Progress, Not Perfection

“Failure is success in progress.” Albert Einstein

I cringe when I think about how I used to train people 10 years ago. Pushing people to the point of leaving Sunday brunch on the gym floor, setting “my” goals for the client, not listening to what the client really wanted but imposing what I thought was best for them, and of course letting the client make unrealistic goals. Over the years I’ve learned it’s the slow and steady that wins the race. Little by little adds up to big changes and little progress is better than no progress or lame excuses.

I love what Martin Luther King said about progress, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goals requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

So while it’s extremely important to set realistic and attainable goals, it’s equally important to understand that the goals you set for yourself, no matter how small or big they seem, will all require some form of sacrifice or struggle…the struggle is truly for real!

“But I want a 6 pack NOW, gimme gimme gimme!” We live in a world of now, what is patience??? Nevermind the fact that we’ve chosen to live a life of sitting and eating cheeseburgers for 20 years. No, we want results in 2 days! If we don’t achieve the unrealistic goals we’ve set for ourselves, then we feel like failures and go into an even deeper state of despair than we were before. Or maybe you’ve worked really hard and achieved great success in a matter of 3-6 months, then a family tragedy sucker punches you in the gut, or you lose your job, your kids get sick, you get sick, and slowly but surely you let your life slip back into the unhealthy lifestyle you were trying so hard to get out of. We’ve all been there at some point I’m sure, but here’s the deal: life happens. There will always be something that happens that is out of your control. So how do we stay in control when life feels out of control? I think first, we need to address our expectations. Nobody is perfect, no matter how amazing you are! Yet when many of us contemplate a health or weight loss program, we start with the expectation that we need to be perfect, leaving no room for error. We start with the “all or none” or the “go hard or go home” mentality (which I’ve totally used before). But what if getting fit isn’t a pass/fail scenario? I hate even saying the word failure because I don’t believe there is such a thing as failures, only experiences. What if almost any attempt—no matter how imperfect—could result in real, trackable progress? What if it didn’t take 100% consistency, what if just 50% consistency could help you lose weight, drop fat, and feel great?

A case study of 1,000 clients studied over a course of a year revealed these very real results. Most of them fell into the 50-79% consistency category, and on average women lost 12 lbs, 7% body fat, 15 inches lost, and 3.5 inches lost just around the waist. Men on average lost 17 lbs, 7% body fat, 12 inches lost, and 4 inches just around the waist. This is at 50% consistency! Everybody has a different starting point on what 50% looks like also, so if you haven’t worked out in a year, 100% consistency would mean working out 3 days a week, so 50% of this would be to aim for 1.5 days a week. If you’re trying to cut out alcohol, 100% means no alcohol, 50% consistency would look like drinking 1 glass of wine a night instead of 2. Now, going back to the issue of “when life feels out of control,” you’d be surprised to find out that in this same study, clients were asked about the stressors in their life. What they found was that people’s actual circumstances didn’t determine what they were able to do. No matter what level of stress they were facing, if they were able to figure out how to take small, meaningful actions day to day, they were able to be consistent anyway. Isn’t that amazing?! I think so. This means that when your kid throws up on you RIGHT BEFORE you’re about to hit the gym, instead of going home and calling it quits, go for a walk (with your freshly changed toddler) around the block. It may not be what you planned but you still got something in–progress not perfection. This means you may have to scale back a little and eat the same breakfast and lunch so you don’t have to worry about prepping two meals. Stay away from the “all or none” mentality, it’s dangerous, and gets you no closer to your goal. Instead adopt the “all or something” mentality I’ve used with my clients for the last 2 years: If you can’t do “all” you planned, then do something at the very least.

In closing, set a goal, make sure it’s realistic and comes from within, not a goal someone put on you or someone else’s goal – make it your own. Then establish a daily habit you can achieve that will progress you toward that goal (remember aim for 50% right now). If you find you’re having a hard time sticking to that habit, then you need to scale back a little to an easier habit (Personal trainers can help with this!). When you feel ready, willing, and able to take on a new habit, then add one more on and practice that for a few weeks. Give it a year! Tons of research suggest is takes a year of consistency to make sustainable results. Remember you are not a failure, your program isn’t a failure, they are experiences that you get to learn from. But you can’t go anywhere standing still. Start moving, start thinking. You only get one body-one chance. YOLO!

Yours in health,
Tiffany Encinas

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