Most of us usually have something standing between us and achieving our goals.
- Sometimes it stops us dead in our tracks, seemingly impossible to overcome.
- Sometimes it just makes achieving our goals a bit harder or take longer than it should.
- Worst of all, sometimes it stops us from even trying. We give up before we even start.
For example, I was born premature and as a result have 60% hearing loss. I wear hearing aids, and it makes it pretty hard for me to work as a swimming instructor (can’t get them wet) or bartend (can’t hear much in noisy places). Even just speaking to people in a regular office environment can be challenging.
Others may lose a leg in a car accident, develop crippling auto-immune diseases, or be born with severe disabilities.
These are all Limiting Factors: Things that stand between you and your goals.
While there are many legitimate limiting factors out there, I strongly believe that many of them are not what they seem.
Limitations don’t mean it’s impossible.
That’s why I want to talk to you about some of the most common “limiting factors” when it comes to health and fitness, and help you identify which might just be excuses and which you need to pay special attention to in order to overcome.
Limiting Factor 1: Your Genetics
Genetics is the most commonly complained about obstacle between people and their weight loss or health goals.
Surprisingly, it’s also one of the least likely factors to cause you a significant amount of problem.
You see, your genetics have to do with the biological process where specific genes (made up of DNA) are passed on through heredity. This means the genes that were passed on to you from your biological parents influence what you become and which traits you express.
For example: Certain diseases, characteristics, and physical limitations may get passed on from parents to their offspring.
Genes can be expressed in different ways.
Through the field of epigenetics, we know that our environment and actions have a significant impact on our gene expression. They can influence which genes are active, which genes aren’t, and how the cells in our body use the information provided by our genes.
This means that things like frequent or no exercise, good or poor nutrition, quality sleep or lack thereof, and even just the way you think about life can alter your gene expression for the better or the worse.
Our genetics aren’t the be-all and end-all of us.
Just because you have a family history of heart disease or cancer doesn’t mean you are definitely going to get it too. Likewise, just because your whole family seems to be overweight and unhealthy doesn’t mean you have to be as well.
Your genes may play a role, but it is very likely that the day-to-day environment you find yourself in and the actions you take (or don’t take) are causing or at least exacerbating the problem more so than your genes.
If your family does have a “history”, don’t let that get you down. Be empowered by the fact that you are aware of those problems and can proactively take steps to minimize them rather than just sitting blindly.
Others aren’t so lucky. Some people get to eat junk all their lives and not put on any weight. They get to pretend that health is the absence of disease. Yet when they reach an older age they find themselves riddled with terrible health conditions that they could have prevented had they known the damage they were inflicting in their younger years.
Inherited genetics are most likely not your limiting factor.
Very few people ever come close to realizing their full genetic potential and push the limits of human performance.
Meaning they aren’t standing on the brink of their genetic upper limit and unable to improve anymore because of the terrible genes they inherited.
Sure, you might not have the genetics to be the next Usain Bolt or Chad le Clos, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still work your butt off every single day to achieve great results.
Professional golfer Gary Player once said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get“.
Anyone can take their inherited genetics and lose fat, gain muscle, and improve their health by consistently implementing the correct strategies to influence their epigenetics and environment.
Limiting Factor #2: Your Level of Physical Activity
Now let’s move a bit away from the realm of talking about genetics…
When I say your level of physical activity, I am talking about how active you are throughout the day and what kind of physical activity you do on a daily basis.
Let’s not even make it complicated, forget purposeful and planned exercise routines, let’s talk about being sedentary versus non-sedentary.
Even if you go to the gym for 1 hour a day, 7 days a week… If you sit on your bum behind a computer, in the car, at a table, on the couch, or in your bed for the remaining 23 hours of your day then you are STILL sedentary.
Sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity is one of the top factors (along with smoking, high alcohol consumption, and obesity) that strongly reduces life expectancy and health-related quality of life.
Just sitting for more than 6 hours a day already statistically increases your risk for heart disease by more than 50%. You are also decreasing your span of quality life by roughly 7 years, and of course your risk for various types of cancers, among other things, has sky rocketed.
It is indeed very possible that your level of physical activity is a limiting factor.
Remember what I talked about earlier with epigenetics and how what you do can affect your gene expression?
If you are very sedentary then you are more likely to express your genes in a way that make it much more difficult to achieve a healthy, happy, fit, strong, and sleek body.
Unsurprisingly, something as simple as examining the number of steps that people take throughout the day using a pedometer can provide a clear distinction between sedentary behaviour, active behaviour, and the associated risks or benefits of each.
Preliminary pedometer indices for public health have established that:
- Those who take 5,000 steps a day or less are considered sedentary and at a higher risk for obesity, disease, and early death.
- Those who take 10,000 steps a day or more are considered active and typically have less body fat and better overall health.
For best results you should be non-sedentary and do purposeful exercise.
Moving around regularly throughout the day is fantastic, but just walking around more isn’t the be-all and end-all of being physically active.
For best results you should ideally combine it with purposeful and regular exercise such as resistance or bodyweight training, as well as perhaps a variety of other physical exercises that you enjoy such as running, swimming, cycling, yoga, soccer, beach volley ball, and so on.
If you are looking for a way to start getting more active, why don’t you give our 30-day Step Challenge a try?
Limiting Factor #3: Your Physiology
This where things get a bit more complicated and my ability to give you specific health and medical advice becomes more limited (both practically and legally).
