This question has long intrigued me.
As a coach, as much as I like to think I can predict who will end up sticking around and committing to fitness, the truth is I can’t. Sometimes the least likely people get hooked, and people I expect to last years fall off the wagon.
In the last six months, I have come across a number of health transformation stories that have helped me develop a theory as to why some people commit to fitness for life while others fail.
I met a man who used to weigh 340 lb. He drank a dozen sodas a day and a pint of ice cream every night. And it wasn’t uncommon for him to eat an entire brick of processed American cheese in one sitting. Then one day in 2015, he decided to make a change. Today, he’s 205 lb. and hasn’t had a single soda or a bite of American cheese since that day two years ago when he took his health into his hands.
And I met a woman who, at the age of 69, weighed 220 lb. and could barely get off the floor. She, too, made the decision to get healthy and hasn’t looked back. A year-and-a-half-later, she’s down 50 lb., has been taken off a host of medications she was on, and can get up and down off the floor with ease.
When you hear people tell their stories of massive, long-lasting change, it’s impossible not to become inspired.
Unfortunately though, those stories aren’t the norm. They’re kind of the exception. Truth is, most people have good intentions to take real action in their lives and change but don’t ever do it. They think about wanting to change, they verbalize the need for change, and maybe they try the gym for a couple weeks or months, but it ultimately feels too hard or too overwhelming, so they fall back into their own patterns and continue to live their mediocre lives.
The question becomes: What was it that both the American-cheese addicted man and the 69-year-old woman did to be able to create lasting change in their lives?
They both told me, independent of one another, that for them to decide to commit to health and fitness, they needed to throw away the tapes in their head that told them change wasn’t possible. The tapes that told them they couldn’t do it. The tapes that told them they would fail.
Once they were able to beat the voice in their head, they were able to develop a sense of certainty, and more importantly, come to terms with the fact that their pasts were not their futures.
I have come to believe this is the difference between people who commit to fitness for life and people who don’t: Empowering versus self-limiting beliefs.
What exactly is a belief?
A belief is essentially something you feel certain about. Often, there are no solid facts or rationality behind the belief.
Most people don’t realize it’s up to us what we believe. Instead, we blindly believe our beliefs as truths and we let them limit us.
Usually, our beliefs come down to our past experiences. We assume that just because the last job interview didn’t go well, neither will this one. Or that we failed in our New Year’s resolution attempt to go to the gym three days a week in 2010, that we will fail today. This is not the case.
The former soda guzzler and the 220-lb. woman are real people. In fact, you can read about his very real story here (https://journal.crossfit.com/article/mcmanus-beers-2). They’re not superhuman, made with more willpower than you. They just chose to say screw you to their unfounded beliefs and choose a new, better, path for themselves.