The 5 behavior changes that helped a 9-5 desk jockey regain his college physique
If you’ve found that your fitness journey has hit a wall, or that the harder you push the further you are from reaching your goals, then maybe it’s time for a change.
Change is crucial for anyone who is trying to improve their health and physique. If you want to burn fat, you have to make a change. If you want to build muscle, you have to make a change. Or if you simply want to live a healthier life…well you know what you have to do.
But while changes are necessary for success, many of us fail to make them.
We continue to perform the same run-of-the-mill programs, programs that are not well suited for our lifestyle or body type. And we continue on the same diets which never get us anywhere.
This was a problem that I struggled with, and unfortunately, it lasted longer than it should have.
Spiraling down a vicious cycle
For three long years I found myself in this vicious cycle of torture as I continued to perform the same cookie cutter workouts while eating foods that I “thought” were conducive to my goals.
I had an “if it worked before then it should work now” mentality. As a result, I approached my health and fitness like the twenty-three year old college student that I used to be. Back then….it used to be easy.
You see, despite the countless hours spent sitting in classes, long weekends cramming for exams, and endless nights taking down newbs in Halo, I spent most of my college years in pretty good shape.
Maintaining a lean physique didn’t take much effort at all; simply pick up the latest issue of Men’s Health, follow the workout of the month, and watch the steady flow of progress.
And when it came to nutrition, well, that was even easier. I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted, with no repercussions at all.
At that age, creating an energy deficit was a piece of cake…which I probably ate as well.
But just as with all good things, those glory days have been stored away in the archives of time.
Fast forward 2 years post college and things looked completely different
No longer did I fit into my former clothes; large had become my new best friend. I lacked the energy, strength, and stamina to carry weekly groceries to my front door. And while I never had a problem taking my shirt off at the beach, I now lacked the confidence to walk around my own living room shirtless.
I had gained an extra 30 lbs and felt every bit of it.
I was sluggish, self conscious, and worst of all, I was extremely frustrated with whom I had become. Day after day I would continue to be haunted by the memories of my former self – the lean, strong, and full of life individual which existed during my college years. At twenty-six years of age, this wasn’t where I had envisioned my health and fitness to be.
How did I ever get to this point?
Why was this all happening?
Well, as with many of us, things move rather quickly once you leave your young adulthood behind and enter a world full of new responsibilities.
I landed a corporate job, got married, and spent many nights trying to build my personal consulting business.
I had a lot on my plate, so much that the immediate assumption would have been that time had gotten the best of me. However, I knew that this wasn’t the case.
Despite spending eight hours a day building and maintaining websites for Fortune 500 companies, grinding away at my passion project at night, and spending the weekends with family and friends, I still had an extra 4-5 hours per week to devote to my health and physique.
But yet, the results were always disappointing.
If you’re not willing to change you’re going to fall behind
More often than not, failure to adapt and change will result in a failure to succeed.
If you start a new job and can’t adapt to new policies or work culture then you’re probably not going to last long in your new environment.
If you have trouble adapting to different customs or behaviors then you’re going to have trouble making new friends, or worse, you’ll hate your current ones.
And if you continue to rely on the same unsuccessful training methodologies and diets then you’ll continue to be disappointed at your lackluster results.
Due to my stubbornness and unwillingness to change I couldn’t stand the reflection in the mirror. I felt sluggish and couldn’t keep up with others. I had become a shell of my former self and knew that I couldn’t continue down this path.
In order to change you must acknowledge that a change needs to occur. Which brings us to…
The 5 Stages of Change (0r how you can finally get fit)
According to the Transtheoretical model (a model used to identify and assess behavior changes) the second stage required for change – with the first being an unwillingness to change (pre–contemplation) – is identifying that a change needs to occur in the first place.
For many, getting to this second stage may take some time as you have yet to be exposed to the other methods and are not yet comfortable jumping into uncertainty. And then there are those who are fixed on the idea that they require no change at all.
However, once you break down those mental barriers and stage two is reached, it’s typically an eye-opening experience when you realize all that you’ve been doing wrong and acknowledge that change is the only way to correct your current course.
It was during the Contemplation stage when I came to the shocking realization that I was consuming much more food than I should have. Until this point I had been eating what I believed was conducive to my fitness goals which included way too much protein and carbs. At the time, I thought this to be my ticket to Greek god status.
Problem was, I wasn’t tracking my caloric intake and had no clue how to break down my macros. As a matter of fact, I had no idea how important partitioning macronutrients was to begin with. This was all foreign to me; stuff that they don’t teach you in media publications.
But it wasn’t just my nutrition that was off, it was my training as well.
Sure I was desperate to get back my college physique, but what I didn’t know – at the time – was that the one-size-fits-all approach found in most fitness magazine was not going to work for me any longer.
So instead of watching the hands of time tick further away, I began to learn more about macros, how partitioning them correctly could expedite my fitness goals, and what training methods were best suited for my body type.
No longer was I going to navigate my fitness journey blindly; I had done my research and now had a clear vision of the road ahead of me. But before I could execute, I needed a plan.
The next stage is the preparation stage. In this stage you will take all that you have gathered in the contemplation stage and lay out the strategy that you’ll use to set your plan in motion.
Are you going to join a gym? Will you prepare all your meals for the week in advance?
By this point you should have a better understanding of what changes need to be made. The question now is how will you implement those changes?
In my case, the strategy was:
- Fill my fridge with whole foods
- Prepare meals to take with me to work each day
- Track everything I eat
- Find a workout program that addresses my specific goal and tailor it to fit my current body type
However, there was a problem. A piece of my fitness puzzle was still missing.
You see, while tracking foods is great, I didn’t have a solid idea of how I should be partitioning my macros and what my total caloric intake should have been.
And as for “tailoring a training program to fit my needs”, well, while I had a basic understanding of what I was doing, I couldn’t afford to waste any more time and continue making mistakes.
That’s when it hit me, I couldn’t do it alone. I needed guidance and accountability. So instead of going in solo, I came to the conclusion that hiring a coach would be the best approach for me to take.
I was now ready for the action stage where I could finally set my plan in motion.
In the action stage you are entering uncharted territory. However, your game plan guarantees that the results will be different; they’ll be better.
You’ve plotted your course and now it’s just a matter of executing, which is exactly what I did.
Wasting no time, I submitted my coaching application and within three weeks I became an online coaching client.
I was hitting the gym 3 times a week, remained active during the weekends, and was following a nutrition plan designed to expedite my progress.
I was killing it!
In fact, at the completion of the six month coaching program I had lost a whopping 15% body fat, added solid muscle to my frame, and had gained back the confidence which I had lost following my time in college.
But this was just the beginning.
No longer was I doing run-of-the-mill programs; I was now performing routines tailored specifically for me while keeping a close eye on my macronutrient consumption. But more importantly, I learned what I needed to do in order to maintain my new physique despite any new lifestyle changes that may occur.
Getting fit is great, but maintaining that level of fitness is even better. Which is why the fifth stage – the maintenance stage – is where you ultimately want to be.
These changes didn’t happen overnight, but they were well worth it.
Maybe you’re struggling, or maybe you’re caught in an endless loop with nothing to show for it.
For most of us the clear solution is to give up?
My advice: Don’t.
Eight years later and I am now a fitness coach/writer who is not only dedicated to helping those who are struggling – just as I was – but to also show them the importance of not limiting themselves.
Yes it might be difficult at first but by applying the necessary changes, your fitness goals are all within reach.
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