Given it’s that time of year when the post-holiday gluttony has slowly revealed itself on those pesky love handles, I’m never surprised at the influx of gym patrons looking to lose weight and change their lifestyle for the better. It’s actually a statistical fact that the majority of individuals who set a New Year’s resolution are looking to improve their body composition (specifically looking to lose fat). 
Alas, the ambition of most of these resolvers is never seen through to the end. In fact, only about 46% make it passed the 6-month mark. However, this shouldn’t dissuade people from setting a resolution since even having a goal is always much better than not planning/trying at all. So if you set a goal/resolution for the New Year and have stuck to it so far–way to go! If not, well it’s never too late to start. Read on as we breakdown the keys to seeing your health and fitness goals through to the end.
A quick word on “weight-loss” resolutions
Before we move on, I feel it’s necessary to clarify one thing about the resolution/goal to simply “lose weight” that so many misinformed gym-goers have. Losing weight should rarely ever be the goal; instead, you should be seeking to improve your body composition, which is a completely different task.
Your body-weight alone is not a sufficient measurement for progress. There are few scenarios where someone’s sole purpose to go to the gym and eat healthy is to simply see a quantitative change on the scale. It is rather more prudent to focus on improving one’s body composition and actually look better as opposed to caring so much what number your scale spits out.
Ideally, we want to concomitantly maximize fat-burning and muscle-building. Unfortunately, these two conditions are theoretically mutually exclusive at any given moment. However, you can certainly still improve your body composition, it’s just a give-and-take process.
Since your body composition is simply the amount of fat tissue (in percent) that accounts for your overall body mass, improving it denotes increasing the ratio of muscle to fat tissue, respectively (i.e. lowering your body fat percentage). As an example, if Bro McSwole is 10% body fat and adds 10 pounds of muscle to his physique while only adding half a pound of fat, he has just improved his body composition. Likewise, if he was able to shed off 10lbs of fat and only lose half a pound of muscle mass he again has improved his body composition.
So as you can see, the goal should be to either maximize fat loss while limiting muscle loss or to maximize muscle hypertrophy/growth while limiting fat gain.
Don’t seek to simply lose or gain weight and certainly don’t rely on the scale as your lone mark of progress.
Note: If you’re severely overweight or underweight and you have a trained specialist/physician overseeing your fitness regimen, than this advice may not apply to you. Those are life-threatening medical conditions and should be handled by your doctor.
Being selfish is necessary…to a point
Let’s be clear about something here—your goal to improve your physique and change your health for the better must be something that you want to do for you and you alone. Unfortunately, people often chastise the sport of bodybuilding, reprimanding it as being selfish; frankly, that’s because many bodybuilders/fitness enthusiasts tend to be extremists (bodybuilding is, after all, a sport of extremes).
That being said, the point that is trying to be made about “Doing this for yourself” is that your drive to succeed needs to stem from within; it needs to be something that you truly want for yourself. However, I’m not condoning narcissism and putting all your eggs in one basket because that simply isn’t healthy. There is no reason you can’t see your fitness goals through while still being pursuing other aspects of your life and caring for your friends and family.
Lastly, I’d be doing the readers a disservice to let them pursue a fitness/physique goal purely to satisfy someone besides themselves. This shouldn’t be a vanity contest; you and you alone are the one that stands to benefit from a physique goal, so do it for yourself.
If you’re looking to get shredded because you think all the hotties will suddenly come flocking when all is said and done then you’re in for one hell of a disappointing finish.
If someone doesn’t like or approve of you when you were overweight, skinny, out-of-shape, or whatever the case may be, then why would you want to associate with that individual just because you improved your body composition? Sure, the compliments and praise your peers may give you about your change are definitely flattering, but those 15 minutes of fame wear off pretty dang quick.
But hey, if you’re into one-night stands and superficial relationships, who knows, maybe your sex life will skyrocket after shedding all that fluff and getting jack-3D. I’d still say you have a better shot by just working on your personality versus killing yourself in the gym and eating right, but I’m no love doctor so take it with a grain of salt. Now that the reality check is over, let’s move onto the steps necessary to make your fitness goal stick.
The not-so-secret steps to success
The sad truth is that the fitness industry thrives on gimmicks, fads and catchiness. This is probably one of the reasons I like writing for FitOverFat in that this site encourages evidenced-based, no-nonsense approaches to achieving your health and physique goals. Therefore, if you’re hoping that the following advice is going to be profound and innovative you may be in for slight disappointment.
