January 5, 2020

Solutions for sustainable change. | by Jameson Skillings

Your weekly source of actionable tips, helpful ideas, and questions to improve your deep health.

“The most important step a person can take is always the next one.”

You’re ready, willing, and able to make a change. Start where you are at this moment.

The first week of the year is typically full of motivation, strict diet plans, lots of exercise, and plenty of good intentions.

All-or-nothing behaviors and mentalities almost always lead to nothing. People crash and burn, hard. It’s truly a shame because these people have fantastic intentions (if you know someone like this, please share this email with them).

Here are a few things that you can implement without overdoing it and setting yourself up for failure.

Continue reading for your 1 tip, 1 idea, and 1 question for you to dig into this week.


Postural alignment matters.

You may hear coaches bark cues like “flat back” and “straight spine” during a training session and you’ll most often get these cues during popular exercises like plank, bent over row, and deadlift. Doing everything with a straight spine isn’t ideal, because straightening your spine is not the goal. A straight spine is an overcorrection that reduces or eliminates the normal curve of the spine.

Generally speaking, a neutral spine is best

Most people will benefit from strength training with a neutral spine. Depending on your goals and postural needs you may need specific cues and setups to reinforce a temporary overcorrection. For people with scoliosis, a common course of action is to strengthen the lengthened section and stretch the contracted section of the spine.

Exercise selection considerations

The health and integrity of the spine are safe with strength training using proper form. You’ve probably heard that deadlifts are bad for the back. This is just not true. The deadlift is one of the best and safest full-body exercises for most people.

Image result for deadlift muscles worked
Muscles used during a deadlift.

But it’s not right for everyone. Some people will feel much better doing a barbell hip thrust or a reverse lunge than a deadlift. If you find your hips or lower bach hurting when you deadlift, you may need to change things up. When an exercise is done properly, you will feel it primarily in your muscles.

Do you feel certain exercises where you shouldn’t? If so, try changing the setup, movement pattern, or exercise selection. I wrote a step-by-step approach for when and how to address this problem. Check it out here.

If you find yourself in extreme postural positions when you’re relaxing, reading a book, or watching TV, try setting a reminder on your phone to change positions every 5-10 minutes. Changing positions can help minimize the damage done to joints over time.


Develop intention.

We’ve gone over how motivation is a feeling that’s often fleeting and unreliable for long term success. Intention is a commitment, it gets you to actually do something instead of just feeling like it, and it gives you the energy to fill in adherence gaps in your fat loss plan when your motivation wanes. It’s the difference between sticking with the plan during those low motivation periods and falling off plan. The great thing about intention is that it develops within days of beginning a diet plan and can be used to your advantage whenever needed.

Goals aren’t good enough. And neither are good intentions. Understanding what you want the outcome to be is very different than knowing what to do and how to do it so that your goal is achieved. Break your goal down into what actions you have to take at each meal, day, week in order to reach your goal. A realistic goal requires an appropriate timeline.

Let’s be real

People who want to lose fat want to drop as many pounds as possible as fast as possible. Executing this strategy leads to a rebound effect [picture below] in nearly all best-case scenarios. If weight is lost too quickly, it’s at the expense of the composition of the weight that was lost. People will actually see an increase in body fat percentage while losing body weight, and more often than not regain the weight (and more) leading to worse health markers.

Your plan has to be strict enough to get results but not cause burnout. Extended diet plans (3 months or longer) will need to be less aggressive than a short term rapid fat loss program (2-4 weeks at the most).

If you want to lose body fat rapidly, it can be done. Prioritize lean proteins at each meal (30-40% of total calories), fill 50-75% of your plate with raw, steamed, or baked vegetables, and be in an aggressive calorie deficit (roughly 40% lower calories than your maintenance calories). Be prepared to feel hungry — a lot.


Why do you want to make a change?

Think about what you value, what’s most important to you in your life, what kind of person you want to be, and how you can live your life aligned with your own values. Most people who come to me for coaching want to lose weight.

I get that you don’t want to just be a smaller pant size. For you, losing weight isn’t about taking up as little space on this earth as possible. It’s about that a little bit, but it’s much, much more than that. You want to feel a certain way and think that weight loss is the answer. More confident. More in control. More assertive. You want to get your mojo back.

Watch this TED Talk on the subject if you’re looking for more info on the subject of figuring out why you want to make a change.

<TED – Simon Sinek – How Great Leaders Inspire Action>

For some people, focusing on why you’re doing something is less helpful than finding out the thing you need to do and executing it. For these people, I’ve created a two-minute survey that sets you up for success for the week. Make a two-minute plan here.

All the best,

Jameson Skillings