let’s talk about accountability


LET’S talk about accountability. When most of us were children our parents helped us learn to regularly brush our teeth. It’s a small task that as adults we know is really important but most children wouldn’t do it if they weren’t constantly reminded/ made to brush. Our parents kept us accountable and because they did that, day in and day out, year in and year out, it became a habit that most of us will now do automatically. Accountability can work like this for nutrition and exercise too.

Get yourself an accountabilibuddy

An accountabilibuddy is someone who helps keep you accountable for your actions (it’s a South Park reference). Simplest version? Arrange to train with a friend, remind each other to be there, if your buddy can’t make it for some reason tell them what you did and that you missed them being there. They can do the same for you.

It’s really important that you don’t fall into the pattern of not going if your buddy can’t. Go anyway. If you fall into the habit of skipping the gym together you’re reinforcing the behaviour you were trying to avoid in the first place.

This one is the equivalent of siblings reminding each other to brush their teeth and/ or brushing their teeth together. I can even imagine siblings brushing together via facetime, using today’s technology, if they aren’t together for the event.

No friends, no problem!

I don’t mean you have no friends at all, I just mean maybe you don’t have any that are suitable to be your gym buddy. If this is the case: Hire a trainer. Personally, I offer accountability services as well as face to face training services. A little bit less expensive, a little bit more expensive respectively.

Some of the people I train see me once a week. We talk about how the week went, what went well (and celebrate that) and what we could do differently next week (and plan for that). This is a type of accountability.

Other people I work with see me two, three and four times a week because they know they will not do it without me (or will really struggle… anything will be an excuse not to go but knowing they’re meeting me means they can’t just skip it). This is another form of accountability. It all depends on what you need as an individual.

Make a bet

This is a more extreme and dramatic idea. Create a reasonable plan, one that is actually possible with a bit of effort, including a way to track adherence (this is important because you have to be able to prove it) and an end date. Then give a non-trivial amount of money (something that would actually hurt to lose. This will depend on your finances but I’ll say €300 as a starting point) to someone you trust to hold you accountable (friend or trainer). If you don’t stick to the plan this money gets donated to a charity of your choosing. If you stick to it until the end date you get the money back.

This is a short term solution and won’t be ideal for everyone or every goal. It may not aid the creation of long term health promoting habits but may be the kick start some people need. I think this concept is part of the reason why €1,600 12-week “transformation” programs work quite well short term… the people that pay for them are essentially making this bet with the provider and if they don’t do the work they “waste” the money. The difference being the provider pockets the money instead of the charity angle mentioned above.

In the end though…

These are short to medium term strategies. Just like your parent’s coaching you to brush your teeth when you were younger and it being an almost automatic habit for you now, this is what we want to achieve with exercise and healthy nutrition. These ideas can help get you started, even get you through quite a long timeframe if you’re lucky, but in the end you’re going to have to move towards keeping yourself accountable eventually. Brushing your teeth without someone else telling you to because you know it’s the right thing to do. Keep this in mind.