When it comes to our military fitness, why is it so much damn hard work!? Why is it so hard to change!? We know that PT Test is coming up. We know we have weigh-ins next month. We have all these plans to lose a few pounds, or increase our run time, and FAIL. Are we all just rats in cage? The short answer is yes. But there is hope. First let's address why change is so hard....
#1: Genetics. Think of it. Our ancestors had to be VERY wary of change. It was a SURVIVAL MECHANISM! Think of our great-great-grandfather discovering a new mushroom. Hmm, new mushroom. Let's eat it! No! Anything new was scary and dangerous. Our brains were very basic. New equals potential death. So we proceed with caution. We still have those same mechanisms in our brains. Yes, we have developed all those advanced layers on the outside, but at our core, we still have those very primitive systems. We have a very hard time with change. We like what we know. What we know is safe.
#2 We are animals. Research shows it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. That's just an average, so let's over-estimate and say 75 days...that's almost 3 months! We are that rat pushing that lever. Ok, if you were not a biology major, you may not have done these experiments in school. Have you ever tried to train a pet or a toddler to do something consistently? Didn't it take A LOT of time and repeating yourself over and over and over again to get them to eventually to do it on cue? We are animals! We need consistency and repetition to make those neurological connections in our brains to link that behavior (or command) with that other behavior.
So yes. We are rats in a cage. But the good news is, we CAN CHANGE. It just takes a bit more effort and time than most people are willing to put into it. We are an instant gratification society. We want it now and fast. We don't like waiting for anything. That is why the fast food and crash diet industries make a TON of money. They cater to instant gratification. But, if you have ever done a crash diet, or two or three, you know that the results don't last. Why? Because the behavior change was very short term. You lost the weight said "thank you very much," and then went right back to your before the crash diet. "Old habits die hard."
I can hear you saying, "What the heck? How am I supposed to get past this stubbornness and make real lasting change?" Here are some tips:
#1 Get rid of the negative and punishment behaviors and thoughts. Research shows that lasting change comes from a focus on positive thoughts and verbalizations and rewards. Don't threaten yourself with "If I don't lose 10 pounds by July 4th, then I am no longer allowed to watch TV.". Focus on a positive reward instead. "If I lose 10 pounds by July 4th, I will buy myself those new sunglasses I have been wanting." Try to keep your thoughts and verbalizations positive. Don't say "I am on a diet." That reflects you are being punished. Say "I am trying to eat healthier."
#2 Have SMART goals. Specific. Measureable. Attainable. Realistic. Timely. Studies show that goals are easier to reach if they're specific "I'll walk for 30 minutes every day," rather than "I'll get more exercise." You should also limit the number of goals you're trying to reach; otherwise, you may overtax your attention and willpower. And it's not enough just to have a goal; you need to have practical ways of reaching it. For example, if you are trying to lose 20 pounds, have a bunch of baby goals that will lead you to getting to that big goal. Baby goal one: switch drinking sodas to drinking unsweet tea. Baby goal 2: bring lunch and snacks to work every day instead of eating out and from the vending machine.
And remember that change is a PROCESS not an EVENT! There is even a model of change in psychology called the Transtheoroetical Model, also called the stages of change. TTM presupposes that at any given time, a person is in one of five stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, or maintenance. Change is a process and it is on-going. Maintenance is key (consistency). This is the major reason why diets fail. Because there is no maintenance phase. You lose the weight. You stop. Health is a journey and not a destination. You have to take the long view.
So go get to pressing that lever. We have a lot of work to do! Stay tuned to Fire Team Whiskey's Facebook page and web site for our BIG launch in 2018. We have all the tools a military service member (current or former) needs to stay fit to fight or get back to fit to fight if we have let some of those things go for awhile. It never too late. Semper Paratus. Whether you are still in Uniform or not, as military Service Members we need to be always ready. Fire Team Whiskey Military Fitness Protocol can help.
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