“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.” - Chaos Theory
We make hundreds of simple, seemingly small decisions every single day. While some are clearly life changing, the majority of our decisions and actions seem to have a direct, small effect.
Today as I was telling my 3 year old son that I had to leave for work, he asked me to play with him. I was trying to get to work just a few minutes early, but I chose to spend four extra minutes playing with him before I left. We didn’t accomplish anything significant in those four minutes. We didn’t have some life-changing moment that he will remember for the rest of his life. I also didn’t miss anything significant in my work by getting there four minutes later. But that decision is one of thousands that I try to intentionally make so my son knows that his father cares deeply about him; that being a father is far more important than any job I get paid for.
We make choices like this every day. Whether we realize it or not, we are adjusting the trajectory of our lives, and more importantly, the lives of many others. Every. Single. Day.
Our Fitness Team and Clients Making A Difference
2 weeks ago we hosted a blood drive at our facility, Progressive Health & Performance. It was a booming success! We had 58 donors come to donate blood on a summertime Saturday. According to LifeStream Blood Bank, those 58 donors saved over 150 lives; those people made an intentional choice to care for others. But this story goes much deeper. We had one donor in particular whose story really stands out to me. This donor, Mark, has been a client of ours for over a year. In the weeks leading up to the blood drive, I approached him asking if he was going to donate. While he was willing, he explained that he had tried to donate blood numerous times in his past and had always been turned down due to his blood pressure and medications. He signed up (somewhat reluctantly) for a donation appointment anyway. I imagine he feared the feeling of rejection and failure if he were turned down again. It should be noted that Mark is a model client. He shows up consistently, works hard every time, and buys into every bit of advice we have for him.
Not surprisingly, Mark went through the blood donation process as smoothly as anyone. His blood will potentially save three lives ‒ not just because he was willing to spend some time on a Saturday to help others, but also because he committed his time, effort, and finances to improving his health through his fitness and nutrition habits.
These kinds of stories fuel us as health and fitness professionals. Knowing that we not only improved Mark’s quality of life, but that together with Mark, we positively affected others we know nothing about. This kind of impact is what lights that little fire in us. In fact, as I was soaking in this story about Mark, it reminded me of how and why I got into this field in the first place.
I grew up an overweight kid. We’re not talking just baby fat. We’re talking husky, 34” waist, pre-teen big. My family tells stories about me ordering two adult meals at restaurants and still saying “I’m hungry.” In fact, I still have some of the clothes from back then and they fit me more loosely now as a 30 year old man. What rescued me from continuing down that path towards chronic disease and obesity were parents that made going to the gym a regular part of our lifestyle. I started working out when I was 12 years old. While I cringe at some of the workouts I was doing at the time, they were more than good enough to impact my body in a positive way. I could write at length about how this experience changed my self-esteem, self-confidence, and of course how my physical health and appearance changed my life, but that’s really missing the biggest effect. My experience with fitness and health as part of my lifestyle led me down this path into making it a career. This led to me directly influencing hundreds of clients, and indirectly thousands of others when you take into account families, friends, and the impact of our team at Progressive Health & Performance.
Mark’s story gave me a glimpse at that impact because I saw the next level of compound interest, if you will. Mark’s blood may very well save the life of someone who is on their way to becoming a heart surgeon that saves lives, a teacher who works with special needs kids, or a single mom of four kids. Do you see what I’m getting at? We need to understand and be aware of how important the decision is to be physically active. That’s not to say it’s the most important factor in health, but in my completely biased opinion, it is definitely near the top. It’s about so much more than looking good in a bathing suit or at a high school reunion. The butterfly effect of each and every one of our decisions to be physically active and live a healthy lifestyle has the potential to improve literally hundreds of thousands of lives within our lifetime (not to mention after we are gone).
