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Lessons From The Alpo Diet

The third week of January has arrived and research tells us this will be the week when the majority of people break their diet or other New Year’s resolution.

This won’t be you of course because I’m going to coach you through it, but never-the-less expect to see a bunch of your co-workers and friends falling off the wagon this week.

Here’s why…

I want you to think about your motivation at the beginning of any diet. You’re all fired up right?

You’ve gone grocery shopping for healthy foods, got new sneakers to start exercising, bought a notebook to keep your food journal, and the list goes on.

Maybe you even wrote down your goal of losing <fill in the blank> pounds. Either way the first two weeks are usually pretty solid for most people because their emotions are still on high and the will-power is driven by the positive thoughts of success.

But then something happens around week three of your diet…

As the excitement of the new diet begins to wear off and temptation starts rearing its ugly head, you enter into dangerous, shark infested, waters.

The secret to whether or not you’ll stick with your diet has little to do with your will-power or discipline, contrary to popular belief. So what’s the secret?

Two words: inner motivation.

It’s really not that difficult to predict (with pretty good accuracy I might add) how well a person will do with their diet based on their REAL underlying motivation for wanting to start the diet in the first place.

I try to always uncover what this motivation is when doing a consultation but it’s not always information that clients will immediately share with you.

Why? Because it’s often emotional, deep rooted stuff that takes some soul searching to get to the bottom of and may even be painful to open up to ourselves and others about.

What’s your REAL motivation?

You know where I’m going with this…we’re not talking about the happy, flowery, positive thoughts related to what you want to achieve.

While positive visualization with seeing goal achievement with crystal clear focus is certainly important, anybody who tells you PAIN isn’t a strong motivator probably hasn’t experienced much of it during some point in their life.

When we think of motivation, we think of getting excited and being driven by what we want. This is all fine and well, and certainly part of the equation. However, if there’s not much thought on the pain of “not” following through, we’re likely to fall back into old habits.

Let me give you a fictitious example so you can really see what I’m talking about…

Kimberly is attending her high school reunion in three months. At the reunion will be her former best friend who’s now married to her ex-husband, who cheated on her with the former best friend.

Jake will be there, too, an old boyfriend Kimberly never quite got over, who’s now single and living quite well off the money he made when he recently sold his computer software company to Microsoft. Kimberly has been looking into many articles on how to get your ex guy back and seems to be having some success with that.

Kimberly is twenty pounds heavier than her “cheerleading days” and she’s hell bent on losing weight and walking through the doors of that reunion looking like a million bucks.


What’s her motivation, simply to lose weight for the health benefits? What are you nuts?

This woman is on a mission!

She’s the client that will strictly follow the “Rapid Fat Loss Diet” consuming lean proteins and veggies without ever once whining about having to give up the Diet Cokes or whatever.

She’ll do any exercise routine you tell her to do and show up 10 minutes early all the time, every time, ready to work with a fire in her eye.

I love working with the “Kimberly’s” of the world. Oh yeah, and as you can imagine they’re usually the ones that wind up on before & after posters in the studio.

The motivation wasn’t something as simple as weight loss. It wasn’t even just about specifically losing 20 pounds. The motivation came from WHY she wanted to lose the 20 pounds.  

Read that again…

The reward in her mind is great, but so is the pain. This is very important.

Where do you think Kimberly is going to be mentally come week three into her diet? I’d lay money she’ll still be eating clean long after most people cave in to a deep dish pizza and breadsticks.

No doubt about it, pain is a powerful motivator.

Bottom line is if you’re not using pain as a motivator you’re missing out on a critical component.

One of my mentors, Dan John, wrote about this idea in his book “Never Let Go.” He said the single best piece of diet advice he ever heard came from Anthony Robbins on something called the “Alpo Diet.”


Don’t laugh, stay with me here. I have to agree with Dan, this is a million dollar piece of advice.

You want to succeed with a weight loss goal, do this and the odds will shift significantly in your favor!

How to do the Alpo Diet….just in case you really wanted to know!

Invite a group of your best friends over to your house for a dinner party. After dinner tell the entire group that by the end of next month you’re going to have lost ten pounds.

Tell them if you don’t, you’ll eat an entire can of Alpo dog food in front of them and they can take pictures to put on Facebook for everyone to see!

For the next few weeks every time you get an urge to take a piece of chocolate from the cubicle next to you or order your favorite hot wings for lunch, all you’d have to do is open the Alpo can and take a big sniff. Trust me this will work!

I know this may sound crazy and extreme, but think about the factors at play here.

When the pain is strong enough and is kept at the conscious level, subconsciously your decision making changes. The key thing here is the pain can’t be something that you think about once and forget about it.

