It’s Story Time!

Everybody has a story in them, a string of events that together forms a narrative and influences their choices and behavior.  Think about it, when you tell people that you are a good cook what does this mean?  You may reference several meals that you have prepared over the years and the praise you received from friends and family for your creations.  At a deeper level you might even remember the time you spent in the kitchen with your parents learning the nuances of putting together a meal.

You can wear a culinary badge of competence based on a history of success and you enjoy the confidence that goes along with it.  The thing is, story telling works in both directions and if you are still mastering the art of boiling water you have a pretty different story.  The stories we tell ourselves can both carry us forward or hinder our progress; you get to choose which one you want to listen to.

Creating a lifestyle where you achieve a healthy weight and confidence means learning a story that aligns with what you are trying to accomplish.  The thing is, if you have had a difficult time with weight loss in the past your story may need revisions.  In fact, you may need to do a bit more research and find co-author if you really need to make some significant changes.

Before you know where to go you need to write out where you have been.  Take the rest of the week and think about your healthy living story.  Who are the main characters, who are the villains, what plot twist caught you off guard and what successes did you experience.  Once you have this down you can start to write the rest of the story.

Note, you don’t have to write this story alone so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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Like a Boss!!

I’m a personal trainer and a counselor, I workout because it is fun and I really enjoy pushing myself.  When it’s not -25 here in Chicago I like getting in a morning run but in the winter I opt for some early morning Yoga to get things going.  Later in the day I block off a couple of hours for a gym workout.

Often, when I talk to my friends about my lifestyle they point out that they would workout like this if it was their job too.  Well, it is your job.  In fact you are the CEO of your healthy lifestyle.

I spend 30 minutes in the AM and a couple of hours in the afternoon that includes my commute to the gym and a stop a Whole Foods after.  If you break down my actual gym time I work out for just a little over an hour.  The thing is, I make the time, I get up early, I schedule my clients around this break in the day.  I prioritize my health.

It is Monday, you have the whole week ahead of you, schedule the time you are going to dedicate to yourself today.  You are the boss of this life.

5 Pillars

I love what I do for a living, working with individuals to transform their lives is extremely rewarding and never dull.  Having worked with hundreds of people up to this point I can tell you that while some basic parameters do exist (burn more calories then you eat) there is not one size fits all success formula.  Today I am going to give you a list of the top-five tendency I see with in clients that are successful at losing weight and keeping it off.

  • Be honest:  Sure, that bag of chocolate bites is around 150 calories but does it make sense that a fit individual would eat these on a daily basis?  In order to lose weight you have to be completely honest about what you put in your mouth and emphasize quality over quantity.  It is the difference between seeing food as a way to fuel your body and food as something you consume to pass the time.
  • Focus on the process: Don’t get caught up in what you will eventually look and feel like once you finally achieve that fitness goal.  What does your daily/weekly/monthly plan look like?  Get some basic behaviors down that you can check off at the end of the day and set small goals that you can evaluate each week.  When you stay in the moment and attend to the choices you are making right now the success will work it’s way out.
  • Support:  Who is on your team?  A client of mine was working on better portion control at dinner and had discussed this with his wife not knowing his youngest daughter was listening.  During the evening meal one night he reached across the table to get another dinner role and was smacked on the hand with a spoon.  “No Daddy!”  When faced with stern six-year-olds it is better to back down and appreciate the lesson you have just learned.  Employ as many people as you can on this journey, the more support you have the better.
  • Journaling: All my successful clients utilize something to track thoughts, accomplishments and work through barriers.  Find an app, start a blog, or just invest in a notebook but make sure you have something to get something brief down about your day.  They track the foods they eat and the activities they participate in.   You could come up with a scale that will allow you to rate yourself and give a quick reason behind the grade.  Also, try voice recording, most computers and phones have some type of note recording software.  Even if you don’t review it just hearing yourself out load helps.
  • General Activity:  At my heaviest weight (260) I was spinning for an hour, five-days-a-week at 5:45 in the morning then, going to work.  The thing is, once I was at work I really didn’t move for the rest of the day until I went home and surfed cable until I went to bed.  You have to stay as active as possible and you are better off finding 5-10 minutes here and there to just walk around then only working out once and sitting on your butt for the rest of the day.

Please, there are other pieces to this puzzle and if there is something that you have found to be helpful please post up for the benefit of others.

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Inspiration Versus Motivation

Mary Lou Retton

Mary Lou Retton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s half-time, your team is down and the coach walks into the locker room to deliver a speech with references to The Alamo, Ulysses S. Grant and Mary Lou Retton.  Your team rallies in the second half, scores more points then they have all season and stages an amazing comeback to wins the game.

Now, were the players motivated or inspired?  When it comes to losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle motivation will peak and trough throughout the journey.  The problem that people will often run into is they look for motivation in the wrong places and bank on buying things like videos, books, personal training or membership to group fitness to keep them going.  These things tend to be pretty superficial and while you may feel inspired momentarily keeping the fire stoked is short lived.

