How Personal Ultimatums Can Sabotage Results

Meat Loaf may have defined non-negotiables best with his lyrics to “I Would Do Anything For Love,” to which he adds, “…but I won’t do that.”

I don’t know what “that” was, but it obviously wasn’t up for debate.

As a personal trainer, I clearly remember the first time I ran into a non-negotiable with a client.

“I’ll do anything you say, work out as often and as hard as I have to, but I will NOT give up my martinis,” George said. I’d barely entered his home when he hit me up with this ultimatum, clearly dictating his boundaries straight out of the gate.

Non-negotiables could be one of a number of things, but when it comes to making lifestyle changes, they’re most often something that appears to contradict the goal at hand.

In the case of fitness, it’s usually alcohol (typically wine), chocolate, or ice cream. Sometimes cheese or bagels.

In any case, it can be the ONE thing a person refuses to give up.

(In reality, I almost never suggest a client give up a favorite food entirely since it’s a clear recipe for craving it more.)

Yet, it can also be the one thing that stops a person from achieving their goals.

For example, I once worked with a woman who complained every week about her inability to lose weight despite our twice-weekly workouts.

Knowing diet is nearly always the culprit behind weight loss struggles, I knew her three or so glasses of wine a night — which she saw as a “harmless” habit — was at least a contributing cause.

So, as an experiment, I asked her to humor me and give up wine for a week “just to see what would happen.”

She reluctantly agreed although she doubted she’d see any difference.

By week’s end, she’d lost five pounds.

The kicker? She still wouldn’t consider cutting back EVEN AFTER seeing such dramatic results.

Alcohol does more than add calories. It slows metabolism and generally makes you forget all your well-intentioned healthy choices.

Your body perceives alcohol as toxic and stops processing nutrients from food while it gets rid of the booze. Excess calories from wine also seem to accumulate fat around your midsection. So even if the rest of your diet is on target, too much alcohol can reverse some of that.

If you’re serious about losing weight you need to take a hard look at your non-negotiables.

The minute you vow to do “whatever it takes except give up XYZ,” you’re setting up a roadblock.

Plus, often these non-negotiables work as trigger foods: Once you start you can’t stop.

The client I spoke about admitted she loved wine as much as life itself. But when she made the brave act of cutting it out for a week, between the bloat (which she complained about) and the calories, the weight dropped off.

Not surprisingly, she put most of the weight back on when she went back to her old habits.

And she continued to kvetch about weight gain, but at least now she’d stop when I gave her the side-eye.

Because now we both knew what would have to happen. The rest was up to her.

If you suspect a particular non-negotiable may be keeping you from being your best self, try skipping it for a week and see what happens.

Keep in mind the craving you may feel initially for your favorite thing will fade with time.

Substitute a healthier alternative and remind yourself of how much better you’ll feel. The change you’ll feel in yourself will become its own motivation.

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