So here is my call to action for YOU:
If you’re already physically active: REFLECT ON WHY
We live in a world that is predominantly self-serving. As a whole, we think about ourselves too much, and get so wrapped up in our own world that we often don’t realize how much we affect others. This isn’t to say that working out to look better at the beach is a bad thing. I’m saying that if we only frame our fitness and health routine to be beneficial to our physical appearance, we are missing out on an exponential amount of joy that can be extracted only by reframing—broadening— our perspective.
If you’re not physically active: THINK ABOUT YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE
Many people forego exercise and proper nutrition because, let’s be honest, it’s a lot of work. It takes commitment and it’s uncomfortable. Because of this, many people have no problem not following through with something they know they should be doing. In that narrow view, it doesn’t negatively impact anyone but themselves. However, when we are aware that our decision negatively impact others, things change. We are much less likely to knowingly hurt someone we love.
This will hit those with children the most: As parents we have the opportunity and responsibility to set the trajectory of our children’s lives. One in five kids between the ages of 6 and 18 are obese. Are you setting up your child for a healthy, thriving adulthood? This starts with modeling! Don’t just throw your kid into some activities hoping they will stick it out. Show your kids through your actions, that being physically active is a normal part of your family’s lifestyle.
For those whose kids are already grown, consider the burden you might become if you continue to let your health deteriorate. It’s never too late. I promise that you’ll enjoy your later years more with a body that still allows you to be mobile and do the things you love.
This isn’t about shaming anyone. This is about being aware of the full impact of our decisions surrounding health and exercise throughout our life. For 17 years I have experienced the butterfly effects of being physically active. I am blessed to have played a small role in many stories just like Mark’s. I wish that for everyone, and if there is any way I can help that come to fruition for you, I would be honored to be of service.
Since the advent of the internet we live in a world where information is just a click away. If you want a new workout routine you can just find one on Pinterest. You want a new diet you can get one from the hundreds of fitness sites that will give you the low down on anything from Keto to carb cycling. Yet, why do so many people find it so hard to achieve a fit body and establish healthy lifestyle habits? Is it a lack of information or is it deeper than that? The following are three reasons why I believe most people fail at their fitness journeys:
1. Identity: One thing that separates humans from animals is that we have the power to choose whom we want to become at any moment. So often when embarking on a fitness journey you look at yourself through the lens of your current body or health state. You may say things like, “I am out of shape” or “I am diabetic”. Yes, those things may be part of your current situation, but they are not who you are! By simply seeing yourself as a fit individual you will start to try and align your actions to meet your new identity. When you’re out to dinner you may find it harder to over eat or skip on workouts because doing so will not align with your new identity.
2. Burnout: Anytime we start something new we tend to overestimate our abilities and level of motivation to see things through. I see it all the time. A new client will want a five-day workout routine, a structured meal plan, and a supplement list. At times, this works in the short run, but it’s very likely to cause burnout in the long run. Although you may be motivated to start, life will ultimately chip away at your desire to workout five days a week and follow a rigid meal plan. For this reason, starting off with short term wins will give you the positive reinforcement you need to keep the motivation to continuously optimize your fitness goals. For Instance, committing to two days a week at the gym and removing sugary drinks may be a good place to start. Once you get the hang of that, add something else. Remember, motivation is limited and stress is cumulative. Not overloading to start will establish the foundation of habits you need to be successful.
3. Lone Wolf Mentality: Today it is so easy to try and do everything on our own. We get in the state of mind that I can just download this app or go to the gym on my own and I will be alright. Nevertheless, this way of thinking will ultimately hinder you. Most people who achieve success will attribute their success to the help of others. Finding a community of like-minded individuals will allow you to grow and to contribute to the group. Additionally, your community will keep you accountable and motivated. Don’t underestimate the power of connecting with others. Whether it be hiring a fitness coach, going to group class, or simply finding a workout buddy, GET CONNECTED!
Lastly, health and fitness is a continuous journey. Aim to get just a bit better each day. There will be times where life will throw you a curve ball, but you can choose to react differently by adopting a new identity, take it one step at a time, and rely on your community. Enjoy the process, because in the process you will learn commitment and perseverance!
