Our efforts to be leaner, stronger, and healthier are often driven by rules.
We expect that so long as we follow the rules, our bodies will change for the better.
We put our height, weight, age, and sex into an online calculator and – so long as we eat less calories than the calculator says we burn – we should lose weight.
We pick up the latest diet book and – so long as we only eat from the list of foods contained therein – we should see all of our health issues disappear.
We expect that if we show up and go to the gym every day, and leave drenched in sweat, we’ll shape that fit, sculpted body that we’re after.
Except both you and I know that this is not the case.
Both you and I know that so many times we’ve followed all the rules, yet the weight didn’t budge, the muscle didn’t grow, and the health issues persisted.
We followed the rules perfectly, but didn’t see any progress.
Here’s the thing, rules are not entirely useless when it comes to changing how we look, feel, and perform.
Rules provide a structured plan, which is nearly always critical to success in any endeavor – even those not related to physical transformation.
We can use these rules to establish a baseline for what habits and behaviors might move us closer to our goal. However, this is pretty much all that rules can guarantee – a plan, a baseline, a starting point.
We’ve all got different needs, preferences, and goals, and – cliché as it may be – there is no “one size fits all” solution.
The actions and behaviors that led to one person seeing massive success with their health and fitness might end up being a complete disaster for somebody else. How many times have you tried a diet or workout program that worked great for one of your friends or family members, but failed to produce any results for you?
This is because you’re not them.
You have your own set of unique circumstances, and if you don’t make adjustments according to your progress (or lack thereof) your progress will inevitably stall.
Some of us see better progress with higher carbohydrate and lower fat intake.
Some of us see better progress with lower carbohydrate and higher fat intake.
Some of us see better progress with more protein, whereas others will see better progress with less.
Some of us may find that lots of veggies help our digestion, whereas others might experience the opposite.
Intuitively, you know this makes sense.
You know that there’s no magic set of guidelines that will work for everybody – even if they work really well for somebody.
You know there’s a good chance that whatever rules you choose to follow don’t actually address your unique limiting factors.
But rules do have their allure.
We like to be able to say, “I did everything perfectly”, and have something to blame other than ourselves when we don’t see the results we’re looking for.
However, this approach of shifting the blame – or blaming at all – doesn’t serve us in the long run.
If we blame the rules, we keep ourselves in a state of victimhood, of helplessness.
If we blame ourselves, on the other hand, we overlook the possibility that it was our plan – not our effort – that needs improvement.
We might not blame anything at all, doubling down on whatever rules we’ve chosen to follow, getting stuck in a pattern of tons of effort with nothing to show for it.
Don’t get stuck in this pattern.
When it comes to the habits and behaviors necessary to get lean, strong, and healthy, there are no rules.
Sure, there are general principles and guidelines that can serve as a pretty reasonable starting point for most people, but there are no rules, there are no guarantees.
You will need to make some adjustments when – not if – things don’t go perfectly. You will need to question the rules that you’re following, and ask yourself if they are actually working – for you, not anybody else.
You will need to let go of some of your beliefs about what you do or do not have to do to change your body the way that you want.
Next time you’re not seeing any progress – even though you’re following all the rules – you might ask yourself a few questions.
“Am I getting caught up in sticking to a plan that isn’t working for me?”
“Am I focused so much on following the rules that I’m overlooking steps that will actually move me closer to my goals?”
“Am I creating blame – towards myself or my strategy – that’s keeping me from moving forward?”
The answers to these questions may not come easy, but may just be the dose of introspection needed to identify what habits and behaviors you might need to change.
Hope that helps!