Embrace what is hard for it makes you stronger.

Posted: September 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Jean-Patrick Millette

Most of us only embrace our life when everything is going well: no money problems, no conflicts at work, no relationship problems, etc. The moment things don’t go according to plan, we are always the first to ask: Why me? The thing is that if life was always easy, how could we prove ourselves? How could we try to improve our lifestyle? How can you be proud of what you achieve if you did not have to work to achieve it? Put simply, it’s only when things are hard or challenging that you can learn to improve yourself. It is therefore really important to go through events that are not necessarily enjoyable.

When you expect everything to be effortless and easy, you can be disappointed. This will often lead to lack of motivation and, in the case of diet, binge eating. However, I would argue that this expectation is completely natural to humans. Just like the way our ancestors made food-related decisions (how much energy do I have to spend to get food vs. how much energy will it provide me), most of our actions are based on what we can get out of an effort. We want to put the least effort and get the most out of it. This is true for everything that lives on this planet. But it’s good to realize that sometimes you will have to work a bit more (sometimes it can just mean to be patient) to get what you want. It can’t always be easy.

In the case of ‘’modern’’ humans, the problem is that we expect to see the results of our actions in a fast and linear way. We lack the necessary patience to keep us on track. While in some areas of our life it does work well, it is naive to expect fast results in the fitness and dieting areas of our life. Unlike what some might say, I believe that it is impossible to get fit or lose weight without putting in any effort. Muscle building is not a breeze for most of us, and weight loss is not easy for the majority of us. That’s just how it is. But that should not stop you from bettering yourself.

Your fitness level and your health depend on a few things. To be fitter and to improve your body composition, you have no other choice than to focus on positive gene expression. Put simply, you have to exercise in a way that is not going to degrade your health. This means that you have to stay away from injuries, muscle imbalances (which leads to injuries), dangerous workout habits, etc. Another way to put it is that you have to prevent overtraining. Indeed, you have to make sure the frequency, the weight, the volume, etc., are all adapted to your needs.

Positive gene expression is also done with food. You have to eat the right foods to promote health. While the evolutionary diet is probably not perfect (there are so many things that we still need to learn in the nutrition world), it is the most logical and intuitive approach that we have at the moment. Based on evolution –therefore, on millions of years of human behaviours- this approach is the most scientific of all. During our last Montréal paleo meet up, we came to the conclusion that this diet is the best because it was not created by a specialist, a doctor or a health guru. Evolutionary eating is based on instincts, on what we would do in the wild (as demonstrated by tribes’ studies). It makes a lot of sense to try to emulate what our ancestors ate, because our genetic makeup reflects theirs. It makes even more sense to emulate the way they ate when you consider the fact that they were free of food authority.

Your lifestyle habits also play a major role in weight regulation. The amount of sleep you get most likely has an impact on your weight. Ultimately, it is the quality of your sleep that really matters. You don’t necessarily need to sleep for 8-10 hours, but the hours that you sleep have to optimally repair your body. If you wake up in the morning and you feel fatigued, then you should definitely change your strategy.

The amount of physical effort you do during the day also matters (an office job is quite different from a construction job, for instance). The more energy you spend, the more active your body is. Over a long day of physical work, a person will be forced to use his stored fat to fuel his activity (such as when you walk or hike). Going for walks during your break at work is definitely a good way to lose extra pounds. Other factors – such as stress, watching TV (the fast images can excite your brain and prevent you from falling asleep), sun exposure, relationship health, etc. – also play a big role. To ensure you are promoting health, you have to be emotionally stable, too. We probably all know someone that gained weight because they ‘ate their emotions’. The good news is that the evolutionary approach to dieting is usually a great way to enhance your social life.

I’m sorry to break it to you, but no matter what approach you use, when it comes to dieting and exercise, you will have no other choice than putting in some effort. It’s easier when you use the optimal way (evolutionary eating), but it still requires you to put in some effort. Nobody else and no magical program are going to change you if you are not going to walk the walk. The miracle weight loss pill is still not on the market and until then, you will have to make some sacrifices. Those sacrifices don’t have to make you feel deprived and bad, though. There is always a way to enjoy whatever you are doing.

The scale is not the right tool to calculate progress.

It’s important to understand that when you start your health journey, you will most likely lose a lot of weight (or gain a lot of muscle if you are training for that) during the first month. It will most likely start to slow afterwards and it should not freak you out. This is often the first challenge we face in our journey. Most will step on the scale and notice that they did not lose any weight at all during a full week and they will start to panic. They will most likely come to the conclusion that what they are doing is not good. That is when most people drop out and start looking for the magical program that is going to do the job for them (or buy fat burners). However, the truth is that on a long enough time scale, this type of event will not limit your progress. All you have to do is keep eating and exercising the right way. There is no other way: embrace what is hard, for it will make you stronger.

It’s also important to understand that a lifelong of bad genetic expression cannot be reversed in a short time. Just like you don’t become fat overnight, you won’t become thin overnight. The same can be said of us who expect fast muscle and strength gain. It is just not done overnight. You have no other choice than to keep training, eating well and being patient. Progress will come gradually and ultimately, it will put you where you should be. As Confucius said : A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Embrace what is hard for it will make you stronger.

Just like life is not always easy, dieting is not an easy task either.But being mentally prepared to face challenges will help you achieve your goals. As I pointed out, there are a lot of variables to consider and some of them are hard to improve. A good example of this is how hard it is to get rid of a bad habit (let’s say binge eating when you are stressed). No matter what you do, no matter how hard you really try, that bad habit will always haunt and tempt you. There is no arguing: the best approach is definitely the paleo one. But no matter how good it is, you will still have to fight some battles from time to time. It’s you, not the approach or its guru, that will have to make sure you stay on track. The good news is that, if you manage to win these battles every time they come up, you will be the one getting stronger.

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