What Losing Weight and Building Muscle Tell Us about How We Think?

A question has been stuck in my mind for a while:

There’s a massive gap between what we hope and what really happens. [1]

This diet, this intensive training… Why are they so difficult to follow?

Let’s find out:

Want to lose weight?

Losing weight is easy. Really easy.

You don’t believe me?

Here’s a simple plan. You just need to remember these three things:

1. Eat less. Consume fewer calories.

On average, less than 2,000 kcal/day should be your target. If you don’t want to count, just stop eating while you’re still hungry.

2. Exercise a bit more, every day.

You need to burn more calories throughout the day than you eat. Having a healthy diet is what matters the most. But exercising will also help.

Exercising doesn’t mean hardcore bodybuilding. You don’t even need an intense workout—even if it is always a good thing to do.

What you can do:

Walk for one and a half hours, go cycling for 30 min, or attend a yoga session.

(And please… Don’t eat more just because you did some sport; keep eating less).

3. Don’t give up until you achieved the expected result.

This is it.

Want to build some muscle?

Building muscle relies on a fascinating science. [2]

Like losing weight, it’s just so simple.

1. Do a few minutes of work just to the point of tiring out your muscle.

The goal is that the last few seconds of work will cause that muscle to grow.

2. Then, rest to give your muscle the time to grow.

It takes about 24 to 48h.

3. Don’t give up.

If you’re working out but not achieving the expected results, it means one thing:

You’re just quitting too early.

You stop using your muscles before you reach the moment where the stress causes them to start growing.

I know it’s painful. But this all you need to grow your muscles.

If It Sounds So Simple, Why Are We Struggling?

This is true. Planning sounds easy. Execution is what makes a real difference. [3]

You must agree:

The recipes I gave you are so simple. They are simple on an intellectual level.

What’s blocking you are your emotions.

You don’t feel you can do it. You haven’t made the choice. Or you’re not totally committed to your decision. [4]

We all think we make rational decisions, while we actually react emotionally.

Anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise… They drive us more than we like to admit.

Remain on top of your game.

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Notes about Rationality, Losing Weight, and Building Muscles

[1] We know we’re not rational agents. So why do we expect our customers to react rationally?

So many marketing campaigns are limited to demonstrating that the product features and benefits are better than the competition.

Wouldn’t it be better to appeal rather than to demonstrate?

This idea goes beyond marketing campaigns, you can also use emotions to build better products.

[2] If you’re interested in exploring the science behind how we lose weight and build muscles, I recommend that you read The 4-Hour Body, explores these two topics at a scientific level of detail.

[3] Achieving your goals requires to control your emotions up to the point where your emotions are aligned with what you truly want.

A lifelong family friend told me this story more than 15 years ago. I never forgot it:

“One day I decided that I had to stop smoking. I put my cigarette pack on the table and said: ‘This is it. I won’t smoke anymore.’”

More than thirty years later, he hasn’t smoked any cigarette.

[4] I covered this topic (and more) in a podcast with the leadership expert, Boris Grundl.

And if you’re looking to improve your decision-making skills, work better with your team, or learn more about the way you think, give a look at this new book, which I coauthored with my friend and colleague, David Plath.

Thanks to Patricia de Lara for reading drafts of this essay.