Choice. Something we were given and are repeatedly given every single day. Choice. From the most valuable moment in our lives to our most fundamental needs as human beings, we are impacted by the choices we make. When we open our eyes as the sun begins to greet us, we have the choice to turn off that alarm clock to begin our day or hit snooze to rest just a little bit longer. We have the choice to start our mornings off by integrating movement, whether it’s yoga, running or weight lifting. Or we can choose to save our fitness regimen for an open slot later in the day. We have the choice to grab a donut (or two) and rush out of the door or we can choose to reach for the piece of fruit and protein bar as we take on the day. We have the choice to be angry and anxious as we wait impatiently in traffic or we can choose to simply accept where we are at in that moment and realize that the traffic is out of our control. We have the choice to ignore the pain we feel, or we can choose to start overcoming the pain through healing. The point I’m trying to convey is a simple one. Choices, whether they seem major or not, influence our lifestyle, our habits, and our next choice following the last. The choices that seem mundane and minuscule are typically the choices that will become habitual and affect us long term. For example, if I chose to eat one donut every morning starting today, the likelihood of just one (sugary) decision would begin to wreak havoc on other areas of my life as time goes on. My cravings for sugar would increase, causing me to want and/or eat more sugary commodities during the day, which would cause my blood sugar to increase, eventually leading to insulin resistance, and ultimately leading me to develop type 2 diabetes.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “This chick really thinks that if I eat one donut a day I will develop type 2 diabetes?” To which I respond by saying, “No! Well, kind of.” I firmly believe that our choices, especially health related decisions, are influential on our overall wellbeing, which determines the quality of life we will be living. “But what if I make the wrong choice!?” you may ask. The greatest realization when it comes to the choices we make, is that we always have the choice to choose again and choose differently. Sometimes we don’t always have a clear indication of which choice is the right one; however, each day in every moment is a new opportunity to learn from the past choice and make a better decision moving forward. Being mindful about making healthy decisions or even just choosing the healthier option for what is available to you in that moment, is a simple way to begin creating healthy habits and self-discipline that end up being a beneficence to our health, wellbeing, and overall experience. Here are a few tips that can help you begin making healthful, impactful, and mindful choices:
1. Choose to prepare your belongings the night before, so you can wake up the next morning without feeling rushed and anxious, but rather content and energized which can lead to more mindful choices as the day progresses. That 5-10 minutes the night before can often turn into 15-20 minutes of spur of the moment decisions when rushed.
2. Choose to ingest a tall glass of refreshing water first thing in the morning to rehydrate your body after it worked so hard to heal you as you slept.
3. Choose to make the healthier decision when it comes to that moment where you don’t have time to eat lunch, but you know you need to eat something, and your face-to-face with a vending machine, and you only have $1.50.
4. Choose to avoid taking things personal, but rather, maintain composure and a sense of peace knowing that you don’t have to be affected by outside negativity. This change isn’t just mental. Your body will literally produce less stress hormones and more happy neurotransmitters by this changed thought process.
5. Choose to prioritize your health so you don’t have to sacrifice your time later in life dealing with the consequences of what initially seemed to be harmless choices that turned habitual. Bad choices in the present tend to lead to exponential increases in time, money, and effort to undo later.
6. Choose to give yourself permission to take care of what you need. That might mean saying “No” to plans with friends and saying “Yes” to plans with you and yourself (or vice versa).
7. Choose to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Growing pains typically precede major life changing experiences.
8. Choose to move often. Try new forms of exercise to challenge yourself and tune into how your body begins to feel the more you take care of it through frequent movement. Maybe it’s lifting weights, running, tai chi, yoga, sports, walking, or chasing your two -year-old around the park.
9. Choose to be grateful for at least three (preferably more) different things each day. Gratefulness leads to mindfulness and mindful choices benefit your health, ultimately leading to a quality life for you and those around you, and help you prepare for the next opportunity to choose again.
