I am sure we have all heard that old saying….”you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Does that saying apply to health, fitness, exercise, weight loss and nutrition though? I am not entirely sure to be honest with you. This is something I have struggled finding the answer to recently.
Here’s one example of how this saying doesn’t apply to weight loss and body transformation (at least to the blind eye):
On the news you see an amazing and inspiring story about how a 51 year old woman lost 200lbs, adopted a new and healthier lifestyle, looks like a new person and now seems to be a happier person as well. These stories pop up actually much more commonly now with shows like “The Biggest Loser” and “Extreme Weight Loss Makeover Edition” being so popular. Obviously this lady learned new nutrition skills, exercise habits and maybe even has a new mindset that will help her sustain her life changing weight loss journey. I would assume someone like this probably wasn’t overly active or didn’t worry too much about eating healthy in her previous 51 years. I mean you don’t stumble upon being 200lbs over weight. So, lets assume she made a complete 180 with her lifestyle. I would say that she definitely learned new tricks at an “older” age!
What we don’t know though (or don’t see as we sit back and watch on TV) is IF her mindset has actually changed. For all we know, in two years all the weight could be back on and she could be back to her old habits. That we won’t see because the cameras will be long gone by then. Obviously she had some motivation to lose the weight, but does she have the motivation to sustain it? That is tough part. It really is. Trying to change 51 years of habits has got to be soooo challenging. I don’t know personally, but I can’t imagine the struggles she went through not necessarily losing the weight, but going forward and keeping it off for the next 20, 30, 40 years!
Here is another example of someone in another situation.
I had two separate conversations with two separate clients (both over the age of 45) in the past couple months. Both, women are relatively new to exercising (within the past 3 years or so), new to thinking more about eating healthy and both women in my opinion look great and seem to enjoy the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. But, both clients also have been struggling with motivation to keep things going even with positive results over the past two years working with me. Why is this?
This really got me thinking…enough thinking that have been thinking about this blog for almost two months and what I wanted to say. Is it really impossible “to teach an old dog new tricks?” 51 is not old…. please don’t take that the wrong way.
Does there come a time or age when you can’t learn new skills? That is a definite “no.” I have clients whose nutrition habits now at 60 are undoubtedly 10x better than in their 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s.
But, can you create a new MINDSET as you age? Or, is your mindset in your early adulthood the same mindset you will have there rest of your life? Again, I don’t think that is true. I truly think people can change their mindsets so that the struggles to stick to a new lifestyle don’t seem as overwhelming. Changing your mindset and how you look at exercise and eating healthy is the hard part though….and is the only way you will sustain, not only your progress, but also your motivation to continue your new habits. Once motivation to continue eating more protein, or hitting the gym 3 times a week, or limiting your cheat meals on the weekend, is gone, so are results.
The big question then is how do we change our mindset to sustain motivation? I can teach and coach all the right skills to my clients of all ages, but YOUR mindset about using them is what YOU have to develop. This is where I was stuck. The best way I can help a client develop a new mindset to see sustainable results is by providing constant support, positive feedback, critical feedback when needed and being there as a pillar to lean on until he or she is ready to stand on their own.
Nahla learns fast because she has no preconceived notions about how much exercising “sucks”
One of my clients in the discussions from above asked me if I will be talking and acting the same way in 20-30 years after having kids. She said I will see things differently. I respectfully disagreed. I told her I really don’t think my mindset towards living a healthy lifestyle will ever change. My actions will definitely change, there is no doubt there. I can definitely see how kids can affect someone’s personal health; I mean we only have so much time in a day and prioritizing your kids needs to happen. In my 40s, I may not be squatting 300lbs, tracking my macros daily, weighing every bit of food I eat etc. Those ACTIONS will probably change as my personal life changes. But, my MINDSET to be healthy, workout regularly, and FEEL good will never change. That is a bold statement I know for someone who is only 25. But, I will put my whole retirement savings down on that. Maybe I won’t even be a trainer and coach in 20 years, but I guarantee I will still be working out and eating healthy. This could mean I put on a some lbs, I might not be as lean (I am not naive to that) as I am now and I won’t be as strong. That doesn’t mean my mindset to being active and healthy will change though. I love to exercise for numerous reasons. I have learned to love eating healthy for numerous reasons. Maybe I won’t be able to workout 6 days a week for 60 minutes each session, but I won’t lose the desire to exercise because I love how exercise makes me feel and look. The mindset will always be there.
This brings me back to my client’s daughter’s question…”How can I learn to eat healthy?”
Can you learn to like exercise? Can you learn to like eating healthy?
I think the longer you wait the harder it will be. If you don’t like to exercise in your 20s you may never truly enjoy exercising and that is OK…I don’t enjoy swimming and don’t see myself ever liking it. But, there is enough out there now to try and find what forms of exercise you might enjoy more than others. If you try to reverse 60 years of “bad” habits it will be much more difficult than if you had started in your 20s. This doesn’t mean it is impossible, but I think you should be aware it most likely will be more of a challenge for you. Habits take time to build, so starting them in your teens and 20 years allow you build on them over the duration of your life. If you are already past that point though, it is never to late to start though.
There are two things you need to do to change your mindset towards exercise and nutrition so going to the gym or eating broccoli doesn’t seem like punishment.
- You have to find your WHY. Why do you want to eat healthy? Why do you want to exercise? Why do you want to lose 10lbs? Why do you want to lose your stomach pooch? Those are questions for YOU to think about. If your WHY is to fit in a new dress that is great in the short term, but that isn’t sustainable. I’m sorry, but in many cases it isn’t. You need a true WHY. A larger purpose, especially the later you start to exercise or eat healthy. If you grew up being active, playing sports like me and never stopped exercising then your WHY probably doesn’t need to be as large because you already have the habit developed of regular exercise. But, if you get a gym membership at 50 or hire a trainer at 50 never having exercised before, that WHY might have to take some more thought. For example, I recently talked to someone who told me his mom lost over 100lbs in her 60s (and kept it off), not for her, but for her grandkids. That is a WHY. My WHY to workout and eat healthy now is a bit different (and simpler..I won’t lie) as I workout to look good and for my job. But, I also FEEL so much better when I exercise. This is why I know my MINDSET will never change. I am much more alert, energetic, confident and alive when I exercise daily. Why wouldn’t I want to always feel that way?
- You actually have to “do shit.” I didn’t actually say that exact qoute to my client’s daughter, because I know someone would have asked….. You have to get out of your comfort zone and try new things and that can be overwhelming and extremely difficult for sure. But, change is what it takes whether you are 18, 25, 45 or 65. You have try new veggies. You have try new protein sources. You have try different forms of exercise. And you have to be patient and consistent. Stick with something for 6 months before saying it doesn’t work. That is not a sexy answer that many people want to hear, but it’s the only answer.
Sticking to a huge new lifestyle change is tough stuff. It takes a lot of thinking, planning, focus and execution. But, anything huge that you try to accomplish in life will require thinking, planning, focus and execution. If you were able to accomplish other big things in your life you can accomplish this too.