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last updated March 3, 2021

An alternative to “all in”

by Rob Arthur

The only way to create sustainable change in our bodies is to create sustainable change in our habits, our behaviors, and even our parts of our identities.

We know this.

We know that our health and fitness are reflections of our lifestyles, and that change is part of the deal.

The problem with how most of us go about change is that we think we think we have to change everything at once.

This is especially true when it comes to health and fitness.

So many of us want results yesterday.

So many of us have plenty that we could – and likely need to – change in order to see those results.

So what do we do when faced with the challenge of significant change?

Some of us do absolutely nothing.

The idea of overhauling everything about what we do and who we are is too intimidating to even get started.

Some of us jump in head first.

We overhaul our eating habits, start a new training program, download a meditation app, buy blue blockers, and all at once start doing everything we think we need to do to be lean, strong, and healthy.

But this approach backfires also.

We get stressed out and overwhelmed trying to fit our new habits into our lives, eventually reverting to our previous ways.

We get confused and frustrated when progress stalls and we don’t know what to adjustments to make to get things rolling again.

We end up not seeing any progress at all because we get so caught up trying to change so many things that we aren’t actually implementing any of these changes consistently.

We never actually internalize the changes we’ve made, seeing them only as what we do to get what we want, rather than what we do as part of who we are.

Changing everything about how we eat, move, and live at once might be appropriate in some contexts – following a move, a breakup, a divorce, a death, or a diagnosis, for example.

For most of us, though, this approach usually results in feelings of confusion, overwhelm, frustration, and failure.

Fortunately, you’ve got another option – a rather simple one, at that.

Change only one behavior at a time.

Here’s what this might look like:

  1. Identify one behavior change you might make to move you closer to your goal.
  2. Implement only that change so that you eliminate any confounding variables.
  3. Assess how that change affects your progress.
  4. If the change is working for you, practice it until it becomes a habit.
  5. Repeat the process with another behavior you might change.

When we change only one action or behavior at a time, many of the problems that we see when faced with behavior change are no longer so significant.

We only ever putting in just enough effort to move forward – no more and no less.

We can observe what results that specific new behavior created, rather than be left in the dark, not knowing which new behaviors are helping or hurting us.

We can take our time to learn the skills that come along with that new behavior – like how to shop for the foods need, or the quickest way to drive to the gym.

We can experiment with that behavior to find how to best fit it into our existing lives and commitments – figuring out whether to train before or after work, or getting a feel for what days and times are best for preparing food.

We can assess whether that new behavior is useful or not and, if so, practice that behavior until it becomes a habit and no longer requires conscious effort to implement.

If we find that this behavior isn’t serving us, chances are any negative effects that new behavior may have had are minimal, and you’ll know what to do to at least get back to where you were.

As we repeat this process, we start to see that, one by one, these behaviors add up.

One by one, behavior by behavior, we create new habits; we create the inner change we need to create the outer change we want (and deserve).

So, if you find yourself spinning your wheels, stalled out, or stuck in terms of your fat loss, strength, or health goals, you might think twice about going “all in” with whatever strategies you’ve chosen to get things moving.

You may find that all you need to do to start – and keep – progressing is one thing at a time.

Have a most excellent day!


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