One of my goals in 2019 has been to be more aware of the simple pleasures in life. You know, like those random days that you’re driving down the highway and the radio just happens to hit you with back-to-back-to-back songs that you just love? That’s the kind of simple pleasure I’m talking about. Those tiny little and forgettable moments that we all share that help us remember why life can be so truly special.
In the midst of trying to remain more aware of and appreciative of the simple pleasures in life, I’ve also been thinking a lot about simplicity. Simplicity from a philosophical viewpoint, if you will. Simplicity in life in general, but also simplicity in how it relates to you, the members of Stronger U.
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot because starting up this journey is no simple thing. We ask you to learn new skills, like learning how to plan your day around that one food that you just LOVE. We ask you to start behaving in new ways, like pulling your food scale out of the drawer every time you’re going to make a new meal. And we ask you to forget everything you thought you knew about food, like the fact that carbs and sugar aren’t actually bad.
But at the heart of it all, underneath all that we ask you to do at Stronger U, is one core principle. One thing that we talk about all the time on the internal side of things. One thing we look for all of our clients to experience more of. One thing that we all believe can dramatically change your chances of finding success.
That one thing? Simplicity.
I know, weird right? For so many people, starting this kind of journey can feel like the very antithesis of simplicity. We ask you to do crazy new things like weigh your food, plan out your day in MyFitnessPal, look up nutritional data for meals at your favorite restaurant, and more. It’s hardly the picture of simplicity. What we ask you to do is simple in the regard that we want simple and directed action. The behaviors might feel complicated at first, but they’re simple in that they all feed into one overarching and clearly laid out plan: making this work for you today, tomorrow, and well into the future.
It’s that “tomorrow, and well into the future” bit that really made me want to put this blog together for today. Because simplicity matters just as much for those of us who like to think we know how to do this. In fact, it might even matter more. For the people who are new to their journey, simplicity is the key to truly putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, and developing some positive momentum to help carry you forward.
For those who are experienced, simplicity becomes a secret superpower of sorts. Something that they can fall back on at any time as a way to tighten things up because they’ve laid a strong foundation for everything else to work off of.
So how about we talk about a couple of my personal favorite ways where I think you can find simplicity in your life, your journey, and why that simplicity matters so much.
Cut down on the choices.
Are you ready for the most gigantic and blatantly obvious understatement of this millennia?
One of the easiest places for us to start finding more simplicity in our journey and in our choices is also the most obvious: our food choices.
I know, I know. It’s boring and you’ve heard it a thousand different times. Whether it was your coach telling you to try out the 3-3-3 method or maybe it’s your friend telling you about a new recipe that they’ve been bulk cooking. Where it comes from doesn’t matter, what does is that we’ve all heard that we need to simplify our food choices from time to time, especially when we have a weight loss or body composition related goal in mind.
There’s this quote from the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown that goes something like:
“You can move an inch in a million directions or you can move a million miles in one direction.”
That’s exactly how I think about the relationship between weight loss goals and food choices. See, starting up a weight loss journey requires a few things of us. It requires us hitting a point where we’ve finally decided we’ve had enough and are ready to make a change. It requires us to start acting in a different way than we have been up to this point. And a little later on, for many of us, it requires something else:
It requires coming to the realization that for a lot of us, being left to choose whatever food we want feels a little bit too much like being a kid in a candy store. Walking into a grocery store is like being hit with thousands upon thousands of different bright, shiny, and fun looking foods that are just asking for us to try them. It’s hard for anyone to regulate themselves in the face of all those options, especially if you bring some of those options home with you. Put another way, it can be like having a million different choices at our disposal and moving an inch in each direction.
Which is exactly why we preach simplicity with your food choices.
Many of us fall victim to the trap that variety really is the spice of life. Thinking that in having options, we also find our happiness. For some of us, we excel at finding ways to work the foods we love into our day in a manageable, controlled, and sustainable way that allows us to enjoy them but not go overboard.
But for many of us, doing something like that is a skill that we have to learn and earn. Regulating ourselves isn’t something that we’re naturally good at, and if we’ve gotten to a point where we’ve decided we do need to lose weight or tighten things up, it’s safe to say that for many of us we’ve gotten to that point specifically because we struggle to regulate ourselves.
That’s where simplicity becomes your secret superpower.
