What a 4 Year Old Taught Me About Habits

It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re not only about to start a new year but a new decade. Plus it’s 2020. Very few people were around for 1919 and fewer still will be here for 2121. So this is a special one.

Many will be looking to start anew. This might be wiping the slate clean and getting a fresh start. It’s like making your bed and cleaning your room. You feel a sense of accomplishment and want to keep it up as long as you can.

I’m sure this is how many feel with their health and fitness as we prepare for a new year. And if we flashed forward 12 months to this time next year I can tell you right now, without any doubt, whether you will be successful or not. And I know this because of one thing.

And that one thing is your habits.

Let me share a quick story about habits with you. It involves our 4 year old daughter Vangie. Every since Vangie was old enough to communicate with us I’ve said the same thing to her at dinner time. I ask her:

‘Vangie, do you want to say grace?’

Similar to our family…holding hands and praying before we eat.

Sometimes she rolls her eyes. Other times she’ll ask why we have to? And on occasion she’ll just start eating.

But even if she’s reluctant to do so she’ll always lead our family in grace. She’ll add her own version every now and again as well. We’ll usually hold hands as we pray but she may mix it up and cross her arms to the opposite sides and want the other family members to do the same. She’s also be known to link with the person beside her with knuckles and finish the amen with a fist pound.

Anyways, right now I’m writing this from Playa del Carmen where we’re on vacation with our family. There are 25 of us in total including 12 kids and 13 adults.

Last night we were out for dinner and part way through Vangie yelled out ‘Wait! We forgot to say grace!’

So she made everyone stop eating, join hands and a four year old led us in prayer.

Now what does this have to do with your health and fitness in 2020? How can a story of a 4 year old help you to achieve all of your goals?

Because it’s your daily habits that will result in success or failure. It’s not if you went for a 10 km run today. It’s if you will walk 15 minutes everyday. It’s not if you got 9 hours of sleep 2 weeks ago on Thursday. It’s if you will get 7 hours of sleep every night. And it’s not if you cut out all carbs and go full keto for the next month. It’s eating just enough whole foods at every meal.

Practice enough small, daily positive habits to achieve massive success.

Your success won’t be determined by an intense workout once in a while. And it won’t come down to a 21 day challenge to avoid certain foods during that period. And it won’t be because you were able to sleep in a little longer on the weekend.

Your success will be due to the smallest increase in positive habits that you can do forever. If you walk for 5 minutes a day can you bump this to 10? If you get to bed on time 3 nights out of the week can you make this 4? If you buy lunch at work daily can pack a lunch once a week?

Do you see the pattern? Figure out where you’re at to set a baseline and then aim to be one better. And as we’ve said in the past your decision making filter for health and fitness decisions should always be:

  1. Is it healthy?
  2. Can I do it forever?

Answer these to figure out what to do. And then do it daily.

Because if a 4 year old is asked to do something often enough, even if it is not something they want to do, soon enough they will start doing it on their own. And they will get other kids, and adults, to join them. Talk about the power of habit!

Now I realize many people won’t know where to start. They won’t know how to set a baseline. They may have no idea what their goals are, what one better would be, or how to get started.

As well, just like Vangie, some people need a dose of accountability. They will need someone to remind them. They will need someone to encourage them to do what they need to do, especially at times when they don’t want to do it.

Lastly, there will be some people who know what they want. And they can make themselves do it. And they also realize they will get a better result with the plan, structure, guidance and support of another. These are people who have had decent results in the past but always wondered what they could do with a coach in their corner?

Regardless of which person you are I challenge you to take control of your health and fitness right now. In the same way 2020 can mean perfect vision I want this to be the year you have a clear vision of the results you will achieve this year.

Leave a comment after this post or stop by Okanagan Peak Performance Inc and we will see if working together would be the right fit.

Exercising But No Weight Loss

A common goal of everyone that trains is to be lean. And I don’t mean to be skinny. By lean I mean to carry the most amount of muscle mass and the least amount of body fat possible. And this should still allow us to do our regular tasks and activities without lacking fitness or mobility.

Sometimes when someone initiates a fitness program the results can be slow in coming. We know we feel better. We have fewer aches and pains. We sleep better at night. And our performance in sports is trending up as well. Yet the scale doesn’t budge.

Below are a number of nutritional reasons this may be the case.

Meals Eaten Alone

When we eat with others there are natural pauses for conversation. We want to hear how the other person’s day went. We comment on the flavour and textures of the prepared meal. We put the fork down every now and again to listen and answer.

Eating alone leads to eating more quickly. Nutritional quality tends to be lower. Maybe this is because we like to have a treat when no one is watching and won’t be judged. Or it could be that when we cook for others, i.e. for children, we feel a responsibility to provide the best nutrition possible.

