The Fitness Snowball

By Sean Flanagan

In this article, I’m going to talk about how lessons learned from paying off financial debt can be applied to reaching your health and fitness goals.

Dave Ramsey is an author and speaker who mainly teaches people how get out from underneath debt.   His foundational technique for getting out of debt is his “debt snowball” technique.   It goes against the conventional recommendations of how to get out of debt – what makes the most sense on paper – and instead focuses on the realities of human behavior.

You see, what the rational thing to do and the usual recommendation is to focus on reducing your debt with the highest amount of interest.   And it makes total sense on paper – if your interest charges each month reduce, you’ll have more dough to spend on the other debts.

The method Dave popularized though breaks these rules.  It’s a HORRIBLE idea on paper.  But it works – because it focuses on the realities of human behavior rather than cold math.   Instead of going the logical approach of target high interest, you target the easy wins.

You pay the monthly minimum on all of your debts, and then with any remaining money you throw it at your SMALLEST debt.   You pay off your $250 credit card, then your $500 credit card, and work your way up so by the time you’re staring your $10,000 car loan in the face, you know “I got this!”

By tackling the smallest challenges first, you build your confidence. You feel the momentum grow.   And you keep getting that positive reward of fast success rather than staring that big challenge in the face.

Are you starting to see how this ties into your health and fitness goals?

You could say that fat loss, like paying off debt, is a matter of math.   Instead of a 19 percent interest rate, you “just” need to create a deficit of 500 calories to lose 1 lb per week!

But you know it’s more than that.  It’s a personal challenge that often brings up old baggage.   You WANT to get off the couch and start your 5x/week exercise program, but you think to yourself “I’m not ready for this.   This is what fitness types do and I’m not one of them”.

It’s a matter of behavior change.  And behavior change that slowly changes your self-identity.

So the FITNESS snowball method, so to speak, is to attack those easy wins that help you build momentum and start to change your self-image from someone that fails at their fitness goals to someone that succeeds.

So where do you start?  Well… what are you 90-100 percent sure you can succeed at?   Not “what are you ‘kind of’ sure you can succeed at?”.  I mean what are you REALLY sure you can do?

Let’s say you start off with walking 2 minutes every day after lunch.  If it’s too easy, GOOD.  It should feel too easy.   And if you’re 90-100 percent sure you can move onto a harder version – in this case walking for 5 minutes – then go for it.

What we’re trying to do is break the cycle of trying things that are way too hard and then inevitably failing.   How many times can you try to avoid sugar for 90 days and not succeed before it starts to wear on you?   We’re undoing that shit.  It’s time to build your confidence back up and to create the snowball effect.

Make it easy.   Follow through.  And reward yourself for your successes, no matter how small you think they are.   You want to see your little wins add up – I’d even suggest doing this literally, making this visual by writing down every habit you’ve successfully implemented.

As time goes on, your challenges will become bigger and bigger (if you want them to).  But you’ll be ready, because you’ve accumulated so many victories before.
So I ask you…

What’s the SMALLEST change you can make this week that will help make even a microscopic impact on your health and fitness that will help you build momentum?

-Sean Flanagan is a fitness & nutrition coach helping people implement habit-based strategies for lasting fat loss.  Working with Amber Rogers, they co-run the group coaching programs The Habit Project and the 4 Month Fat Loss &Body Recomposition Program

They’ve also co-written the free download “21 Habits for Lasting Fat Loss”, which you can download HERE: