The Psychology Of Fitness

Mindsets, Body Types and Everything In Between
Psych Post ~ Gaining and Keeping Motivation, pt 2

Psych Post ~ Gaining and Keeping Motivation, pt 2

Yesterday’s post talked about the book Switch and the three analogies that the authors present, in the Rider (logical reasons), the Elephant (emotional reasons) and the Path (your environment).  Whereas yesterday’s post talked about finding an emotional reason to exercise, this post will finish with strategies for controlling your environment and presents a plan to put that emotional motivation to work.

2 – Control your environment – I think controlling your environment is more important than a plan for diet and exercise.  Why is that?  Because you don’t think about your environment.  It lays under your radar of consciousness.  The changes you make to your environment can help immensely in your desire to stick to a diet or exercise.

Here’s 3 strategies that help you control your environment to make it easier to go to the gym:

A – Join a gym that’s closer to your house – If you have to drive 30 minutes to go to a gym, when there’s a gym 5 minutes away, you are setting yourself up for failure.  There’s one exception to this rule.

B – Join a gym that you identify with – If you’re a guy who wants to do power-lifting contests, than join a gym where there’s other guys who are training for power-lifting.  This is true even if you have to drive further away to train there.  If you’re a woman who wants to train with weights but your gym is filled with “creepy guys”, join an all-female gym or workout at home.  The bottom line with this, your workout environment is one that you should look forward to going to.  The environment itself can’t be a place that you dread going to.

C – Go to the gym before going home from work or go in the morning – Set up your car for success by throwing 5 pairs of workout clothes in your car, buying a gym bag and putting two pairs of sneakers in your car.  Plan on going to the gym after work – before you go home.  This way, you make the change easier for yourself.  You get rid of excuses for not working out, such as, “I don’t have any clean clothes,” or, “I forgot my sneakers.”  Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.  Have just one rule – get to the gym.  By just getting to the gym, you’ve already won half the battle.  The second half is won by working hard.

Here are three strategies for sticking with your diet:

A – Throw out all of the foods you don’t need and don’t follow a smart diet plan. Throw out all of the foods that will make you falter on your diet, except for one cheat food.

As for the cheat food, make sure it’s a cheat food you actually crave.  Keep that food in the house and get rid of the rest of your “snack drawer.”  For two weeks, stick to your diet, but allow yourself to cheat as much as you want on that ONE cheat food.  Your diet won’t be perfect, but you will start to ingrain a much stronger habit than if you didn’t allow yourself that one bastion of freedom.  Can you overdo it with your “cheat food?”  Absolutely.  Will most people, who give themselves the freedom to do so?  Not in the long-run.  Not if you follow it with a plan to make the changes longer lasting.

B -Learn to make 6 good-tasting, healthy and relatively lower-calorie, higher protein meals – You should learn to make at least 2 good breakfasts, 2 good lunches and 2 good dinners.  Figure out what you’re going to do for snacks and you’ll be all set for sticking to a diet.  Many people falter with this step and in turn never set themselves up for sticking to a diet.  They equate eating healthy with bland, tasteless foods and berate themselves when they don’t want to stick to the diet.  That’s not a very smart game plan in my book.

C – Fill your house with healthy foods that you won’t mind eating – This means, take those 6 “recipes” and buy as many of those foods present in those recipes so that you never have an excuse to rely on your cheat food.  Have your cheat food available, but know that you don’t need to rely on it, by having a pantry and fridge filled with the foods that’s actually on your diet.

If you employ these 3 strategies for sticking with a diet, you will be so far ahead of those that have a “plan” to stick on a diet, but don’t control their environment first.

3 – Pick a Logical Goal and make a plan to stick to your diet and exercise routine, long-term – This isn’t about having a 4-week goal.  4-week goals are just that.  Short-term wins that don’t ingrain a habit that allows you to keep the body you want for years or decades ahead.

How do you make plans?  In one of two ways – you either start small and have a progressive system of change or you start large and back down gradually, but ending up at a better place than your currently at.  Personally, I think starting with one large change and one progressive change is the best way to go.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
You start with a large change for your exercise habits and a progressive change for your diet habits.

With your exercise, you will start with a 6-day a week program, where you strength train 4 days a week and do 45-minutes of incline walking and stretching two other days.  This is a much higher standard from your exercise perspective and eventually you plan on backing down into a 4 day a week program.

With your diet, you would start small and make progressive changes.  For example, you would start by simply writing down a 3-day food log, the first week.  The second week, you would would do the food log again, but you would also write down why you were eating.  Were you eating because you were hungry, because it was planned, because you were craving a sweet?  Was it a social function at work or because someone left cupcakes in the break room and you couldn’t resist eating them?  By starting to become more aware of not only the foods you’re eating, but the why’s behind your eating, you start to get a better grasp on the environments that you will need to either avoid or change.  As I said earlier, controlling your environment is a key step in sticking to a diet.  The third week, you would keep a food log, but you plan on eating 4 servings of vegetables and one fruit per day.  You start to add food into your diet.  By doing so, you will (normally) start to replace the “bad” foods without feeling deprived.  The following week, you make a rule that you have to eat a complete protein at each meal and keep the vegetable and fruit guideline.  Again, by adding a healthy food, you start to replace the “bad” foods without feeling deprived.  You would continue on this trend, until you only had one cheat food that you allowed yourself or your allowed yourself planned “free” meals.

You could also do the reverse of this and start with large changes to your diet, and then start to add in exercise.  What I’ve found though is that it’s normally easier to start with exercise and small changes with your diet.  The reason for this, is that if you start by working hard in the gym, you want to see results.  This adds an impetus to actually eating healthier.  You use cognitive dissonance to your advantage.  You will tend to justify eating healthier by telling yourself that, “All of this effort better be worth it,” and it makes “more sense” for sticking to your diet.

With that said, there is no one-size fits all program.  What I present is one of the most efficient systems for the majority of individuals that I personally come into contact with.

Now that you have some advice to motivate your Elephant, clear the Path and motivate your Rider, where are you going to start?  I would suggest, motivating your Elephant.

If you have any questions about this post or about personal training in Hoboken, please contact me at

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