There is a simple hope anyone has when we take on a new initiative with our nutrition, fitness, or general health: that we will see immediate progress. This is no ordinary magic; it’s the very tip of the unicorn’s horn. That direct payoff feels amazing. However, it’s not guaranteed and the opposite can be a bit of a bummer. That’s why I want to share some thoughts on how to navigate that gap.
Let’s take losing fat as an example. Last week, I shared how my older brother is working on doing just that to improve health markers. UPDATE: as of yesterday, he is out of the “pre-diabetic” range for blood glucose levels —hooray! He’s mostly achieving this with changes to food choices and by adding daily activity. There is no secret sauce for him but there is probably less ranch dressing. He’s feeling a sense of progress and optimism.
People do all kinds of things to drop fat. Here are some of the more extreme (but common) examples I’ve seen over the years
- Go from running 0 to 5K/day with no build-up
- HIIT workouts every day
- Eliminate all carbs
- Eliminate all fats
- Eat as little food as humanly possible
Sometimes, these strategies work quickly but peter out after a week or two. Sometimes, they don’t work at all. You can imagine how frustrating it is when you suffer for results but don’t see any. It is destabilizing. It makes a lot of people wonder what the point is. I get that. I really do.
The problem is that high effort is not always the best kind. Hustle culture gurus will tell you that there’s no such thing as too little effort. Stomp on the accelerator until your foot goes through the floor. And after that? Just Fred Flintstone your way up the mountain.
However, this isn’t always the case. Hard effort with exercise can work BUT can just as easily lead to a spike in consumption. Imagine doing a workout so intense that you feel exhausted, depleted, and—dammit—like you’ve earned a treat. This happens all of the time—resulting in a zeroing out of the benefits.
Likewise, food restriction alone can work BUT can just as easily lead to cravings, fixations, and disordered eating behaviours. This often moves people backward instead of forward.
I’ve come to realize that the solution to many of our biggest issues around exercise and eating comes down to one factor: patience. When we are willing to look at things through a multi-year lens, we earn the ability to sit back, take a breath, and concentrate on the process itself. We religiously take the long view at Bang. By giving up a fixation on the next two weeks, the rest of your life opens right up.
People who train with us know that the exercise piece of the puzzle is handled. So, the question is what remains. Here, I look for opportunities for one of two things:
- Quick, drama-free progress
- Making sustainable habits easier and more automatic
In both cases, there’s usually some low-hanging fruit that can propel you forward. Here are some of my favourites:
Until you’re maxed—or minned—out on one of these items, it’s likely that they’ll add to your quality of life. Drama-free. They will also accumulate until one day, perhaps unexpectedly, you’ll feel or see a level of progress that previously seemed impossible—or at least impossibly hard.
All of the above is the base of the unicorn’s horn. It creates a level of repeatability that is absolutely necessary. Here’s why: once you are rolling with all of the easy, undramatic stuff, you build a platform of consistency that is absolutely necessary for self-experimentation. When your sleep, stress management, eating, social support, daily activity, and exercise are all locked in, every other change is able to register on your meter. That’s where further additions or subtractions should create rapid and easy-to-identify changes. That’s when you’re finally at the tip of the unicorn’s horn. Do a thing; see the results. Magic!