Since I'm on vacation I was able to enjoy one of life's little pleasures- browsing slowly through a bookstore. I ended up with an armful of books by the time I checked out, and have spent the last 5 days highlighting and writing notes in the margins of one of them. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, a New York Times bestseller, details how habits are formed and even more importantly how habits can be changed.
I am convinced that the key to successful, lasting body recomposition (fat loss+ muscle gain) lies in systematically changing our habits. So a book highlighting the relevant scientific research on the subject was a great find! If you've ever tried to stop biting your nails, start running every morning or give up drinking your daily sodas you well know that it is a lot easier said than done to change our habits. While The Power of Habit doesn't offer a step by step checklist to habit change it does list the key ingredients and ideas on where to start. I highly recommend reading the book in it's entirety, but in the meantime let me share just one important take-away.
Mr. Duhigg discusses a Harvard study of "people who radically changed their lives." One frequent occurrence noted during the study was that people "changed because they were embedded in social groups that made change easier." Think about that for a moment. What about being a part of a social group could make change easier? My guess was accountability. And perhaps that is a piece of it, but it's not what the Harvard study found.
So, what did they find? Belief. That's right! When a person joins a group and sees others changing it helps that individual believe change is actually possible. And that belief is key to permanent habit change. Todd Heatherton, one of the Harvard psychologists who conducted the study, puts it like this "[Change] seems real when we can see it in other people's eyes."
I can totally relate to this. Last summer I joined Oxygen Magazine's Oxygen Challenge. During this challenge participants had the chance to be lead by two amazing fitness professionals (I chose 2x Figure Olympia champ Erin Stern). Our coaches provided us with meal plans and training plans for three months. The opportunity to learn from Erin, combined with fabulous prize offerings is why I joined the challenge. An additional bonus, that I was unaware of when I joined, turned out to be the key to many participants' success. That unexpected bonus was a private Facebook page where we could interact with all of the other women on our team (and our fabulous coach as well!) We posted progress pictures, asked questions, shared successes, celebrated victories, consoled each other when we fell short, offered advice and a listening ear, and just walked our separate journeys together.
During this first Oxygen Challenge and the second one currently happening it has been a pretty common occurrence to see posts like this: I'm 40 years old, please someone tell me that it's still possible to lose the weight. I had a c-section, please someone tell me they've successfully gotten rid of the c-section pooch. I have a bad knee, has anyone been able to successfully do this program with a bad knee? In response to these posts would come dozens of responses, many with accompanying pictures showing that yes, all of these things were possible! I love reading the excited responses of the original poster and others like her who were wondering the same thing. Inevitably they express their thanks for others showing them that the change they desired was possible. They now believe it is possible because they see others like them doing it!
So the take home message, ladies? Don't go it alone. Find a community (even a community of one other person will do according to The Power of Habit.) Share your journey. Maybe you'll even end up being the one to help another believe that change is possible. And that is one of life's greatest pleasures.
I'm a NASM certified personal trainer who is passionate about helping women transform their bodies through strength training and sustainable nutritional habit changes.