Simple Health Changes: The Ideal Versus the Reality

Shane Trotter


Mansfield, Texas, United States

Strength and Conditioning, Kettlebells, Youth Development


Simple Health Changes: The Ideal Versus the Reality - Fitness, nutrition, strength and conditioning, weight loss, sugar, fat loss, habits, obesity crisis, healthy lifestyle


When it comes to diet and health change, humans have a bug in their operating system. Obesity spirals more and more out of control and the vast majority of efforts are futile. Anecdotal evidence as well as recent studies support that over 90% of people who lose weight gain it all back, plus some, within five years.



I’ve long belabored the flaws of our niche diets and “no pain, no gain” approaches to lifestyle change. We are littered with programs promising rapid results. We’re littered with 20 day cleanses, 30 day challenges, and a billion perversions of counting calories all marketed in such a way as to be new and unique.


I stand by my message. It is less sexy and less magic in a bottle, but it is the only approach I’ve ever watched work—an approach rooted in education, intentional values, sustainable habits, and understanding that this change is not a quick fix, but the gradual process of a lifetime.


The Trouble with Actual Change

My approach, unfortunately, tends to falls on deaf ears. There are successes and those people are changed for a lifetime. However, the vast majority just don’t like it. Clients, family, and friends have consulted me time and time again. They’ve heard my advice, ignored it, bought the diet program and started the extreme fitness.


Changes aren’t rooted in the principles of sustainable health, or in any value structure that might promote continual learning. Instead of actual change, these people have opted for a cheat code. Unfortunately, it’s a time bomb waiting to go off.


Their metabolisms are slowed only to eventually be subjected to their old patterns, resulting in even more weight gain over time. I’ve watched this endless cycle of failure as the majority weave in and out of the latest weight loss industry gimmicks. We could blame them, but that doesn’t bring us any closer to a solution. Perhaps the issue is in my presentation.


This brings me back to that bug in the operating system. People want simple. They come from an environment with little to no education or models of what sustainable health looks like. They are fed a conveyer of contradictory messages. In their desperation all they want is the simple answer.



They want me to tell them do X and they will become healthy. Instead, I offer a very complex, layered system. It requires patience, consistency, and education that, initially, only creates more questions. They need only look on Facebook to find examples of people who took another route—people happy to share how effective counting calories has been for them.


They don’t see the unsustainability. The obsessive tracking feels productive and empowering at first. A friend loses weight by eating 25 grams of fat or less each day. That sounds doable. After all, grocery aisles are littered with fat-free, sugar infused goodies. It isn’t healthy, but it is simple and straightforward.


People want simple! They want to hear “do X and you’ll get Y.” This revelation is full of promise, if we are willing to accept it. I can do simple. The path to health change is individual. It will depend on the person, their experience, emotions, support, preferences and many other factors. Yet it is simple.


Nutrition Change Simplified

Step 1: Pick one thing and replace it. Replace, not eliminate. Eating habits are just that, habits. Habits consist of a cue (like hunger or boredom), a routine (eating), and a reward (pleasure, satiation, etc.). We’re substituting one routine.




Possibilities include:


  • Replace the daily soda with a daily iced tea with lemon or soda water and a lime
  • Replace the bag of chips with a bag of cashews, almonds, or mixed nuts
  • Replace the daily yogurt with an apple


Step 2: Eliminate temptation. Get rid of whatever you are replacing. Make it less available and create roadblocks to falling off the wagon. Feel free to make rules like, I will no longer have ice cream in the house, but can eat it at special occasions or at social weekend activities.


Step 3: When this is easy, consider adding a new change. Start back at Step 1 and add another substitution, keeping in mind that whatever change you make should be doable for a lifetime.



Fitness Change Simplified

Step 1: Pick one simple habit and adopt it. Make sure the cue, routine, and reward are consistent. Start small.


For beginners these are good initial habits:


  • Go on a walk every morning.
  • Adopt a 5-10 minute daily morning exercise circuit
  • Sweep the house every day when you get home and mow every weekend
  • Work at a standing desk
  • Always park in the furthest parking spot and always take the stairs
  • Bike to work
  • Wake up to a movement circuit


Step 2: Manipulate the environment to make sure you follow through. Set two alarms, the second by your bedroom door next to your shoes and clothes. Take the chairs out of your office. Fire the house cleaner. Buy a dog that you have to walk. Sell your car. Maybe I’m getting carried away.


Step 3: If and when you want more, add more. It can be an exercise program, a weekly racquetball game, a new hobby, or any of the other options mentioned in step 1.


The Advanced Simple Plan

This extra step involves eliminating added sugars and artificial sugars. Eat only whole foods (foods available in nature like fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, meat). This typically follows a change in values and philosophy, but I’ve seen it be very effective.


It works as a general model, allowing occasional deviations and treats. For some who really struggle with sugar addiction (it appears to be more addictive than cocaine), full scale prohibition may actually be recommended.


You Must Have Lifelong Lifestyle Change

I cannot make up for the fact that sustainable health change only happens with lifelong lifestyle change. This is certainly far more likely if you live in an area that promotes health and where healthy behavior is the norm.


For those not willing to move and who want the simple solution to health change that actually sticks, this is the plan for you.

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