Could Permissive Beliefs Be The Reason You’re Fat?


One of the coolest parts about having a social media platform is that it allows me to interact with experts in various fields.

I like to talk about training, and the psychology behind it, a lot.

Most days I’ll try to write something and get it out there.

And while I have a rudimentary understanding of the topic, there’s definitely an abundance of people who know a lot more than me on it.

BUT I’m a trier. I like to learn. I like to think critically. And in doing so I usually end up at least 80% of the way there.

And someone will invariably have my back on the other 20%.

This week, Richie was my rear gunner.

I sent out an email about why fat loss is not about food, or training, or willpower.

My argument was that it was about the things that occur on in the background.

The automatic programs, beliefs and habits we have. The “drivers” we’ve installed onto our OS that we don’t even realise are there. They’re like trojan horses – you don’t see them running, they might seem innocent enough, but at the worst possible time they’ll crop up and do damage.

So… I did like an 80% job of explaining what was going on.

And then Richie came back with this absolutely BANGING reply and explanation (thank you Richie!)

Richie’s mail is in italics and my comments are [bracketed in bold]

Very simple thing we teach people in addiction. Same principles with food. Let’s look at my weakness of having a Burger King or McDonalds when I go to an airport.

[replace “when I go to an airport” with “when I get home from work” / “saturday afternoon” or really any time you notice yourself struggling with food]

(1) Trigger – An environmental external factor. Could be anything. A smell, a person’s face, a building that reminds you of something. I spent a year travelling and eating local foods. In an airport anywhere in the world I could get a meal that was familiar from home, and was cheap.

[maybe your trigger is when you get home from work after a stressful day (..and have takeway) or even when you’re watching sport, or a movie in the cinema]

(2) Automatic thought – Airports now remind me of burgers.

[“I’m stressed, I’ll just order in”… Stress = food – but you don’t see it happening in your head. Or “we’re going to the cinema, I’ll get popcorn and sweets”]

(3) Craving – Palpitating, salivating, or more minor sensations and brain flutters. I get a small craving for a burger as soon as I walk in the door of an airport. Doesn’t matter how hungry/full I am, or what time of the day it is. I get the craving due to some degree of neurological hardwiring that took place during the year travelling.

[same idea.. you big Pavlovian Dog, you!]

(4) Permissive belief – This is the ‘bullshit’ part you speak of. “Ah Im on me holidays”, “who knows what the food will be like when we arrive. Better get something to be safe”, “Flight is delayed by half an hour.” “Im skinny, and you can’t fatten a thoroughbred”, “Most people drink 2/3 pints as their airport treat. That’s worse”, “Ive been working hard in RevFit and on my diet for this holiday. The holiday starts now”, “What difference will it make? I see Kieran Hegarty on Facebook eating like a pig, and he’s not that fat!” [he is fat by the way, but at least Richie thinks he isn’t!] etc. etc. etc. Or some positive ones that might counter, “I’ve had a solid breakfast and its a 3 hour flight. I’ll be grand”, “6:30am is too early for a Whopper”, “Eating this will undo my hard work”

[“man I’m tired, I’ve worked my ass off all day, I deserve this”, or “ah sure I don’t go to the cinema that much, I may as well have a treat”]

(5) Action – Do I get the burger or not based on 4.

[ the man said]

It could be worth giving your audience a sort of ‘Slip Diary’ where they can record an incident where they ate something which was counter productive to their goal. it would help people see it coming, and develop tactics to avoid eating/drinking badness.

[I’mma discuss something similar I tell people to do next, and will be adding this tool to my arsenal for sure]

I can’t remember where I first heard it, but I’ve been quoting it for a long time now (so thank you mystery man):



Trust me on this one – if it ever gets to the stage you’re relying on willpower, you’re pretty much fucked. Eventually, willpower WILL fail. And then off the bandwagon of adherence you go, and onto the runaway steam train of excess you jump.

BUT the good news is we’re predictable oul feckers. We ‘cheat’ and slip up in regular, easy to predict ways.

A few days ago, I made a post on about this exact topic. You can see it below.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 13.10.16

In case it’s too hard to read, here’s what it says;

Track craving times.

I bet there’s a routine.

20 minutes before you normally get a craving, have a good quality snack.

Willpower eliminated.

….and eh, that’s it. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever given. So simple. But if you’ve never thought about it before, it’s mind blowing.

But back to Richie’s suggestion – if we combine HIS tip (keep a ‘slip diary’, gain an awareness and understanding of not only when it happens, but why) and my one (when you know a slip is coming, kill it in advance) we develop a VERY strong strategy to eliminate willpower and make it so much easier to achieve your goals.

Food for thought right?

Have a think about how this applies to you, and post up in the comments on facebook about how it applies to you, and how you think you can manage it.

James Hanley

Strength Coach. Performance Specialist. Dog Lover. Powerlifter. And the guy behind the scenes in RevFit that keeps the plates spinning.