Here is a simple fact. The body needs specific challenges in order to stay lean and healthy. Some of the challenges the body needs include resistance training to challenge your muscle, aerobic training to challenge your cardiovascular system, and eating the right food to provide the body with the nutrition it needs to function. However, there are other challenges the body needs to keep it functioning optimally that most fitness and health professionals don't teach.
For example, allowing your body to go hungry is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your health and weight, yet that is something most fitness and health professionals advise against. One of the many benefits of going for a prolonged period without food, is that it makes your body more efficient at burning fat. Letting your body go thirsty is also beneficial to your health and weight. I am not saying to be thirsty all the time. What I am saying is let your body go thirsty before you drink water. Don't drink water all the time without being thirsty. Those are just a few examples of challenges your body needs to maintain optimum health, which it no longer gets in most western cultures today.
Now, even if you know about all these healthy behaviors, that is only half of the solution. The other half of the solution is knowing how to incorporate all those healthy behaviors into your life without burning yourself out. Remember, for these behaviors to have lasting effects, people need to engage in them consistently. You can't do something once in a while and expect to get benefits from it.
How can you guarantee that you stay consistent with these behaviors? To answer this question, you must first understand how the human mind works.
A Few Things You Need To Know About The Human Mind
According to cognitive neuroscientists, 95% of our behaviors, including thinking behaviors, are run by our subconscious mind. In other words, they are habitual behaviors that require no conscious effort to engage in them. Our conscious mind controls only 5% of our behaviors and thoughts.
The reason for that is because our conscious mind has limited processing power. Just to give you an idea, according to Bruce Lipton, a biologist I respect, your conscious mind can process around 40 bits of environmental stimuli per second. On the other hand, your subconscious mind can process about 40 million bits of environmental stimuli per second. In other words, your conscious mind can only do one thing at a time, whereas your subconscious mind can do thousands of things all at once.
It makes sense for the body to give all the repetitive behaviors over to the subconscious mind so it can free up the conscious mind to focus on the more important stuff in life, like having fun. Or at least this is the way it is supposed to work. Think of the subconscious mind as your autopilot and the conscious mind as the manual control.
Any action that is not taken over by the subconscious mind means that you need to engage the conscious mind to take that action. Keep in mind the conscious mind has very limited processing power and can only do or focus on one thing at a time. When you are focusing on one thing, that means you are not focusing on something else. Also, keep in mind that because engaging the conscious mind takes mental effort, you need to be motivated to take that action. Motivation plays a crucial role in engaging the conscious mind.
The question is, what is the best way to introduce new behaviors into your life, which will give your subconscious mind the best chance of taking over? The answer is very simple. If you have many behaviors you want to introduce into your life, introduce them one at a time. If a behavior is too complex or requires too much effort, which could lead to burnout, break the behavior into the smallest actions possible, and work on one small action at a time.
Let me tell you a personal story of how I discovered how well this works and has made an enormous difference in my life.
As you might already know, many people have a hard time flossing regularly. Even though flossing is very beneficial and doesn't take more than five minutes, most people don't seem to be able to stick to the task regularly. For years, I was one of these people. I would go to my dentist for a cleaning, and he would lecture me on the importance of flossing and all the bad things that could happen to my teeth if I didn't floss regularly. I would leave the dentist's office determined to start flossing every night from then on.
Once I got home, I would floss regularly for a few weeks, and then, for whatever reason, I would stop. At my next checkup, it would be the same routine. The dentist would tell me that I needed to floss, and if I did not, bad things would happen to my teeth. I would get motivated for a few weeks, but then I would stop flossing again. That went on for years. One day I thought to myself, how am I supposed to motivate people to develop proper exercising and eating habits, when I can't even get myself to floss regularly? That is when I started to ask questions about how habits are developed. When you start asking the right questions, the answers will come. That is how I discovered Kaizen. Kaizen is an ancient Asian philosophical system on how to apply change best. It is all about small, consistent steps. Kaizen is a Japanese word that means "change for the better." I decided I would try the Kaizen way to get myself to floss regularly.
I started flossing one tooth every night. I must admit that I did feel a little silly flossing only one tooth, but I stuck to my task. Night after night, I flossed one tooth. Every person I told about my strange new habit said to me that I wasn't getting any benefit from flossing only one tooth. My response was that I was not trying to floss, I was trying to develop the habit of flossing, and by keeping the action so small, it was almost impossible to talk myself out of doing it every night. Every so often, when I felt like it, I would floss one more tooth. One day I realized I was flossing every tooth. It's been over 15 years since then, and flossing has become an automatic action that I do every day without a second thought.
The bottom line is, to lose weight and keep it off, it's not enough to engage in all the right healthy behaviors. You must also know how to make those healthy behaviors habitual so no conscious effort will be required to stick with them. The best way to do that is through small steps. This is the best way to achieve sustainable weight loss.
If you need help losing weight and keeping it off, check out The Stavros Method.