When I was 26 years old I almost made a huge mistake. I was tired of the hype, the false realties, and what appeared to be a lack of transparency about an important aspect of life.
I sucked at love.
You see, by that admittedly young age, I had already made enough mistakes—and been crushed by enough women—to believe that relationships just weren’t for me. Ok, if we’re being fair, I screwed up my fair share too.
I had already been engaged, and watched that relationship wither away in the most brutal of fashion. I tried dating multiple women at the same time, only to have them discover what I was doing and make me feel the wrath of their anger. And I’ve been cheated on over…and over again. (At one point, I had a streak of 4 straight relationships filled with infidelity. It got to the point that I legitimately wondered if I my true purpose was pushing women towards other men.)
I come from a loving family. My parents have been married for 38 years, and I felt like I knew what to look for in a significant other. I met enough of the wrong women to know what was right.
And yet, I was convinced that I shouldn’t be in a relationship or know how to be a good boyfriend.
If this sounds overly dramatic, you’re right. I was painfully delusional but it felt real to me and it was my universe. Relationships and me: Just not going to happen.
I was young and bitter. My mindset shaped by lots of attempts that never resulted in what I wanted. It wasn’t even that I wanted marriage—I just didn’t want things to end in disaster.
You see, I’d try everything: date different types of women, take it slow, move it fast, try the advice of my friends. None of it worked. The goals shifted but the results were the same: failure, failure, and more failure.
So I came to a seemingly rational conclusion: some people are cut out for relationships and others are not.
Seeing versus Believing: The Great Fitness Error
Just as I was about to quit and give up on relationships that’s when everything changed. My willingness to believe that things could be different enabled the unthinkable to happen: I succeeded.
It happened because despite my doubts I didn’t quit.
I went on a blind date and knew—in that very moment—everything I told myself was a lie. I didn’t know if I’d actually marry this girl (for the record I did), but I knew that the idea that I was just no good at relationships, couldn’t be happy, or wouldn’t find what worked for me was nonsense.
My past failures didn’t mean I wasn’t destined to succeed. It just meant that I had to be patient and wait for the right situation for me.
In many ways, you could substitute the every instance of the word “relationship” with “workout” or “diet.” The majority of people who have contacted me over the years or enter my online coaching program all start from the same place: A learned belief that no matter what they do, they can’t lose weight and are unable to see the type of body they want. More than a plan that works, they want an explanation or confirmation of their failure rather than a reason for hope.
Because we don’t see results—especially after repeated efforts—we don’t believe that our body is capable of changing.
Just as we expect the sun to set in the west, we expect that we will always be fat, unable to build strength or muscle, or live a healthier life.
We all have a breaking point. After you experiment with enough diets and workouts that don’t work—the same ones that you see work for other people—you begin to believe the problem isn’t the exercises or foods. You tell yourself that the problem is you.
I understand this frustration because I’ve been there before. Not just in relationships but in fitness. I spent 5 years toiling away, following the programs and advice of others, and genuinely believed that I would always be skinny fat. That is, until I opened my mind, learned more about science, and then started trying out proven techniques to see what worked best for me.
There was no cookie-cutter plan that would guarantee me success. It was about personalizing what works and applying it to my lifestyle, my schedule, and my goals.
In reality, finding a workout routine and a diet is no different than having success in a relationship. After all, this is a relationship with your health. But to make it work in the best way possible, you need to go on a few dates, struggle through some frustration, keep an open mind, and be willing to open up to new experiences. Most importantly, you have to be able to believe that things can change.
Genetics: The Fit Body Fallacy
In two of my most recent books, Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha and The Men’s Health Big Book: Getting Abs, I explain why genetics are the ultimate equalizer. They will always play a very important role in the results you see. People that win the genetic lottery can have an easier time burning fat and building muscle, and might be able to eat fast food and still look incredible. It sucks, but that doesn’t mean your genetics prevent you from creating your own form of awesome.
In other words: just because something comes easier or harder, doesn’t mean that the end result can’t be the same.
Oftentimes when I’m working with clients who are struggling to see hope and believe in change, I use the analogy of comparing fitness to the journey of successful companies. Some companies are “blessed” and begin with large sums of money and lots of funding, while others can maybe start with a small loan—if any financial backing at all. The starting point is not an indicator of success.
The companies that start with more capital certainly have fewer barriers, but the path to success wasn’t any more guaranteed for them than anyone else. And those that have more barriers are capable of as much growth, success, and prosperity—if not more—than those who appeared to have it easier.
The lesson: Success is not inclusive. It’s open to those who can dream of the end goal and are willing to plug away and never quit until the vision is achieved.
Hacking Your Fitness and Diet Plan
You want to know the big “secret” of the health and fitness industry: Many approaches work, but sometimes you need to experiment more than you’d like to find the right formula. In many ways, that’s why people hire fitness coaches, trainers and nutritionists, or why you try a variety of programs you read in books or see in magazines. Sometimes, you have to date the different options until you find the right one. And once you do, everything changes.
When you find what works you understand why your previous failures were clearly mistakes, and why your current path will lead to the best version of yourself.
To help you find the best workout plan for you, I’m creating a series that will explain all of your different options to make this entire process easier. One of the biggest issues we face today is that we have so much information it’s hard to determine where we should start. So I’m going to create a live guide that will hopeful ease the process. From the best exercises to different workout splits (full body, upper/lower, high reps versus low reps), I want to provide you with several roadmaps.
I can’t guarantee which path will work for you, but I can make it easier for you to navigate.
If you’re looking for a clearer path, please leave a comment below and let me know what questions you have. It can be about a specific exercise or if training just 1 day per week can be done. And if you have diet questions, include those as well. Food is part of the equation, and that will certainly part of this project. Ultimately, I want this guide to be as comprehensive as possible.
Consider this the start of a new approach to your health. No guarantees. No false hopes. But one simple truth: If you believe finding a plan that works for your lifestyle is possible and keep searching for “the one,” you will find it. And when you do, you’ll be proud you didn’t stop trying.
Adam Bornstein is a New York Times bestselling author and, according to The Huffington Post, “one of the most inspiring sources in all of health and fitness.” An award-winning writer and editor, Bornstein was the Fitness and Nutrition editor for Men’s Health, Editorial Director at LIVESTRONG.com, and a columnist for SHAPE, Men’s Fitness, and Muscle & Fitness. He’s also a nutrition and fitness advisor for LeBron James, Cindy Crawford, Lindsey Vonn, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. His work has been featured in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Fast Company, ESPN, and GQ, and he’s appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, E! News, and The Cheddar.