It’s a normal thing to think that if we automatically start narrowing our food choices that also means we’re going to be miserable, and that’s a fact of life we just have to accept. In reality, that’s not how food choices and our perception of satisfaction work. Humans are fickle and funny animals, and when it comes to us finding satisfaction, we’ll find it in whatever is available to us.
See, we like to think that when we have a seriously limited number of food choices that this now means we’re choosing to be sad around food. But studies show this isn’t how satisfaction and food choices work. Instead of us deriving our satisfaction from a number of different choices, we derive our satisfaction from whatever is available to us.
Now, that’s not to say that if someone were to just feed you meal replacement shakes for 6 weeks that you’d enjoy it as much as you enjoy eating cheeseburgers for 6 weeks. Obviously, cheeseburgers are better than meal replacement shakes. It is to say that eating cheeseburgers won’t always be some rapturous experience if it’s all you’re eating. At a certain point, satisfaction levels out. This happens inside meals, and over the course of a diet. Kind of like the first bite of ice cream is always better than the 10th, the first meal of some new or exciting food is always better than the 100th time having that meal. This diminishing level of satisfaction is a normal response. It’s in constantly seeking to feed that hunt for satisfaction that we get into trouble, and also why we like you to have fewer food choices. By having fewer food choices you’re essentially bypassing that satisfaction-hunting experience.
Simplifying food choices isn’t just for newbies, either.
There might be quite a few of you in week 50, 60, or beyond that are reading this and thinking “Yeah, Tanner. I know. I read the guide. Tell me something I don’t know.” and to that, I applaud you! I’m glad you read the guide and I’m glad that hearing about the importance of simplifying your food choices isn’t something new.
But I’d also caution all of us to take a moment and ask ourselves if we’ve internalized that lesson.
There is most certainly a difference between having heard the same thing a few times before and internalizing the lesson of what it actually means. It’s important to find and understand that difference because if you’re someone that has worked at this for a decent length of time, simplifying your food choices can often be all you need when you’re talking about that need to “tighten back up”.
Turn your favorite foods into experiences.
Sure. The idea of simplifying and eliminating some of our food choices can sound like a pretty boring thing to undertake. For many of us, when we hear about doing that we automatically equate that to mean that we’re now swearing off all the things that we love to eat or drink and heading off to live a monastic style life in some cottage up in the hills.
If only simplicity were THAT simple.
When we talk about simplifying your food choices we’re not talking about that because we want you to start packing your bags and head for the hills. Nobody wants to see you disappear off the grid in the name of finding more simplicity. We’re talking about objectively evaluating your food choices over the course of the past few weeks, identifying a few areas where we notice that we might struggle to regulate ourselves around a certain food, and then eliminating that food for a little bit.
For example, Coach Josh Citron and I make a lot of jokes to each other about ice cream and our love of ice cream. Josh even sent me a Coldstone Creamery gift card for my birthday, but actually had it sent to himself because he loves ice cream that much. Anyways, you get the point. Ice cream is the food that both of us are intimately aware we struggle to manage ourselves around. So instead of playing with fire and keeping ice cream in our freezer at all times, we both know that the simpler and more sustainable choice just involves not buying and keeping ice cream in the house at all.
By doing that, we keep our decision making around ice cream simple. It’s not in the house, so it’s impossible to over-indulge. More to that point, because it’s not in the house and it’s something that we have to actually plan for, going to get ice cream becomes more of an overall experience. It becomes something that we can look forward to, plan around, and fully throw ourselves into.
That alone, turning a trip to get one of your favorite foods into an event, is something that then starts to break the cycle of how you treat that food. It stops becoming something that you mindlessly enjoy on the couch while you’re re-watching Game of Thrones to get ready for the final season. It’s something that you specifically plan to enjoy, be mindful of, and ultimately, derive more joy out of because you’ve now turned it into an experience.
Simplicity has different meanings for different people. Not everyone is going to define their own kind of simplicity the way I have above when it comes to cutting down on food choices and making your favorite foods more of an event. For some people, simplicity can mean cutting down on the marinades and sauces they use while cooking. For others, it can mean getting more diligent about their morning and evening routines. And yet, for others, simplicity can simply mean just a renewed focus and clarity around your goal and your approach.
The point of this isn’t that you have to stick to my definition of simplicity, or your coaches definition. Though I think that’s certainly a great place to start. The point is that if you’re working at this, you should be finding your own areas where you like to find simplicity. Areas that become your own secret superpower that you can come back to. Things that help you lay a strong foundation, build on that strong foundation, and maintain your results for the rest of your life.