The Seven Questions: A Journey to Sustainable Fitness, Part 1

Where do you want to, tomorrow?

Where do you want to go…today, tomorrow?
Photo: ntwowe and

I’m excited to share The Seven Questions.  I ask these questions to uncover clients’ true motivations for change and create a realistic action plan to achieve sustainable health and fitness – and I hope they can do the same for you!  The questions will be released over the next couple months.  If you’re interested in receiving an email notifying you when the next one is posted, join the Death of the Diet newsletter.

Here are the first two questions to get you started on the path to permanent health and fitness results. Don’t water down your thoughts – be as honest as possible.  Try to keep your answers to these, and all of the other questions, on the same page or notepad, because each question will build on previous ones.  Ok, enough chit-chat – let’s get to it:

Question #1: How do you feel about your body or health right now? Do you want to improve it?

It may sound too simple, but one of the most important things to consider is whether you really want to change your current situation.  The body you have now comes from the habits you have now, and usually your current habits are dictated by your current schedule, preferences and priorities.  It’s also called the status quo, comfort zone or path of least resistance.

Getting out of your comfort zone will require effort. But if you’re motivated enough to change, you’ll put in the effort.  Most people can’t reason themselves into being motivated, though – motivation usually comes from feeling, not from logic. For example, we know eating broccoli is healthier, but that cookie still looks better…especially if you’re stressed.  Being told by the doctor that you need to lose weight or seeing a loved one become sick from obesity may be a kick in the pants to change, but ultimately knowing doesn’t always translate into doing.

So in response to today’s question, don’t just think about what’s causing your current situation (i.e. work demands, lifestyle demands, emotional demands), but think about how you feel about your current condition. Use as many descriptive words as possible and be honest: do you feel sad, mad, embarrassed, guilty or helpless?  Go beyond the logical – your desire for change is what will have to be strong enough to see you through the process of changing – even when the going gets tough.

Finally, write down why you feel that way.  What’s causing that emotion?  The more you can make those feelings concrete, on paper or in type, the more you can understand what’s causing them, and whether you want to make changes to fight them.  If your feelings about change are not significant, then this may not be the right time for you to change.  The next question will get into more details, but for now, get those feelings about your current situation (and potentially it’s contributing factors) out and on the table.

Question #2: Seeking success?  See it first.  What about your life would be different or improved if you had healthier habits?

Whatever makes the effort of changing worth it for you – that’s your motivation to change. Looking great in a dress or suit, feeling energetic when playing with your kids, being able to compete better or having more self-confidence are just a few common ones.  And remember – if you want to make big changes, you need big motivation.

You can’t aim without a target.  Use this question to create your target. The better you can define how your life will be different, what actions you’ll be doing differently and how you’ll feel as the “new and improved” you, the more you can aim your decisions towards achieving those goals.  It orients you to get from Point A (where you are now) to Point B (where you want to be). I wrote a blog post on defining your motivations to change, called What’s Your Why. Give it a look-see.

If you have trouble coming up with your own motivations, you can always use peer support by publicizing your intention to change, and the steps you’re taking, on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Financial motivation is another handy way to get started – write a sizable check to an organization you hate, and send it if you don’t meet your goals…a la

*Note: External motivations like the financial trick can get you started, but they only last a while; eventually you’ll need a self-driven motivation to keep you going.  Getting healthy takes some time.  Staying healthy takes a lifetime.

In the next installment of The Seven Questions, you’ll create a personalized list of which steps or actions you can take to get started towards achieving your vision of a healthier, happier you.

What’s Your Why?

What's Your Why?

Photo courtesy of: Castillo Dominici and

The New Year is rapidly approaching. Reflections on the year passed, looking forward to new beginnings and a big shiny ball falling from the sky. While discussions about New Years’ Resolutions are overplayed, the underlying drive that creates them, year after year, remains of great interest to me. Everyone knows that a resolution made on New Years’ technically has no greater chance of sticking than one made on May 27th, but for some reason our minds like neat definitions when starting change – 1st of the year, beginning of the month, on Monday.

I dare say starting major habit changes on these “convenient days” lower your chances of sticking with them. If you attempt to make positive changes at the same times over-and-over, without success, your mind could subconsciously be pre-disposed to the routine of: set intention to change on Monday, progress a month or two, fail. Set intention for the following Monday, progress a month or two, fail. Your brain gets good at executing routines…including bad ones.

