The Psychology Of Fitness

Mindsets, Body Types and Everything In Between

Tuesday Psych Post ~ Are You Sabotaging Your Efforts?

Have you ever rewarded yourself after going to the gym with a meal that definitely had a lot more calories than you burned at the gym?

Or have you ever asked or taken the “best” fat loss supplements, but then started skipping workouts?

For women, have you ever went on a shopping spree after completing a task that you had to work hard on?

For men, have you ever gone “celebrating” with the guys after finishing a tough task at work, although you had work the next day?

Even though all of these phenomenon don’t seem inter-related, they all are.  They all explain one psychological term called “Licensing.”

This term is basically describing how we get stuck in our “comfort zones.”

An analogy would be if you had a bunch of different back accounts.  One of these bank accounts would be called “health,” another would be “work” and another would be called “self-control.”

So the person who worked out feels like they deposited some money into their health account.  With some extra money in the bank, he goes and “indulges” with food.

As for the woman who only starts taking the best “fat loss” supplements, it’s the same phenomenon. She is depositing money in her “health” account.  The purpose of the supplement for this person is to be able to justify the lack of work that she’s doing in the gym.

There’s a woman I know who is constantly doing this from a nutritional point of view.  She’ll buy the latest “fat loss” supplement and will take it for a week. She comes in and works out yet will pig out with her food.  Week after week, she comes in and says, “I’m not losing any weight.”  The first question I ask her is, “How’s your eating?”

She gives me an exasperated gasp, “Ahh!  You’re always asking about my food.  I LOOOVE food, so I’m not going to change that.”  Somewhere I think she’s missing the point.

What about the man or woman who then splurges on either shopping or alcohol after doing a lot of work?  Why do they do that?  They are doing it because they’ve invested a lot in their “self-control” account and therefore feel justified in spending that “investment” on their “fun” account.

Yeah, he "invested" a lot in his "health" account the day before...

The question then is what can you do about this phenomenon?

Here’s three primary things you can do to ensure you don’t fall prey to this phenomenon:

1 – Have only 1 goal in mind and have a deadline.  This year, I wanted to get to 205 pounds.  I’ve never been this heavy in my life and I knew that it would be a lot more eating than I’ve ever done.  Every time I looked in the mirror after a ton of eating, I wanted to go on a diet.  Start doing more cardio – anything to get rid of the bloat in my stomach.  But I kept that ONE goal in my mind.  The deadline was April 15th.  I had a little over 100 days to gain 20 pounds.  I knew with enough training and more importantly eating, I could hit the goal.  But so many times I wanted to revert back.  It’s now after April 15th, I hit that goal and now there’s one other goal with a deadline – get to 8% bodyfat by June 6th.

2 – Identify with the change you want.  If you don’t see yourself as someone who is “healthy” then every time that you earn some points by taking a multi-vitamin, you are more apt to over-indulge in bad foods.  This is the same concept if you go to the gym and over-eat, etc.  This is also true from a financial stand-point.  If you have enough income to support yourself and have money left over, but don’t identify as someone with money, then you’ll always struggle living paycheck to paycheck no matter how much money you make
(Click here to read about how you identify with exercise, in order to add fitness to your life).

3 – Stay Aware – This is especially important when you start justifying not sticking to your goal.  I’ve wrote about how I think awareness is the crucial step in any successful change.  Personally, I think besides being the first step, it’s also the step that needs to be repeated most often.  Change takes a while – most research says that habits form anywhere between 21 and 268 days before a habit becomes “natural.”  Most habits, I believe become “habits” though after about 100 days.  Before that time though, the change is not going to feel “natural.”  You’re going to want to revert back to old habits and it’s quite easy to do so.  Therefore, you must stay aware and vigilant until your new habits become second-nature.

If you have any questions about this post or about Personal Training in Hoboken please email me at

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