and caffeine in general:

  • Coffee raises cortisol, a stress response hormone.  We know that too much cortisol is a huge issue in our modern culture and can have pronounced impact on health and body composition.
  • Coffee acts as a natural diuretic, therefore impacting nutrient absorption.  Who here has uttered the phrase “uh oh, my coffee’s running right through me” before?
  • In a significant percentage of people, caffeine acts as much as a physical stimulant as it does a mental one, thanks to that big boost in cortisol courtesy of your adrenal glands.
  • Caffeine has been shown to decrease insulin sensitivity.  Not long-term, but temporarily due to the spike in cortisol, which, again, as we know, means that if cortisol goes up, blood sugar management temporarily goes down.

So what does this mean in the context of drinking it after training?

  • We want cortisol to go up shortly before and during training, as acute increases in cortisol actually help to mobilize bodyfat.  When it’s already elevated, however, the last thing you want to do is add more.  Your goal should be to bring cortisol back down to normal as fast as possible after training.
  • You want to drive nutrients into the cells quickly after training to help promote recovery and protein synthesis.  Emptying the GI tract too quickly is not going to help your post-workout shake be any more effective and will likely counter a lot of the benefits.
  • It’s okay to want to stimulate your mind after training, but we want to avoid amping up your nervous system at the same time.  Instead, nutrients that have been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier such as acetyl-L-carnitine, bacopa extract, and alpha GPC would be a better option.
  • Post-workout is one of the best times to take in carbs.  That is, unless your insulin sensitivity is suppressed.  Thanks, but no thanks, coffee.

The takeaway?  Save caffeine for pre-workout use only if possible.  If not, at a minimum, give your body 3-4 hours after training to get cortisol levels back to a normal state before having a follow-up dose.

A Reaction to the Stupidest Thing I’ve Ever Read

If you’re not familiar with Tracy Anderson, consider yourself blessed. If you are, you probably know that she is probably one of the worst influences to come out of the fitness industry since the advent of “finger down throat for reps”. Besides being a woman of questionable business practices, she also happens to be Gwenyth Paltrow’s trainer, which unfortunately, gives her terrible advice more weight. Because nothing bad happens when you combine dense with denser.

Anderson has built a reputation off of the idea that women can absolutely transform their bodies (the word “physiques” would be too harsh of a term and too masculine, as far as she is concerned) through fad eating and ridiculous exercise (I won’t even call it “training”, because it isn’t) with dumbbells that only come in rainbow colors. Anything over 2kg will make a woman “bulky,” she says.

But because that wasn’t stupid enough, she absolutely had to offer something for the men. Because why have strong shoulders, a big chest and well developed extremities when you can look frail and emaciated? Hell, maybe you and your wife could share the same skinny jeans!

The interview that was recently published (which you can read here if you have free time and too high of an IQ) touting her new mens’ program is literally a minefield of stupidity, and here are some of the worst verbal explosions.

I did a five-year research study with 150 women and measured them every 10 days and I created original content and sequencing for each of them and navigated them.

Yet you follow it up with this gem – “I wasn’t measuring BMI or typical measurements. I was measuring based on the idea of how to create balance where there is imbalance in the body.”  So basically, you didn’t measure anything.  That is, if anybody actually buys into the idea that you got 150 women to see you at least every 10 days for 5 years straight in a small town in Indiana.

…I’m smart about what I eat. If I ate a tablespoon of Yak Butter, which has 800 calories in it, or if I drank a diet soda – what would happen? If you asked 100 people in the middle of America the following question – “Will I gain more weight if I ate a tablespoon of Yak Butter or drank a soda?” – unanimously they would say Yak Butter. But they’re wrong. Your body has no idea what the hell to do with the soda, so this floats through your body, and it stores it as inflammation, which is a very important word that needs to be understood correctly.

Holy crap, where to start.  First, 800 CALORIES IN ONE TABLESPOON OF YAK BUTTER?  That’s pretty interesting, since, unless that butter has the density of lead, a tablespoon of any butter is typically around 10-15g in total weight, meaning the MAXIMUM amount of fat it could contain would be 15g.  15g of fat x 9 calories per gram = 135 calories.  Most butter sits right around 100 calories per tablespoon.  Nice lack of even basic nutritional understanding for somebody who is supposed to be a “world renowned guru.”

Second, I literally feel like the principal from Billy Madison after reading the second half of that statement.  Inflammation is not a “thing”, it is a symptom, a diagnosis.  This is like saying that “now Robbie can’t see because his diet was too high in blindness.”  So yes, you are correct, inflammation does need to be understood correctly; unfortunately for you, you may as well have just tossed a bunch of Scrabble tiles into a blender and typed what came out, because you have no idea what you are saying.

Men want to be panthers. They want to be machines that function. Right now, it’s all about being ‘skinny ripped’ – you want to look good in a tailored suit. It’s important for men not to overdevelop.

Just… where’s the Tylenol?

Men and women are very different. Men go through one hormonal change in their life, women go through at least four…

I think somebody wasn’t paying attention during sex ed… or physiology… or your nutrition courses… or… never mind, you’re obviously just joking.  Where’s Ashton Kutcher hiding?

