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When it comes to fat loss, or practically anything pertaining to body transforming, most proposed “hacks” are complete rubbish. They make promises like “fix trouble spots fast” or “build your dream body in only 30 days.” You’re tempted with tales of secret methods and shortcuts used by the pros. While these hacks sound incredible, they typically fall short in delivery.
But there is one simple hack that does work. One simple hack to stop screwing yourself over and, thereby, allowing you to achieve your goals: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,” declares the wisdom of what’s known as The Law of Holes.
Put another, less polite, way — don’t make things worse, ya dummy.
Sound advice we typically don’t follow. I don’t know about you, but I have, on more occasions than I’d like to admit, not only continued digging once I’ve found myself in a hole, but start digging faster and with a larger shovel.
How many times have you “found yourself in a hole” but kept shoveling away, thereby digging yourself progressively deeper?
If I was a betting woman, I’d double-down and say you’ve experienced at least one of the following scenarios. Let’s see how I do …
The “I’ll Start Over Monday” Hole Digger
You skipped today’s workout because you just didn’t feel like doing it. Rather than going home to eat a nourishing, protein-rich, minimally processed meal, you rationalized: It’s Friday, it’s been a long week, I already screwed up by skipping my workout, so I’m going to grab a burger, fries, and large shake on the way home (digging deeper). You proceed to spend the weekend eating whatever you want and not working out and vow to start over Monday because, I mean, who “gets back on track” on a Saturday or Sunday? (Digging even deeper — I guess that would be deeper-er.)
The “My Workout Sucked, Now I’m Pissed” Hole Digger
You enter the gym feeling great, ready to crush your workout. Things go bad starting with the warm-up — the weights feel heavier than usual, your form doesn’t feel smooth, and everything feels terrible. In short, the workout sucked. Appalled at your inability to improve your performance (digging deeper*) you stomp out of the gym and soothe your throbbing disgust with a brownie the size of your face (digging even deeper).
*How is being appalled at yourself digging the hole deeper? Responding emotionally to a bad workout, or a not-so-great food choice, is the first step to making less than ideal choices going forward. If you shrug off a bad workout as nothing more than a bad workout, you can put the event behind you, move forward and focus on what you can do that’s in your best interest. (E.g., My workout sucked, and that’s okay because it’s inevitable. I’ll go home, have a good meal, and take it easy the rest of the evening.)
The “I Ate a Cupcake, So I’m Gonna Eat 14 More” Hole Digger
You breezed through your new diet the past couple weeks, but your resolve to avoid “bad foods” was tested by your favorite cupcakes someone brought to work. You rationalize: I’ve been good for so long, I deserve to be bad. Immediately after eating it, you’re struck with guilt. You proceed to eat two more cupcakes (digging deeper). Since you really screwed up, it’s time to dig even deeper, but a mere shovel won’t suffice. You go full-on excavator mode and continue making less than ideal food choices for every meal until you can “go all in” on the diet once again.
(Note: this is why you shouldn’t label foods “good” or “bad” — and why that diet didn’t work for you.)
How’d I do? Could you identify with at least one — or all three — of those scenarios? I can, because I’ve experienced each one, multiple times.
To be clear, I’m not saying that missing a workout, having a terrible workout, or eating a cupcake is bad. The problem is that we interpret these instances as something bad, or a “screw up.” Then we compound the negative experience with not-so-great choices going forward.
Skipping a workout won’t help you reach your strength goals, but it’s not detrimental either; it happens. Eating a humongous cupcake won’t help your fat loss efforts if it puts you in a caloric surplus, but it’s a single event that won’t have an immediate effect. Skipping a workout and eating a cupcake aren’t moral judgements — these things don’t make you a bad person (just like performing a workout and not eating a cupcake don’t make you a good person). The next logical step isn’t to skip another workout or devour four more cupcakes, because that would dig you in a hole.
If you skip a workout, perform the next one as soon as possible. If you eat a cupcake or overindulge, have a nourishing, real food meal next time you eat. These events don’t need to be a catalyst to frustration, guilt, or making less than ideal choices for a long period.
Just. Stop. Digging.
Funny how avoid this advice so naturally with things pertaining to health and fitness, but not in other areas of life. You don’t ding your car with the grocery cart and then take a sledgehammer to the windshield. You don’t stub your toe on the coffee table and then willingly head-butt the fridge. You don’t accidentally drop your dinner roll at a restaurant and then dump the bowl of soup on your head.
But when we “go off” our eating plan and overindulge? We use that as a valid reason to continue eating poorly for the rest of the day, or weekend. If we skip a workout because we were exhausted from a long day at work, we skip the remainder of the workouts for the entire week (and usual combine that with less than ideal foods choices, too). This is yet another uncomfortable truth about health and fitness.
Next time you find yourself in, or about to enter, a hole — recall this simple hack and don’t screw yourself over. Best of all, this is the simplest hack ever because it requires you to do absolutely nothing.
We don’t always need to be more disciplined or motivated, or even apologetic when we get off track or willingly make less than ideal choices. We just need to stop digging.
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