Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why do we quit a diet or training program?

I recently answered a question on Quora about why it is that people quit a training program or diet. For your reading pleasure I post the answer here as well. Happy reading!

To know why people quit you have to know why it is that they start a workout program in the first place. Sure, you can say that it's because they want to have abs, or they want to improve their fitness, or they want to lose weight to fit in a pair of jeans. But what are the feelings lying underneath all these reasons? 

People will only take an action to prevent them from feeling a certain way, or to gain feelings that they want to feel. Everything we do hangs around the feelings we feel when we do it.

People start with a workout program because of a feeling, either good or bad. Let me explain. Someone wants to fit in a nice pair of jeans. That may be because this person feels they'll get more attention and admiration if they can fit into a sexy pair of jeans and will thus feel admired or desired. Or maybe this person went shopping with friends and felt embarrassed or ashamed because the jeans don't fit. The outcome of both cases are that the person vows to go on a diet and to start a workout program. But not because they want to fit in the jeans, it's because they either want, or don't want, to experience certain feelings. The person either wants feelings of being desired and admired or wants to eliminate feelings of embarrassment and shame. In the end the jeans really has nothing to do with starting a workout program, its all about the feelings.

From these feelings come the desire to change. And that change will be brought on by participating in a workout program. In the beginning the desire is strong, so strong in fact that it seems you'll never lose motivation and even so strong as to temporarily boost willpower. Therefore in the beginning, when desire is strong and riding on the high of feelings, people have no problems with remaining on course.

But then, but then. 

Let's sidetrack for a moment here. Suppose the doctor tells you, if you don't go on a workout plan you'll die in the next week. What'll you do? Go on a workout plan off course! A case like this doesn't require desire, motivation or willpower, because you're going to work your butt off to stay alive. But now, suppose the doctor tells you that you need to go on a workout plan, but it'll also be OK if you don't. What then? Will you have the same amount of motivation to work out? Will you even do anything?

The point that I'm trying to make, is that human beings have this manner of convincing themselves that it's fine to live in a state that can be tolerated, even though it's far from the ideal life they wish to live. We all do this. How many people work in dead end jobs and how many wish with all their hearts for a chance to break out, to be free? Many and many and many. But do they do it? No, they don't. Because they reach a point where they've convinced themselves that their situation is not so bad and that they can tolerate it. "I'm working here for a paycheck" or "at least the money is good" or "at least I have a job" are common sayings we use to convince ourselves that less than ideal situations are OK.

This is not an exception, we all do it. I do it, you do and the person reading this answer also does it. (Yes you do!) The reason we do this is because it takes much less effort to convince ourselves than to go ahead and take action.

Well the same thing happens to the person who starts a workout program. In the beginning the feelings and desires are strong, motivation and willpower is at an all time high. But as time passes, the feelings wax and wane and all of a sudden excuses are being made in order for the person to convince himself/herself that it's really not that bad and that everything is OK and can be tolerated. Working out becomes too much effort. The person forgets how they felt that day when they were confronted with the jeans. As the feelings go away, so too does the desire and consequently levels of motivation drop and willpower becomes weaker. (By the way, I fully agree with some of the other answers that willpower can be used until nothing is left) If feelings go, willpower becomes weaker and less. It therefore becomes harder and harder to get up for a workout or to say no to a nice piece of chocolate cake.

And so the treadmill becomes a clothes rack, the dumbbells become first class dust gatherers, the gym membership becomes old and expires and the contents of the cupboards change from healthy food to sweets and snacks. The person is now totally convinced that where they are now is OK. A state that can be tolerated. And so they give up and quit.

Until the next time a pair of jeans crop up again. Then this whole cycle repeats itself. Feelings lead to desire which leads to motivation and willpower. Then the feelings are forgotten, desire dwindles away and so too does motivation and willpower. We convince ourselves that we are OK and we tolerated the less than ideal circumstances we live in. And then the jeans crop up again........

This endless loop repeats itself over and over and over every time. Just look at how many more people are in the gym on Mondays and how many are left on Friday. 

To be able to stick a workout plan out and see it through, you need to work on maintaining your levels of desire. Because only when you want something badly enough will you work hard to get it. So don't lose your desire. If you can have desire, motivation and willpower will come automatically and you'll be able to get the right things done.

Until next time friends, STAY TRUE AND TRAIN HARD!

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