Every single Friday, without fail, I get a message from a number of my clients. It could be a well-thought-out and reasonably typed email, or it could be a frantic and obviously hurried text message. The method doesn’t really matter, because the message is always the same.
“Tanner! It’s Friday and my friends are going out for drinks. I really want to go with them because I’ve been so good all week. Do you think I could go and squeeze a couple of beers in my macros? I’m just not sure because I made such great progress this week and I don’t want to ruin it but I really do want to go out with my friends.”
For some of my clients, we tend to interact like it’s a contest to see who can be the most sarcastic, so I want to respond to some of these messages with something pithy and short like “I’m not your Mom, I’m not going to tell you when you can or can’t drink beer.” But that’s just flat-out bad coaching – no matter how much some of us enjoy being sarcastic to one another.
Sometimes you gotta do your job, ya know?
So I found a different response, and for every single client I’ve got that is reading this, there’s a strong chance this response is going to sound very familiar:
“You totally can go out for beers. I’m not going to tell you no or yes about that, because I firmly believe that for you to do well on this program, YOU need to be the one making YOUR decisions.
However, what I will tell you is this:
This decision, like anything else in life, is really nothing more than an exercise in choosing your priorities. By choosing between staying completely on plan or willingly going off plan you’re basically deciding whether your weight loss goals are more important than your social life.
Now, that’s not to say that whatever decision you make right now is the last decision like this you’ll ever get to make. Instead, what it is saying is that you’ve got to decide to say no to something. Saying no sucks and it hurts, but you have to choose your no.”
Most of the time I send off that response I tend to get the same message back:
“Wow. You’re so right. I’ve never thought about it like that. I’m totally gonna go have drinks and not even worry about it.”
Okay, maybe I’m slightly kidding. My diatribe on priorities doesn’t always backfire like that, though sometimes it does. And even if it does, I still think it’s an important thing to explore a bit deeper than a normal text or email exchange can serve.
So let’s talk about priorities, dieting, and choosing your no, shall we?
For most of the people (certainly not all, but most) that come to us, they come to lose weight. They’ve decided they’ve had enough. They want to see a number on the scale, buy a certain size dress, or see something in the mirror they never thought possible. But they got to the place of needing us because for so long their priorities didn’t involve weight management.
Instead of being moderately high on the list, weight management was way down at the bottom of their priority list, right behind reading the 12 articles they’ve left open in their browser for 6 months now.
But once they start a program, that has to change. For someone to really get something out of Stronger U, or any program, they’ve got to make a priority shift. They’ve got to move weight loss up the list of priorities near the top, and it probably has to stay there for quite awhile, because they spent so long with it near the bottom. And in order for that to move up the list, other things have to move down. Most people who join our program implicitly get this and do a great job with it.
Where things get interesting is whenever that night out with friends comes rolling along in week 8. For 7 weeks someone has been nailing it, but in week 8, that temptation to loosen up on the reins a bit comes creeping along. They’ve been invited out and want to go and have a good time, but they’ve got goals in mind as well. And they’re nowhere close to those goals just yet.
This is where choosing your no comes in.
Much of life and the things we work for in life are nothing more than a game of trade-offs. It’s sacrificing short-term pleasure for long-term gains, like trying to build our savings account or going to school. Or it’s sacrificing tomorrow’s well-being for today’s happiness, like in going out to the bar at Happy Hour and staying there until 2 am. That’s just how things go. It’s how things have been since the dawn of time, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to stop anytime soon.
The downside to this situation is that for any of us who have been hit with that decision of going out or staying at home it sucks because no matter what you’re doing you feel like you’re missing out. You feel like by not going out, you’re missing out on hanging out with your friends – and if you do go out, it’s easy to feel like you’re delaying this progress you’ve been working so hard for.
Make no mistake: that feeling sucks. Nobody likes feeling like they’re missing out on something. On a fundamental level, missing out plays on this fundamental fear that we all deal with. This fear that we’re an outcast, don’t belong or are going to get removed from our friend group. That fear of missing out can influence us to make a lot of really poor decisions, and this is where one of my favorite ways to reframe this situation comes into play.
Instead of missing out, think about all of these situations as choosing your no.
When you’re deciding to skip on the bar so you can instead stay at home and eat the Tacoroni and cheese recipe that Mason made, you’re saying no to a social situation because right now your weight and physique goals are more important to you. Whereas, on the flip side, when you say YES to going out and decide you don’t want to stay home and eat what you’ve got planned, you’re saying no to your weight and physique goals because at that moment social health is more important to you.
Sure, you could say that you’re missing out on something there. But I don’t like the idea of using that phrase. I think the phrase “missing out” implies that you don’t have any real control over what you’re doing. Saying that you’re missing out is almost like saying you’re some passenger on this journey, just along for the ride and willing to take whatever comes your way.
In order for you to have long-lasting success on this program, taking control is something you’ve got to get very comfortable with – and giving yourself the freedom to say no versus saying you’re missing out is using your words to remind you that you have control over your choices. Saying no ingrains the idea that you have ownership and authority, and it reinforces to all of us that we are still the ones in the driver’s seat, determining whether or not we want to work towards our goals.
At this point, I’ve gotten used to giving this spiel to various clients over the past 7 months. To be honest, I have no idea how many have actually taken this lesson to heart. It seems like one of those things that might be a bit too nebulous and abstract to track.
What I do know, however, is that for most of my clients the most empowering realization that they have on a consistent basis is the fact that they’re in control of their destiny and decisions in this program. They get to decide how they’ll handle tough situations, what they’ll do when there don’t seem to be smart food choices, and just what they want to say no to. And to me, that’s the most important realization of all.