The article below is written by Dave Rascoe, who is currently a personal trainer and business owner in San Marcos, TX. His passion is extreme, his knowledge is vast, and his ability to apply this knowledge effectively is growing exponentially by the day. I believe Dave is one of the best in the business at getting his clients to commit to and stick to habit change. Thus, I asked him to write a short, yet concise piece on this topic.
I believe that creating long term habit change is currently the biggest hole in the Functional Medicine realm and something we all have to get better at. It is not enough to meet with a client for 60 minutes and give them 72 new things to add or eliminate and then expect all of those items to be in place 90 days later. We have to start clearly marking out the path to our patients/clients, illuminating it with spot lights, posting individual check points to make sure they haven’t stopped to plant cupcakes on the side of the road, and more than anything we have to be available when problems arise.
Therefore, if we want clients to get long term results (and these are the only kind of results that matter) we have to research and study the best way to invoke habit change…
You’re a Unique Snowflake, Just Like Everyone Else.
By: Dave Rascoe
I frequently remind clients that life is all about improving 3 things.
I’m honest from the get go that I am an expert in exactly ONE of those. Health. I drive a normal car and live in a normal house. The corporate world didn’t allow for enough sunlight so I bailed. I make enough to afford lots of high quality food and splurge on Rogue Fitness every now and then, so I’m happy from my perspective on the wealth part. Yet, I’m 30 years old and still trying to figure out how to not freak people out when wearing blueblockers to the movies or explaining why I won’t make it to pizza night (is he serious?). This makes me that guy and not the dating advice/relationship guy. In all seriousness, one of the things that I think makes me different is how much I care and I know that this is the reason my relationships and business are so strong.
In my own health and wellness journey I found downloading the external knowledge of the world to be the easiest way to understand how to fix my own life. Couldn’t squat, read Supple Leopard 8 times and became the mobility guy. Couldn’t sleep, read Sleep Smarter 10 times and become a sleep savant. On the nutrition side, I have all the books and I invested in Ben House to teach me how to integrate all this stuff I had in my head into a better product. This journey has been the basis of most of my success as a coach. Suck at something, read and research everything about it, suck not as bad after.
Yet, at the end of the day I had to take all information in all of these subjects and make it mine. I had to digest it, live it, in order for my recommendations to have any weight with my clients. But more than that I had to individualize what I have learned to each of those clients. I have done this by – you guessed it. Reading all the books on building positive habits and these are the three big things everyone needs to know.
You’re a unique snowflake, just like everyone else
Habit change is all about individualization, but there are constants that everyone will have to address in some way shape or form. A template for nutrition might work, as long as it’s customized for YOU. Errbody gotta eat… just not the same stuff.
There are common principles we use when helping clients find out what, when, and how much they should eat. We use the gold standard elimination dietary protocol but then tweak it based on activity levels, goals, insulin sensitivity, body composition, etc. We also personalize it based on this clients preferences, habits, and environment as we know that what really matters is what this person can do forever. AKA Adherence. But this doesn’t mean we can be a push over either. Human beings are horrible at taking the long view, we aren’t built for it. Therefore, we need systems that help us recognize our uniqueness and our sameness, I like the four tendiences from Gretchen Rubin – you can find them here.
Once a baseline of food quality is in place more advanced strategies might look like a meal plan (formatted based on the person), assigned myfitnessPal macro ratios with a master food list, or simply verbal instructions comparing basic food categories to the sizes of your palm/fist/thumb. Before throwing someone to the wolves by saying eat EXACTLY this food at EXACTLY this time, we figure out EXACTLY what they’re eating now and when, then tweak from there. Their tendency, current nutrition framework, and own ideas over what steps they reasonably achieve will inform the decision of which method of implementation will work best. Food sensitivity testing and bloodwork help with buy-in (dude it’s your freakin blood), but we still have to figure out how you’ll take on food changes in the unique, real life you live now. This is not the dreamland of unicorns and perfect compliance of the future, but the here and now. The plan is always different, but quality, quantity, and timing must be personalized for everyone.
Find the Keylog
Old school river loggers would often experience a log jam where none of the wood would move downstream as the whole pile was just stuck. There’s always ONE “key-log” which will undo the jam if it’s moved.
In habit change, there are a few things that when off cause everything to jam up. Removing roadblocks in these keystone habits gets the pile flowing again. My favorite Keylogs is sleep.
Good sleep makes all the good things better, and all the bad things worse.
I love helping folks with sleep habits. If they can be consistent in this foundational practice then everything from happiness, willpower, and blood sugar control will exponentially improve. How do we sleep better? Removing coffee and replacing with green or herbal tea can do wonders to recover the adrenals for those who need espresso to survive (headache warning: do this slowly). Managing circadian rhythm through light is uber important. Scheduling enough time to be in bed is a math problem most have trouble figuring out. If you want to sleep 8 hours, you’ll likely need to be in bed 9 or more hours. Knock out the big rocks of creating a cold, dark, humidified room and you’re well on the way to epic Zzzz’s and easier positive changes across the board.
Discipline doesn’t exist in my world of sustainable habit change. Make a tough decision over healthy habits once and never worry about it again. Why use up your limited daily willpower over things like “eat cookie or don’t eat cookie”. Willpower is sketchy I never rely on it for my client’s success. Set up your environment to win always. If the food is there you’ll eat it, regardless of quality. Find all the bad stuff and gift it to someone you dislike. Put your workout clothes for the morning out the night before. Meal prep on the weekend so it’s ready to go at crunch time. Take the decision out of it. It’s not that you “can’t” have the ice cream, but you “don’t” eat ice cream right now.
The good plan you follow is better than the perfect plan you bail on.
Get creative and find out what kind of snowflake you are. Move the Keylogs forward.Take discipline out of the equation. Simple, not easy.