If there’s one thing people love doing, it’s making excuses. And if there’s one thing people hate hearing, it’s that they’re making excuses.
That’s why your friends won’t tell you you’re making excuses. They know you don’t want to hear it, and they don’t want you to be mad at them. So instead, they tell you what you want to hear: that you’re doing everything right, nothing is your fault, and success takes only the barest amount of effort.
But I’m not your friend. I’m a fitness coach on the internet, I’m not worried about you getting mad at me, and I’m kind of a jerk. So here are a few blunt truths about fitness that your friend’s will never dare to tell you.
You don’t have a slow metabolism- you’re just eating too much
Contrary to the usual talk about people having fast or slow metabolisms, metabolic rates don’t vary by all that much between individuals. In fact, there’s a pretty narrow range that your metabolic rate tends to fall into- in fact, it almost has to fall into this range. If your metabolism slowed down very much, you would simply be dead, as your body wouldn’t be working hard enough to maintain itself. Conversely, if your metabolism was much faster, you should overheat.
In fact, studies have shown that people’s metabolic rates tend to fall within about 5% of each other when you account for total lean body mass. However, overweight people typically underestimate calorie consumption and overestimate how much exercise they get- by a whopping 50% each. That’s your “slow metabolism” right there.
You don’t have a “natural” body type
When people talk about their “natural” body type, they’re referring to the body type that their genetics tend to push them toward. However, your body type is dictated by a combination of genetics, diet, exercise, and other factors such as sleep and exposure to environmental chemicals that influence hormone balance.
So then, is spaghetti and cereal your natural diet? Is sitting at a desk all day your natural lifestyle? Of course not. To the extent that “natural” body types are even a thing, you don’t have your natural body type unless you’re living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle- and who wants to do that anyway?
Everyone wants you to be like them
Christians want you to be a Christian. Socialists want you to be a socialist. Rap fans want you to like rap music. Cross fitters want you to like Crossfit. Thin people want you to be thin, and fat people want you to be fat.
It’s tempting, and comfortable, to associate with people who are at the same place you are- in their health, their career, their personal lives. But they’ll try to stop you from changing, because they want you to continue to be like them. It’s more challenging, but also more rewarding, to surround yourself with people who are where you want to be- people who will pull you up to their level.
Gymtimidation is real- but there’s a right way and a wrong way to deal with it
If you’ve ever watched a Planet Fitness commercial, you’re familiar with the concept of gymtimidation- the sense of intimidation that people who don’t work out regularly feel about going to the gym. Planet Fitness’s solution to this prob;em is to totally avoid people who are in better shape than you are and stick with other out of shape people- and I explained the problems with that in the last section.
The thing is, people who are in good shape- or successful in any other way- feel intimidated too. They just respond differently. Instead of running from intimidation, they use it to motivate themselves to try harder, and even reframe the intimidation as inspiration.
The next time you feel intimidated at the gym, you can run away to avoid that feeling. Or, you can work harder in order to look good in front of the other gymgoers (who, for the record, aren’t actually watching you). You can also remind yourself that you’ll tend to become more like the people around you, so that you stop thinking of the gym as intimidating, and start thinking of the presence of fit people as a positive that will help you get into shape yourself.
Successful people don’t want to tell you how hard they work- and that’s probably your fault
If you ask a skinny woman what her diet is, she’ll probably tell you she doesn’t really have a diet- just works out a bit, and eats whatever she wants, but makes some effort to avoid junk food. Ask a well-dressed man how he looks so good, and he’ll tell you he just puts on whatever is in his closet. Ask entrepreneurs how they became so successful, and they’ll say they just got an idea, started a business,and it took off somehow. And they’ll all be lying.
The thing is, it’s not their fault they lie. They lie because when they tell the truth, people get mad at them. Just look at the angry comments on this article about Tom Brady and Giselle Bunchden’s diet. Or this story about an entrepreneur who told people how he priorities his time- and became hated for it. People would rather hear that success comes from luck than from hard work.
The next time you hear a successful person say that they didn’t have to work very hard for their success, don’t believe them. They’re lying- not because they’re jerks, but because other people are jerks and will punish them for being honest. If you want to be in amazing shape, you have to work pretty damned hard.
What got you here won’t get you there
I’m constantly hearing people tell me that they started a new fitness program, were excited to make rapid initial progress, but then became disappointed and lost motivation once their progress slowed down. And I hate to break it to you, but it’s to be expected that your progress will slow down over time.
The reason is that fitness exhibits diminishing returns. The better shape you get into, the slower your progress gets, and the more you have to do to make continued progress. If you’re obese, you can lose weight just by cutting out sugared beverages, and you can probably lose upwards of 20 pounds a month if you get your diet and exercise both dialled in. But if you’re in great shape, you might have to cut out almost all carbs and exercise 5 days a week just to lose the last five pounds of fat.
In other words, you should expect your progress to slow down, unless you continually up your efforts to compensate. The diet and workouts that took you from 40% to 30% body fat won’t get you to 12%. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth the effort to get ripped, or you just want to settle for “better than average,” but it is relatively easy (physically, if not mentally) to at least not be obese.