True motivation comes from within and is based on significant, heart-felt factors that pulls from areas that are deep inside of you.  Think what losing weight and living healthy will mean to the people you love, your long-term health and your sense of being.  Come up with a list of deep seated reason why your health is important that you can reference when you are feeling off track.

Happy Friday!!

Are you an Innie or an Outie?

I love working with people, it is so interesting to discover the little quirks and nuances that make them who they are.  This is especially true when it comes to discovering what motivates an individual to keep them on track.  What motivates them in the beginning may not be the same thing the are channeling a couple of months down the road.  You may think that your client is trying to get in shape so they can be a good role model for their family only to find out it is all about vanity.

There are several different ways to look at motivation for this piece I thought I would explore intrinsic and extrinsic motivating factors.  People that are highly intrinsically motivated may draw upon abstract factors like personal pride, individual drive or the desire to achieve.  At the opposite pole you might find that your extrinsically motivated clients might value reward based systems or need more vocal queuing.  Most individuals exists on the spectrum between these two extremes and just my lean a bit to one side or the other.

The fun comes in discovering what your clients tendencies are and a conversation about their past experiences with exercise and weight loss can be very revealing.  In the initial session just asking, “what are your top three motivating factors for losing weight and getting in shape,” cuts right to the chase.  Really understanding what is driving your clients to achieve will really go a long way when their motivation stars to wane.

Break Them Down or Build Them Up: Do You Reward Consistent Behavior

As much as I hate reality television I know that it is a guilty pleasure for millions of people, otherwise they wouldn’t keep producing things like “Ice Trucker House Wives of Winnipeg.”  I have actually had clients that have asked me to yell at them like Jillian from the “Biggest Loser” which always makes me cringe and suggest a different trainer.  Speaking of Jillian, have you ever wondered if yelling and punishing your clients is actually motivating them to work harder?

Keeping people motivated through systems of rewards and punishment is a pretty tricky game that has a lot of nuances to consider.  It doesn’t matter if you are trying to get your kid to keep their room clean or if you are trying to get your client to stick to a fitness routine how you motivate matters.  The good news is we are all pretty much hardwired from birth to respond in specific ways to certain stimuli and in this post we are going to discuss impactful reinforcement.

According to AllPsych Online reinforcement means “to strengthen and is used in psychology to  refer to anything which strengthens or weakens the probability of a response.”  There are 4 different types of reinforcers that are used to illicit responses and while they all impact the individual they don’t all contribute to lasting results.  The following is a list of the four types of reinforcement:

  • Positive Reinforcement: This is where you are given something as a result of a objective achieved.  This of this as getting a new medicine ball of losing your first ten-pounds.
  • Negative Reinforcement: For this one something negative is taken away and is exemplified by that client that stops eating (or reporting) that doughnut every morning to avoid hearing you nag them.
  • Punishment: When you add something to the situation that the subject doesn’t enjoy like five-minutes of Burpees for consuming multiple doughnuts.  No surprise, this is the least impactful of the four often times leading to feelings of resentment toward the punisher and extinction of the desired action.  Yet, people still hit their kids, you have to wonder.
  • Extinction: Take something away because in order to get the desired behavior.  You have your shinny new medicine ball taken away because you gain ten-pounds back… Sadness 😦

Positive Reinforcement tends to work the best out of all of these and AllPsych notes “… it not only works better but it allows both parties to focus on the positive aspects of the situation.”  You can take it a step further by putting your client on a Variable Interval schedule where their progress is checked periodically and rewarded based on the results at that time.  Just think of that job that you may have had where your work is evaluated at random instead of just a yearly review.  You have to stay on your toes at all times in those situations instead of just stepping it up toward the end to get a good review and a raise.

Only as Healthy as You Think You Are

I love my job(s)!  I wondering how many people can actually say that about the work that they do day in and day out.  Working with individuals to improve their lives is amazingly rewarding and I have gleaned a lot of knowledge of the las decade-and-a-half.  This blog is about inspiring individuals and delivering information that professionals need to keep their clients motivated dedicated to long term life-style change.

I have been a personal trainer for over fifteen-years have worked with hundreds of people that were looking for answers their problem.  At first I thought that problem was being over weight and focused and how quickly I could help someone drop pounds.  The longer I stayed in the business the more apparent it came to me that this was much more about losing weight these individuals were looking for happiness.  There expectation was that they could go on autopilot with me for a couple of months and come out on the other end looking better and feeling happier.

The reality was people would lose weight, drop a waist or dress size, and they would stop coming to our sessions.  I will see them back a couple months later some pounds heavier then they were when they left and back in a funk.  It took me a while to figure out that there was more to getting people in shape then kicking their butts in the weight room.  I went back to school to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis in health psychology.  I wanted to understand how to break through my clients greatest barriers to healthy living, themselves.

This blog will be part of a website that I have to give my followers and clients day to day updates and information around the psychology of healthy living.  I hope to develop some products based on this niche and create a small business that gets this information out to health and fitness professionals.  I want to inspire people from time to time but my focus will be on discussing strategies and developing a community around this topic.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Matt Lawson