*This is guest post from my friend Vic Magary, founder of the Fat Loss Action Academy.
Stepping off of the bus into the humid Georgia night is a moment I’ll never forget. I felt the type of excitement that borders on fear. That gnawing questioning in the pit of my gut as I wondered if I was going to survive. But if thousands before me had made it, I knew that I was going to make it too. I was about to begin training as a U.S. Army Infantry soldier and over the course of the next several weeks of Basic Training, I was also going to get into peak physical condition for the first time in my life.
Every morning started with physical training. Running, push ups, flutter kicks, and every calisthenic exercise that could be devised by sadistic Drill Sergeants greeted us before breakfast. We marched in formation or “double timed” everywhere we went. There were pull up bars waiting for us every time we exited the chow hall. We dug armpit-deep fox holes in the red clay of Georgia and about once per week we loaded up our rucksacks with 35 pounds of gear and walked for several miles in the predawn hours.
Between the formal exercise sessions and learning to “shoot, move, communicate” as an Infantryman, it seemed like we were constantly in motion. But that’s not what got me into top physical condition for the first time in my life.
We were limited to three meals per day with no snacking in between. And although there were cookies and cake in the chow hall, we were forbidden from eating them. The chow hall experience became an exercise in strategy as well as de facto portion control as we were only given five minutes to eat. A Drill Sergeant paced the chow hall with a stop watch and if you were at your table for more than five minutes he would boom, “You! Take a bite out of that apple, drink your milk, and get the hell out of my chow hall!”
We weren’t counting calories or balancing our macronutrients, but it was the most stringent dietary experience of my life. But that’s not what got me a lean and ripped body.
No, what got me from a soft and doughy 173 pounds to a lean and mean 145 pounds wasn’t the push ups or forgoing the cookies. I achieved my best body because I had a cadre of Drill Sergeants breathing down my neck to ensure that I actually did the push ups and stayed away from the cookies. Having someone hold me accountable and refuse to accept any of my excuses was the real reason that I got into top physical shape.
Accountability is the “secret weapon” for achieving the body of your dreams.
Let’s face it, there is no mystery about how to get into top shape…
- We all know that we should avoid processed food and eat lots of vegetables.
- We all know that we should exercise in a manner that is continually challenging.
- And we all know that consistent sleep and stress reduction are important for our health and fitness.
The problem isn’t knowing what to do. The problem is actually doing it.
Maybe you’ve experienced this before…
You decide that you are going to get into top physical condition, and boy are you excited about it! You write little inspirational messages to yourself on post-it notes and stick them to your bathroom mirror and computer monitor. You buy a refrigerator-full of kale and other healthy food. Maybe you even buy new running shoes or workout clothes. But three days after your initial burst of excitement the kale is going limp, the running shoes haven’t even been laced, and your little post-it notes are curling at the corners. You still desire to achieve a chiseled physique, but making the necessary changes to your lifestyle seems frustratingly difficult.
Accountability braces us against the natural fear of change.
Whenever we try to move from our current set of habits to new healthy habits, there is almost always internal resistance. Another name for this internal resistance is fear. A healthy dose of fear when we venture into the unknown has served us well to protect us from predators and other dangers as humans have evolved, but the same mechanism can thwart our efforts when we venture into the unknown territory of new habits. To break this internal resistance and bridge the gap between our desires and our new habits, we need accountability. Below are three ways to get accountability to take your physique to the next level:
1. Get a battle buddy. In the Army, we were always paired with a “battle buddy”. Battle buddies looked out for each other, and were often held accountable for each other. If your battle buddy got into trouble, there was a good chance that you would also get punished for not “watching their six” and keeping them out of trouble. Similarly, you can enlist a training partner. Just be careful of who you select…
Working out with a friend might sound good. But if that friend is likely to tempt you to skip the gym and hit the happy hour at the local pub, you might be better off finding someone who doesn’t know you so well. Ideally this person would be close to your fitness level, but just a little bit stronger. If you know someone at your gym that fits the description, consider asking them if they’d like to be training partners for a month and see how it goes.
2. Put your money where your mouth is. We often tend to be more motivated to avoid pain than to pursue pleasure. And losing money can often provide an appropriate sting to hold us accountable. Write a check for an amount that makes you flinch and give it to someone you trust. Tell them the money is theirs if you slip from your new diet and training habits. To ramp up the accountability even more, write that check to an organization that you would never give money to (as an example if you are a Democrat, write the check to the Republican National Convention) and then instruct your trusted check-holder to mail the check if you slack on your new habits.
If losing money doesn’t motivate you, consider other penalties. Tell your spouse, significant other, or roommate that you will clean the kitty litter, scrub the toilets, or what ever other chore you despise for a month if you falter on your diet or training program. Take a “before” photo and promise a friend you will make it your new Facebook profile pic if you cheat on your nutrition plan. Get creative, and implement the penalty that motivates you most.
3. Hire a coach. Over the years, I’ve had several in-person fitness clients tell me that the main reason they hired me was because they knew they would have established appointments for their training sessions that they couldn’t cancel on a whim. With my Fat Loss Action Academy, I hold members accountable by personally emailing them if they go longer than 48 hours without updating their food and training journals. Hiring a coach isn’t just about the financial commitment, it’s about having a professional on hand who has the knowledge and experience to guide you towards your goals while keeping you on the path with a little “tough love” accountability as needed.
If you’ve experienced the start-and-stop frustration of getting excited about a new goal only to slip back to your old habits by the end of the first week, it’s time to break the cycle with accountability. Use the secret weapon of accountability by getting a battle buddy, putting your money where your mouth is, or hiring a coach. No screaming Drill Sergeant required.
Vic Magary has been helping people get fit and lose weight since 2001. His Fat Loss Action Academy, a six week virtual coaching program with a focus on holding you accountable to finally reach your goals, is open for new members from Tuesday May 27 through Sunday June 1, 2014. You can check out the Fat Loss Action Academy here.