The real reason you can’t get in shape

I’m the kind of guy who makes it approximately 30 days into P90X… twice a year for six years.

I’m the kind of guy who drinks 6 cans of Dr. Pepper a day and has a major addiction to bread in all forms. I did not play sports in high school, and whenever I did, I regretted it. I’m a big fan of Red Baron pizzas, and I really, really hate running.

My name is Jonathan, and despite all my many fitness failures, against all the odds, I am in really good shape. Five years ago, I lost 20 pounds of fat and put on 20 pounds of muscle in a very short period of time. I entered this period of my life at 24% body fat (dangerously close to obese, according to the American Council for Exercise) and exited at a cool 10.9% (which makes me an “athlete” — take that, everyone in my middle school).

And, most critically, I’ve stayed that way for going on five years now. I live a pretty normal life, sometimes still involving Dr. Pepper and pumpernickel (though at lower quantities), and yet I haven’t gained the weight back or lost any muscle mass. If anything, I’ve continued getting stronger and leaner.

Truly, I am fitter and healthier at age 31 than I was at age 21. To this day, I look and feel completely different than ever before.

Do you want to know I did it? My great fitness secret? Well, It certainly wasn’t my extreme discipline. I still often missed workouts and failed to meal plan. There was no strict diet full of acai and turmeric, nor some extreme celebrity training regimen I found on Instagram. And I still hate running.

So how did I do it?

I had help.

That’s right: the only difference between me — who experienced nothing short of a body-and-mind transformation, and you — who can’t seem to get to the gym or say no to fries — is that I had help, and you don’t.

Help, for me, looked like the right person showing up in my life at the right time. That person was Jason. Jason and I grew up together, so he already knew me pretty well. Jason had some of the hallmarks of a personal trainer — he challenged me, taught me how to do certain movements, made me do burpees — and he definitely had a lot of fitness knowledge that I didn’t

But, critically, Jason had more of the qualities of a coach, or a guide (like this guy, or this guy). Jason taught me things about myself. When things went well, we celebrated. When they didn’t, he commiserated. Rather than focusing on the physical, Jason helped me deal with the emotional and behavioral challenges of navigating a difficult transition in life.

Indeed, some of my hardest barriers lay even deeper, in my beliefs. Jason recognized pretty early that I didn’t really believe in my own ability to change (which makes it pretty easy to give up), and also that I believed a lot of things about diet, exercise, and my own body that were just plain false, causing all sorts of sub-optimal choices.

Jason saw good things that I didn’t always see in myself. And he worked hard to draw them out. Put simply, he wouldn’t let me lose.

I recognize that these are the sorts of things you would typically hire atherapist for, not a personal trainer. But maybe that’s why we keep losing: we keep looking for someone to make us do tougher workouts when we should be looking for someone who will ask us tougher questions. We’re hiring people to help us change our bodies when we should be hiring people to help us change our mindset.

If you’re anything like me, the revolving door of setting a fitness goal, starting strong, getting burnt out, and giving up has left you feeling defeated, stupid, and ashamed. I always was convinced that if I just found the right workout for me or the right diet plan to help me lose weight quickly, then I would finally succeed instead of giving up.

I’m going to be straight with you. There is no right diet for you. There is no optimal workout routine. The people who tell you (or sell you) these things are lying. To get from where you are to where you want to be, the only option is change. Change is a hard journey, and a journey demands a guide.

Everyone deserves a guide like Jason in their life, someone who just won’t let them lose.

That’s actually why I started Kai, so everyone could have a coach who really cares. Our core belief at Kai is that each of us is a hero on our own journey, and every hero needs a guide.

So, if you want to get in shape, get active, fix your shitty diet, or just generally be better than you currently are, you need to ask the right question:

Instead of trying to decide WHAT you’ll do or HOW you’re go about it, instead ask WHO — “Who am I going to take with me on this journey? Who will make me the hero of the story? Who will I follow on the trail? Who will be my coach, my guide, keeping me going when the going gets tough?”

And remember: the right help at the right time can change everything.

Jonathan Smith