Gretchen: To an uncanny degree, we’re very, very influenced just by how easy something is. So for something like working out, you want to make it as easy as possible. I’ve heard from many people who say they sleep in their workout clothes so they don’t have to get dressed in the morning, which is one thing that you can do. Again, if it’s much easier for you in your schedule to work out at a time, that’s something worth thinking about. The idea that you should do it first thing in the morning; well, if it’s easier for you to do it at lunchtime, then you should do what works for you. You’ll stick to it better if it’s convenient.
Tim: InForm Nation, welcome to episode 30 of the InForm Fitness Podcast, and part two of our interview with best selling author, Gretchen Rubin. I’m Tim Edwards with the InBound Podcasting Network, and a client of InForm Fitness for the past year and a half or so at the time of this recording, and in less than a minute, we will be joined by the founder of InForm Fitness himself, Adam Zickerman. We’ll also be joined by the co-owner of the Toluca Lake, Burbank location, Sheila Melody, and the GM of the Manhattan location, Mike Rogers. Alright, so who is in for developing better habits that result in positive outcomes? Well we all are. You wouldn’t have subscribed to this podcast if you weren’t. However, as we all know, sometimes it’s difficult to perhaps kick a bad habit, or start a healthy new one. Whether you want to lose some weight or gain some muscle, eat healthier, and even strengthen your relationships. Gretchen Rubin’s got you covered with some brilliant suggestions as to how, and equally as important, when, to change a habit’s trajectory. This episode is about twice as long as our normal episodes, so let’s get right to it. Here’s part two of our interview with bestselling author, Gretchen Rubin.
Adam: So Gretchen, you talk about these tendencies, these four tendencies. Then you start talking about, if you’re going to start somewhere, you might as well start with some of the big ones. The big habits I guess, almost like a Maslow’s Hierarchy type of thing, and the basic foundation — you say if you’re going to start working on some habits, you call them foundational habits, it’s best to start with a couple of the key ones like dealing with your sleep. Dealing with moving, exercise, you call it move, and then also what you eat and drink, getting in control of your nutrition, and of course another one, the fourth one that you call unclutter. Which seems — to me, that was a big one for me, because I’d love to deal with my tendency to clutter. When I was reading that section, it just jumped out at me that the three pillars of our exercise program, high intensity exercise, is very similar. We say that really the foundation of a fitness plan should deal with exercise, it should deal with rest, like you say sleep, and nutrition. So three out of your four foundational habits are very parallel to each other, and I found that to be pretty interesting. I agree, like I mean god, if you can only get a handle on sleep, right?
Gretchen: I think you’re exactly right. I think there’s a lot of agreement on the fact that these are the foundations, because they are, they’re just super important so they come up over and over again. The reason that they come up I think, or why they’re important habits to change generally, is that they’re sort of — if you don’t have control of these areas of your life, it’s very hard to have self command. It’s hard to have the energy and the kind of self mastery that you need to make other kinds of changes. So you might say to yourself, well what I really need to do is start this side business, but if you’re exhausted all the time and you just feel sluggish and you have to take a nap every day at three, and you’re surrounded by a mess, it just feels harder to do that. Once you get enough sleep, you’re exercising, and eating and drinking right, and then the unclutter, I have to say most people don’t point to unclutter as a part of these foundations, they just talk about the three, but I have found that over and over, they do feel this sense of energy and possibility that comes from just getting rid of junk. There’s something, some tie. I don’t understand it really, it doesn’t seem rational, but over and over, people say that they feel that way. Once you have that, it’s easier to do these other habits. If it’s something like, I want to call my parents once a week, or I want to write a novel in my free time, or I want to start meditating, or get back into speaking Italian, it all just feels so much easier. It’s all built off this foundation or these pillars, because everything comes from there. One of the things that I think people sometimes do is they forget about the body. The fact is that your physical experience is always going to be part of your emotional experience. You can never leave your body behind, so if you take care of your body, that’s just going to make it much easier to do other things.
Adam: I see it all the time when people are having trouble losing weight, and they start this workout. Not that this is a weight loss program, but because they’re doing this and they’ve committed to this, next thing you know, they say now I’m going to start — all of a sudden it feeds off of it, and now they want to take care of their eating.
Gretchen: There’s definitely something that when people start making one kind of positive change, it feels like it’s easier to make other positive changes. Sometimes people start with like very strange things, like somebody will start by saying, I’m going to give up chewing gum, or I’m going to drink more water. I’m like oh my gosh, you only have so much effort in you to change a habit, get more sleep dude. Don’t worry about drinking more water.
