The “Lagging Measures” of Fitness

 The “Lagging Measures” of Fitness


“Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits.”

This is one of my favorite fitness quotes.

It’s from James Clear, the author of the New York Times bestselling book Atomic Habits (and my personal client).


This little quote highlights why it’s so darn difficult to make fitness “stick” long term, and build up the proper habits to get in shape.

Once upon a time, delayed gratification was the cornerstone of how we operated. We knew in the moment sacrifices would pave the way for satisfaction in the future. It was commonplace to give up what we wanted “right now” for what we wanted “most”.

As land lines morphed into smartphones, and chatting with our friends in real life became “Snapchatting” at all hours of the day, we seem to have lost our way. Instead of learning the skill of doing things that will benefit the Future You, we’ve become accustomed to wanting – and borderline needing – everything right now.



Some things you do will have an immediate impact.

If you order yourself a few fingers of whisky at dinner, your body will be flooded with dopamine at the first sip. You’ll feel that burning sensation trickling down your throat. You’ll feel a small wave of euphoria wash over you (that’s the dopamine). Within a few, short minutes, you’ll begin to feel warm and fuzzy.


That’s an immediate cause and effect response, right there in your face.

That’s a temptation that’s hard to ignore. Especially if you’re a bourbon aficionado like myself.


But if you don’t order those whisky fingers, and instead opt for a water, you’ll just sit there. Watching everyone else enjoy their drinks. You may even be a Mr. (or Mrs.) Grumpy-pants because of it.


There is NO immediate benefit for you passing on the whisky.


Those benefits come down the road.


First, you’ll end up sleeping much better that evening. Alcohol disrupts your sleep quality badly. It reduces your REM and deep sleep. It increases your anxiety and cortisol levels. It raises your resting heart rate, an important metric for overall health. If you suffer from sleep apnea, alcohol will make the condition worse as well.

Second, abstaining from the alcohol will allow you to be more hydrated. With the improved sleep function, you’ll be more recovered and rested come Monday morning when your alarm clock goes off. You’ll spring out of bed the next morning instead of feeling sluggish, with a dry mouth and a slight headache.

And of course, over time, you’ll have better workouts. You’ll lose more fat. You’ll gain more muscle. You’ll become the best version of yourself. Alcohol is a toxin; when it’s in your system, all other metabolic functions (like fat loss or muscle protein synthesis), stop on a dime to clear the ethanol out of your system. If you’re drinking alcohol 2-3 times per week, that’s a good percentage out of your life where your body is in a toxic state.


With all of those positive benefits to passing on the booze, why do we so often order up the Maker’s Mark anyways?

The lure of the instant gratification can be hard to deny.



It’s not just booze

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying alcohol from time to time in moderation. In fact, many of our fat loss clients have drinks on a semi-regular basis (and still get into fantastic shape, as evidenced by our extensive before and afters).

And I don’t mean to pick on booze either; that’s not the point of this article.


The point is this…

Imagine if every time you made a healthy choice, you saw an immediate and obvious benefit.


What would happen then?



What if you skipped fast food and went to the grocer and purchased a healthy meal full of protein and whole foods… and you instantly dropped 30 pounds?

What if you went to the gym and did one sit up… and all of a sudden you had a full 6-pack?

What if you grabbed the dumbbells and did one shoulder press… and your deltoids immediately grew 3 inches, giving you the imposing look of a buff lumberjack?

Or what if you skipped the alcohol one time, and the next time you looked in the mirror, your love handles had vanished?


Would you be more apt to eating right? Or working out? Or skipping the booze?

If this was our reality – if you had an immediate and obvious benefit to having healthy habits, well… let’s just say gyms would be full and whisky sales would plummet.



Fake it ’til you make it

Unfortunately, there is no immediate and obvious benefit to having good habits.

Those benefits are “lagging behind” – they’ll get here eventually, but you’ll need to have patience to enjoy them down the road. It could take weeks, months, or in some cases, even years to enjoy the fruits of your healthy habits.


But they’re coming… trust me, they’re coming…


Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits.

You will need to decide each day to live your life in a way that benefits the Future You. You will need to “be” the healthy person each day, and stay consistent with it, until one day, you realize you actually have become that person.


You’ll need to “fake it ’til you make it”. You’ll need to decide that you’re worth it, and the Future You will appreciate what you’ve done for yourself in the past.

You may even need to change your identity and become a different person.


I know this as a fact all too well. When I started skipping Happy Hour for the gym, and eating my own lunch in my classroom at Central Middle School instead of going out for meals with my co-workers, people looked at me like I had grown a second head. It was a full 180 from my identity at the time. Back then, I was known as the big, lovable teddy bear, who ate big, drank big, and consumed extreme amounts.

I had to decide once and for all that I didn’t want to be “that guy” any longer, and my new actions needed to align with the person I wanted to be.


I knew the Future Me would be happy I made those sacrifices, one day down the line.


One good day, on repeat

The funny thing about fitness is everyone can do it.



You can do it. Your friends can do it. Your parents can do it.

Seriously – everyone.


Fitness is the only domain on earth that only requires one thing for you to be a success:  A consistent and daily effort.

It’s simple.


But it’s far from easy.


Here’s how you know you can do it… have you ever had a good day with your fitness?

You ate healthy, worked out, and felt accomplished at the end of the day?

Of course you have. We’ve all had a good day before, right?


Well, here’s the secret to fitness success… to be successful, you just need to have that “one good day” over and over again.


That might be a comforting fact to you, or a daunting one. Because it will take some time before your new, healthy habits “catch up”. Because yes, your fitness – and your weight – IS a “lagging measure”. It’s not a function of what you’ve done today. It’s a function of what you’ve done in the weeks and months prior to today.


There’s a funny thing about “time”, though.

It’s going to pass, no matter what.

In one year, it will be one year from today. That much is guaranteed.


When you look back at today – one year from now – will you be able to say you’re proud about what you’ve achieved in the last year with your health?

Or will you still be waiting for the “right time”, that somehow never seems to come?


Jason Helmes is a former Plymouth-Canton teacher who owns and operates Anyman Fitness out of his Canton home. Anyman Fitness is an online fitness coaching service that helps its clients reach their goals in a simple, straightforward manner. You can contact Jason at, or visit his site here for more information.

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