I recently went to Japan to lead workouts on the US Military bases, give anti-bullying talks to elementary, middle school, and high school students, and also meet part of my birth family in Tokyo for the very first time. It was an epic trip I will never forget and learned some cultural lessons that will be with me forever. One of them being the concept of Kaizen…a force to be reckoned with.
Following the devastation of a nuclear attack that led to the end of World War II, Japan underwent a cultural shift. Where elitism and segregation existed in leadership before the war, it was replaced with inclusiveness and collaboration that brought leadership shoulder-to-shoulder with the workforce. The concept is known as kaizen and it could give you a new perspective on finding and growing fitness from within.
What is Kaizen?
Kaizen symbolizes success as a series of steady, consistent, and sustained steps toward a common goal. It’s about the smallest of contributions adding up to big change and focuses on the importance of the individual as an integral part of moving a country and business forward. When applied to your journey towards a healthier, more fit you, consider the little things you can do that, with time and consistency, add up to success in creating a life-long commitment. To claim the victory over bad eating habits, inactivity, and stress, you’ll have to take deliberate, yet small and steady steps toward the goal. Unleash the power of Kaizen to get past your obstacles.
My Kaizen Journey
When I was an overweight teenager, the battle and journey to lose weight was one that I knew was going to be a very difficult and long process. I didn’t know how long it would take, but I was committed to do whatever it took to changing myself. It didn’t take a month or two…it literally took over a year. It started with me admitting to myself I had a “problem” and that living in denial was no longer an option. That mental and emotional change was the hardest and most important. Then a full year of football, wrestling, and lacrosse, coupled with improving my eating habits, enabled me to make fitness a lifestyle…for the rest of my life. If you want to be successful, commit from day one to reach your goal. Don’t put a time stamp on success. If you never quit, you will do what you set out to do.
Battle vs. War
Many people look at improving their health, gaining muscle, or losing weight, as a “battle of the bulge,” but you shouldn’t see it that way. It’s not a war, it’s a dedication to winning. Winning every day, the smallest of battles, from choosing the right thing to eat, choosing to be active, or pushing yourself a little further, your small wins will lead to bigger ones over time. Winning is addictive, so build up that drive to keep the streak going. The steps that I took to success can be the ones that changes your life for good. Here’s how:
Admit You Have a Problem
You’ve heard that hindsight is 20/20, but how can you really gain perspective if you don’t take time to reflect. I had to look at my behavior for what it was and the required me to look within and admit to the issues I had with binge eating and junk food.
Reaching Out For Help
You can’t do it alone, so don’t try to. People with help, even if it’s just an online community, do better than those who go it alone. There is strength in numbers. With support from people like me who have been where you are, you can get motivation to stay the course and also realize that people are feeling exactly how you feel.
Consistently Playing Sports
Staying physically active isn’t just about losing weight, it regulates your sleep, relieves stress, and helps you focus. When add to that the energy-infusion you get after a workout, and burning calories, it’s a win-win situation if you can keep moving.
Changing the Way I Ate
It takes time to overcome bad habits, and even more time to form new ones. Trying to improve at each meal is easier to prepare for and plan than trying to map out your eating life in a matter of weeks or months in advance. According to Cornell University researchers we make over 200 food-related decisions a day. Make it a point to choose the best options most of the time.
The Kaizen Action Plan
To incorporate Kaizen into your life, you’ll have to start with your mind first. Consider your goals: What rewards keep you motivated? What’s your true reason for wanting to lose weight, gain muscle, or get more fit? Consider how reaching those goals will feel, and how it might change your life. This will give you the motivation to truly seek improvement on a regular basis. You have to have the patience and the commitment together. Patience can only be measured by your continued commitment to it. If you’re one of those people who likes to do things fast and furious, you’re going to be disappointed. When you commit to something for life, you’re not in a rush to see big changes. On the other hand, when you’ve made a commitment with a kaizen spirit, your setbacks won’t hinder you or stop your motivation. Keep the vision in reach, but measure yourself from one day to the next. This is how you can get into the long standing commitment that creates lasting change.
You can use your mind to enhance the vision you have of a healthier you. Here are steps to take to unleash the force of Kaizen.
Step 1: Feed Your Motivation
The mind is strong, but the body is weak. Start by feeding your mind with good advice, positive people, and good information. Apply what you’ve learned to your life and tweak certain points to make it your own. Surround yourself with reminders of the goal and keep building on that vision. You can use numbers to keep you in the fight. Seeing how many consecutive days you’ve worked out, or using a countdown calendar to an important day is great motivation. You could also keep a bowl of motivational quotes to read after you workout. Create a routine around your goal and it’ll stay on the top of your priority list.
Step 2: Anticipate Obstacles
Old habits die hard, and new habits are even harder to make stick. That means you have anticipate obstacles that will trip you up. Consider a contingency plan for certain times when you may miss a workout, or not eat the healthiest. A long day at work, a cold, or anything that throws you off your game should have a little backup plan. Maybe if you’re sick, you take a walk, instead of doing a hard workout. If you stay late at work, you could make a list of restaurants and healthy options where you might eat without going overboard. Life happens and to keep your progress going, you have to be prepared for some things not to go as planned.