Adam: Speaking of sleep, I remember reading an article in the New York Times magazine several years ago. It was about the stigma of people who are, as you would call in your book, owls. People that wake up late and stay up late. They may still get plenty of sleep as long as they wake up at eleven in the morning. The stigma was that we live in a society where you’re supposed to wake up early, get to work, do your job, and if you don’t, if you’re not that person, if you’re not a lark, as you refer to it as, then you’re lazy. I see that with people that come to work out, and a lot of people ask me, when’s the best time to work out, and I always respond with another question. I say well, when are you at your best, or are you a morning person? No? Then you’re not going to work out in the morning. But I was told that you’re supposed to work out in the morning, you’re supposed to eat breakfast in the morning. Those rules don’t apply.
Gretchen: It’s always what works for you, I completely agree. I think it’s a big mistake to say, what’s the best thing to do. It’s always what is the best thing for you, and it’s interesting because you’re absolutely right. Some people are just naturally night people, and that’s largely genetically determined and a function of age. It’s not something that you can change by just sort of changing your bedtime, and it’s true that when they do — the research suggests that people who are owls are less happy, and they think it’s because really our culture is set up for larks. School starts early, so children have to be up early. Children are naturally larkish, as many a parent will say.
Tim: Young children, not teenagers.
Gretchen: But I think increasingly there’s an awareness and there’s a lot of movements to try to get school to start later. Maybe at work if there’s an 8:30 AM meeting that’s just crushing you, maybe say, can we move it to 11:30 because half of the people in that room are barely conscious. Sometimes you can’t change things, but sometimes you can, and certainly when do you work out — this idea that you should get up early and work out, for a lot of people that’s just setting themselves up for failure, because they’re at their most energetic later in the day. I think it’s such good advice to say to people, let’s talk about what works for you, not what works in theory, or what works for your brother in law or what works for Steve Jobs.
Sheila: I’ll ask people to try, like let’s try an appointment in the morning, let’s try one in the mid afternoon/evening, some people do that, and then it’s very clear to them where they’re performing better. I’ve had clients, oh they normally come at 10AM and then she had a meeting so she had to come at 4, and she just did not work out well and she said that’s it, I’m just not coming at four anymore, it’s not worth it.
Gretchen: The other strategy that comes into play is the strategy of convenience, because to an uncanny degree we’re very, very influenced just by how easy something is. So for something like working out, you want to make it as easy as possible. I’ve heard from many people who say they sleep in their workout clothes so they don’t have to get dressed in the morning, which is one thing that you can do. Again, if it’s much easier for you in your schedule to work out at a time, that’s something worth thinking about. The idea that you should do it first thing in the morning; well, if it’s easier for you to do it at lunchtime, then you should do what works for you. You’ll stick to it better if it’s convenient.
Adam: I’m trying to put things together a little bit as I read your book. You have these tendencies, these four tendencies, and then you have the foundational habits, that maybe if yo want to start somewhere, start with those four. Then you start talking about all kinds of different traits that people have, whether you’re a lark or an owl. You also talk about abundance lovers for example, versus a minimalist or simplistic person, simplicity lover, and many more like that. So how do those tie into our tendencies?
Gretchen: They don’t, that’s a great question. The tendencies are a very very narrow aspect of your personality. Like one of the big distinctions is abstainer and moderator which has to do with how you deal with strong temptation. I’m an upholder and I’m an abstainer, but many upholders are moderators. So you can be a simplicity lover and a questioner, like they’re not all correlated. The tendencies are just one very narrow aspect, and then there are these other aspects that also come into play, because say something like, an abundance lover is very attracted to choice. So they might want to go to a gym that has many, many classes and many options because they like that. They like abundance and profusion and choice and collections and a lot going on, and then a simplicity lover — I’m a simplicity lover and I think that’s one of the things that I like about this place, is that it’s quiet, it’s limited. There are no choices, it’s kind of a very clean, simplified, streamlined experience. Some people don’t like that, some people prefer a different — they want people talking and lots of music. It’s like whatever works for you. Different environments are more appealing to different people.
Adam: I also realized however when I was reading this about abundance lovers — not an abundance of lovers, an abundance lover — a little Freudian slip there maybe, I don’t know. So we have all kinds of people coming in to try this high intensity workout, and part of the job of a trainer that’s doing an intake of a new person, is to try to figure out who this person is and what appeals to them, and what aspect of this workout might appeal to them. So it’s obvious that a simplicity lover would really like this because like you said, it’s simple, it’s quick, it’s efficient, move on. It’s not cluttered in some way. Then you mentioned the abundance lover, and I’m saying does that mean abundance lover would just not like this workout because the abundance lover, intellectually will read about this and say wow, that makes sense, that makes logical. So when I find that I might be with an abundance lover, somebody that’s telling me their history of exercise and they workout, they do this, they do that, I still realize that I have to point something out to them and that is, you can have all of that by the way. We just want to really include this and understand that there’s a balance between intensity and moderation. So all those other programs that you’re doing, as long as they’re in moderation and not taxing your system too much, enjoy them. So if you like bike riding, if you like yoga, pilates, that’s all well and good. We’re not saying do high intensity exercise at the exclusion of those things. What I do want to balance however — if you’re going to do a high intensity exercise for twenty minutes once a week, leave it at that as far as the intensity is concerned, and enjoy the rest of all of those activities. So in other words, an abundance lover doesn’t necessarily have to say, that’s not for me because I like doing all these things.
