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Why Hard Rules Make It Easy


Let’s take two examples of fat loss strategies. Call them New Years resolutions if you like.

Option one is “Cut down drinking and eat more fresh veg and high quality protein.”

Option two is “Drop carbs for two weeks and go zero alcohol for a month.”

Which is best? The answers tend to be quite polarising. Many people in the fitness industry will tell you there’s no need to go “so extreme” as to not drink or not eat carbs. That moderation is key. Others will say that if you want fast results you need to make big changes.

And to a degree they’re both right. Of course you don’t actually need to go zero carb or zero alcohol. A small calorie deficit is enough to burn fat. Moderation does work, if you can actually be moderate.

But that’s a huge if.

Because the truth is it’s much harder, psychologically, for most people to stay within loose guidelines than it is to stick to hard rules.

This is because of something called decision fatigue.

You may have heard this phrase before in relation to business leaders and politicians. Both Bill Gates and Barack Obama kept their wardrobes incredibly basic, just variations of the same outfits every day, because little decisions over the course of the day add up to erode your cognitive abilities. And if you need to make a bigger decision later in the day, you don’t want to have used up that mental energy deciding what kind of trousers to wear.

It’s the same with “moderation”.

Loose guidelines mean you’re┬ámaking a judgement call every meal. Every snack. Every drink.

Should I have one more glass of wine now, and have nothing tomorrow to make up?

Can I have chips with my steak, if I work out tomorrow morning?

Each one of these is another choice. Anther mini battle. Another little chink in your finite reserves.

And at a certain point those reserves are gone. Decision fatigue sets in. Your critical faculties are at a low ebb and you just say… Screw it, I’m having whatever I want.

It’s human nature. You can’t fight it.

So don’t.

Make the unreasonable rule: No booze. No sugar. Whatever it may be.

But make it for a finite amount of time.

We can all agree that detoxes are not scientific. Which is why this hard approach has developed a bad rap in recent years. But it’s not about the science of whether going zero carb is necessary. It’s about the fundamentals of human behaviour.

And the truth is we actually thrive on periods of restriction.

We need hard rules.

We need structure.

That’s how we do things at Evolve. It’s not about being hard for the sake of it, or demoralising you if you slip up.

But it is about setting clear rules and boundaries that get you to your goal in the shortest possible time.

Because the truth is the softly softly approach doesn’t help you. It just keeps you in your bad behaviours for longer.