What I can promise you though, is that the proceeding steps flatout work, and will help you achieve your fitness goal(s)/resolution(s). Many people just want to find the easy way out and fancy-schmancy programs when the most efficacious thing they could is simply focus on the basics and be consistent. Quite honestly, you can be on a subpar training program and diet, but if you’re consistent you’ll still see some pretty decent progress (that’s why “broscience” works).
A common trait among people who are highly advanced in the fitness realm is that they don’t waste their time looking for some special formula or secret, they just master the basics–in turn, this makes them successful. With that in mind, let’s breakdown the steps necessary to achieve that fitness resolution of yours.
- Be realistic when setting your goal–It’s great to be excited about changing your physique but you need to be realistic. It’s worse to set out for an overly ambitious goal and quit a few weeks in as opposed to setting a more modest one and seeing it through to the end. That being said, it behooves you to push your limits and get out of your comfort zone. You can always adjust your goal as you go along, so start with something you’re confident you can reach and if you find you’re making exceptional progress than push it further.
It’s not uncommon to hear someone say they want to “Lose 70lbs of fat in 12 weeks.” C’mon now, that’s absurd. It’s great to be optimistic, but you have don’t want to take on more than you can handle. It’s more prudent to set a goal to lose 70lbs in say 10 months and actually seeing it through as opposed to trying to lose all that weight in 12 weeks and falling way short.
- Have an action plan—This step tends to be where people falter and fall prey to paralysis by analysis. It’s great to do your research and find a proper plan that suits your goals, but don’t sit around and dabble in minute details that won’t make a big difference in the end. There are hundreds of good plans out there that will get you where you want to go if you just act on them and stay the course. A quote I like to remind people of from General George Patton is, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” Just pick something, do it, and do it well!
- Think in the long-term, act in the short-term—It’s great to keep the big picture in mind, but don’t overlook short-term goals in the process. A resolution is typically a “long-term” goal, so if your resolution is to lose 50lbs by the end of the year than start by setting a “short-term” goal to lose 1lb in 1 week. As noted in step 1, achieving this short-term goal boosts confidence and enthusiasm so you’re more likely to stick to your long-term plan. Keep reaching those stepping stones and before you know it you’ll be across the pond.
- Reward yourself when you reach stepping stones—Something that seems to be purported by many individuals is the baseless idea that a resolution to change your health and body is a torturous process. I guess that ideology comes with the territory in the extreme world of bodybuilding, but reality is that while you do have to push yourself and make some sacrifices, you can (and should) still enjoy the journey.
Don’t hesitate to reward yourself along the way when you consistently meet short-term goals; it’s okay to pat yourself on the back every now and then. It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose either, just treat yourself to some entertainment, food, clothes, jewelry, or whatever you want. Bear in mind that a reward is not binging on food for an entire day after sticking to your diet for a week; that’s simply not a healthy pattern to develop and I believe it is actually detrimental in the long run.
- Surround yourself with like-minded individuals–Earlier in this article we discussed how you have to be somewhat selfish when it comes to achieving your health/fitness resolution, but this doesn’t mean you need to isolate yourself completely. No matter how lonely some successful people (especially bodybuilders) pretend to be, they always have a supporting cast behind the scenes that pushes them and helps them stay on track. It is imperative to seek out friends, family and other fitness-enthusiasts so you can gain their support. Even better, maybe you can support them in their journey as well. As aforementioned, you can be selfless too while reaching your goal/resolution.
- Be prepared for setbacks—Resiliency is a paramount attribute, especially when it comes to your fitness resolution since I can guarantee you that adversity and setbacks will cross your path on your journey to a better body. Don’t fret though, these momentary setbacks are not going to ruin your success…unless you quit altogether. It sounds oxymoronic, but failing is a necessary part of succeeding. It’s perfectly fine to fail, just don’t let those slip-ups turn you into a failure.
So there you have it, six steps that will lead you to the body of your dreams…or at least get you heading in the right direction. Just remember why you want to look better and be healthier, and more importantly enjoy the process. There will be some bumps along the way, but anything worth having is worth working hard for. Take pride in what you accomplish along the way and don’t look back; the new “you” is right around the corner. Now get after it!
- Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers, by John C. Norcross, Marci S. Mrykalo, Matthew D. Blagys , University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Volume 58, Issue 4 (2002).