Five rules to break for a better body
Q I’ve tried everything yet I have never achieved a textbook body transformation. What am I doing wrong?
A Collins dictionary defines transformation as “a change or alteration, especially a radical one”. Radical change, whether in society or in your body, requires a radical overhaul of how things are done. Half-hearted effort equals half-hearted results equals status quo.
Unthink everything you have thought regarding body transformations. The accepted rules of a radical change in your body are nothing more than bro-science. Let’s work through them one by one.
● Accepted rule one: Tell people about your goal so that they hold you accountable. Don’t. It turns you into one of those irritating people who think they’ve only exercised if they share it on Facebook.
Trust me, I know how annoying it is because I get a Facebook memory almost every day of my younger self posting embarrassing gym memes and in-gym photographs. Surprise, surprise, I never achieved anything then. There’s only one person who can hold you accountable, and that’s yourself.
● Accepted rule two: Rush out and buy all the supplements you can afford. Don’t. This was probably started by those threemonth body transformation challenges run by supplement companies. To enter, you had to buy the full stack of powders and pose with a newspaper to “prove the date”.
Yes, I have a seminude photo of myself holding up a Business Day in 2008. My former editors would be horrified.
I didn’t finish the challenge. I didn’t take the “after photo” and I didn’t finish the supplements. Don’t misinterpret this, supplements are good and have a place. And you most likely should be supporting your diet and training but don’t think that they will do the work for you.
● Accepted rule three: Weigh your food. Don’t. Besides being an utter waste of time, it makes you impossible to live with. Unless you are already in good shape and have decided to cross over into the dark arts of bodybuilding competition, or unless you are an elite athlete seeking to break a world record, you don’t need to weigh your food.
Practice mindful eating. Learn about macronutrients and what your body needs. Understand which food types pack the most calories and definitely research what empty calories are — yes, your Jack Black draught is the poster boy of empty calories. Rather be mindful than develop a toxic relationship with food.
● Accepted rule four: If you want to lose weight you need to spend your life on the treadmill and stationary bike. Don’t. Besides dying of boredom before you achieve your goal, you’re missing out on the secret weapon of exercise: strength.
Strength training does not “bulk you up”. How you eat bulks you up. Strength training, besides building muscle fibres, is crucial in a fat-loss programme.
Find purpose. It facilitates many metabolic events. The most exciting and easiest to understand is that muscle is expensive: the more muscle you have, the more calories your body must burn. Besides, people dipping their toes into training speak of “toning” and “definition” and “curves”. None of those are possible without training your muscles.
● Accepted rule five: Set a hard end-date so that you have something to aim towards. Don’t. This is probably the most important rule to turn the status quo on its head. Like a business wishing to do business with Millennials and Gen Zs (who will soon dominate all decisionmaking), you must find your purpose, and honour it, before you enjoy the profit.
What is your reason for embarking on a transformation? If you are honest with yourself — and only yourself — it will be the fire that wakes you up at 5am, forces you through a session when you’d rather watch Netflix and keeps you on track when malva pudding tests your sanity.
You must think long term. I’ve seen more people starve themselves and pump their bodies full of fat burners for three months to take an after photo — and then rebound — than I have seen people make a lasting change.
Your deeply personal reason will drive a lifestyle change and that’s the only way you’ll successfully, and sustainably, change your body.