Sheila: Is there some way that we could simply — I’m intrigued now by revisiting all of this. We could maybe change our intake form to put certain questions on there that would help us to see the tendencies of our clients. Not like the full quiz, but some kind of — maybe just these things, do you like simplicity or do you like abundance — I don’t know, maybe we could…
Adam: In a way we do. We ask questions on our intake form. We’ll ask questions like why is this important to you now, or how would you describe your personal trainer, how would you describe the ideal personal trainer, things like that which gives you insight into some of those things but you’re right. I think maybe there could be some key questions — maybe the questions that you ask on your quiz or some version of that would be a good idea.
Gretchen: I think you could really tailor your conversation very differently depending on what the person’s tendency is, because what will resonate with them will be very different.
Adam: If I notice that I’m talking to an upholder, my tone might be a little bit more direct and say look, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to do this, twenty minutes, you’re going to work out really hard, it’s going to be very safe, and you’re on your way. They’re like okay, let’s get started. They don’t need all the explanations, they don’t have all those controversial questions that they’re normally asked.
Gretchen: What you’ll find often is that — questioners have so many more questions than other people, they can often drain people because they ask too many questions, or they’ll feel like their questions haven’t been answered sufficiently. Sometimes you get into a situation where people are like, you’re just explaining too much, I don’t need to know all of this. So you might say to somebody, I’m happy to go deeper into the research if you want, or if you feel like you know enough to proceed, we can go. Kind of give people an option to go in or go out, because a lot of times, that’s attention — like a questioner will want to really, really explain, and then other people are like, you know what, I don’t really need to sit through that. Or the questioner is like I’m not ready to buy into this because my questions haven’t been answered and someone else is like well I’m sorry, your time is up, you need to move on. I can’t answer questions for three hours, and it’s like well you have to answer those questioner’s questions. I think it really is something that could change just communication in subtle ways, that would make it easier for people to stick to it.
Adam: The rebel is kind of an interesting one, because when I work with a rebel, I can’t tell them something during the workout. I can’t say to them, don’t hold your breath or don’t lock out your knees. I’ll say breathe freely, or try to breathe more freely, instead of saying don’t do something. If you tell a rebel not to do something — so you have to reframe what you want them to do and not make it so much of a command like that.
Gretchen: That’s so interesting to hear and another thing that works with rebels is information, consequences, choice. So you give them the information they need to make the choice that is going to work for them. So you might say like, people who breathe during this exercise tend to be able to complete more. That’s just information. The consequence is that they may be able to be more successful at it, but it’s up to them. We find that when people come once a week, we see much quicker progress than people who come more sporadically. That’s just information, up to you, what you want, rather than saying — you can see how someone could say listen, I’m telling you right now, I want to see you here every week, and they’re like, you know what, you’re not the boss of me, I’m not going to come. Like you said, people kind of intuitively sometimes can change, but I think if you understand what’s triggering it — somebody might say if you really want to work out, you need to commit to a time. It’s like no you don’t. If that’s not going to work for you — it’s back to your point Adam. Do what works for you. Let’s think about what works for you, and let’s set things up so that it’s going to feel like the right thing for you. A great question to ask people is is there a time when you’ve succeeded in the past, because a lot of people will say like, oh yeah — when I was living in this group house after college, I was really good at doing X, Y, or Z. So you’re like okay, let’s think about what was it about that time — or as soon as X, Y, or Z happened, I stopped. Okay well what was really changing, because sometimes people think it’s one thing, but it’s really something totally different that’s disrupted a habit, so it’s really helpful to think about the past.
Mike: Honestly I always say, think about anything you’ve been successful at in in the past, what did you do? It sort of even echoes one of the other points you have in your book about how you manage what you [Unintelligible: 00:17:04] — if you don’t schedule things and monitor them, your recipe for success is going to be very limited.
Adam: This is unbelievable for me. I almost feel like Better Than Before should be a handbook for new trainers, old trainers — understanding all of this can only help people to communicate better with them. A lot of people listen to our episodes of this podcast that aren’t trainers, and you’re listening to this and you’re just an enthusiast about high intensity training and you want to learn more about it. What can the trainee get out of Better Than Before as far as understanding themselves I guess, and how they should approach the value of high intensity exercise for them.
