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Friday, July 26, 2013

The #1 Success Principle of Lean, Healthy People

Failing to plan, is planning to fail
I’ve done it and so have you. You arrive home from work after a day from hell and then sitting in traffic to open your fridge and, save for a pork roast that would demand an hour to cook (never mind the prep time), realize you have next to nothing for dinner.

Conveniently, a menu sits nearby from that new pizza place, so you decide on takeout. You choose something sensible but then remember your friend raved about their thin-crust gluten-free pizza. You don’t want to let her down. Besides, you’re starving and pizza just sounds so much better than a salad.

Two hours later, you’re guiltily starring at an empty pizza box, feeling gross from eating too much, and determining that tomorrow you’ll renew your diet commitment.

Why We Fall into These Hazardous Traps

Why do some people succeed while others lose hope in their journey towards better health? Over the years, I’ve observed how some clients overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and excel at their fat loss and fitness goals, while others become frustrated and drop out.

What separate winners and losers? I’ve determined it comes down to one thing.

The winners plan ahead. They leave nothing to chance, whether that means prioritizing an hour workout during a super-hectic day or packing raw almonds and nitrate-free beef jerky for their three-hour layover.

I’m going to level with you for a minute. I listen to people whine about how difficult eating a healthy meal or squeezing in some burst training can be.

Now, I get it. Trust me, I do. You have kids, demanding jobs, sometimes-unsupportive spouses, and enough other excuses to legitimately explain why you can’t eat healthy or work out. The truth is, nearly any juror would buy these excuses. They’re perfectly reasonable.

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Those successful people – the winners who showed up for their 3 p.m. workout and got a healthy dinner on the table – could have used the exact excuses for not doing these things. But they didn’t. They had the same hectic schedule but they made it happen anyway.

There’s an old cliché, Failing to plan is planning to fail. Well, there’s some truth in nearly every cliché, and this one rings more than true. When you don’t think ahead, you set your circumstances up to chance. And sadly enough, that’s a surefire strategy to fail.

Planning Saves You Time and Money

Manufacturers, fast food establishments, and coffee shops know most people don’t plan. How convenient, they surmise, since you’ll likely succumb to their stale overpriced pastries and vending-machine sugar bombs. Except what’s good for manufacturers really sucks for your health and pocketbook.

Planning ahead keeps you on track for your goals but also saves time and money.
Grass-fed beef, for instance, costs less and is far healthier than your favorite burger joint. Same deal with organic berries and Greek yogurt compared with a sugary overpriced coffee shop low-fat blueberry muffin.

Planning ahead also means you have more time to do things you enjoy. When you prep your own lunch, you won’t waste 30 minutes standing in line at the deli counter or waiting impatiently for your salad to arrive.

Planning Made Easy

Have you ever attended a mindfulness seminar where the speaker discusses how being more present can powerfully impact your life? You nod your head and determine that you will henceforward be more present with your meals, your relationships, and every other life area.

Except that talking about mindfulness and actually doing it are two very different things, and as you sit down at your next meal to a chicken Caesar salad, you find you’re checking your iPhone and thinking about a conversation you had yesterday.

Well, planning is very similar. You probably agree that planning your dinner the evening before will prevent you from succumbing to thin-crust pizza, but unless you actually plan, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. Talking and doing are very different things.

I create an action plan with my clients to make planning easier. Among my suggestions to think ahead include:

1.     Do your prep work ahead of time. Maybe you have a hectic workweek ahead. On Sunday evening, grill and cut up chicken breasts for the coming days. Hard-boil a dozen eggs for easy breakfasts or snacks. Prep veggies and store properly so they don’t spoil. Measure and sort almonds into Ziploc bags. Basically, any food you can prep for the coming days that won’t spoil, do it.

2.     Keep emergency foods nearby. Nothing good comes from a blood sugar crash. You get lightheaded, cranky, and vulnerable to whatever sugar disaster your coworker brought in. Always stay armed with healthy snacks and mini-meals for when you’re stuck in traffic, in the airport, or any time you won’t eat for a few hours but need something to sustain you. My favorites include nuts and seeds, apples with those little packets of almond butter, Designs for Health Cocommune bars (yum! But don’t leave them in the heat), and Mary’s Gone Crackers. Just don’t make your whole day a snacking fiesta.

3.     Make lists. I create checklists for grocery shopping and meal planning. Otherwise, you walk into Safeway and next thing you know, you’re walking out with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a bag of chips because they were on sale.  Same deal with preparation: write down your essential foods and don’t deviate when you get that last-minute temptation.

4.     Journal before you eat. A study from Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research found people who wrote everything down lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t.  I have a little variation of this idea. If you’re particularly vulnerable to change plans at the last minute, write down your meal choices ahead of time and stick to them. So if, say, you’ll have grilled pork chops with broccoli and quinoa for dinner tonight, write it down. That way you’re not tempted at the last minute to blow off your healthy meal when your girlfriend invites you to drinks and dinner.

5.     Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes. Listen, sometimes even the best of us get caught up in life’s craziness and don’t plan optimally. Use those occasions to evaluate what you could do differently next time. That doesn’t give you an excuse to nosedive into a thin crust pepperoni. If it’s 8 p.m., you’re just getting off work, and you know there’s nothing in the fridge, stop by the Whole Foods Market hot bar. If you’re at LAX and dammit, you forgot your raw almonds and Cocommune bars, don’t let that be an occasion to hit up Auntie Anne’s for a hot pretzel. Do your best, allow leeway for mistakes, and always keep in mind the old saying, “There are no short cuts to any place worth going.”



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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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