Understand Your Own Behaviour to Create Desirable Outcomes

Whenever we talk about anything that’s desirable, we usually mean things that will increase our quality of life. Things that will bring us more satisfaction and improve our level of happiness.

When you say that you want to achieve your weight loss goals, it’s not a reduction in the weighing scale number that’s driving you towards it.

It’s the other things that come with achieving the number that are desirable for you. Things like:

“I’ll be able to go to events and do things which I currently hesitate to.”

“I’ll be able to wear outfits which I’m not comfortable wearing right now.”

“I’ll be able to go to social gatherings and get photos of myself clicked without having to think twice about it.”

These are the outcomes which people usually aspire for.

Weight loss at a physiological level is simple.

When people say things like:

“My metabolism is so slow. That’s why I can’t lose weight.”

That is rarely the case.

And in fact if your doctor has not diagnosed you with a specific medical condition, you most likely have a perfectly fine metabolism.

If you’re currently overweight you probably have a higher metabolic rate than someone who is of normal weight. Because as your body mass goes up, your metabolic rate also goes up. Since it’s a function of how much mass you’re carrying in your body.

For most people weight loss is a behavioural problem and not a physiological one.

At a physiological level weight loss is as simple as eating less and moving more.

But still, why are people not able to lose weight?

I was going through the 5th National Family Health Survey recently, and the statistics showed that the proportion of people— men, women, as well as children who are obese, has gone up compared to the 4th edition.

Obesity is on the rise despite weight loss being a simple process.

The reason being things like:

“I’m not able to control my cravings around food.”

“I’m not able to stay consistent with my food and exercise habits; with my nutrition and sleep.”

These are things which hold people back from achieving their weight loss goals. It’s not that they lack access to some kind of magical supplement or magic pill; some secret sauce.

But if you look into the market, you’d see that most products and services for weight loss are trying to address the problem where it doesn’t exist.

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The other day I was looking at a start-up which is selling a continuous glucose monitor packaged as a fitness device.

It’s supposed to apparently help you improve your health by letting you continuously monitor your blood glucose levels; which makes zero sense for someone with good metabolic health.

Continuous glucose monitors are devices used by diabetics under the supervision of their doctors to monitor blood glucose levels.

But for healthy individuals, this device has no purpose.

This start-up however has rebranded the CGM and are marketing it as some kind of magical fitness device. There are a lot of products making false claims like this.

Then there are also products which have no use case. Eg., slimming belts, pills and slimming supplements; these don’t do anything.

And then finally there are “magical diets” which are supposed to help you lose 10 kgs in one month. They do more damage than good.

All of these solutions are trying to address problems from a physiological place. They’re trying to tell you things like:

“Maybe your metabolism is broken”, or

“Maybe you’re just not eating the right foods.”

“Maybe you should eliminate those foods. And eat more of these foods.”

But when it comes to weight loss, the food-related decisions are easy to make.

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It is sticking to these decisions which is difficult.

I’ll try to address a few things which I hope will let you get more clarity.

Ultimately if you’re not able to modify your own behaviour when it comes to your food and exercise habits, you’ll not be able to achieve long-term weight loss results.

Whenever we’re trying to achieve something which we currently do not have. Or trying to get to a place where we are not at currently. It requires us to undertake some kind of journey, some actions, which are not comfortable.

And it is only by facing the discomfort and our fears that we acquire the tools and learn the processes that let us experience the quality of life we desire.

But at the same time, familiarity is comforting. And change is scary (at least for most of us.)

Speaking of familiarity, I want to bring up another thing that I’ve seen people get very sceptical of. Whey protein supplements.

I get asked this a lot that: “Are whey protein supplements safe? Why do I need to take this protein powder?”

Many have this misconception that whey protein is a slimming product that helps you lose weight.

Whey protein is just a protein supplement.

It’s a by-product of the cheese-making process. And no. It’s not harmful, dangerous or artificially synthesized. It is just a milk by-product.

So it is as harmful as cheese, milk and yogurt. If these foods are fine by your standards, whey protein too is perfectly safe to consume.

It’s because people are not familiar with whey protein supplements that they get scared of them.

You’d see many fitness professionals go on long rants about people being completely okay consuming alcohol, consuming deep-fried junk food all day and smoking cigarettes. But them not being okay consuming whey protein!

But these fitness trainers, coaches and nutritionists fail to realise that it’s because people are familiar with those things. People have been drinking alcohol for generations.

They know what alcohol does to their body and they are okay risking their health to a certain extent to enjoy the other “benefits” like the state of intoxication.

On the other hand, they aren’t familiar with whey protein. And that is not surprising because most people have terrible diets. Especially in the Indian subcontinent where protein consumption is very low.

The unfamiliar is uncomfortable.

It’s like if we go to a place we have never been to, and we are exposed to different cuisine. We’d be a little bit cautious if eating this new food would be okay on our stomach.

But coming back to our main topic, whenever you’re trying to achieve something which is desirable, it’s always going to take some kind of change in order to get there.

And change is scary. Change is uncomfortable.

Here is a behavioural economics concept that I would like to talk about in this regard.

It’s known as the sunk cost fallacy.

The sunk cost fallacy describes our tendency to follow through on an endeavour if we have already invested time, effort, or money into it; whether or not the current costs outweigh the benefits.

In order to make it easy for you to understand. It’s the thought “I already started, so I might as well keep going.” even when you want to stop or change course.

Maybe you were pursuing some kind of degree and midway through, you realize that this is not something that you want to do. But you still continue because you have already invested two years and a lot of money into it.