Gretchen: I think it’s really about how do you get yourself to stick to it, because the fact is — the best workout theory in the world is going to do nobody any good unless you actually do it. This is the thing where people get hung up. Questioners will do this, I’m going to do research, research, to find out what’s the best way, and then they never actually get into the gym because they’re so busy researching it. So I think part of it is just figuring out, first of all, how are you going to get yourself to exercise, and second of all, what is that exercise going to be? So what would you pick that’s going to make sense for you, so that’s what I think —
Adam: If you’re somebody that needs accountability, in the sense that — some of this accountability — so if you’re an obliger for an example and you’re noticing yourself as an obliger, and you want to really stick to this program, maybe you — you have the appointments here, but also maybe you do it with a friend. You talked about having accountability to a friend and a partner in this type of thing. You also talk about — if you’re a lark or an owl, and to understand hey, you don’t have to work out in the morning if you’re an owl. So these are the kinds of tips for people to ask themselves. It’s almost like a questionnaire for themselves to help them establish when and how they’re going to do this, and how they’re going to stick to it. So if you’re somebody that needs to do it with a friend, then go find a friend, recruit a friend, and then maybe book your appointments right next to each other. Or work out together if you’re not going to a trainer, maybe one person trains and you learn how to train each other and you do that. Other types of —
Gretchen: Distinctions like that and how people are different from each other? [Yes] One of the big ones that’s been the most helpful for people is abstaining and moderating. So the strategy of abstaining is one of the 21 strategies, and this has to do with how you most successful face a strong temptation. We can all be moderate in the face of weak temptation. Abstainers are people who are kind of all or nothing people. They can have none pretty easily, but once they start, they’re going to go all the way. I can have no cookies or I can have eleven cookies, but I can’t have one cookie. That’s because I’m an abstainer, and for an abstainer it’s just easier not to get started. For moderators, they get kind of panicky and rebellious if they’re told they can never have something, so they do better when they have a little bit or they have it sometimes. These are the people who have the bar of fine chocolate in their drawer, and then like every two days, they have one square of fine chocolate and that’s all they need.
Mike: I could never do that.
Gretchen: I couldn’t either. I’m an abstainer and I have a tremendous sweet tooth, and I have talked a lot about how I gave up sugar, basically gave up carbs, and it was just such a relief to me because all of that went away. I used to spend so much time being like, one, two, three, four, now, later, it’s my birthday, I deserve it, it’s raining, I need it. Now I just don’t eat that stuff so it doesn’t bother me, and I can sit here with a plate of cookies in front of me and I don’t eat it because I’m abstainer. This isn’t just for food, it’s also for technology. On the Happier podcast, Elizabeth has talked several times about her problem with Candy Crush. It was effecting her career, it was effecting her physical health. Her son, her young son was like mommy, I have to delete it from your phone. I was like if your son is trying to do an intervention — and she just can’t play a little Candy Crush. She’s tried and she just can’t play Candy Crush. I know a guy who said that World of Warcraft meant that it took him an extra year to write his PhD thesis. Somebody is like I can’t read a little bit of political stuff, once I’m reading and starting down that rabbit hole, it’s going to be three hours. I just can’t go online and read political commentary. So one of the things that we’re often taught, back to your point Adam that you should do it. We’re often told that moderation is the best way, and have a little bit, follow the 80/20 rule and it’s not helpful to be too rigid. What I’ve found that for a lot of people, it’s easier to have none. It sounds harder but it’s actually easier. If you’re having trouble being moderate, try abstaining because so many people have said to me, oh my gosh, I never thought I could give up flour. Or I never thought I could give up sugar, and I realized once I gave it up, it’s just not that hard, but that’s not true for everyone. For moderators, they get kind of panicky and weird if they try to give up something altogether. So it’s not that one way is right and one way is wrong, or one way is better, or one way is the right way. It’s just that for some people, one way works better, and for other people, the other way works better, so just figure out what you are.
Mike: I like achieving things. For example, if I say I’m not going to have sugar all week for six and a half days of the week —
Adam: That’s that blast thing you were talking about. What do you call that?
Gretchen: A blast start.
Adam: So Mike’s great at blast starting. He’s easy to commit to doing something for 60 days, 90 days, 100 days. He’ll be like dead on, never veering.
Mike: The thing is, I love earning a day where I can have my pizza or have whatever it is. I feel like that gratification came with the hard work, and it motivates me to go back onto the whole thing immediately afterwards. That four hour diet thing, you know like the Tim Ferris thing. Of course I tried that out and I think it’s — I look back on my life, for me, what works for me is a model like that which is highly structured and then after I feel like I’ve earned it, like let’s say after a week or two weeks, and I let myself have the things that I love like chocolate chip cookies or pizza.
