Jen was 37 years old and hoping to lose 40 pounds when she sought out my services as a personal trainer, back in the early 2000’s when I was working with clients one-on-one in a popular, Southern California sports club.
On the day of our first session, Jen handed me a folded piece of paper. I opened it up and taped inside were magazine cutouts of famously fit women. Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Tyra Banks, Jessica Simpson, Beyonce, Shakira, Jennifer Aniston...all with toned legs, tight mid-sections, firm arms and huge, confident smiles.
“I want to look like this!”, she said, pointing to the glossy images. Then grabbing onto the softness around her middle, “Help me burn this off, and the sooner the better!”
It turned out that her younger sister was getting married on the beach in Maui in just four short months, and Jen had been asked to be a bridesmaid. She would be standing up in front of friends and family next to her gorgous, younger sister, and the thought was terrifying.
I let Jen know that it was entirely possible for her to have a dramatic body transformation in four months. All it would take was a plan for her workouts and nutrition that we would re-evaluate each month, and for her to stick with it.
We spent the entire first session sitting together and planning her first month. I wrote out her meal plan and we put her four weekly workouts into my schedule. At the end of the session Jen gave me a hug, grabbed her papers, and left with excitement in her step.
It was a few moments later, as I was cleaning up my desk for my next session, that I saw Jen had left her meal plan and grocery list behind. The paper that she had grabbed was the one covered with the glossy, gorgeous women.
That was a problem! How would she reach her goal without the roadmap that we had just created? I sat down and emailed her all of the information that she had left behind.
A few days later, Jen arrived for her second session. I found her warming up on the treadmill, walking comfortably while leafing through People magazine.
“How’d your meal prepping go?,” I greeted her, getting right down to business.
“I was all set to do my grocery shopping but then I couldn’t find the papers with the lists on it!” Her eyes didn’t move off the glossy page in front of her, and I looked down to see it was filled with celebrities in bikinis.
I wish I could tell you that Jen did her grocery shopping and meal prepping right after that session, and that we spent the next four months slowly and steadily transforming her body into a healthier, leaner, more energetic and confident version. I wish that I could share a photo of her on the beach with her sister, decked out in her bridesmaid dress, but that photo doesn’t exist.
Jen never did her meal prepping, and she showed up to our sessions sporadically and often late. She always had a magazine in hand, and would point out exactly what she hoped to look like. After three weeks of my nagging her about getting on her meal plan, Jen stopped showing up altogether.
It took me awhile to realize exactly what Jen’s downfall had been, and after I recognized it I was able to articulate it to my other clients as a way of keeping them on track.
We become what we do.
Jen was fixated on the outcome: she wanted to look fit and confident like the women in her magazines. However, she wasn’t willing to commit to the daily success actions, the practice, that would get her that outcome.
From that day on, I would spend most of my first session with clients preparing them to commit to the practice. The outcome will come only when the practice is solidified.
Here’s the secret that Jen didn’t see: The practice is it’s own reward.
The feeling of living healthy that is brought on by regular challenging exercise and healthy, calorie-controlled eating.
It’s a buzzing in your cells. It’s a lightness. It’s an optimism. It’s the feeling of being truly alive.