(I’m cheating a bit on this one. I actually began this process in November of 2015, and have completed my first 66 days. I’ll share results soon)
Hey there, do you want to be Absolutely Ripped For Life? What if I told you that it’s so super easy that anyone can do it. All you need to do is follow this two step plan and you’ll look better than you ever have. Guaranteed!
Step One: Exercise a lot.
Step Two: Eat much better.
Simple right? Now you try.
So, this summer I put on a bit of weight. I got a new job at the start of July and had also gone back to school for graduate work, and I was feeling overwhelmed, stressed and busy. It got to a breaking point in early November when I realized a) I hadn’t done any exercise in months and b) I was 22 pounds (10 or so kg) over weight.
Weight is something I’ve struggled with a lot. I’ve always been chubby. My high water mark was in my senior year at university when I was about 240 pounds (up from the 185 I’d been when I began university. I’m 5’11) and depressed as a cat without a monkey suit (they love them). Throughout my adult life, whenever I see that I’m putting on too much weight, I’ve done a good job of hitting the gym, running hard and eating well until I correct it. But then I yo-yo. Always have. I put the weight back on almost as soon as it’s gone. This is seriously unhealthy.
When I realized I was gaining again in November ,I knew I needed to lose weight, but I was tired of the yo-yo. I wanted something that worked. So, I looked into the psychology of my bad habits.
This study from the European Journal of Social Psychology in 2009 looked into habit forming. I always thought that if I was going to beat yo-yo, I needed an exercise program that would stick. But that’s not the case, in reality, I needed to stick to an exercise program. It wasn’t about what I was doing, it was about me.
Author Phillippa Lally found that forming habits that stick requires repeated effort on behalf of the participant over time. Eventually these repeated behaviours would become habits, and eventually those habits would reach “automaticity”, where we perform them almost without thinking. While Lally noted that the amount of time it would take to reach automaticity of a habit varied wildly according to the individual (between 18 – 254 days), it would take, on average 66 days for a habit to become second nature for a person.
So, I made a vow, and I told my wife about it so I wouldn’t back down.
I will get out of bed before work (at 5:40. Ug) and exercise every day (even weekends) without missing a day for 66 days. I wanted to develop the habit of daily exercise in order to beat the yo-yo.
My rules were simple. For 66 days I had to I had to;
- Get out of bed and exercise
- However I wanted
- for 30 minutes
Notice this isn’t about a ‘program’ or specific exercise regime? Programs were how I always thought I would beat the yo-yo. Starting Strength, Marathon Training, Bro-Splits, whatever. If I could only find a program I liked and stick to it, then I would be set for life. But I tried. Over and over. For at least a decade. Many programs. Eventually I just get bored or distracted. Or I’d lose motivation when I start to look in the mirror and not hate myself, and I “slow down” to a hard “quit” shortly after.
So, no program except routine, habit, discipline. And the results have been pretty great so far. I look forward to sharing them with you.