Gretchen: See I would reframe that. Instead of saying it’s a reward, I would say that it’s a planned exception. So you’re a grownup, you can do what you want, and you might say like Saturday, I’m going out with my buddies. I’m going to drink beer and eat pizza and have ice cream or whatever it is, nachos, and it’s a planned exception which means I plan it in advance so I anticipate it with pleasure, I follow my rules for myself in the moments, I show myself control, and I look back on it with pleasure. That was a great night, I had so much fun with the guys. What happens mostly with people is they’re like, oh my gosh, I’m being so good. For a month I’m quitting sugar, but here I am at a restaurant with my husband and it’s a lovely night and they’re having their special dessert, how could I not have tiramisu. Life’s too short to deny myself, I don’t want to miss out on this special occasion. After the day I’ve had, I’ve earned it so I’m going to have it, and then you’re like, oh my gosh I didn’t keep my word to myself, and then you feel out of control. So the planned exception I think is good. I would not, in my view — I have a lot in Better Than Before about rewards. I think it’s very dangerous to be getting into this business of rewards, because inevitability, people start giving themselves lots of rewards for things that they haven’t even earned, and then you’re not making a habit because you’re always deciding. Did I earn it, did I justify it. I think it’s just like — the way I think it’s more helpful is that this is what I want to eat, this is what I want to do, this is what I’ve decided is the right thing. If I want to take some time off or change the rules for myself, I can do that and I’m going to enjoy it, but I’m going to do it in a deliberate, thoughtful way. I have a friend who is totally low carb, yoga instructor, and he was going near Montana and staying at this place that was famous for their pies, and he loves pie, so he made a rule for himself that every day while he was on vacation, he could have pie at every meal. He could only have one piece of pie, he couldn’t have whipped cream or ice cream, and he couldn’t buy a pie and take it back to his hotel, he had to eat it at the restaurant. He had a pie at every meal for like a week, so that’s a lot of pie. He loved it, he was looking forward to it, he got what he wanted, and he came home and went right back to low carb because it wasn’t like, oh well I’ve been home for a week, I’ve been so good for a week that I deserve a piece of pie now. That was Montana, that was my time, now I’m back to the way…
Mike: You say planned exception, and in a simpler term, I actually talk to people and say hey listen, make an appointment. That’s the thing, I’m like if you know you’re going to dinner next Thursday and it’s at a great restaurant, and they have the best popover in New York City, then it’s like okay, earn that but plan it. You own that decision, it doesn’t own you, versus that you’re in the office and there’s a big cookie tray and it takes over you.
Gretchen: At the end of the day, you’re like did I even eat those cookies? You get no pleasure from that. Also sometimes people try to give themselves something to make them feel better, but in the end it just makes them feel worse. Like that cookie place in the office, yeah it feels good for a minute, but then you’re like, what did I do? Whereas if you’re looking forward to the special dessert, it’s part of a whole celebration. I have to say though, for me, it’s easier never to have that. I don’t ever break the rules, because once I start breaking them, then it just reignites my sweet tooth and then I have to deal with that buzzyness that I don’t like. So I don’t make exceptions, but I’m very — like I’m friends with Gary Tobbs, I’m more strict than Gary Tobbs.
Adam: Just so you know, Gary Tobbs is the author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, or Why We Get Fat, and he’s done a lot of research —
Gretchen: And the Case Against Sugar, yeah. He is really a leader — he’s the person who converted me. I read Why Do We Get Fat and overnight, I just changed everything about the way I eat. So I look to him as the leader in my own life of going low carb. Again, it’s like there’s no right way or wrong way. For you Mike, the planned exception every once in a while — you’re very, very strict, you get a kick out of being very, very strict and very hardcore.
Mike: I love it.
Gretchen: You get into it, and then you’re like yeah, now I have a day off and you have a planned exception. That works for you, it doesn’t work for me —
Mike: It doesn’t work for a lot of people. I’ve learned that from communicating this, because people ask me, how do you enjoy life so much but you also stay on your plan. The thing is that I do have my times of weakness like Gary Tobbs apparently, but it does — I think for my better self, for what I really want, it probably would be better if I did completely abstain, but what I have to reconcile in my mind is that life is short. I want to suck up the marrow of all of these experiences.
Gretchen: That’s how most people feel. Like my father who is kind of like you — he has what I would call the grandchild exception, which is if there’s a grandchild around, he’s making pancakes, he’s going to the ice-cream shop. He’s like let’s stop for a giant cookie, let’s stop for a corn dog —
Adam: Is that why he’s visiting your kids all the time?