Step 3: Strengthen Weaknesses
The last step to living a life of Kaizen is turning your excuses into opportunities to get stronger. There are parts of your life that obviously set you up for failure. Busy schedules, transportation issues, financial commitments, and social interactions are all real reasons why people stop their weight loss journey before they reach their goal. Instead of fretting about how these things have hampered you, turn them into strengths. Come up with an alternative to giving in completely.
Step 4: Put YOUR Best Foot Forward Today
The goal of Kaizen is to have you be an active participant in improving your health one day at a time. That means you have to stop comparing yourself. When I started off in Capoeira in my late 20’s, I was surrounded by people who’d been doing it since their youth. They were decades ahead of me in terms of technique, speed, and form. At first, I was focused on trying to “catch” them or be better than they were, but the kaizen approach has given me a different outlook. Now I know my only competition is myself. I’m going to be my best self. If I compare the rhythm of my ginga or the speed of my Martello a year ago, I see my improvement. It’s hard to see that when you compare yourself to others. Many professional track and field athletes will talk about running their “personal best,” that is beating their best time. That should be your goal. To run your race, at your time, the best you know how and to improve on that as time goes on. It’s not about the diet, the workout plan, or the trainer. It’s about fitness from within: that mental muscle to stick it out when you want to quit, to see the finish line before you turn the corner, and to cross that finish line giving nothing less than 100%.
Searching the Web for answers I came up on your website…..I am a 46 yr old male that started +-15 years ago just gaining weight and gaining weight and my GP said it is my under active thyroid – at the age of 33…..my thyroide was over active at the age of 13-14……
NOW, 15+ yrs later, I struggle losing weight – tried almost everything – even the balloon implantation – haha. Changed GP and was diagnosed wit IR, inflammation in my gutt, I do weight now 147kg…..gained my last 16 kg the last 7 months – my wife and I did change our lifestyle as I grew up on a farm in the country side of South Africa and fully organic, no wheat ect ect – Now from my Gp to the nutritionist said that there is nothing they can do for me, medically – I was active even joined Crossfit and enjoined it as a farmer boy and be in the SA army , even that I am overweight it am truly movable and a fit-fat man as the Crossfit instructor mentioned it as I could do exercises that most people with my weight can not do……I can me more active, but the corporate lifestyle is the excuse – haha.
So, as I am reading your posting I discovered another way of thinking – I am doing TRE and QEC, at this moment the only body exercise and mental exercise that keeps me sane.
Any thoughts from you?
NOW, I do not drink water of herbal tea – eat the Banting way and it is working although that I do not gain any more weight I do not loose any too……
I will implement your 4 steps as this is the most difficult to do, the consistency of your plan.
Thank you for the thoughts…..
You’re journey in fitness has not been easy. Neither was mine, I was an overweight teenager, bullied a lot for being overweight, that eventually lost over 50 pounds at age 15 to begin my path and eventual career in the fitness industry. It is difficult to sometimes see and measure certain results if you have a condition like a over active or under active thyroid. I always suggest the person work with a good endocrinologist. For exercise, I do believe you are on to the right path, by taking small steps so you can see consistent progress. Too much too soon never works. Consistency requires longer commitment and this is where those 4 steps are so important. You have to be in it for the long haul. I usually recommend bodyweight exercises because they are effective and lower impact on the body. Mix that with a little interval training and healthy, easy to prepare meals, and you have a winning combination. If you want more information on these types of workouts or recipes, I just launched by new program the 20 Minute Body. It’s all 20-minute bodyweight HIIT workouts and 20-minute healthy recipes. You can preview the program at http://www.20minutebody.com. Keep up the good training and most of all, your commitment to your health. Brett
Hi Brett! So I just got done with the 90 day RevAbs and I lost 9lbs! But I have gained a life time of changes. There were so many times that I cried after one of your workouts. I could not believe that I made it through most of the time and sometimes I just needed a release. I’ve never been a large person and I never was one who needed to work out, but then I turned 35! Lol! As I prepared my body to fit into a bridesmaid dress that was extremely unforgiving, I decided to take on your 90 day challenge. These past 90 days filled me with the philosophy that once I pushed past where I thought I could go, (mind, body, soul and spirit), that NOTHING was impossible to achieve. Thank you for your motivation. I mean, it’s great that I have my “swimsuit” body back, but you gave me so much more than that. You helped me to believe in myself. This gift is so valuable and so are you! I hope and pray that you come out with another workout as I will be doing insanity next but will miss my time being motivated by you and your crew! Please let us know if you release more workouts on dvd! I will be the first in line!
Hi Kathryn!! I remember hearing your amazing story with RevAbs before and am very happy to be hearing this again. 35 pounds is incredible, but the tears into triumph…the pain into passion is what stands out the most to me and makes me smile. It’s stories like these…journeys like yours that make me proud to do what I do. It’s a pleasure to have been a part of your transformation…you believing in yourself is the best transformation you can have…but the “swimsuit” body comes in close second 😉 Brett