A Former Fat Man’s Guide to Getting Fit
This is not your typical guide to getting in shape. I’m not going to give you a detailed diet, nor am I going to tell you how to work out. Largely because that won’t help you if you’re struggling. Rather, I’m going to give you the one tool you absolutely must have to see success.
Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? If, like me, you’ve struggled with your weight at some point in your life, the place to focus isn’t on your workout routine, or your diet. Focusing there will almost certainly lead to, at best, a couple of nights stay in the Yo-Yo Weight Loss suite at the Shallow Victory Hotel. If you want to move permanently into Leanmuscleville, you should be focusing on your self-image – the very way you think of your identity – of who you are and who you want to be.
As the guru of mindset himself, Tony Robbins, once said, if you want to make a significant and lasting change, focus on changing your identity, not your actions. For many of you who struggle significantly with your weight and health, that’s going to sound stupid, so hang with me for a minute as I will explain how that simple notion completely changed my life and helped me finally shed the 40 plus pounds of fat that had plagued me since childhood.
A Chubby Kid Gets Lean(er)
I was the chubby kid in high school. I wasn’t morbidly obese or anything, and a lot of people have had it worse off than me, but I was 200 lbs by the time I was fifteen. I didn’t know anything about nutrition and I was lazy. Epically lazy. Now, I’m not saying that all overweight people are lazy, not at all, that was just my personal problem. I hated to exercise or go without something that I wanted. I won’t waste your time by pointing out the potentially obvious fact that I had an underdeveloped frontal lobe, but I will tell you my only solution to being heavy was to complain about the people who ate the same things that I ate and somehow managed to stay skinny. And sadly, that strategy wasn’t getting me anywhere.
That mindset of “poor me” carried me through a lot of ups and downs. Getting lean, putting weight back on, getting lean, gaining it back, etc. You know the drill. I could never quite attain my ideal physique, and I certainly couldn’t maintain the progress.
The Key to Lasting Success
For me, the turning point was when a particularly successful mentor of mine explained to me how he became a ninja. Yes, you read that right. He explained to me how he became a mask-wearing, bad-ass fighting, muscle-bound, financially successful, business-savvy ninja. (Precisely how he defines a modern-day ninja is a whole ‘nother blog post, and mayhap someday I’ll convince him to write it.)
He let the truth slip almost accidentally. I was chowing down on a cookie or some other piece of junk after a dinner together as he sipped a glass of water looking totally content with his healthy meal. I asked him how on earth he was never tempted to dig into a cookie or other scrumptious menu item. He looked at me dispassionately and said the fateful phrase that has come to define my life:
“The man I want to be would never eat something that didn’t move him forward in the pursuit of his goals.”
There was no judgement in the statement. He wasn’t sad for me or disappointed in me. It wasn’t about me at all. It was about him and what he was trying to accomplish. And what I found really fascinating was that he didn’t say “the man that I am”. He said “the man that I want to be”. It was both humble and enlightening. What it made me realize was that the incredibly impressive man that I viewed him as was a very careful construct. He had literally created himself out of thin air. He had not let nature take his course, but rather he’d forced nature to bend to his will, and he made decisions about what to do or not do, based not on his impulses, but rather on whether or not those actions moved him towards the identity that he had created for himself. He didn’t focus on not eating the cookies and cakes on the menu, he knew that would be fruitless. Rather, he focused on becoming the man he wanted to be. That pursuit of his ideal self, as he defined it, informed every decision he made. He had a code and he lived by it.
It was a simple, but profound shift in mentality that marked a turning point in his life. Once he realized that he could create any identity for himself, he realized that he could become anything – even a real-life ninja.
What I realized was that I could get in shape and stay in shape. If this guy could become a ninja, I could get the physique that I’d always wanted. So rather than going through some convoluted internal argument every time I ate about how I deserved to eat a piece of cake (a common notion among overweight people), I simply asked myself, would the man I want to be eat that? If the answer was no, I passed. If it was yes, I had some. That simple.
From that moment on exercising my will became much easier. It was like I had this second person inside of me – this ideal version of myself – who helped me stay true to my goals. He also simplified all of my decisions. It was much easier to calculate whether the man I wanted to be would eat something or not than it was to calculate whether I deserved something or not.
So, if you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to get in shape and stay that way, my advice to you would be to focus not on the behaviors of eating well or going to the gym, but rather to focus on creating a new identity for yourself. Figure out exactly who you want to be. Once you know that, of each thing you do, ask if the man or woman that you want to be would do that thing. If they wouldn’t do it, then you shouldn’t either, otherwise you will never become that person.