Wishes, Wants & Needs

Now that we’re headlong into the new year and approaching spring, we’re about to begin noticing a very seasonal phenomenon (and no, I don’t mean old men in black socks and sandals telling my kids to get off of their lawn) – something you could call “The Rise and Fall of the New Year’s Resolutioner.”  You know the type; you may even BE the type – the person that, on December 31, dives 100% into dieting, learning a new language, finding the Loch Ness monster, etc., tossing everything else in their life aside for this single, solitary aim, believing whole-heartedly that “damn it, this year is the year! I’ll have that six-pack!  I’ll go to Europe and not sound like an uncultured American when I ask where the baño is!  I’ll finally have Nessie’s head hanging on my wall and the internet will worship me as their king!”
Little known fact: Nessie speaks Russian and has a rockin' six-pack.
Little known fact: Nessie speaks Russian and has a rockin’ six-pack.

Fast forward two months, and Craigslist and eBay are littered with barely used Bowflexes, Rosetta Stone discs, and sea monster-caliber sonar equipment.  What went wrong?  Why do so many of us lose those lofty aspirations that we held so near and dear just a few weeks ago, back when we felt like nothing could stop us?

The reality is, there is a sort of hierarchy to goal-setting and making personal change, and many people talk at one level, but their actions show that they’re really at another.  These stages are Wishing, Wanting, & Needing to change.

Wishing

Everybody knows a Wisher.  The person who will complain “I’ll never have a body like yours!” while elbow-deep in a Costco-sized package of Double Stuf Oreos covered in maple syrup.  The person who hopes to become a famous movie star simply because a talent agent saw them and thought that the way they serve a latte shows “a lot of passion”.  The person who aspires to become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams by playing the lottery with the numbers from last night’s fortune cookie.

Tragically, wishing and hoping are about as far as they ever get to succeeding.  They never pull themselves together to make that first step – they won’t invest in a gym membership, some acting classes, a financial management book.  They’re convinced that magic will happen if they just continue to exist for a little while longer.  And wouldn’t you believe it?  Nothing.  Happens.  Ever.  You know the saying “good things come to those who wait?”  Bullshit.  That expression should be “the exact same thing will happen today that happened yesterday to those who wait.”

Wanting

Next up we have the Wanter.  This person will have drawn themselves together to take that first step.  They’ve signed up for a gym membership and started a diet, they’ve thrown out all of the junk food in their house, and defriended all of their drinking buddies on Facebook.  And things go great… at first.  They lose some weight, drop a clothing size or two, and manage to dodge every social gathering possible for the first few months.  Everything is going perfect.

And then it happens.  “It” could be a lot of things.  You overslept your alarm and don’t have time to work out before work today.  You get sick and the thought of eating protein turns your stomach.  Your 6-year-old niece needs to sell 20 more boxes of Girl Scout cookies to win a trip to Washington, and you’re the last stop on her list.  You break your ankle doing the hustle in your brand new size 6 bellbottoms.  Whatever “it” is, it means one thing – everything is no longer perfect.  And for the Wanter, when things are no longer perfect… watch out, because you’re about to get buried under a pile of excuses longer than Lindsay Lohan’s rap sheet.

“My parents gave me bad genetics, I’m just destined to be this way.”  “I’m just so tired all the time and I need at least 3 pounds of carbs a day to operate at my best.”  “My trainer told me to workout 4 days a week, but it’s so easy for him to say… he gets to work in a gym all day!  He can work out whenever he wants!” (Yes, I overheard you.  Yes, the next workout you did was a deliberate punishment for saying something so stupid.  No, I don’t feel bad about it.)

Everything is sunshine and roses for the Wanter… until it’s not.  Then all bets are off and everything gets tabled until next year.

Needer

At the end of our list we have the Needer.  This person has placed such a priority on their goal that nothing short of death is going to keep them from reaching it.  You may be able to think back in your life and identify a time where you were indeed a Needer – a med student studying all weekend long to graduate at the top of their class while simultaneously holding down a job to pay for bills and schooling; a parent who has been laid off who sends in dozens of applications and goes through 30, 40, maybe 50 rejections before finally landing their next job, because God damn it, if I’m not working, how am I going to feed my family?  No amount of failure or rejection will stop the Needer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these people don’t feel the pain of failure.  Failing sucks, I don’t care who you are, and if anybody tells you otherwise, they’re lying to your face.  The difference is, in spite of the pain and frustration, they remain persistent.  They will still have their ups and downs, questioning whether it’s all worth it, but in the end, they will get back up, dust themselves off, and continue to push forward, because they have a deep-rooted, personal desire to achieve something.  They’re not doing it because somebody else told them they should, they’re doing it because for them quitting is not an option.

I should also point out that for the Needer type, there is no New Year’s Resolution, because why wait until January 1 to start something that I can start right now?  Days on the calendar do not dictate when you let your motivation peak, and today is already here, so why not now?

“If there is one thing I can pass on from my humbling experiences in life, thus far, I will tell you this, the next time someone tells you “the absence of expectations is the absence of disappointment, do not listen. Have expectations. Keep them great. It’ll be a very bumpy ride. You’ll even get bruised, sometimes very badly. Sometimes, you’ll come to an abrupt halt or even fall off your ride. But you’ll grow. And if you do not grow, you do not live.”― Pandora Poikilos