I got an email from a good friend over the weekend who is struggling with lack of progress, and in particular with food cravings. Moreover, the psychological impact of both stalling on progress and giving in to cravings is starting to take it’s toll on his well being.
Now, anyone that’s been around the iron long enough will know that cravings and disappointment with progress are commonplace and effect all of us from time to time.
What’s important is that we learn to embrace these things as part of the life-style and not “label” ourselves as weak or failures.
I wrote him a lengthy reply, the point of which was to help reassure him and bring some perspective to his predicament. On a second reading of my response, I realized that there was not much in here that was unique or personal to my friend, it was pretty much safe advice for anyone committed to training.
Here’s what I wrote:
First, you have to cut yourself some slack; you are 100% normal here in every respect. We all have cravings for the “good stuff”, and the higher we climb with our good eating, the harder we can fall.
Every “bro” I talk to has this exact same problem at some point. They love their pizza, or wings, or whiskey… cake, donuts, chocolate… whatever it is. They love it, and they want it. However, most of the time, they want other things — like progress — more than they want the high of eating, so they push on. Still, they slip up.
Sure, I am super disciplined, mainly because I am so focused on my goals. The fear of “average” compels me to withhold and keep pushing. But be under no illusion, I want to eat all sorts of good stuff, all the time!
First and foremost, you need to have clearer goals, both long term and near term. Why? Because unfortunately, we can’t have it all … at least not all at once!
Decide what you want first. Strength? Size? Leaner? Lean? Shredded?
You might well achieve combinations of all of the above, but the reality is that if you chase them all, you’ll miss them all and leave yourself feeling demotivated and miserable.
Even if you set a long-term goal of being huge, strong and shredded, that’s a five-plus year goal that needs to be broken down into at least fifteen phases!
**Interlude: If you are truly in this for the long haul, you have to know that you will never liekly be entirely happy with your body. That is the paradox of physique training: the more we achieve, the more we want. The harder we push, the further we reach. It’s a never ending, life-long journey. Embrace that, and you’ll be happier for sure. Bottom line, your current condition does not define you — it’s not WHO you are. It’s just a state you are passing through. And some states we’ll pass through many, many times on the way to greatness.
Anyway … goals.
Pick one. Doesn’t matter which one. You’ll pick them all, in cycles, over many years. But have ONE for the next 8-12 weeks. And yes, I did just say nearly three months. That leads me on to my second point: patience.
I don’t have it. You don’t have it. No one in bodybuilding really has it. We all want results yesterday, and the endless industry hype doesn’t help. But changing your body is a life-long process. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing as everyone and his dog would do it!
Your body wants status quo; it wants easy. It just wants to survive; exist. To change your body requires brute force and persistence; consistency on a scale you’ve not truly considered. Cliche as it is, they call it “the daily grind”, because, well … sometimes it is. You just need to show-up and put in the work, even when you don’t want to. No, especially when you don’t want to.
My standing advice to anyone that will listen?
“Harder than you thought you could, for longer than you think you should.”
So pick a goal, and let that dictate everything. It’ll guide your training, your programming and especially your diet…
But perhaps most importantly, it will give you a chance of measuring tangible progress on a single vector in a meaningful period of time.
Have some thoughts about what you want to do over the next three months, taking into account seasonality, work patterns, vacations etc. People often use summer to “bulk” and get strong, switching to leaning out in the fall/winter once the “social season” is over. But it doesn’t matter what you pick, it’s entirely a personal/lifestyle choice
Think on this one thing, and let’s start there.