What’s the number one
thing preventing people from sticking to a diet and losing fat?
Is it hunger? Lack of variety? Cost? Inconvenience?
From too much information.
The health and fitness world is in information overload. It’s absurd — people even “share” utter bullshit, just so they can tear it apart and make themselves look smart.
The problem, especially to newbies with no frame of reference, is that it’s all just noise. Competing noise.
Low carb diets don’t work? No wait, they do work. Just not with everyone, and they’re not necessary. Nor are they good for athletes. At least not endurance athletes. Unless they’re fat adapted. Then they can have some carbs every day too. But that’s not really low carb.
For this reason it’s often recommended that novice fat loss clients abstain or “fast” from fitness media and just focus on one plan.
Because if you want to be a miserable failure at something outside your comfort zone, just start reading a shit load of information. Especially conflicting information.
Suppose you wanted to reduce your carbon footprint and maybe spare the world another dose of greenhouse gas. So you decide to park your gas guzzling SUV and start riding your bike to work.
You buy a new bike, Google the best route and plot your course. But then a friend suggests an alternate way, one that only uses quiet residential streets. “It’ll be way less stressful and probably get you there just as fast,” she says.
Another friend says the suburban route has too many stop signs, not to mention kids playing road hockey. While most kids will clear the street for a speeding SUV they sure won’t budge for some Greenpeace-loving cyclist, especially during the playoffs. He suggests yet another route.
Then your crazy uncle forwards you an email from a “medical watchdog” showing that as little as 5 minutes of cycling a day dramatically increases the risk of both testicular and ovarian cancer. “You might as well just inhale 3 packs of Marlboros a day through your rectum,” says the unnamed authority.
The result? You ditch the idea completely and just drive to work. Besides, the crazy uncle sent you another email saying that climate change is a hoax. “The world is actually getting colder not hotter,” he says.
You sell your bike and buy snow tires for your SUV instead.
No wonder so many just say screw it.
But information overload doesn’t just mess with inexperienced people.
Yes, a sea of trivia becomes easier to deal with once you’ve achieved some mastery. Instead of a leaky rowboat being tossed about under wave after wave of new data, you’re like a well-travelled freighter, absorbing each wave without straying from your established course.
But the information is still there. It’s still stressful. Even if you disagree with it, it’s occupying “space” in our brain. It’s occupying our focus.
This was a huge issue for me.
I know more about health and fitness (and certainly muscle) than most people. I still spend hours a day reading up on the subject. The problem is, only a small percentage is stuff I’ve actually chosen to read – the rest is just stuff that comes at me.
Last fall my friend Jon Goodman came over to show me some new stuff he’d put together for thePTDC. When he looked at my laptop he nearly dropped his water glass.
“Dude, how many tabs do you have open?”
Between Safari, Firefox, and Chrome, I was up to 19. My email(s), my blog, Facebook (dammit), and 14 training and nutrition articles that I opened up.
“That’s crazy,” he said. “How do you get anything done?”
Like an addict resisting an intervention, I argued with him. “Nah, it’s just stuff in the background. Stuff I want to check out later. When I have time.”
Goodman wasn’t buying it. “You need a better system,” he said.
So I made one.
On my computer, in Notes, I keep a note called (originally enough) “Stuff to Read.”
Someone sends me a blog or article or I come across something in my internet travels, I copy the link to read later, usually Fridays. Then get read of it.
This way I avoid having tab after tab in the background tempting my ADHD raddled brain, keeping me from jumping into a bunch of rabbit holes of Time I’ll Never Get Back.
Now when I do get around to reading them, I’ve got a stack. So it feels a lot more like work and I’m on the clock.
As such, I’m a lot more discerning. I quickly trash stuff I’m not interested in or that’s redundant — ten variations of how the Food Babe is an idiot or how to set up a flexible diet – and from there I try to find at least one new tip that I can use in my work or daily practice.
Just one. If there’s more, great, but I’m content with one.
And when I find it, I write it on a white board I keep by desk aptly titled “Random Tips.”
Maybe it’s a rep scheme or a recipe or just something I didn’t know before, or something I want to try. Ideally it’s something that makes me question what I’m already doing. Again, just one find per article is good enough for me.
Once the tip board becomes full I take a critical look at them. Do I still feel as enamoured with them as when I wrote them down? Or has my enthusiasm cooled after a few days of introspection?
If I still got “dem feels” for something, only then do I try to figure out how I can implement it into my overall plan. Otherwise it’s erased, making room for the next utterly random bit of probably useless information.
New information is a beautiful thing, provided it’s useful. Yet there’s something to be said for focusing on what you know works and just executing that much better.
After all, do you want to be all knowing and on the cutting edge?
Or do you want to know what works?
PS: Dumping Facebook helps too.
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