Even more insidious in this routine is the lost reason of WHY you’re making the change to begin with. Why do you want to lose weight, get more toned, healthier or stronger? Why are you trying to eat better or be more active? Is it because the calendar says Monday, or January 1st? That doesn’t seem like a very compelling reason to maintain your habits beyond Monday, or January 1st!

Why Change?

I devote an entire chapter in Death of the Diet (get the first two chapters free here) to answering this question. Distilled from that chapter and other areas of the book, I pose to you the following three questions and activity to reflect upon and answer this holiday season. If these questions lead you to start making changes, do me one favor. Start them the day you feel ready to change, regardless of the day of the week or the date on the calendar.

Question 1: Are you satisfied with your current health, fitness or weight?

If yes, then keep doing what you’re doing and no need to continue reading. If no, answer question #2.

Question 2: Why Change?

Your current results (health, fitness, weight, etc.) are the result of your current habits. To change your results, you need to change your habits. However, habits are there for a reason – they are the path of least resistance based on the circumstances in your life right now. You may have had other priorities in the past, but right now this is what you’re starting with. Use the activity below to determine why you would be willing to put in the effort to change those habits:

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in six to twelve months. On a piece of paper write down one to three weight, fitness or health results that you want to accomplish based on making positive changes to your eating and/or physical activity habits. Some common results include losing weight, being more toned or having more energy – but of course, what matters here is what’s important to you. Then, rank how motivating each of them is to you on a scale of zero (no motivation to change) to ten (the largest motivating factor in my life, above all other commitments).

Now look at each result again and ask yourself: “Why do I want to achieve these changes? How will achieving this allow me to live a better life or do things I’m currently not able to do?” Dig deep…usually your initial desires have deeper reasons. Weight loss, strength, energy, toning are means to an end – what’s your end? What are you going to use this new-found slimmer weight, stronger body, greater energy for? That’s your Why.

Physical health is only one aspect of wellness. Consider how making improvements can improve other aspects of your life and wellness (based on Anspaugh’s Seven Dimensions of Wellness): social (relationships), emotional (feeling about self/others), occupational (work/career), intellectual (improving knowledge/skills), spiritual (morals/values) and environmental (sustainability/impact on nature).

If you find a deeper Why than the result you initially listed, draw an arrow at the end of the original reason and write down the new one. Rate the motivation gained from this new reason. It will likely be higher than the original reason. Repeat this process for all of your desired health, fitness or weight results so each one has tangible life improvements associated with it. These are your true Whys. You can use the space provided below or if you used a piece of paper, write them next to the original Whys.

If I initially decided I wanted to lose 30 pounds, here are two examples of potential deeper Whys:

  • I want to lose 30 pounds (Motivation: 4) –> I no longer want to get winded doing everyday activities like going up stairs and walking a few blocks. (Motivation: 7)
  • I want to lose 30 pounds (Motivation: 4) –> I want to look great in all of my old clothes that no longer fit (a particular dress or pants size?) (Motivation: 6) –> I want to feel confident in myself and my body. (Motivation: 8)

Write down your Whys on a few index cards and put them in places where you can see them often (at work, in your wallet/purse, at home, etc.).

Question #3: What is one action I can take today or this week to get me one step closer to my Whys?

Once you know where you want to go and why, the next step is determining how you’re going to get there. There are many paths to living healthier, much like there are many ways to get from New York to San Francisco (different roads, airplane, train, etc.). The key is determining which path works best for your needs, preferences, priorities and schedule and then taking consistent action to travel along that path.

Changing your habits can be generalized into three main “buckets”:

Physical Activity: Working out, playing sports, taking the stairs more often, gardening, going for more walks, dancing, hiking, etc.

Eating Habits: Eating more fruits and veggies, drinking more water, eating smaller portions, less alcohol, etc.

Lifestyle Habits: Getting more sleep, reducing stress levels, quit smoking, making more time for physical activity and eating habits (your schedule), get regular medical/dental checkups, etc.

The key to making successful, lasting change is choosing new actions that are as easy as possible for you to do on a regular basis and work on just that action for a few weeks until it kicks out the old habit. Research shows it usually takes at least three weeks of consistent action to form a new habit.

Getting from where you are to where you want to be is rarely a straight shot to the top; it’s more like two steps forward and one step back. Which is still one step forward. There will be mistakes made, lessons learned, obstacles, frustrations and most of all, progress. Give yourself credit for your successes while taking responsibilities for the mishaps. Which can be summarized by a quote I strive to live my life by: There’s no such thing as failure, only feedback™.

TELL US: What’s your Why?  and get support from 75+ daily readers at Death of the Diet!

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