…a no-B.S. guide to surviving the program you signed up for.
Like millions of people around the world, I’ve taken up a particular program to launch some weight loss for the new year. In my case, it has more to do with being a convenient starting point for a new calendar than the fact that it’s a new year. Having worked for many years in personal and fitness consulting, I know that it’s an ongoing process, not one that depends on the arbitrary date of January 1st.
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The program I’m following this month is Vince Del Monte’s 30-Day Metabolic Reboot. It’s incredibly challenging, but the way I see it it’s only 30 days long. Not enough to be truly inconvenient, but still challenging enough that it takes some discipline.
On the Facebook group, however, I’ve been seeing questions come up…a lot. These questions are the same ones that have frustrated my own clients time and again, and they?re actually more frustrating to the founder of the program than anything else. In my own programs, both free and for sale, and in other fitness or “cleanse” groups I’ve been involved with, the same issues come up all the time. Issues of substitutions, over complications, stress about how to keep food interesting. The list goes on and on.
The trick to succeeding in these programs is actually pretty practical: just do what you’re told. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mainstream program like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, a pop-science book like The Atkins Diet, an online info product like the 30-Day Metabolic Reboot, or an MLM “detox” program. The underlying rules are the same. Here are some points you must keep in mind when undertaking a new program:
It’s all in the program
Fitness pros put a lot of time and effort into researching what works — in the most general case; there are always exceptions — and what doesn’t. They spend hours upon hours constructing strategies that are simple, easy to follow, and ideally foolproof.
But there’s always some fool who proves the foolproofing wrong. They’ll come along and say, “I know you said to only strength train on days 1, 3, and 5, but I thought I’d get better results if I do it every day. So I did, and now my bench press has gone DOWN since I started. Your program doesn’t work!” Um…no. You haven’t followed the instructions, and you haven’t given your muscles a recovery period.
If it says to cut out starches, stop asking if you can substitute quinoa for pasta. If it says to cut out sweets, stop looking for low-carb black bean brownies with chicory nibs. If it says to cut out dairy, stop asking if it’s OK to substitute almond, hemp, or soy milk. It’s a month. You can survive without those things. Finding substitutes is just an excuse to avoid the hard part.
Remember, most of these quick-launch, short-term programs for weight loss or muscle gain are designed around specific strategies to help maximize your results. Take the advice, and follow it.
Food is not entertainment
Did you know that having a wide variety of foods to choose from actually works against your weight loss goals? In addition to being far too variable for any one program, the process of choosing what you’d like to eat, and how to prepare it, while researching every aspect of portion size, calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrate content (including the source of carbohydrates, sugar vs. starch vs. fibre, etc.) is actually incredibly stressful and time-consuming. It’s not sustainable, and is actually a leading cause of attrition — people leaving programs early.
It is also associated with depression and eating disorders.
This is probably the most frustrating part of the process. Give people a simple outline for what to eat and what to avoid, and within seconds of launch they start looking for alternatives, recipes, replacements, or excuses.
- Cut out starchy carbs? “But I’m Italian!” (<== actual complaint I got from a client!)
- Eat lean meat and vegetables? “Is there a good substitute for dinner rolls?”
- Keep your meals simple and consistent? “But that’s so BORING!”
I get it. Baked chicken breasts and salad greens are dull. But here’s the thing: It’s 30 days. You can live that long without being entertained by your food. You don’t under any circumstances require a wide variety of exotic flavours to make it through four weeks. Get over it, you spoiled food junkie.
This is actually a good time to break your addiction to variety and just treat food as it’s meant to be for the program you’re on: fuel for your workouts and your basic biological processes. You can get back to exploring later.
Find the time
Another issue that comes up is the issue of time.
Workouts take time. There’s no way around it. You can’t do a workout program with zero time commitment.
If you were taking a course for work that guaranteed you would receive a raise of 5% in a month, would you find the time to take the course? Chances are you would. You would inform your partner, friends, kids, and extended family (if necessary) that this is something you have to do in order to move ahead. You need to block out an hour a day to work on it for the next month.
You’d find the time. And if you were serious about it, you’d keep that time consistent. That’s your time, and in order to bring your best to the game you wouldn’t allow anyone to interfere.
And yet, so many people skip that when it comes to their health. They stand the chance of losing 5% of their body weight (so, in my case, a 10-lb drop from 200 to 190 lbs.; not out of the question for a rapid fat-loss program). Why is it so hard to schedule that time for a workout?
I’ll tell you why: guilt.
We’ve come to view exercise as something we do for ourselves, and doing something for ourselves is selfish if it requires taking that time away from others in our lives. And yet, isn’t advancing your career also doing something for yourself?
Maybe not. You advance your career for the improvement of income, which improves your family’s life, right?
Well, you advance your health for the improvement of your health, which also improves your family’s health! You feel better, you behave better, you have better moods, you’re stronger, you have more energy, AND you set a fantastic example for those around you.
The Metabolic Reboot usually has two workouts a day (with occasional exceptions). Each lasts about an hour. That’s two hours a day of selfish me-time…but what’s the outcome? Discipline, accomplishment, ideally some weight loss, and a better foundation for the fitness goals for the year ahead.
You know going in that it’s going to take time. Set the time, and make it happen. You can’t do this without spending any time on it, so either do it or don’t. Stop making excuses.
It’s ONLY 30 days
“Oh…it’s so hard to…” what? Do an intermittent fast? Just eat baked chicken and broccoli? Get up and do some intervals before your shower?
Jeez stop whining. Yeah, it’s hard. But you know what? It’s only 30 days. Four weeks. One month. Do you remember having to get up every day and go to school, then sit in class for six hours, then go home and do your chores before doing your homework? That was what…ten years?
This is a month. Seriously.
Block out your workout times. Stock up on simple, ordinary food that meets your nutritional needs; something you can make that will consistently do what it’s supposed to do without all the hype of trying to make it fun and interesting.
So your kids get macaroni and cheese for dinner while you’re eating white meat and spinach. It’s only 30 days. Your family dynamic won’t suffer. And if they’re young and they ask why you’re eating a different dinner, or at different times, just explain: you’re trying to get back your healthy eating habits, and once that’s done you’ll be able to guide them to healthier eating habits as well, and you can all enjoy good meals together.
Our man Vince has a great expression: “FOCUS stands for Follow One Course Until Successful.”
This is solid advice for the January fitness binge. There’s so much information out there, it’s incredibly difficult to weed through what’s right and what’s wrong. Unfortunately, that also means it’s likely you’ll be so interested in what you’re doing that a ton of new information will cross your desktop every day.
That will cause you no end of distraction. I’ve seen it a million times: “my program says this, but [insert name of TV expert here] says this, and the [Canada Food Guide] says this other thing!” Then you go off and try to work some of that seemingly good advice from other sources into the program you’re following.
Then none of them work.
The next thing you know your 30 days are shot, the program you paid for doesn’t deliver, and you’re left exactly where you started. Then you enter “program paralysis,” overwhelmed by so many options you have no idea where to even start. So you don’t start. And the whole thing becomes a rip-off in your mind.
Try the FOCUS principle in real life. Ignore literally everything else to do with nutrition and exercise until you’re finished the program you’re on. Sure, do some research about what to do next.
It’s a new year. You made a commitment to improve your health. Maybe it’s kicking off with a 30-day program. If that’s true, then you’re AMAZING!! You’re already halfway through it. Now, tough it out, simplify, follow your program like it’s getting you a pay raise on your quality of life, and GET IT DONE!
Are you working through a 30-Day challenge for January? What program are you following? How’s it going for you? Let us know in the comments below!