The other night I had dinner (sushi!) with a really smart person who asked a question that stopped me cold.
“Why do people think they are the exception to the rule?”
I had to put down my chopsticks because he was singing my life with that question. Seriously! Yes!!! Why do we do that? Why do we think we are special snowflakes who are somehow exempt from the rules?
Before he asked that question, I’d been talking (i.e., complaining) about how lately I’d been asked a lot about “cheat days.” As a personal trainer, I hate the idea of cheat days. Yes, HATE. But that’s a rant for another day.
If it’s not cheat days, people ask me if they HAVE to do cardio. Or they wonder why their strength training program isn’t working when they walk around the gym chatting instead of attacking their workouts with intensity. Or they say they are willing to do anything for their results — to work as hard as possible — but there’s no way in heck they are giving up their daily glasses of wine.
And then they wonder why they aren’t getting the results they say they want.
I whined to my wise dinner companion: It’s as if they blame me! I don’t make the rules. Heck, I have to follow them too!
That’s when he dropped the wisdom bomb.
We all want to be exceptions to the rule.
The truth is that most of us aren’t exceptions. We are bound by the rules of science. Especially screwed in the exception department are petite women, who burn fewer calories even during the most intense workouts because they require less fuel to move/breathe/be alive.
Here’s the irony: we love motivational movies and videos. We love it when the hero/ine sweats/sacrifices/puts it all out there to achieve a goal. It gets us #PumpedUp! We get our #beastmode on. We are all #MondayMotivation, #TuesdayTransformation, #WorkoutWednesday, #etc.
But when the proverbial rubber hits the road and it’s time for us to bring our own grit to our own game, a lot of us go into the kitchen and sneak a cookie. Instead of seeing how we do with our treadmill hill sprints at incline 7 (or 15, hehheh), we crank that treadmill up to 3 percent. Or we cut short that last round of squats/burpees/pullups because … well, because squats/burpees/pullups suck and are hard and make us uncomfortable.
Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with any of that. And besides, how can cutting corners just a little make THAT big a difference?
The thing we need to need understand is that — fitspo alert ahead! — we are not going to get the results of the work we did not do.
Sorry. That’s not how life/biology/karma/whatever you want to call it works.
Let me be the cautionary tale
During the prep for my second figure show years ago, every time I went to Hannaford to grocery shop I used to stop by the bulk bins and either get a few tamari almonds or some sesame sticks. I would put them in plastic baggies and weigh them, and eat them as a snack as I shopped. (Yes, I paid for them, in a couple different ways.)
I went to the grocery store almost every day, and I’m guessing those snacks added up to 200 calories each visit.
Why did I eat those snacks? We can make the reason as complex as we want (fear of success/stress/self-sabotage/blahblahblah), but basically I was being a brat and rebelling against my diet. Not only did I fail to count those calories in my diet, I kinda pretended I didn’t eat them (I mean, it happened in the store and no one — except me — knew about them). Those snacks were like a weird release valve from my diet.
Now, the smart thing for me to do would have been to figure those “release valve” calories into my overall plan. But because I was being a brat I didn’t do that.
On some level I guess I thought I was “special.” Or that I “deserved” to eat the extra food or somehow could magically shrug off those calories. I mean, it was only 200 calories, right?
Reality time. 200 extra calories x 7 days a week = 1,400 extra calories. That’s almost half a pound of weight/fat loss I had denied myself each week. That’s ridiculous, isn’t it?
Beyond the math, though, is the fact I let myself down. I didn’t work as hard as I could have and as a result I broke a commitment to myself. In fact, I get embarrassed looking at the pictures from the show now because I know I could have done so much better.
No one is always “on.” It’s not realistic.
Perfect doesn’t exist. Being maniacal about your adherence to your plan or your #beastmode is unhealthy. (That’s part of my cheat day rant, for another day.)
But you know what is also unhealthy? Being dishonest with yourself or engaging in magical thinking.
The reality is that some days your best will be better than others — you’ll be faster or stronger or more awake and aware. But it’ll still be your best. Even if you eat an extra 200 calories worth of almonds (even healthy foods have calories).
Remember those motivational movies/videos I mentioned above? If you set a goal or make commitment to achieve something — losing fat, running a race, lowering your cholesterol, getting a 4.0, or whatever — you are going to get a little uncomfortable for a while. You need to commit, just as they recommend doing in those videos that get us feeling all #fitspiration.
The rules dictate that if you want a new outcome you will need new behaviors to make it happen.
And for at least a while you have to be the other kind of special snowflake, the champion snowflake, the one who goes the extra distance, the one who owns up to the 200 calories of almonds in the grocery store or walks past them with their convictions stronger than their brattiness.
Winter is on its way. It’s up to you. What kind of snowflake are you gonna be this season?
If you liked this post, do me a favor and share it! And I’d love to hear your thoughts — what goals are on your horizon? Do you know any special snowflakes? 😀