Are your thoughts, beliefs and actions sabotaging your weight loss? I see it all the time with my clients. They kick ass with their workouts, eat healthy, lose weight and then BAM I get a text that they crashed. Their car magically arrived at In and Out Burger where they consumed 2 double doubles, a large French fry and a gigantic soda. WTF?!? Can you relate to this? Have you ever been on track doing what you think you are supposed to do and then you magically end up in the fast food line or on your couch double fisting ice cream containers and reversing all of your hard work?
After witnessing such events over and over again, I knew that there had to be more to the story than lack of will power. Why would someone work so hard and then throw it away for food? Food doesn’t have some magical power, it doesn’t have the ability to talk to you and taunt you into eating it. (Well….Maybe it does) I decided to search deeper into the behaviors my clients were exhibiting. I discovered neuroscience and the power of our thoughts, beliefs and habits.
Let’s delve into a little dictionary/definition session shall we.
A thought is defined as an idea that suddenly occurs into our mind.
A belief is nothing more than a thought that has been thought over and over and over again until we believe it to be true.
A habit is an action that we do repeatedly that reinforces our beliefs.
So basically, a crazy thought (from an unexplainable place) pops into our mind, shoves itself into our brains, we take that thought, believe it to be true and then take action based on it and now we have a new habit.
So what I have gathered is this, people adopt thoughts over a period of time and believe them to be true. Once they believe these thoughts they take action to reinforce them. If people adopt certain thoughts that come from Magic Land such as; working out is hard, eating healthy is too much work, I was born this way or (my personal favorite)… I always fail when I try.. then they are going to create actions that reinforce these thoughts. If I constantly told myself and/or verbalized to others that I was “fat” or “fluffy” then I am powerfully reinforcing these thoughts to be true.
This leads me to a little thing called neuro dissonance, or in other words, a disconnection in the brain. When our actions conflict with our beliefs, our brains force us to revert back to what it knows. For example, if we have set our brains GPS system to “Fluffy-Land” and we start to workout, eat healthy and say nice things to ourselves our brain thinks we are off course. When we stray off course towards “Fit-Land” with these new thoughts and actions our navigation system steps in, makes a lot of noise and sends us back in the direction of Fluffy-Land. These new actions are not in alignment with our GPS destination. This is when we find ourselves at the In and Out drive through. Our GPS is doing what it is supposed to do by telling us that we need to get back on course.
The good news is we can change our GPS destination by overriding the current one. We can get to “Fit-Land” we simply have to change our GPS settings.
Here are 5 steps to creating new thoughts, beliefs and habits so that we arrive at the correct location.
Step 1. NOTICE — Start to notice and observe your thoughts. Are they negative or positive? Do they help or hurt you? How do they make you feel?
Step 2. CHALLENGE — Challenge any negative thoughts that you notice. Where did they come from? Do they serve you? If not, tell them to take a hike.
Step 3. REPLACE — Interrupt the negative thought by replacing it with something more positive. For example, if you notice a thought such as “I’m not good enough” or “I will always be overweight” replace it with “I am good enough” or “Anything is possible”.
Step 4. REINFORCE — Keep reinforcing the positive thoughts and give less attention to the negative ones.
Step 5. TAKE ACTION- Take action towards your goals. Start working out and eating healthy. This time couple it with the positive thoughts and beliefs and watch your GPS start to change directions.
As a reminder, your current GPS system has probably been set for a very long time. Be kind to yourself as you go through the journey of changing destinations. You didn’t get here in one day so don’t expect to change in one day.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit” – Aristotle
I’ve seen and heard about this book from various sources over the last year or so and just now got my hands on it. Being someone who works with others to make lifestyle changes, I’ve been excited about the impact it might make on my perspective and how I work with people. I can see why it’s been on the New York Times Bestseller list. Duhigg’s style in presenting a combination of hypothetical thought and scientific research is wonderful for all sorts of minds ranging from the creative to the data driven. Here are a few of my takeaways so far for you to think about:
40% of the actions we take each day are habits.
