Diet and exercise programs which don’t fit you are very effective in the beginning. You can mate them with your lifestyle for a short time, because the excitement of results supersedes the realities of sacrifice. One day, however, there is a natural sorting phenomenon where you “fall out of love” with the most effective of programs. It will always happen, even for the best-personally-fit programs. So you will always be confronted with the same question: is this sustainable? Why not ask it in the beginning and save everyone the heartache?
There will come a time in any fitness effort where the dopamine and oxytocin runs low. In psychology and neuroscience this is actually a measured phenomenon with new romantic relationships. For couples, peak concentrations will drop, best case scenario, 18 months after the start. Worst case scenario (and this seems to be linked to the higher the high at the beginning) is 6-12 weeks. Either way, at THAT point, THAT is where maturity BEGINS. You are no longer “high” emotionally. And when you aren’t high is the point where it’s time to grow up and execute beneficial behaviors as a consequence of MAKING fate, not faking mate. “We aren’t a good fit” was always true. But you will either make something work together (ie - mate, match, connect), or you will look for something else.
Thus it is in healthy lifestyle changes. People get a serious high every time they start a new endeavor. There is the excitement of newness and the wonder that comes from new experiences. This is a fleeting motivation. Starter inspiration, perhaps. But it isn’t mature decision-making. People try to recreate the high from the beginning by “resetting,” going on retreats, jumping on a new fad, only to discover that the lull hits anyway.
The doldrums come. That’s a given. You WILL have a day where you don’t get high. Now what?
The number one solution is having this expectation at outset. Part of the reason I and some of my peers have the only long term weight loss and fitness success stories is because we set the expectation, at the beginning, that this is not about getting high. This is about deciding, as an adult, that you are going to incorporate non-self-sabotaging variables into your life... forever.
You won’t see a ten-plus year success story on an infomercial. You won’t read about it in a New York Times bestseller. Their entire strategy IS dopamine high and oxytocin burst. They are very effective at making billions of dollars for the “creator” of whatever idea - but 99+% ineffective for people after the initial high.
What does this mean for the average person? You HAVE to get to “autopilot” on about 50 behaviors. Yes. That’s a lot. That’s why it’s so daunting. But it boils down to about 50 behaviors, most of which are never even covered in ANY health and fitness program.
But as you’ll see, and, if you’re honest right now, as you’ve already learned before, the moment the doldrums hit, you discontinue all 50 behaviors. Think about prior efforts at fitness. You rocked it out... for 3 weeks. You crushed it... for 3 months. You were going pretty strong... at month 18. Then, it didn’t “feel” like a fit anymore. You broke up with yourself.
It may sound like hairsplitting. But it’s helpful simply reminding yourself that health and fitness isn’t always going to be a euphoric ecstasy. It seldom has to be painful drudgery. It always is practical productivity.
So let’s just say you’re in the doldrums right now. You are struggling to “feel” high. Good. You’re growing up. Now think of the four categories wherein those 50 behaviors lie:
1.) sense of support (family, friends, community, mentors)
2.) stress management (creative outlets, daily activity, mindfulness practices)
3.) recovery (sufficiency of rest, sleep, micronutrients, fiber, protein)
4.) integrity (when you say you’ll do something, do it)
Notice I don’t have anything listed about dropping calories low enough or pushing hard enough in workouts.
We could peel layers for days. Obviously, when the four categories aren’t in place, the parochial “eat less, move more” is the only “foundation.” People keep futilely trying to eat less and move more without ever asking “is this sustainable?” And, therefore, you realize what the answer must be.
I encounter this with every single client. I’ve seen it over 10,000 times. I have experienced it personally many times. You “run out of steam.” You “get busy.” You “lose interest.” Yeah. Welcome to adulthood. The fact of the matter is that brutal honesty uncovers active self-sabotage, not situational disadvantage. Take food as a super simple example. The time, effort, and money it takes to be PROACTIVE about available healthy food is LESS than the time, effort, and money it takes to be REACTIVE about food in afterthought. 100% of the time, clients spend less yearly money on food when they obtain a month’s worth of supplements or food delivery or large single-visit farmer’s market, co-op, or Costco trips. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. It is the unplanned, reactive, afterthought, and frequent “pick something up” trips that sap your time, effort, and money.
If you don’t prevent emotional depression by hitting nutrient sufficiency, you’re ravenous. You think well emotionally-managed people spend MORE time, effort, and money than out-of-control emotional food addicts? Come on. Be realistic. I have plenty of people doing variant fasting techniques, and they’re LESS hungry, LESS emotional, and spending wayyyyyyy LESS on food (and other un-tallied vices).
Or look at exercise. Do you really truly believe that someone who lifts weights 90 minutes per week is spending MORE time than someone who doesn’t? We all have 168 hours in a week. It’s very basic logic. A strong person can complete more in less time than a weak person. That 90 minutes looks like a cost; but it’s actually a dividend payout. Strong people are more efficient with all the other hours in the week. And contracting skeletal muscle is an endocrine power up. You make brain cells more youthful when you exercise. You make organs function better. You are more efficient with everything you do as you train strength. More efficiency means you can attend to the four categories better.
Remind yourself it won’t always be the “falling in love” season. When the doldrums hit, simply work steps - not because you’re high or motivated or excited, but because you’re going to be a grownup and save yourself time and emotional turmoil. Decide to live in a non-self-sabotaging manner. Make fate. Don’t be a fake, mate.