Gretchen: It makes that time more special and fun. It’s a celebration. It makes it more fun for him because he’s like wow, we’re going to stop for ice-cream, but it’s limited because the fact is that he’s not with a grandchild all that much, so it’s a way to enjoy life and those treats in a way that then leaves regular life kind of — the fact is that if basically most of the time you’re pretty healthy, then that’s good enough. What you do most of the time matters more than what you do every once in a while, but for a lot of people, the once in a while starts encroaching — it builds and builds and builds. The exceptions build and pretty soon they’re right back to where they started from. So the question is how do you abstain most of the time. For me, it’s easier to abstain when most of the time is all of the time. For most people, most of the time — also the holiday exception, this is that. People go nuts on vacation.
Gretchen: It’s like fine if you go away for four days, but if you’re like oh this summer, it’s a holiday. Like oh Christmas day, but if it’s from November 15th to January 3rd, that’s a lot of time.
Mike: I just got back from my vacation. I made rules that I was going to have my dinners be very, very unregulated, but I was very compliant for the early part of the day. That made me feel good for vacation.
Gretchen: So my sister’s rule is that she’s very, very good at work. She’s a TV writer, and they’re notorious, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. The food they’ll get at the places, there’s anything you want. There’s every kind of junk food, every kind of health food, anything, just spilling out everywhere.
Adam: Probably a lot of cigarettes too, writers? Is that no more? That’s good.
Gretchen: And then like the studio will send special cupcakes — so her rule is she’s very diligent and conscientious about what she eats at work. Of course she’s a Type One diabetic, so it’s more serious for her. So she’s really, really scrupulous at work, and then when she’s home, it’s family time, it’s looser, that works for her. She has to figure out some kind of boundaries for work, otherwise it’d just be totally out of control.
Mike: The thing is that’s probably easier for most people because generally, most people’s workplaces are predictable. It’s a certain time they get there, they wake up at a certain time, blah blah blah. They’re not with their kids which may be variable schedules, or on the weekend, and we have a lot of clients who actually say the same thing. They actually have a lot of discipline with whatever they’re doing Monday through Friday, but Saturday and Sunday is always a struggle because of that, you know, because of the unpredictability of their schedule.
Gretchen: I think with habit formation, a lot of times people do need to think about okay, what are my weekday habits and what are my weekend habits, and to really accommodate the fact that for some people, the week and the weekend are very, very different and pose different challenges and different temptations. Now I know some people who will exercise one or two times during the week, and both days of the weekend. I know people who exercise four times during the week, and never exercise during the weekend. It’s like again, back to Adam’s point, there’s no right way or wrong way, it’s just whatever works for you, but you might have to think about, okay, this is what works for me when I’m basically at work or putting my kids to bed and going to sleep myself, but then on Saturday and Sunday when things are looser, I need to rethink what my habits look like so that that time is — I feel good about how I’m spending that time.
Sheila: I think I’m one of those, like I stay in the schedule during the week, and then on the weekend, I make it more of a recreational thing with exercise, if I want to do something do it with somebody or with a family member and same with meals too. I try to stay really on point, and then on the weekends, I just relax a little bit more. I also go through phases I think too. I’ll go through a phase where I’m doing really good 100% of the time, even on the weekends and everything, as far as the diet is concerned. I think that’s related to moods or something. You go through a phrase where you can really take on that diet. It’s like what Adam said in the beginning, a lot of people start to exercise and try to not — you have to be in the right mood to go on a diet or change your eating habits.
Adam: For a start.
Gretchen: I think that’s one of the reasons that habits can be really valuable because once something is a habit, it’s on autopilot so you don’t have to worry about your mood or how you feel about something. It’s like it doesn’t matter how you feel. Do I feel about going to InForm Fitness, it doesn’t matter how I feel —
Adam: That’s a real habit.
Gretchen: It’s just the habit of doing it. It’s like do I feel cheerful enough to brush my teeth, it’s like no, I’m just going to brush my teeth.
Adam: Gretchen, I had a client this morning and we were talking, and he just overcame food poisoning. It made me think immediately what you talked about in your book about a clean slate. So wanting to talk about the clean slate and then I’ll tell you about this conversation I had.
Gretchen: Well the clean slate is that — basically when you’re thinking about the time to change a habit, the best time is always now. If you’re ready to begin, begin now, but there are times that feel more auspicious or are really good times, and one is the clean slate. After we go through a major transition, old habits are wiped away so it’s easier for new habits to form. So if you have a new job, if you’ve switched schools, if you have a new puppy, if you have a new car. All these things can make it easier to change your habits, and in fact in one study of people who made a significant habit change, moving from one apartment or house to another was a time when people were able to make big habit changes. When they quit smoking, people always say, if you’re moving, that’s a great time to quit smoking. So it could be that a clean slate, that is such a violent attack on the body and you feel probably washed clean by the time it’s over. That might be a good clean slate because it’s like your sugar cravings or whatever, you’re back down to zero.
