Three strategies to practice patience

The running joke in my family is that my little brother’s First Holy Communion and high school graduation pictures were on the same roll of film.

And that my Mom didn’t develop those pictures until he was in college.

He was 21 before he knew what he looked like as a baby.

That’s really not a joke. It’s true. My mom was frugal with everything, including her 126 film for her Kodak Instamatic camera, so we only photographed momentous occasions.

Take a photo of any kid today and her first impulse is to reach for the camera to see the picture on the back.  

We live in an instant gratification world. Put a status on Facebook and get instant feedback. News alerts show up on our watches, phones, and iPads. Hear a song you like, tag it with Shazam and buy it through iTunes.

Gone are the days of sitting by the radio with your blank Memorex tape waiting for that new Richard Marx song to come on the radio, and then of course the D.J. talked over the intro, which ruined everything.

We don’t have to wait for anything. Heck, I don't even have to wait in line at Starbucks anymore. I order my drink on my app and pick it up at the store.

So it should come as no shock that we've run out of patience with the journey to fat loss. Intellectually we know that results don’t come over night. One woman said it best that she didn’t put the weight on over night, so it wasn’t going to come off over night. 

But we rarely have to practice patience anymore. (I'm speaking as someone who has no children. I imagine those of you with kids practice patience on an hourly basis...)

Unfortunately, the intellectual knowledge that the process takes time does little to soothe us. And especially with health and fitness, it becomes very easy to question whether you're taking the right approach.

You cut down on carbs for a week, hop on the scale, and the number hasn't moved. (Which is one of many reasons that getting on the scale frequently isn't always helpful).

So you throw in the towel.

Your friend lost 20 pounds doing P90X so you try it for 10 days and haven't seen any results. It must be time to switch to Insanity. As coaches, many of us are also guilty of program hopping. We try one program for a month until we see a new one that we want to try, so we change course.

We hop around from one approach to the next looking for faster results. Not better. Faster. 

Despite the advent of all things digital - despite never having to wait for another REO Speedwagon song ever again in your life - there are some things that we can’t rush.

Regardless of your choice of exercise program, the process of body recomposition and fat loss takes time.  

So how do you learn patience?

Start here:

1. Delay instant gratification

This is a tough one. Especially for those of us who grew up without cell phones and digital music and books.

We don't have to wait any more so why bother?

There is actually a famous study called the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment that focused on delayed gratification and it’s very much worth the read. A group of children were given a marshmallow and told that if they waited 15 minutes to eat the marshmallow, they would get two marshmallows. Some waited, and some didn't. 

Delay instant gratification.

2. Take five slow deep breaths.

In meditation, everything returns to the breath. Focusing on your breathing can help bring you back into the now, into the moment, and doing so can shift your attention from what you want to where you are right now.

Slow down.

Are you Tigger? There's nothing wrong with Tigger, but you might want to tap into your inner Eyore for a few hours. Slow down. Breathe. A great way to slow down is the name five blue things in your surroundings. And then five red things. And then five white things. (Which is also a helpful technique if you find yourself feeling anxious about something).

3. Make peace with discomfort

When I first started running, I'd get a stitch in my side less than five minutes into a run. In the beginning, all I could think about was the stitch in my side, which seemed to grow worse with every passing step. Once I learned to embrace the discomfort I could get past the stitch, but it took a lot of focus and willingness to embrace the suck. 

Say it with me: embrace the suck. Embrace it!

Because you know, and I know, that with discomfort comes growth. Find a buddy, distract yourself with music, do what you need to do, but embrace it.

Because change takes time.

Be patient with yourself and the process.