This means they didn’t actually require a conscious decision. This is amazing if you think about it! Nearly half of your day is essentially on autopilot! Better yet, our brains are essentially trying to create a habit out of every single thing we do. Why? Habit circuits in our brains require less brain activity. Like nearly everything else physiological, our brain is designed to make things as easy as possible.
The neuronal wiring of a habit never disappears once it is created.
This is either our greatest strength or most glaring flaw. The great part, we never forget how to drive home from work, even if we go on vacation for a month. The flaw, our brain doesn’t distinguish between good or bad habits. So if your habit on the drive home from work is to stop off for a tub of ice cream, that too returns after that month long vacation. We can override this habit by creating a stronger, more consistent habit, but that takes quite a bit of mental energy to establish and overcome.
The Habit Loop
Our habits are born through this idea that a cue, such as hearing our phone ding or seeing it light up with a text message, leads to a routine, us attending to the message, and ending with a reward, the excitement of a message (anticipated or novel) or the distraction from whatever we are doing. The habit being born isn’t the powerful part however. It isn’t instantly something that is automatic. Some habits, if the reward is consistent enough, create a craving in the brain that turns this into a powerful loop. You can actually see this in brain scans where the habit has been reliable enough to cause the brain to anticipate the reward. Our brain and body actually react to the cue as if it were the reward. This craving aspect is what drives the loop to be automatic. So now, after you’ve received several messages that brought you excitement, you automatically want to reach immediately for your phone every time you receive a notification. Now that this loop is really cranking it takes an immense amount of brain power to slow down. What if you end up in a big lunch meeting with a potential client and now your phone lights up? Of course it’s inappropriate in that setting, but you are already hooked. Even if you don’t give in, your attention is significantly divided and you’re spending much of your brain power on how to not reach for your phone, instead of closing the deal with a new client. That brain power is also willpower which may come to bite you later in the day. Your willpower is finite. So if you're spending large chunks of it throughout the day resisting urges from other habits, you will be weaker come nighttime. Hence, food cravings being the hardest to resist late at night.
Why do some exercise habit attempts succeed while others fail?
Exercising, we can all agree, is a good habit. Now why is it that some exercise habits stick and others fizzle out. In The Power of Habit, Duhigg cites a research study that claims people who continue exercising are the ones who “feel good” after exercising because of the endorphins produced by the exercise (“runner’s high”) and those who felt a sense of accomplishment from completing their workouts. This, among other reasons, is where having an exercise professional is paramount for creating exercise as an automatic habit. Many people who work out on their own or in classes never manage to work hard enough to reach the feel good “runner’s high”. More so, many people do not know how to or have the desire to track their workouts in a manner that shows their accomplishments and progress relative to their goal. Coincidentally enough, if you are tracking your workouts and progress appropriately, you would have the information you need to push your body into the endorphin rush stage consistently time after time. In this case, you get the best of both worlds! This is why we keep records the way we do in my practice. It drives people! Does anybody know the hottest trend in exercise right now? Here are some hints – Fitbit, Apple Watch, Garmin, Polar, Nike Fuelband, etc… Yes, fitness tracking devices. The forerunners in creating and selling these products knew this information undoubtedly. If you’ve been struggling to make exercise a habit, I hope this sheds some light onto your situation. If you really want to move your exercise habits in the right direction, find a professional to help you make the change. Accountability, safety, efficiency, and a life changing new habit are all you have to gain.
What is your experience?
What are your tricks to making something a habit or getting rid of a bad one?
What habits are you struggling to set or get rid of?
Progressive Health & Performance resides in the Temecula and Murrieta area of Southern California and also serve the surrounding cities of Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Canyon Lake and Wildomar, but we work with clients nationwide. Whether it's your toughest health challenge or your next fitness goal, we are here to serve you.
39400 Murrieta Hot Springs Rd
Murrieta, CA, 92563