Eating alone also means we could be doing something else while we’re eating. Maybe we watch a TV show. Sadly, we used to do this. Maybe we’re on our phones. Maybe we read a book. Maybe we try to get some work done at the computer. Regardless of what we do while we’re eating it serves as a distraction and leads to mindless rather than mindful eating.

Simply by eating in the company others we will eat more slowly, eat less and eat better quality foods. And if you do eat alone make sure that’s all you’re doing.

Sleep Plays a Role

When we are sleep deprived the hormone leptin is suppressed. Leptin’s job is to tell us we’re full. Compound being a little tired with eating alone and the potential for overeating becomes a real problem.

I remember one of my sisters sharing a story when she was studying while in university. I don’t want to dox her here but let’s just say she was studying for medical school and eating spoonfuls of peanut butter while studying. At one point she rotated the container of PB and saw she was getting 200 calories for every 2 tablespoons. When she saw a near empty container she realized how easily it can be to mindlessly add extra calories to the day. Pulling all-nighters for all her exams probably didn’t help.

Planning & Consistency

Nutrition is one of those things that needs to be planned ahead of time. You don’t need to go to the extreme of having a dozen Tupperware containers loaded every Sunday for the week to come. If you’re already in the habit of doing that’s great. Keep it up.

What you should do is have foods on hand for all your meals. Know what you’re going to have for breakfast before you go to bed. Make an extra serving at dinner so you can bring leftovers for lunch. Carry a water bottle so you don’t become dehydrated. And throw some fruit, nuts or bars in your car for times when you’re on the go and won’t have time to stop and eat.

What derails most is not having a plan. And not applying the plan consistently. If I skip breakfast some days what are the chances I drink more coffee to get going? Will I eat a bigger lunch? Do I wait until the end of the day and then overeat at dinner?

When you see the fuel light come on in your vehicle you plan to fuel up. You don’t ignore this signal and think it doesn’t matter. We’re similar in that we’ll get a signal of when to fuel up. We can ignore this signal and then body will then compensate accordingly.

Not One Factor

Getting lean isn’t just about a change on the scale. And it’s even possible to see no change on the scale. What we are seeking is a change in body composition. We want to add lean mass and decrease body fat.

Just as health can’t be summarized by one factor we can’t simplify our results based on the scale. We should also be measuring our strength and fitness. We should track our waist circumference and our overall health status. When most factors are moving in the right direction it’s likely a positive body composition is taking place as well.

It’s All About the Habits

I will always be lean. I don’t mean to be boastful. And sure some of the credit is due to picking the right parents. But most important are the habits I live day in and day out.

Some of my habits that I live daily to stay lean include:

  • Getting 8 hours of sleep every night
  • Moving every day
  • Eating the right amounts of healthy foods at the right times
  • Having practices to reduce stress
  • Drinking enough water
  • Minimizing low nutrition calories and alcohol

There are more healthy habits someone could use to get lean but those are mine.

We have compiled a list of the best evidenced-based habits that lead to weight loss. And we’ve developed a system to help our clients lose and keep the weight off.

If you would like to know more about these habits send an email to athletetraining@shaw.ca with ‘Healthy Habits’ in the subject line. We’ll be in touch to help get you set up with some better habits and a leaner you in the future.

What Your Habits Have In Common With Playoff Success

Do you find people constantly mistake you for a pro athlete? And I don’t mean based on your appearance.

The One Thing for Success

Is there someone in your life that epitomizes health? They always look good. They don’t have a weight issue. They always seem to have energy and be in a positive mood. You rarely see them getting sick.

Slow & Steady Gets Better Results

If you know me you know I like speed. I enjoy finding new and better ways to help our athletes produce force at a higher rate. This helps them have more success in their sport and can extend careers when others might be losing a step.

5 Steps to Achieve Your Fitness Goal

There’s an expression we’ll commonly use at Okanagan Peak Performance Inc that goes ‘It’s simple but not easy’. What we mean is that healthy living involves a simple plan but following the plan isn’t always easy.

Use Rituals to Your Benefit

We are creatures of habit. There are certain things we do routinely, or ritualistically, in our lives.

The Hardest Part of Fitness

What is the hardest part of being healthy? Is it the training? The dedication to eating healthy foods? Is it getting enough quality sleep every night?

Consistency is the Key

Coaching, programming and nutrition are important components of a fitness program.

How to form new exercise habits

I’ve misplaced my motivation somewhere between the soft pillows and biweekly Timmies runs.

You gasp and sit up. The alarm on your phone is blaring its obnoxious wake up call, urging you to move your butt out of bed, from beneath the warm, comfortable, soft…..zzzzz…. ARGH, HUH, WHAT???! For a moment, you can’t remember why on earth your eyes are open, or what day it is.