When it comes to things like the stock market, weather, and time, we accept (and expect) the cyclical nature of life. Things go up and down, sometimes predictably, like the sun, and sometimes unpredictably, like the stocks.


Either way, we realize the cycle happens and plan accordingly. We have lights for when it’s dark and plan our financial savings around a certain time horizon and risk. But when it comes to health, we expect things now. Have high cholesterol? Well, “I’ll show that doctor that in two weeks I’ll be down to normal.” And once we embark on a weight-loss journey, we expect results right away or else we quit.


fat loss, diet

"It's been a week! Where are my abs?!"

Breaking Muscle Shop


Unfortunately, this “now” mindset gets us in trouble later. We dive in, and do okay for a few weeks. But around week three, our motivation wanes. But is it purely motivation that wanes or is it something else?


Success comes down to how well you do these three things:


  1. Planning
  2. Rehearsing
  3. Reacting


You don’t see motivation on that list. Think of motivation as the button in the racecar movies that the driver hits at the end of the race to pass everyone. Planning, rehearsing, and reacting are the engine that keeps you going. Without them, your engine won’t be prepared, and that motivation button will only get you so far. To be in it for the long run, you cannot rely on motivation alone.


1. Planning

This is your ability to forecast the week ahead for meals and workouts.  A grocery list and a calendar would be your main tools. I’d argue that a grocery list is essential to success with nutrition. My wife always makes one, and the one time I talked her into going to the store without it, we ended up clueless and buying things we didn’t need.


"If you have the habit of looking ahead at obstacles and making a weekly grocery list, you’ll be better prepared and better able to handle the ups and downs of life."

Get out a calendar, map out the next three months’ of events, and try to predict potential obstacles. Holidays, vacations, kids schedules, and anything else that can throw you off. No need to get into detail. Just circle certain things in a different color so you are aware of a potential challenge coming up.


If you have the habit of looking ahead at obstacles and making a weekly grocery list, you’ll be better prepared and better able to handle the ups and downs of life.


2. Rehearsing

This means practicing and deciding in advance how you will react to adversity. Adversity could be social situations, unexpected events that throw off your schedule, or not getting the results you expect from your training and nutrition plan.


thanksgiving, dinner

Instead of stressing out, plan for life events that might get in the way of your normal routine.


Scripting how you will react is essential for dealing with roadblocks. Here are some examples:


  • If I have a party to attend, I will have two drinks and one plate of whatever I want.
  • If I had a terrible eating day, I will think about why it happened and learn from it.
  • I expect to lose two pounds, but if the scale doesn’t agree, I’ll wait another week and then assess my program.


By rehearsing your actions, you can avoid “cheating” and instead feel successful. Formerly, eating a brownie at a party would be a failure. But if you said in advance that it would be okay to have it, then you successfully followed through with your plans.


Long term, little wins like this will keep you going as opposed to painting your nutrition only in terms of being “bad” or “good.” Emotions can ruin a great plan. Rehearsing adversity in advance will help take the emotion out of moment.


3. Reacting

This is all about how well you follow through on what you rehearsed. If you didn’t get the results you wanted, did you quit or objectively look at why it didn’t happen? If you didn’t do a great job, did you forgive yourself and learn from it? On the flip side, if you did awesome, have you acknowledged that?


thinking, rehearsing

Allow yourself room to reflect on your actions and make adjustments when needed.


Perfect is the Enemy of Good

As you go through these three steps, be sure to avoid the most common pitfall - perfection. Instead of writing down what you think someone else would expect of you, put down what you actually know can happen.


"Also, tell yourself in advance that if you follow the plan, you’ll have a small celebration. Make it easy for yourself to react in a way you’d approve of in advance."

So, instead of having a grocery list of just egg whites, broccoli, and quinoa to please the bodybuilding magazines, be sure to include some of your favorite foods. When rehearsing what you will do at a family gathering, avoid thinking that you will drink only water and not have dessert. Of course you will indulge - just make it reasonable.


Also, tell yourself in advance that if you follow the plan, you’ll have a small celebration. Make it easy for yourself to react in a way you’d approve of in advance.


Set Yourself Up for Success

If you understand and accept that all things work in cycles, you can follow the three steps much better. For example, the holiday season comes around every year. Parties, cookies, and drinks will be more plentiful. Planning for this, rehearsing actions, and reacting as best you can to maybe gaining a few pounds will determine your long-term success. Summer time may be when you lose some weight, instead. (Note, I am talking about a few pounds, not yo-yo dieting.) By planning ahead, you can take advantage of the ups and downs by being prepared.


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