Four S’s For Fitness Success

Origionally posted in June:

How many of us are currently trying to lose weight or change our body composition?  If I am honest about my own habits and idiosyncratic weight loss behaviors I am probably trying to change my body composition about 80% of the time!  The important question is not whether this behavior is good or bad, because let’s be frank we are all going to do it, but how can we go about it in the healthiest way possible?  I’d like to share with you four important S’s I have observed in 20 years of fitness experience.

First: Self-Image.

How do you see your body?  Is it a positive image? Do you compare yourself to another person’s body, to a past version of yourself or do you fantasize about a yet-to-be attained version of you? The way we answer this question is extremely important.  I believe our healthiest self is achieved through interest and joy during a process that leads us from where we are in this moment to where we want to go.  The weight-loss industry wants us to be satisfied only if we look/achieve/feel like the model they have plastered on their billboard or website main page.  They are selling negativity.  Don’t buy it. We are our own set of genetic phenotypes, the manifestation of our DNA, there is no changing that basic structure and that’s a beautiful thing.  We will never be someone else or their shape, look, etc.; therefore we can let go of outside sources of motivation and ask ourselves honestly why we want to change.  We can look at others in admiration of their discipline, commitment or dedication to their health and wellbeing without comparing ourselves to them.  When we shift our self-semantics and find an intrinsic source for our goals and motivation we will then find a peace and positivity that makes it easy to stay on course.

Second: Start simple

Challenging ourselves to change our attitudes and behavior is a mental endeavor, that much is obvious.  Humans are infinitely complex psychological beings with different environments, genetics and experiences.  We must start simply and build from there.  Doing just one or two positive things at a time can lead to drastic changes in our metabolism, energy, and over time, our weight.  Try taking a 20-30 minute walk every day while listening to your favorite songs or podcast.  Have a conference call? Take a calming walk around the block or ride the recumbent bike while you let everyone else argue with each other.  Even better: recruit someone you love to walk with and take a big step (or steps) towards building a healthy life together.

Third: Support

This flows directly from my last example, find someone for support. Whether it is Melissa “always positive and radiant” Craig my indomitable Fitness Director, a personal trainer, a workout buddy, a family member or a social media site where you can talk about your own personal challenge, you need to find another human or humans with which to share your journey.  We are a social species and a little positive support can go a long way in helping us through the tough spots when we inevitably try and rationalize eating an entire large pizza “just this once” or quitting altogether.

Fourth: Strategy

Valarie Waters, trainer to the stars, has a nice mnemonic for diet success: Plan/Prep/Prepare.

#1)Plan your meals and snacks.   Always know, as Amy Lusky teaches us, from where your day’s calories will come.

#2)Prep your food/snacks the night before or before you start your day.  Don’t get caught hungry and eat the donut instead of the apple you left on your kitchen counter.

#3)Prepare for your own triggers/temptations.  If I have sweets or ice cream or cookies or doughnuts at my house I will eat them.  All of them.  <i>Temet nosce</i>,  know thyself.  Be honest with yourself and use a strategy to avoid your normal pitfalls or temptations.

See yourself in a positive way;  be motivated by the idea of feeling healthy and living a long and energetic life.  Start this journey with simplicity and move forward one step at a time.  The people who are consistent in the long run do the little things with joy every day.  Seek out a support system that you trust.  And lastly be prepared every day for the challenge that you are undertaking.  Think of this journey as a positive step towards feeling better than you have ever felt before.  Enjoy each rewarding step of this process and before you know it you won’t even be looking down the road; you will be on an amazing journey and it will take you anywhere you want to go.

Brian Westendorf is a Personal Trainer and Strength and Conditioning coach.  You can email him with questions or comments at

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