Anyone vaguely interested in fitness and improving body composition will understand the importance of a clear goal or target, which should ideally be SMART, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. A good example of a SMART target would be to drop from a 36 inch waist to 34 inches within 28 days to better fit into your nice jeans, all using a low carb diet. This all sounds very straight forward as we all have goals, and probably the most common being to look better with one’s top off. So the question is, why don’t we all achieve our relatively straightforward goals?
Why don’t we achieve our goals?
A classic answer would be to attack the goal itself, showing that if it’s not a SMART target then it’s unlikely to be achieved. And this is absolutely true, especially when the goal is subjective since as there’s little tangibility to know when you’ve been successful. But when it comes to body composition and the fact that very few people are proud of the way they look, surely there must be something more innate that is responsible?
At this point I can hear the Political Correctness Police gearing up for attack, ready to tell us all that we should be happy with who we are and how we look, and that to perpetuate the image of body beautiful helps no-one. That’s all well and good, but the image of beauty and attractiveness is a cultural one and until someone can brainwash me otherwise I’m still going to want a six-pack, as will many.
So if we flip this back onto myself for a minute, as I feel I represent the typical Western man in this regard, the one thing that has held me back all these years is not my genes or my lack of training. It is simply that I’ve eaten too much food. Too much of the wrong kind of food to be precise. And I’ve done this for all of my life. I don’t think I’m alone here. Our relationship with food is problematic and when compared to a wild animal is particularly odd. We eat when happy, when sad, when celebrating, when being entertained and pretty much at every human gathering. And at each of those occasions we tend towards the more carb and fat rich foods. If there’s a buffet we eat more, we have the concept of multiple course meals and we try to finish what’s on our plate without really evaluating if we’re full yet.
But before we start blaming our parents, the media or society there is the simple question we can ask ourselves, “Would I have a much better body if all I changed was to eat the right food?” And for most people the answer is a definite YES! We know that it is the active process of shovelling food into the mouth that makes us fat. It’s not a passive process, your mouth is not a vacuum cleaner! Okay, great, we have the answer and simply eating what we require will fix all of our problems, but still only a tiny percentage of people do successfully change their approach to food, and nearly all revert back to their old ways.
The Importance of Food
I often wondered whether people just don’t WANT it enough and don’t really want the goal they claimed in the first place. I think this is true for a lot of people, but for the rest of us there is still something that stands in our way, and in my view that thing is our perception of the importance of food. As a test, ask yourself another question, “Would I be happy eating ‘conservatively’ at my wedding, on holiday, at a Michelin star meal or on Christmas day?” The majority of us would certainly not be happy to forgo that piece of wedding cake or birthday treat. After all, it’s a special occasion!
But does it really matter? Is the food really that important? When we look to the future, we feel the world will end if we can’t eat “normally” and join in with everyone else. I’ll have a rubbish time at the Italian restaurant if I can’t have my pasta and garlic bread. Yet, if we look back at an occasion and think when we did hold fast and choose the steak and vegetables, did you enjoy that event any less? Was the baseball game ruined by not having the nachos? I’ll bet not.
We just don’t regret the food we didn’t eat.
With that in mind, flip this around and have the confidence that the next event you attend does not require you to eat crap and ruin your diet. In fact you’ll probably be surprised by how tasty the alternative can be. And if you can eat well at the big events, then eating well at home becomes a piece of cake (not literally). If you can embrace the mentality of, “It’s only food!” then you will be a significant step closer to your goals.
From experience I can vouch for how difficult this can be, with my thought process being something like this:
Good Carl – “I want to stick to my low carb diet.”
Bad Carl – “Yeah, but it’s that special birthday celebration at your favourite Italian. Enjoy yourself at the meal and restart your diet afterwards.”
Good Carl – “But if I have a steak I can still enjoy myself.”
Bad Carl – “Yeah, but you’d enjoy yourself much more if you have what you want instead.”
Good Carl – “But will I? And after all it’s only food.”
And this loop continues until you finally accept the simple fact that IT‘S ONLY FOOD!! Circling back around, we should also not be afraid of food. We do enjoy it, and there is a time and a place for the occasional treat, time off or even a splurge. We all have the ability to choose the food we eat, and by being selective we all have the ability to reach our goals.
Just stay in control of food, or else food will control you!
About the author:
Carl Gottlieb is a Nutritional Coach and dietary mentor, providing advice and guidance on an individual basis. Receive tips and advice at http://www.facebook.com/CarlGottliebNutrition and on Twitter at @carlgottlieb. Carl’s blog is at www.carlgottlieb.com