In her best-selling book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin has done a masterful job researching habits and defining personality types to find out the best methods for all of us to gain positive habits and lose negative ones. I found it quite interesting and pleasing to read that some of the things I often quote in my profession as a personal trainer were confirmed by this attorney, turned world class author.
I had only read the introduction to Better Than Before and I was already feeling a connection to the book’s author, Gretchen Rubin. Although our professions vary greatly, we are passionate, almost obsessed with the same thing, transformation.
Says Rubin, “the thought of a transformation — any kind of transformation — thrills me.”
Now, while Rubin admits that the thought of any kind of transformation thrills her, my ideal transformation is a physical one in nature. Ever see the before and after pictures of someone who loses 100-150lbs and now they look like a totally different person? This type of transformation thrills me the most.
No matter the type of transformation that one is seeking, Gretchen realized prior to writing this book that, “to understand how people are able to change, [we] must understand habits.” So she began researching her topic and reading as much as she could on the subject. In doing so, she started to notice that there were some gaps in the information. For example:
- Why is it hard to develop a habit we enjoy?
- Why do so many successful dieters regain their lost weight, plus more?
- Do the same habit-formation strategies apply equally well to everyone?
These questions led Rubin to creating what she calls “The Four Tendencies.” These are: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers and Rebels. The basic difference in the four is their mixture of internal and external motivators. Based on how compelled you are to one or the other or both or none, determines how you behave. My only problem with categorizing in any fashion, is that sometimes I’m a little country and sometimes I’m a little rock and roll. Nonetheless, I think Rubin has done a fantastic job here.
In the next section of the book, Pillars of Habit, I was completely blown away by the monitoring ideas presented by Rubin because they confirmed a few health and wellness related practices that I have learned in my career either intuitively or from another fitness expert. For example, I have always weighed myself daily because it helps me stay at my ideal weight of 200lb. Now, while most fitness experts don’t recommend this habit, Rubin reports that new studies show that daily weigh-ins are more effective than weekly ones.
Another weight monitoring strategy is Jean’s Challenge. Rubin learned this technique from a friend and I learned from fitness expert, Rachel Cosgrove. Cosgrove boasts one of the most successful gym’s in the country, Results Fitness, and she has helped thousands of women dramatically change their physiques. The challenge begins by buying a pair of jeans that reflect the ideal size a person wants to be and trying them on intermittently to monitor body transformation. This method is very powerful because for many people a weight loss program is only effective if they are losing weight. Cosgrove told me personally that the average weight loss in her 8-week bootcamp is only 4lbs. However, some of her clients drop four dress sizes. And, this is because Rachel has helped them lose fat and gain muscle which is what most of us mean by, “I want to lose weight.”
Food journaling is another strategy used by Rubin and myself. I have kept a food journal so I know how powerful it is. By doing so, you get to see on paper just how much, what kind, and at what time you eat. These factors play the biggest role in losing weight. In fact, and even I didn’t know this, Rubin says those who keep a food journal lose twice as much weight as those who do not.
Now, while I was completely caught up in the monitoring strategy, three other pillars of habit were discussed as well: Foundation, Scheduling and Accountability.
Foundation is built on our habits and Rubin recommends we, “begin by tackling habits that help us to: Sleep, Move, Eat and Drink Better, and Unclutter.” And, I believe this to be true because without a solid foundation how can you grow?
Scheduling is a must for all of us in today’s digital world. I am constantly using my calendar on a daily basis so that I can get through my day. As Todd Durkin loves to say, “the dullest pencil is better than the sharpest mind.” Schedule everything. Including gym workouts.
Accountability was mentioned as a reason for hiring a personal trainer, which I am, and I couldn’t agree more. “If we believe someone is watching, we behave differently.” Most of my clients give a lot more effort when they train with me than when they train alone. How do I know this? They tell me so. I have also found the same to be true of myself. When I work out with a trainer or train in a group, I work harder. Period.
Glossing over the next section of the book, “The Best Time to Begin,” which, you probably guessed, is now, I arrive at the very intriguing, “Abstaining versus Moderating” section. Here, Gretchen asks, “Could you eat one square of chocolate a day?” If so, you are a moderator. If not, you are an abstainer. Brilliant. I plan to ask all of my clients this very same question.
Convenience was the biggest insight gained by Rubin while writing this book. She says it shapes everything we do. And again she uses exercise to bring her point home by saying most people use convenience as an excuse not to exercise.
- It takes too long to workout.
- It’s a pain to shower.
- It’s a pain to drive and park there.
- I don’t know how to use the equipment or do the exercises.
With so many beliefs in common on how to live your best life, it is no wonder that I am smitten with Gretchen Rubin and her new book. She has done a masterful job assisting those of us who are looking to fulfill our greatness. And while some may call her dogmatic as one of my own clients recently did, I am okay with that if we are getting results without insult or injury. Plus, this particular client of mine is receiving just that; she started keeping a food journal after reading the entire book in less than a week. I am proud to say that she is one of my favorite clients and her habits are changing for the better much faster than I could have ever expected. That’s what we call IMPACT. Thanks, for helping us all be better people Gretchen.