There are people who have been in relationships for a very long time, and they know that it’s not working out. Perhaps the relationship is toxic for them.

But they still stay in the relationship because they feel that they’ve invested so much time and energy in their partner and in the relationship.

The reality however is that the cost of not making the change; the cost of not taking action when you come to the realization that things aren’t working. Is usually higher than the amount you have already invested in the relationship, in the education, in whatever you’re doing right now.

So if you feel that 20 years have gone by and I’ve only got more out of shape. There’s no point making a change right now. You are wrong.

There is always a benefit to making a change and the cost that you will have to bear by not making a change is greater than the what you have invested so far to get to your current state.

I would like you to keep that in mind whenever you feel that it’s too late to make a change. It is never too late.

The other day, I was listening to a podcast episode where Dr. Andrew Huberman was talking about how discomfort and situations which bring about adrenaline rush, and trigger the fear response, are signals for taking action.

A lot of people run away from such situations because they feel it’s a signal for them to get away from that place to a place of safety and comfort.

But it is only by embracing those situations and the discomfort that you can get to a place where you feel better. Many tend to approach things from a place of how they feel; from a place of perception.

“Do I feel good about this? Is this something that I’m comfortable with?”

And only when their mind says: “Yes! This is something that should make you feel good.”

That is when they approach and do the thing.

But Dr. Huberman suggests that situations should be approached from the opposite perspective. When you feel discomfort and fear, you should go and do the thing.

When you persist through the initial phase of discomfort and come out from the other end, you would have a changed perception. You would feel better because of the resilience you develop in the process.

So instead of approaching things from a perspective of how you’ll feel, and then taking action. Take action and that will determine how you feel.

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This was a very insightful episode. And he also gave an example of David Goggins.

If you haven’t heard of David Goggins, I highly recommend reading his memoir ‘Can’t Hurt Me’. The audiobook in particular is terrific because it also has additional bonus commentary from the author.

If you’re currently going through a phase of de-motivation; if you’re currently feeling low. You should definitely listen to his story.

David Goggins was in the Huberman lab where they have a VR setup that simulates an environment where you’re surrounded by sharks. They plug you into machines and run different tests.

When David Goggins went into the lab, they told him about the experiment and Goggins was very explicit that he did not like sharks. But when it came to starting the experiment, he was the first to volunteer.

The results from the experiment also seemed to suggest that David had somehow over the years through his life experiences had programmed himself and become the person who would seek out discomfort voluntarily.

That is just how his brain works compared to regular people who would avoid such discomfort. And he had learned to channel that discomfort into pleasurable experiences.

When he goes and accomplishes things which seem difficult at the moment, and comes out of the other end stronger and more resilient, that gives him a sense of satisfaction.

This is what you want to create for yourself in life.

When you feel the discomfort of change. When you feel scared of doing something which would take you to a better place.

Instead of running away from it, embrace it. Because it is not motivation that leads to action. It is action that leads to motivation.

When you put yourself in that place of momentum; it is only then that you progress towards a certain direction.

It’s the law of inertia. A body at rest tends to stay at rest. A body in motion tends to stay at motion.

Sahil Bloom says we should strive towards having a bias for action.

If you have two decisions to make— one which lets you stay stationary and one that creates a necessity for action. Always pick the option which creates a necessity for action.

Develop a bias for movement. Because when you put yourself in motion, the momentum is going to carry you forward.

So even when you don’t want to do your workout, just put on your workout clothes and show up at the gym. Maybe just walk for five minutes on a treadmill.

When you just do that five-minute walk, it will put you in momentum and you may end up doing a one-hour workout afterwards. But if you have a big overwhelming plan to do a 60-min or a 2-hour session, you may never end up going to the gym in the first place.

So just create that bias for action. What is the first step that’ll put you in motion?

Go and execute that.

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Whenever you feel that something is going to create discomfort for you instead of running away from it, face the discomfort.

Because once you go through the process and accomplish the things which are making you uncomfortable, you will feel a greater sense of satisfaction.

Action is going to lead to a change in perception. Which will change the way you feel overall.

So not feelings to actions, but actions to feelings.

If you want to create desirable outcomes for yourself, you need to understand how your own behaviour works.

You need to understand that our default tendency is to stay where we are; to stay at a comfortable place. Because our body and mind like homeostasis.

That is why when you diet for a long period of time, weight loss eventually stalls, because your body adapts its energy expenditure to meet the level of food intake.

That is why when you’re in a hot environment, you start sweating as a mechanism to cooldown.

Similarly our mind too doesn’t like to do things which we are not used to. We like to stay at a stable place.

But there is no growth that comes from stability.

Because if you are already comfortable; if you’re already completely satisfied being where you’re at. Then there is no motivation for action.

Then there is no external force which can push you to lose weight or to get in better shape.

It is only when you have a sense of agitation and discomfort; a sense of anxiety or stress about your present situation, that you will be motivated towards action.

So instead of running away from that sensation of anxiety and stress, embrace it. Go towards it.

Ask yourself what’s causing this discomfort and then take action to face it head on.

That will take you towards your desired outcome.

If you have been trying to reach your weight loss goals for a while now, but are struggling a bit in the process.

It’s probably because of a lack of consistency, a lack of guidance or a lack of support.

If you’d like a 24×7 support system to hold your hand and guide you through the process till you get to your goals, you should consider 1-on-1 coaching with Workday Physique.

Ajitesh Gogoi is an online fitness coach and the founder of Workday Physique™— a weight loss coaching service for busy professionals. His mission is to empower busy professionals to achieve their weight loss goals. And transform them into their most confident selves.
Ajitesh Gogoi

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