If you haven’t reached the “tipping point” with the pain not being a strong enough motivator, create the pain through an “Alpo” scenario of your own.

Obviously, this has nothing to do with dog food, but everything to do with the factors that really motivate us as individuals.

Find it, focus on it, and share your goals with the world.

Make sure you can answer the “all important” question…

You decide you’re going to start a diet because you want to lose 20 pounds (but don’t tell anybody else about it). About three weeks into the diet, the scale isn’t moving as fast as you’d like and you’re stressed out from something at work, etc, etc. The wheels are coming off fast and you’re close to falling back into old habits.

Think about asking this question at that exact point in time…

“What will be the pain if I just quit right now, who will really find out about it, how much does it really matter?”

If you’re not accountable to somebody and the pain of not following through isn’t a very strong motivator, chances are you’ll backslide. It’s just human nature as this stuff is pretty predictable.

Don’t go into a diet without being able to answer this question before hand. Keep that answer ready at all times and don’t forget about it. You’ll need it when you get to one of the several crossroads you’ll undoubtedly encounter.

Here’s a simple exercise that can pay huge dividends.

When you decide to start a diet sit down and write out the following in a chart on an index card or piece of paper.

What pleasure will you get if you do get your goals?
What pain will you get if you don’t get your goals?

What pain will you get if you do get your goals?
– Yes, think about this, I can assure you there will be some sacrifices.

What pleasure will you get if you don’t get your goals?

In the arena of goal setting people will place their ambitions into one of three categories:

“I should”
“I could”
“I must”

The “should” and “could” crowd is usually breaking their diets in the third week while the “must” crowd continues to stay focused with seemingly incredible will-power and discipline.

Remember, it’s not incredible will-power that carries most people through though, but rather its strong motivation.

Want to be in the “I must” crowd, here’s what to do…

Let others know about your goals
You’ll automatically increase your chances for success the more people you let know about your goals. What are they specifically and what are you going to do to get there. Put it on Facebook and keep people posted of your progress by writing on your wall.

Nobody wants to be a failure to their friends so you’ll think twice about bagging the progress reports a couple of weeks into it. Use peer pressure to your advantage for once!

Get your Alpo!
I don’t know what your “Alpo” is but find something. What in your life would bring enormous pain? Here’s just another wild idea…post a before picture on Facebook (or “Space Book” so my Dad calls it).

Tell your friends when you’re going to post your after picture. Be specific so you have to hold to the date. Tell them if you don’t they should keep bumping the shameful before shot until you come through with the after.

I don’t know, just another idea. Truth be told, as long as you’ve clearly identified the pain with not following through and it’s a strong motivator, you’re already way ahead of the game.

I wish I could tell you the desire for gain or pleasure was a stronger motivator than the avoidance of pain, but it’s just not the case.

Know what you want, be positive with your thoughts of the future and clearly visualize what you want to achieve. In other words, send the right message to your subconscious thoughts and to the universe for what you want.

But at the same time, carry around a card in your wallet or purse with a reminder of the PAIN that comes from falling back into old habits.

When you’re tired, stressed out, feeling depressed, thinking about quitting, etc…just remember the pain!

That chocolate chip cookie isn’t worth it!

Damn it, get mad! See the truth for what this junk is actually taking from you (causing real pain) instead of blindly thinking of the immediate pleasure all the time.

Don’t give into those voices in your head. Remember what I’m always telling you. Yeah, sure it’s tempting and will taste good going down but in the end you’ll find bitter disappointment when you learn that cookie was a liar and a thief.

It didn’t make you feel better, that was only for a short while and over time when chocolate chip cookies (or whatever) becomes a regular comfort food, it’ll rob you of your health, energy, and quality of life.   

That’s the gospel truth my friend and I just want the best for you. Believe in your ability to make a change and see things for what they can be. Dare to dream and throw out all the reasons why you can’t do something. These are lies too!

This includes all the junk from your past and anything that’s happened to you up until this very point in time today. It’s all in the past, let it go so you can move forward and on to better, brighter days.

The road that can take you where you want to go is within your reach. In fact, you may have already started down it a time or two but slipped off track because you were walking alone.

We were not created to walk alone through this thing called life. When you start a diet and exercise program to hopefully change the quality and course of your life (doing it for all the right reasons), please take my advice and don’t begin the journey alone.

One of the greatest benefits of having your own personal trainer, or being in a group of individuals who share a trainer, is having the accountability and will-power you don’t have enough of on your own in the beginning.

Start your new habits with help, don’t put it all on yourself. When you’re ready, I’ll be here to give you the guidance and advice of a friend.

Eat primal, exercise with purpose, live with passion…

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. You can receive a FREE no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal training program and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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