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You’re Killing Yourself: And Your Fitness Program Might Be Making It Worse

She couldn’t go on like she was, that much was clear. Getting her to see that would prove to be a different thing entirely…

“I’m not stressed” she screamed at me, throwing her cup of coffee on the floor. 

The cup impacted and the dark, warm liquid arced upwards in a fountain, soaking the ceiling.

I gulped and raised an eyebrow.

“Oh shit, it’s going to be one of those conversations…”

Janet was a high flyer, she was a head of department at a big company. 

  • She had kids, 
  • Her job kept her busy from 8 till 8 every day, more often she’d finish at 10. 
  • She had to take a combination of drugs and supplements to sleep.
  • She mainlined coffee during the day.
  • She was on statins, blood pressure meds and valium.
  • She had recently applied for a promotion.

The day of the coffee decorated ceiling she told me she wanted to “get fit, lose 10 kg, sleep better and have more energy.” 

She thought 2 months was a realistic timeframe for such a transformation.

To my eternal shame I actually laughed out loud…

When I managed to control my reaction, I looked at her and saw she was serious.

The conversation which followed led to the coffee fountain effect I described, so you can imagine how well it went.

The point I tried to make to Janet went something like this:

  • For a weight loss program to work you have to meal prep, possibly learn to cook, change your shopping habits, get your family to support you (or at least not actively sabotage you)
  • For a fitness program to work you have to buy some new equipment and learn how to use it, get a gym membership, actually go and do the work at the gym.
  •  To get more energy you have to cut down the amount of stress you are exposed to on a daily basis.
  •  To sleep better you have to optimise your entire day so sleep is effortless.

If she had all these things in place I could get here the goals she wanted in 2 months easily, but…


  • She’s working all the hours god sends
  • She’s not sleeping
  • She doesn’t have time for meal prep
  • She doesn’t have the energy to hit the gym

How is adding a program which is going to make more demands on her precious time and energy a good idea?

I asked Janet quite openly, ”When are you going to find time to go to the gym?”

Her answer was the classic response of type A’s everywhere, “I’ll get up an hour earlier.” 

Great, now you’re adding more stress in the form of exercise, whilst simultaneously giving yourself less time asleep to recover from it.

Undeterred (and oblivious to her rising mood) I followed up with, “And how are you going to ensure you get a solid 6 – 8 of drug free sleep every night?”

She faltered…I pushed on.

“How are you going to ensure you have the hour of time a day it takes to meal prep so you don’t just grab something quick from the canteen when you’re hungry?”

“How are you going to reduce your stress levels when you’re already stressed out of your mind and about to take on an even more stressful position at work?”

Her reply was the classic response we’ve been taught on self improvement courses everywhere and was accentuated by the coffee bomb and a steely eyed glare:

“I’ll make a way.”

And I believed here, I genuinely believed she would…

For a while.

Probably for as long as the program itself lasted.

Then I knew just as clearly that as the initial enthusiasm wore off and the stresses of work and everyday life started pushing against her, she would find she had even more stress in her life, as now she had this program to follow as well. 

In the long run (and if health isn’t long term it’s not worth anything) something would have to give.

That thing would be this program.

Leaving her feeling like a failure whilst reinforcing her belief that somehow she was different and these programs just didn’t work for her, so why should she even bother.

That was not what either of us wanted for her.

Once she’d calmed down and I’d bought her another coffee, we decided that instead of working on a health program, we would start work on lifestyle design.

We rebuilt her day from the ground up to enable her to have the time and mental space to create a lifestyle with health at its heart.

We freed up a few hours in her day and got her off the sleeping pills, we got her off the statins. She realised that, for the moment, building these habits was more important than promotion so she withdrew her application and actually downgraded her role at work, massively reducing her stress levels.

Once she had this in place, losing those 10kgs and hitting the rest of her goals was ridiculously easy…and 2 years later she’s still lean and only becoming more more energised. 

What’s more, she’s now got that promotion and has the energy and the mental bandwidth to handle the added workload much better.

Just so you know, I go through all this in my coaching program if you’re interested.

Now I don’t want to make it seem like this was a small task. 

It wasn’t. Just getting Janet to the point where she was ready to start the actual program probably took about 6 months. 

But I think you get my point, before you embark on any program like this, first ask yourself, 

“Is my life set up in such a way to allow me to actually complete this program?” 

If not work on that first.

The simple truth is almost any program will work, as long as it is based around the principles of healthy eating and sound fitness.

The reason it won’t work is because, before you even start, you haven’t given it a chance to work.

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