Even if you are doing great things for proper gene expression and cultivating a healthy lifestyle such as exercising regularly, eating well, sleeping enough, and have the right mindset, there are still physiological imbalances that can have a negative impact on your results.
Examples include thyroid hormone problems, gastrointestinal dysfunction, sex hormone imbalances, and a seriously damaged metabolism.
There are many things that you can do from home with a bit of solid research to improve and possibly even completely overcome physiological problems.
However if you suspect that something is seriously wrong then you should invest some time and money in working with a professional in the medical field who is experienced with your specific issue.
Your physiology may be a limiting factor, but it is not an excuse!
Regardless of what you think your physiology status is like, this is never an excuse not to take as many steps as possible to improve your health.
A commonly seen situation is when someone seems to be doing all the right things, giving it 110% effort, without seeing much progress or desired outcome. They become a bit demotivated, despondent, or even disillusioned in their plan.
This might be due to a limiting factor, or it might not…
Regardless, something that I love to remind them of is “Where would they be if they had not been putting in all of this effort?”
Not all positive change is immediate or outwardly visible, however much of the healthy habits we do is proactive in preventing further dysfunction.
Every good effort is improving your physiology, or at the very least preventing it from getting any worse. You have absolutely no excuse not to give up or avoid healthy habits while getting any physiological imbalances sorted out.
Limiting Factor #4: Mindset
The mind is an amazing and powerful thing.
If used correctly it can make attaining your goals so much easier. If ignored and shunned, it’s a huge loss of opportunity. If used incorrectly it can be one of our biggest limiting factors ever.
Here is an example:
Australian Psychologist Alan Richardson performed an experiment where he took a group of basketball players and divided them into 3 different groups, testing their ability to shoot hoops on the first day and at the end of the experiment on the 20th day. The 1st group would practice for 20 minutes every day at shooting hoops. The 2nd group would only visualize in their mind shooting hoops for 20 minutes every day. The 3rd group would not shoot hoops or visualize shooting hoops at all.
- After 20 days, unsurprisingly the 3rd group who did nothing did not improve at all.
- Again unsurprisingly, the 1st group who shot hoops every day improved greatly by about 24%.
- However most surprisingly is that the 2nd group who only performed visualized hoop shots improved almost as much as the 1st group that actually did practice every single day.
Plenty of other studies have also shown that mental practiced is almost as effective as true physical practice.
For example gym goers increased their muscle strength by 30%, while those who visualized weight training only increased muscle strength by 13.5% which is almost half as much.
Another study found that mental practice was nearly as effective as physical practice on the development of certain motor skills.
Visualization and mental practice also commonly shows up in firearm training for law enforcement to help improve their marksmanship and confidence.
I won’t go into any further detail here, but let’s boil it down to a simple quote by Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you can’t, you’re right“.
Your mindset can be a serious limiting factor, but it can also be your most powerful tool.
It’s clear that having a positive, proactive, and enthusiastic outlook on your goals and what you want to achieve is extremely important. You can have the best nutrition and exercise plan in the world, but if you hate every moment of it, continually doubt yourself, and only see problems or failures rather than the all good stuff then you are going to struggle to produce desired long-term results.
Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do – especially yourself!
Limiting Factor #5: Nutrition
Out of all these limiting factors, nutrition is by far the most important component to losing fat, gaining muscle, feeling healthier and performing better in general.
Everyone has their own opinion on what it means to eat healthily.
- For some, it’s abandoning modern foods and eating like a caveman.
- Or perhaps it’s eating lots of plants and no meat.
- Some think the key is to eat as few carbohydrates as possible.
- While still others think that fat is going to clog your arteries and bring you to an early death.
Even worse, many will talk about a “balanced diet” without any formal agreement on what that actually means.
The reality of it is that the answer probably lies somewhere between all of this and is heavily influenced by your own unique wants, needs, abilities, and constraints.
A while ago I listed 9 things that the most effective healthy diets have in common as:
- They focus on food quality
- They encourage nutrient-density
- They are low in added sugar and refined carbohydrates
- They are low in industrial vegetable and seed oils
- They avoid quick-fixes, shakes, gimmicks, fat-burners, and other weight-loss “products”
- They are high in vegetables and fiber
- They encourage eating a wide variety of food
- They limit or eliminate sugary drinks
- They limit or eliminate alcohol intake
- [Bonus] They make you pay attention to what you eat
If someone implemented just those 10 strategies without going on any specific diet, their health should generally improve for the better.
However, even this list has its flaws, especially when it comes down to individualization.
Some industrial oils can be better for cooking than more natural oils as they oxidise less easily making them healthier in that regard. Likewise, shakes can provide good, high-quality, and quick convenient nutrition when you are on the fly and the alternative is something much worse. Sugary drinks can be used to fuel intense and extended periods of physical activity, while moderate alcohol intake has some slight associated health benefits.
I’ll leave you to formulate your own opinion on what good nutrition really is, but the key message I want to get across is that nutrition will influence ALL of the previous 4 limiting factors mentioned (and so many others).
- Nutrition affects how your genes are expressed.
- Nutrition fuels your level of physical activity and enables you to stay active.
- Nutrition affects your physiology and can be used to help treat or make worse conditions like thyroid hormone problems, gastrointestinal dysfunction, sex hormone imbalances, and your metabolism.
- Nutrition affects your cognitive function, mood, and mindset.
Poor nutrition will hold you back. Good nutrition will propel you forwards.
As you see there is no reason why you do not have the power to make the most of what you have and become the Ultimate You!
Tell me about your perceived limiting factors in the comments below and I’ll see how I can help.