Adam: That’s what I said to him. So three days later after the food poisoning subsidized — he needs to lose twenty pounds, the guy is going back and forth, up and down with the twenty pounds and the food poisoning happens and now he’s down like five pounds in three days. Six pounds in three days. Just reading the book, I was like hey this is a perfect clean slate for you. A perfect opportunity, a good jumpstart for you to stay on your no sugar diet. He’s on and off for a while, so he was really excited about this, and I was excited that I had some good advice to give to him. Thanks to you.
Gretchen: I think there is something about an illness like that, that it does wipe away — I think it’s this idea that you have sort of these cravings, like every time you have something sweet, it kicks in and you’re going to want it more and more. After something like that, that’s all blown out. I remember my mother got food poisoning and she’d always had a lot of diet soda. When she came back from it, she completely lost her taste for diet soda. Something had just been kind of killed off for her.
Adam: I lost my taste for Southern Comfort for the same reason.
Sheila: Tequila, yes.
Gretchen: I think what’s great is that one of the problems with clean slate is that you have to notice that you’re going through a transition and take advantage of it, because it is a really excellent time and habit change can be easier, but you have to realize that this could be a good time. I heard a funny story from a guy who said he was totally addicted to junk food, and would eat fast food on his way home and couldn’t resist it. It’s literally like his car, Herby the love bug magically turning into the driveway because he would go down this highway with a line of fast food and couldn’t resist, couldn’t resist, and then he got a new car. You know how cars just smell so clean, they’re so pristine, and he said, I’m never going to get fast food in this car. He said it was never a temptation for him. This is like food poisoning; this is a new car, and it’s a clean slate for me. Am I going to take advantage of it? Even a week later, it’s sort of too late because those old habits rush in so quickly and then they quickly lock you in. We’ve all felt a habit lock in after two or three times. So that’s a great, talk about a silver lining.
Adam: Which again is why I want everyone who works as a trainer in high intensity training, I really highly suggest that all trainers read this book to give you some really good tools to help understand people and to help motivate them to create good habits.
Mike: Is there any way — because you recognized it, or recognize that you’ve been motivated in the past from having a clean slate time in your life. Is there a way to manufacture it? Like artificially create a clean slate in your life?
Gretchen: One way you can do it is by redecorating your environment. So you could paint a room or rearrange the furniture. I think partly that’s part of it. We were talking earlier about decluttering, and the weird power of decluttering. I think sometimes if you do a really deep clean, that feels sometimes like a really clean slate. I know somebody who said to me, I cleaned out my fridge and suddenly I felt like I could switch careers. Somebody else I know — but again, you get it. Somebody else, every January 1st empties out her refrigerator entirely. The mustard, the pickles, everything. There’s something about physically cleaning, or the guy with the problem with the fast food. It’s like why don’t you drive home a different way, because part of it is that you’re driving down the highway and you’re seeing the Taco Bell and McDonalds. Like man, there’s no other thing to do, or ride your bike.
Mike: Some people on the podcast are like oh great, I’ve got to go buy myself a new car? Gretchen, give me something else besides buying a new car.
Adam: I have an idea. If you want to get into intermittent fasting, I know what works for me. When I want to start an intermittent fast, I get my teeth cleaned because I don’t want to ruin it.
Gretchen: That’s interesting. Or you might kind of give yourself a full body cleansing or a facial. You’re right — I hadn’t actually thought about the clean aspect of a clean slate, but maybe that is something about not sullying a clean environment with whatever the bad habit is. I think when things have metaphoric power like that, it’s especially powerful. So that’s a great thing.
Adam: It reminds me what you also said, almost very similarly, the brushing your teeth at night so you don’t eat again. So you don’t snack at night if that happens to be one of your bad habits.
Gretchen: When I heard that advice, because you hear it from time to time, I was like that is too easy, there’s no way it’s going to work, and it really, really works. Brushing your teeth — there’s part of your brain that’s just like, okay, our work here is done so I’ll see you tomorrow. It really, really works.
Mike: I have a couple of owl clients. I feel like it would work for many people, but I have a couple of owl clients — I suggested that once, and she was like, I couldn’t do it.
Gretchen: But do they start eating very late in the day?
Mike: Yeah, one in particular, just really horrible habits. She tries, like every week it’s a whole reset of like, I tried but I fell off the wagon again, it’s unbelievable. She has an owl type of lifestyle.
