How To Eat An Elephant » Oklahoma Sports & Fitness Athlete Blog | Running | Triathlon | Cycling | Fitness | Martial Arts | Powered by Oklahoma Sports & Fitness Magazine

Jan 052016


No, not literally, but the concept is still the same; how do you tackle big goals, big obstacles, and challenges that life throws your way?

One bite at a time.

There is no such thing as a quantum leap in your fitness, your finances, or your personal relationships. They are the outcome of many smaller, less interesting decisions, made on a day-to-day basis.

Why do most people fail in their fitness related New Years resolutions? Is it because their workouts were not designed correctly? Maybe they had the wrong combination of pre-workout or post-recovery drinks? Or maybe it’s because they are genetically pre-disposed to not be able to lose weight. All wrong! I have seen people come in with terrible workout plans, terrible form and still reach their goals. If your supplements are the lynch pin of your success, you are probably not buying those in the U.S., or legally. The discussion over genetics is beyond the scope of this article, but to my knowledge, no gene suppression of this nature exists.

So what is the secret? What is the missing ingredient that dictates success or failure?


Note, I did not write, “abandon all previous bad habits, simultaneously, and force yourself to maintain standards held by elite athletes.” This is unrealistic, discouraging, impractical, and ignorant. Start with small bites, cut out an unhealthy food choice here and replace it with a good one. After you master that, move on to making two good, healthy food choices. Next step, workout twice a week, then three times, then four, and so on and so forth. It’s like climbing a mountain; you have to take one step at a time to reach the top.

Once you enter the battleground of being consistent, a new foe will arise, decision fatigue. Decision fatigue is the psychological term used to describe the idea that making numerous critical decisions will have a negative affect on our ability to make good decisions on following tasks. Practically speaking, let’s say instead of hanging out with your friends and eating fast food, you choose to workout. Imagine that you do this for five days in a row (your friends eat out a lot). Day one is a breeze, you are motivated and you feel as though you have made an excellent decision (and you have), you would have enjoyed hanging out with your friends, but you have set a goal and are determined to succeed. The next couple days you still want to hang out with your friends, but you reluctantly decide to press onward. The latter half of the week is spent loathing your situation, whining about the time missed with friends, your workouts become unproductive, and you feel like garbage. You go home, mentally drained, and destroy a pint of ice cream all by yourself, because that usually makes you feel better. The following week your friends are inviting you to go out again and instead of refusing their invitation, you decide that physical health is a great goal, but without mental happiness, what’s the point of being fit? So you ditch working out, scrap your fitness goal, and indulge in a variety of fast food cuisines because the work that it takes to reach your goals is too much (KATHLEEN D. VOHS, 2005).

In this scenario, choosing to workout for an entire week and refusing to indulge in the fast food is draining this unknown psychological resource that allows us to continually make good choices. Once this resource is gone, poof, it’s gone, no more! Generally, people will be so mentally drained that their ability to self-regulate and exert discipline in an upcoming event will be impaired or completely negated. Once this happens, people will indulge in self-destructive and unproductive decisions, like eating a whole pint of ice cream because you’re upset.

So how do we combat this decision fatigue, avoiding the highs and the lows while consuming our proverbial pachyderm? You do what you’ve been taught to do since you were in elementary school, take recess!

Here are my recommendations on how to “eat an elephant”:

  • Make a game plan
    • Once you are pointed in the right direction, you will have more motivation to keep the ball rolling. Make milestones, find the little goals that have to be reached on the way to help track your progress.
    • “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Get someone(s) to help keep you accountable (or join you!)
    • Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Prov 15:22).
  • Reward yourself for good decisions and staying the course
    • Do not, I repeat, DO NOT reward yourself for bad behaviors or shoddy work. Rewarding yourself in small ways, FOR GOOD BEHVIORS, during the journey will prevent you from being overwhelmed. Example: if you make three healthy meals, have ONE cheat meal. But don’t let yourself go overboard.
  • Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint
    • When looking at the whole “elephant” it’s very easy to be overwhelmed. Start with one bite at a time and don’t concentrate on anything but the bite that’s in front of you.

You need a direction, you need parameters to keep you in the right direction, and you need some satisfaction that you’re doing well and you’re on the right track. Do this and your “elephant” will be gone sooner than you think.


KATHLEEN D. VOHS, R. F. (2005). Decision Fatigue Exhausts Self-Regulatory Resources. Retrieved 12 10, 2015, from Psychology Today:


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