When it comes to achieving your fitness goals this year, rather than 'go big or go home,' fitness expert Laurent Amzallag wants you to think smaller.
"In our culture we are bombarded with the P90x workouts and all these burpees and chin-ups, and people think they need to do all these intense workouts to make changes, and that’s not the case at all," he says. "My motto has always been, ‘Your body follows a motivated mind.' Once you start to feel good about doing a little change, like walking, for instance, you’ll feel motivated to do more. You’re more likely to stick with that rather than a more extreme program, and I think that’s what the biggest misconception out there – that you need to do something intense to lose weight."
Amzallag knows what he's talking about. He was named one of the country’s top 50 trainers by the President’s Council On Physical Fitness and Sports.
Luckily for us, Amzallag revealed to Organic Authority his easy-to-follow tricks to sticking with a healthier lifestyle, and how leading with your mind and making small changes can make a big impact when it comes to your fitness and eating goals in 2020.
Why Thinking Small is So Much More Effective
"I’m into making small changes because of how our brains are wired," Amzallag explains. "Because if you start small, then your brain won’t think it’s making this huge sacrifice with these changes. Once it starts thinking it’s making sacrifices, it will fight you. My whole system is successful because it bypasses the way we are wired to create long-lasting changes. That’s why my motto is, 'a body will always follow a motivated mind.' Once a mind is happy, then the body will follow."
Simple Tweaks Does a Body Good
When it comes to kicking off a new exercise regime this year, Amzallag wants you to start with -- you guessed it -- small things. "With my clients, I start with small habit changes because if you ask them to exercise an hour every day – that’s overwhelming for the body. You don’t want to go crazy and shock your system. It’s not going to last."
Instead, the fitness trainer suggests starting off simple, like taking a walk around the block for lunch, or meet with your coworkers and go for a walk rather than meeting in a conference room. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or do some light stretching at night.
Another suggestion? Keep a gym bag in your car or at the office. Because, as Amzallag points out, if you don’t have a gym bag on you, you are more likely to skip the gym. This way, having it with you at all times, keeps you on track.
"These little tricks help create new neural pathways by making small changes," he says. "At the end of the day, your body won’t change drastically with going for walks, but what helps the change is the accumulation of these little changes. You do these changes, you start to feel better, and you’ll want to do more. The accumulation of these new habits over time is what changes your body."
Think Micro When it Comes to Changing Eating Habits
When it comes to adopting healthier eating habits, Amzallag isn't into following a specific diet but, rather, focusing on what isn't working first.
"If you have an addiction to sugar or processed foods, I recommend eliminating them slowly from your diet first," he says. "Then you’ll be able to bring in healthier habits afterwards. I’m all about working with what you have, let’s see what needs to be eliminated, and go from there."
If you've got a sweet tooth, for example, Amzallag swears by his "one, two-second rule."
"I am never going to tell someone to cut back on all soda because that’s not going to last. Instead, I ask my clients to cut back on one of the servings they have per day," he says. "So, for example, if you have four sodas a day, I will say, before dinner, go to the sink and pour down two seconds of worth of the soda and then drink the rest. That’s how you start. That’s how you let your body know what it really needs. Your body doesn’t need two cans of soda or two scoops of ice cream. You have conditioned yourself to want that, and in the same way you have conditioned yourself to want that, you can condition yourself to think it’s undesirable. And the only way you can do that is to literally get it out of your system, slowly. That’s what helps your body not to want it anymore."
He adds, "It’s all about the mind. How the mind is going to take all this in. Once we scrape away the bad stuff, then we introduce the healthier options. Like one new vegetable into your diet. Then another one, and another one. And once you get the bad stuff out, you will feel better. So your brain will tell you, 'I want more of that.' You will search out healthier options now because that’s what the brain is telling you. Your brain is associating that pleasure with health."
Having a Visual Tracker is a Must
Amzallag swears by keeping a visual monthly diary for tracking your fitness and health goals, a tool that has been very successful for his clients.
"When I meet with a client, I ask them what their goals are. Whether it's to reduce sugar, cut back on processed foods, wake up early, get fit, drink more water, etc. Then, I ask them to write down the elements they want to change on a calendar," he says. "On each day, you have one box for each element that you want to change. Let’s say you want to cut back on sugar, cut back on processed food and drink more water. So you have three boxes for each of them. Then, each time you do something positive that helps you get closer to achieving one of those elements – like, for example, you skip dessert because you want to reduce sugar – then you put a star on that box."
The stars are for a rewards system that you'll (hopefully) be able to cash in at the end of your month.
"If you have 50 stars, for example, you will treat yourself to something special. A massage, a getaway, whatever it is that will keep you motivated," he says. "Studies have shown that once you write down a goal, you are 42% more likely to achieve success. So when you see something like a star on your calendar, you feel like your goal is much more achievable."
It's Okay to Fall Off the Wagon (Sometimes)
"Following off the wagon happens a lot because people start off with big, overwhelming goals. The body isn’t used to those changes and it will fight you, so you fall off the wagon," Amzallag says. "So I tell my clients to not try to change everything. Don’t worry about it. Go back on the treadmill the next day. You’ll get back on the wagon. You don’t need to do as much as you think you do. A few minutes of exercise can be just as productive as an hour."
The same goes for food. "If you want to indulge for a meal, then that’s fine," he says. "You’ve got to throw your brain a bone once in a while. If you have a moderate approach, I found people are less likely to fall off the wagon. It's okay to have that piece of cake."
When it comes to succeeding at your fitness goals, according to Amzallag, it all comes down to the mind, and making those small changes.
"I found out about working out with so many people over the years that the most important thing is the mental element of it," he says. "You have to visualize that you can do it. A lot of people think, ‘I come from big genes. I’ve always been big.’ You have to visualize and feel your goal, and believe it can happen. Then, you start your workout routine. Don’t focus on weight loss. Do your small changes."
Because those small changes can turn into some pretty big results.
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