Adam: I have an idea for her maybe. For example, I intermittent fast probably two or three times a week.
Gretchen: What does that mean exactly?
Adam: It means I go sixteen hours, approximately, without eating.
Gretchen: Okay, so from when to when?
Adam: So that’s what I’m about to talk about, because it could be any sixteen hour window. For me, the window is not eating breakfast and having a late lunch, and then having an early dinner. What wouldn’t work for me is if I ate breakfast, had a lunch, and then stopped eating until the following breakfast because I can not go at night without eating. If you’re an owl, probably it’s best to really — if you’re going to intermittent fast and you’re an owl, it’s better for her to abstain eating during the day and then she can eat at night when she’s staying up late. So maybe she should do all of her good behavior during the day, which might be easier for her, and then at night, as an owl, when she wants to eat, she’s okay because she’s supposed to be eating now.
Mike: The problem with this particular client, it’s accompanied with a lot of television watching. If you’re busy doing something like writing a book or something, but —
Adam: That’s very specific. In general though, that could be —
Mike: I’ve discussed the idea as an option for her, through all the trials we’ve gone through, and she’s had times of success and times of failure, it’s always up and down. Very typical story actually, but I think that’s interesting.
Adam: The wheels are turning though, see that’s what this book is doing; helping to deal with these types of people.
Mike: Yeah, some people, it does — you’re making not what you’re eating, but when you’re eating be the focus. Some people, that rule — if you could focus on that rule instead of, oh okay, I’ve just got to get to whatever it is, twelve o’clock tomorrow —
Gretchen: See, I think I would do better eating breakfast and lunch, and something in the afternoon, but the problem with life is that it’s very hard not to eat dinner. With one thing or another, you’re expected to eat dinner, so it’s easier to skip breakfast or lunch.
Mike: If you have the habit of eating dinner with your family and that’s important to you…
Gretchen: Or if you go out with friends, I think it’s much more socially challenging.
Adam: Absolutely. We could go all day talking about all of these things in your book. We only just scratched the service, so I highly recommend — the name of the book is Better Than Before. I highly recommend, if you’re trying to get into an exercise habit and haven’t figured it out. Whether it’s high intensity exercise or otherwise, this is a great place to really start helping yourself, I think.
Mike: Gretchen, when is your new book coming out?
Gretchen: So The Four Tendencies is out in September of 2017, and it’s all about the four tendencies.
Tim: Well Gretchen, like we said at the beginning of the show when we began this podcast, planning it about a year and a half ago, you were one of the first names that came up. So I’m glad it finally — it took us 28 episodes and now 29 to get you on, and it’s been an absolute delight and we hope that you’ll join us again another time.
Gretchen: Well I’m so happy to be here.
Adam: We’ll have you back on when you come out with The Four Tendencies.
Gretchen: Excellent, I would love that.
Tim: Boy, isn’t she fun? Hey, please check out the show notes in whatever platform you might be listening from for a link to Gretchen’s website, gretchenrubin.com. There you can purchase hardback copies of all of her books, and listen and subscribe to her wildly popular podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. For those of you, like me, who love to listen to your books, we have a link to Gretchen’s books in Audible as well. Okay, so here we are in our final week of our monthlong contest in May of 2017. We want to thank all of you who have left InForm Fitness a review in Yelp, Facebook, Google Plus, Amazon, and in iTunes. Each of you will receive a free training session at an InForm Fitness location nearest you, and all of you are in the drawing for the grand prize which includes a personally autographed copy of Adam’s book, Power of Ten: The Once a Week Slow Motion, Fitness Revolution. You’ll also receive InForm Fitness apparel in the form of a hat, t-shirt, and a hoodie jacket, and we’ll top off the grand prize with a device to listen to all of the InForm Fitness podcasts, Amazon music, audiobooks from Audible and more, using the Alexa voice service with your very own Amazon Echo. If you haven’t seen the Amazon Echo, check out a link in the show notes for a full description and videos explaining what it does and how it works, it’s very cool. For those of you who have not left a review, you’re running out of time so you better get on it. Once you do, screenshot that review and email it to email@example.com to claim your free training session, and to quality for the grand prize. Now you can only receive one free training session for your reviews, however you get an entry into the grand prize drawing for each review that you submit. For instance, if you leave us a review in say Yelp, iTunes, and Facebook, you still get just one free training session, but three entires into the grand prize. Now again, leave a review, screenshot it, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on Wednesday, May 31st, 2017, to claim that free training session, and to qualify for the grand prize. The winner is going to be announced in next week’s episode, right here, on the InForm Fitness Podcast. So good luck! Until then, for Adam Zickerman, Sheila Melody, and Mike Rogers, I’m Tim Edwards with the InBound Podcasting Network.