In his book Fat Loss Happens on Monday, Dan John recounts an article written by his former boss, Archbishop George Niederauer. It’s called “A Tale of Two Benches”, and in it he’s talking about our expectations of God, but the analogy is also true for nutrition and fitness.
Imagine waiting for a bus that’s supposed to arrive at 11:06. You get there at 11:00, sit on the bench, and wait for 11:06. If the bus doesn’t arrive at 11:06, you’re getting nervous. By 11:15, you’re in full-on panic and your day is not going well.
Alternatively, think of sitting at a park bench during your lunch hour to sit, listen, and observe. You’re not waiting, you’re just sitting. You may see some squirrels, you may not. But you’re not going to freak out if they don’t show up.
What’s the difference between these two benches? The bus bench represents the times you do what you think you’re supposed to do and you expect (demand) a result. There are times where this is appropriate. You put in your 40 hours a week, and you expect a paycheck.
But for most of us, for most of the time, the park-bench model is a more sustainable and enjoyable way to live. When we approach life, nutrition, training, what-have-you, in a way that is appreciative of what comes rather than demanding, we’re able to achieve some balance and graciousness that the bus bench model just doesn’t offer.
Let’s apply the analogy to good nutrition and movement. The bus-bench model says, “I’m going to weigh and measure my food and eat exactly what I’m being told to help me lose fat. Then I will step on the scale and if I don’t get results, I will be frustrated and defeated.”
The park-bench model says, “I’m going to find more vegetables and lean proteins that I enjoy eating, and fix them in a way that tastes good to me and satisfies me. I’m going to engage in intentional movement today because it improves my mood and makes me feel better. Eventually, that will result in leanness, but I will also get a short-term payoff in lots of other areas.”
Dan John says, “…let things happen and don’t judge them as good or bad. Enjoy the opportunity to train and eat well.” That’s the park bench. It doesn’t mean you can’t have goals and work toward them with the expectation that eventually your work will pay off. It just means that if you can find a way to enjoy the journey, it’s a more sustainable and balanced strategy that will serve you well over the years, not just a few weeks.
Practically speaking, what does this look like?
- Get a few new vegetables, or some tried-and-true options that you know you like. Bring them home, wash them, cut them, and put them on the main shelves of the fridge (not in the drawers where they’re hidden from view). If it’s ready to go and more visible, you’re more likely to choose well. Have quality food on hand, and make the choice to eat it.
- Prepare your proteins ahead of time, too. I do a lot of grilling, so my favorite method is to just double (or triple) dinner prep. When there’s tasty, cooked protein in the fridge that I just have to heat or chop for a salad, I’m much more likely to use it.
- Find exercises and activities that you love. Stop trying to figure out which type of exercise will burn the most fat. Think about what you love to do and do more of it. For overall health and longevity you’ll want to include some type of strength training or resistance exercise to your regimen, but the foundation of your exercise plan should be activities that give you energy, things you can’t wait to do again. Why? Because the best type of exercise is the exercise you’ll actually do. You can design the best fat burning program ever (or have one designed for you), but if you’re not doing it because you’re injured, bored, or burned out, it’s no good.
- Find your tribe. Whether your support comes in person or online, we all need folks in our corner who challenge and support us. Don’t try to be a lone wolf — celebrating your small (and big) wins with others brings more of that human connection, and is proven to motivate you to stick with it. Don’t have a tribe? We’d love to have you in ours. It’s free, and it’s one of my favorite places on the internet: BITE Nutrition Social Group
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