Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What Neill Strauss Can Teach Us About Fat Loss - an incredibly tenuous blog post by Zack Cahill

Gentle readers, some of you may well be sane, normal human beings with fully functional and committed relationships. As such, you may be unaware of the literary oeuvre of Neill Strauss, author of The Game, and of his fellow pick up artists (or PUAs) . Thats ok, let me give you a brief introduction to this strange world, before explaining what it can teach us about health and fat loss.

The PUA community is an entire subculture of people (largely men, to be honest) who believe they have figured out the rules of seduction. They claim that by following certain principles of "social dynamics", even the most unattractive, loser-ish guy can attract the girl of his dreams. To PUAs, social interaction with the opposite sex is a game. And if you understand the rules, including everything from language patterns, body language and how you dress, you can win every time.

Why am I talking about this on a fitness blog? First of all because this stuff does actually transcend just chatting people up. I've long felt that The Game is one of the greatest marketing books every written, as the principles of marketing and the principles of pick up are basically the same.

Relating all this to health and fitness is more of a stretch, but lets give it a go with my top fat loss lessons from the world of pick up artistry. (Honestly I just happen to be reading another book by Neill Strauss this week and needed to write a blog post, lets see if I can drag something good out of it though eh?)

1- Let go of the outcome

This may seem counterintuitive given the array of "goal setting" articles that get written by us fat loss types, but bear with me. Lots of guys will feel intimidated about starting a conversation with a woman at a bar due to fear of failure. This is because they are holding onto the outcome, getting the woman's number or whatever it may be, and then catastrophising and imagining their own failure to achieve this.

If, however, you consider the conversation itself to be the goal, now your focus is just on enjoying an interesting conversation, a far less intimidating task. Crucially though, the act of speaking to this person is a behaviour that will bring you toward your original goal anyway. You're not going to get anywhere if never go and talk to them in the first place are you? Or as some probably-very-famous basketball dude apparently said "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take"

So lets say you want to lose 10kgs. Thats your goal. That too can be pretty intimidating. So intimidating that many people quit before they've even started, subconsciously tell themselves its impossible, or see it as so far-off and huge a task that there is no urgency to change their behaviour now.

But what if we let go of the outcome, and have a short term, behaviour based goal instead. Your goal is now to eat a healthy breakfast every day this week. Thats it. This is one behaviour you can immediately change, meaning you have no need to fear failure, just do it for the week and you've succeeded. But again, its a behaviour that brings you toward your original, big scary goal by default.

2- There is no failure, only feedback. So building on our fear of failure theme, what happens if our imaginary (and I must stress imaginary , as in NOT ME) wannabe lothario works up the courage to go and talk to this poor woman who's minding her own business in a bar, having a quiet espresso martini, possibly pondering who deserves to get kicked off x-factor.

So he initiates a conversation... and lets say the worst case scenario happens. She is not interested in having a conversation, perhaps she is dismissive or just ignores him. Its a complete crash and burn.

Is this failure? Worse, is this rejection? PUAs would tell you to re-frame this as feedback. Rather than simply getting discouraged, you would take this as valuable information about your behaviour. Perhaps you were too forward, or you mumbled. You can then use this feedback to refine your approach. You also mustn't try and spare your ego by dismissing the girl as "just being a bitch", because ultimately the success or failure of the interaction is down to your behaviour.

Likewise, if you do begin to have a healthy breakfast every morning and the weight doesn't come off as fast as you'd like, have you failed? No, you've achieved your goal of having a healthy breakfast every morning. But clearly some aspect of the plan needs tweaking. Maybe you need to reconsider what a healthy breakfast is (i.e. not cereal, even if the lady in the red dress in the ad eats it) Rather than being discouraged by your failure, be encouraged by your success at sticking to a plan, just seek to make it a better plan.

We also should avoid simply dismissing a particular approach to training or nutrition when it doesn't produce the results we want straight away, rather than taking it as feedback.

Ever heard someone say "tried that, doesn't work"...?

Well if we're talking about a nutrition or fitness plan that was based on sound principles (of which there are only a few really) then chances are it has actually worked many times for many people. Perhaps its better to ask if you truly adhered to the program. Its always more empowering to take responsibility for the result, and change behaviours accordingly, than to blame external forces.

Saying "tried it, didn't work" is like saying "she was just a bitch". It gets you nowhere.

Okay, I'm struggling now, can I think of a third tenuous link between the international subculture of pickup and the world of fitness and weight loss?

Go on then...

3-Inner game is all important. This refers to mindset, and how you see and talk to yourself. There are far smarter people than me who can speak on this subject but the point is that what goes on in your head is manifested in your behaviours and ultimately your body.

Even if you've read the books and you know the techniques, if you don't believe you're good enough to be having a conversation in a bar with our notional, espresso-martini-swilling
X-Factor fan then it is going to bleed through and you will ultimately sabotage yourself.

In The Rules OF The Game, Strauss says "the world is what you think it is". If you think that people are out to humiliate you for example, then you'll find plenty of examples of this that confirm your expectation. Like wise if you think that you don't deserve to be in shape then you won't be.

"Fixing" these mindset issues is not my area of expertise, all I can do is provide support, a road map and an inspiring environment for clients. Again, they must take responsibility for the body and the world they live in.

That last one was a bit rubbish wasn't it? but honestly, this is about the most tenuous link I've made on this blog, and I've made a few. But hopefully its given you slightly more than just an insight into my odd obsessions.

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