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In my capacity as Chief Health Officer, I spend time discussing and analyzing the 23 hours a day the client is not with me. Providing a great workout is the ‘easy’ part (OK, it’s not so easy; most people have terrible workout habits and are very inefficient & ineffective, but it’s certainly easier to impact someone in the hour you are with them than all the time you’re not together). Helping to reshape habits for the rest of life’s time is where the true, long-term value is added, and impact made.

The main message is: You can never ‘out workout’ a bad nutrition program. I learned this in a very real way when training to swim the English Channel. I started the journey as a 168 lbs skinny triathlete who could last about 20 minutes in cold water – with a wetsuit on. The Channel swim is 30+ miles of sub-60 degree current-infested hell. Over the course of a year I gained nearly 50 lbs of fat – all while training 3+ hours a day. One girl in the pool where I swam regularly laughed after hearing I was training to swim the Channel, “…oh, that explains it! I was thinking to myself, this guy trains like crazy and he keeps getting fatter and fatter… I don’t want to hire his nutritionist!” That was all the evidence I needed to convince myself that nutrition played a huge role in overall health and fitness. (By the way, not surprisingly, all my ‘internal’ numbers became horrible as I gained weight and fat. I became incredibly unhealthy despite my daily workout routine simply because I was consuming – intentionally – excess calories).

The good thing is, as with saving in finance, you have significant control over what you spend/eat. It is a lot easier to spend less money than to make more. Deciding not to buy a $150 pair of shoes take 3 seconds. To earn that money would take the average person many hours of labor. The same applies to calories consumed. Deciding not to eat that bag of chips, down that 3rd glass of wine, devour that late night dessert – takes under 5 seconds. But the consequence of making a bad decision could mean hours in the gym to make up for it, or a dangerously fat belly if no offsetting action is taken. The Return on Investment for deciding against the calorie-laden food would make Warren Buffett blush. A few seconds to save 2 or 3 hours? A no brainer (more on the mind in a moment).

Further, when you choose the ice cream or whatever, your pleasure lasts perhaps a few minutes (often feeling miserably stuffed shortly thereafter). Yet your ‘displeasure’ lasts the other 23 hours and change when you are upset with yourself about the decision (e.g. when you wake up late Saturday morning, hung over and lamenting why you had that 3rd glass of wine), or more broadly speaking not happy in general with your moment-to -moment health and fitness.

So if the right choice is so obvious, then why did a new study come out recently indicating that the vast majority of US adults are ‘over fat’ leading to countless unnecessary injuries, illnesses, and even premature death – not to mention rocketing health care costs? Simple answer:

Lack of discipline.

It’s the same reason Scaramucci just got fired, why Trump can’t help himself when it comes to ineffective tweeting…it’s the word you keep hearing over and over when it comes to someone’s shortcomings, inability to get things done, or even failures. Lack of discipline, which is just another way of saying a mind that is not strong enough; an untrained mind.

But just like a body can be reshaped, made stronger, less flabby, more resilient with the appropriate training, so too can the brain be made stronger, more disciplined. The only difference between the body and mind is that the former is on display for everyone to see – in its fit splendor and glory, or ignominious flaws. Other than with clothes, you can’t hide your lack of physical discipline. But an undisciplined mind can be masked…for a little while. Over time the results of the lack of discipline – translated into poor decision making - come into full view (including and in particular in the form of lack of health…although some people are very disciplined in some aspects of life and woefully undisciplined in others).

Bottom line, think of your mind as the most important muscle in your body. For those who practice a physical fitness routine, you think nothing of dedicating 30 minutes or more several times a week to your health. Is your mind, the central control center of your entire being, not worth a few minutes a day? You will be positively surprised the impact just a small amount of mental training can have on your ability to make what you know is the right decision in any given moment (and what is the long term but a series of moments strung together with decisions being made constantly). If you stopped training your body, you would soon lose the benefits past workouts. If you don’t train your brain regularly, how can you expect it to be strong, to be disciplined, to have it make the best decisions for you?

As you can’t – nor do you need to – train your brain for every possible decision (most of them you make are just fine), focus initially on the 2 or 3 big health decisions and visualize those moments. Your decision around waking up or not to work out. Your decision around having a glass of wine at dinner when with friends. Some decisions are more impactful over time than others, and occur more regularly (e.g. the decision to drink alcohol several nights a week), so dedicate your mental training to those moments, those decisions.

If you need help on brain training techniques, send me an email.

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