The only rule you need to follow to get into shape

Only one rule to get into shape? For real?

Yes. Here it is. Are you ready?

The only rule is that we shouldn’t be so hung up on following rules. We should, instead, just do something. We need to move.

Oh wait. Maybe that’s two rules.

A week ago I received a two-part email message about a two-part blog outlining the top 10 nutrition rules we all need to follow. And all I could think was: Really? 10 rules? Getting people to follow one rule is tough enough. Overload them with too many and they’ll run (I mean drive) away, and maybe pick up some wings, pizza or ice cream for the trip. Heck, I might even call shotgun.

A weird thing happens when people get “a plan,” start a program or decide to live by a bunch of rules. Eventually, they stop, and frequently they end up doing everything and anything that they couldn’t while following the the plan. I can’t even count the number of times I have warned people who are in the thrall of “good” that when they come off their plan, they are going to swing hard the other way. To a person, they look at me as if I am crazy.

How do I know they are going to do this? Because I have done it myself, more than once. And it’s not because we have weak wills. It’s human nature, and I also wouldn’t be surprised if it was at least partly biological.

Obviously there are exceptions — and I know of several — but for the most part, after we think we have been “good” with our programs (especially our diets), we become “bad.” And how do we deem whether or not we are being “good” or “bad”? It’s because we followed rules that made certain activities or foods naughty or nice.

Spartan programs make for good TV shows and movies but for real life, not so much. If you want to get into shape, find something you enjoy, or maybe that you think you eventually will enjoy. Walk, run, dance, pick up heavy things, cycle, punch or kick. Swim. Start doing it a little, and then add a little more, and then go for even longer, and once you have made a habit, then you can get trickier with your activities by being more deliberate with how you actually do them. I started with a stationary bicycle that was layered in dust in the basement.

Likewise, if you want to lose weight, simply eat a little less. Yes, there are some foods that healthier than others but chances are you already know all that so there’s no  need to reiterate the fact that veggies trump french fries or that an apple is better than a box of candy. I have had so many clients give up certain foods (wheat, dairy, meat, etc.) to lose weight or decide to stop eating carbs or to go paleo or vegan or … well, the list is long. Unless there’s an ethical or medical reason, in my opinion it’s far less traumatic if you simply begin by eating a little less in general. And when you’re eating that smaller amount of fuel than you normally would, try to make most of it healthier.

Getting into shape and losing weight takes time and patience and, yes,  that sucks. But once you start getting results with the less-is-more routine, chances are you’ll be motivated to make even more changes, and it’ll snowball.

And the wonderful thing is that when you get to this point, you’re not following a bunch of “rules.” Instead, you’re living a lifestyle that makes you feel happy, healthy, fit and strong. Life beyond the rules? Sounds like a good deal to me.

Wendy Watkins

About Wendy Watkins

Wendy Watkins is a Bangor-based personal trainer, fitness coach, studio owner, and writer/editor. She is the author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Losing 20 Pounds in 2 Months. Visit her website at