The Ultimate Fitness Success Factor: 1 Key to Sure-Fire Results

The arguments continue to rage on. The big debate: What is the single most important factor in fitness success? I’m not talking about little tweaks that might improve your results a few percent, but absolute pre requisites that make or break you over the long haul. What is the ultimate essential? What is the sine qua non of every fitness transformation?The Ultimate Key To Fitness Success

You’ve surely seen the forum discussions and blog comments that argue over the issue, maybe you’ve even been embroiled in them yourself:

“It’s interval training!”
“It’s weight lifting!”
“It’s circuit training!”
“It’s not just training – it’s all about INTENSITY!”
“It’s diet! Body transformation is 80% nutrition!”
“Lean protein is the key!
“It’s carbs – you have to cut the carbs if you want to get lean and healthy”
“Lifestyle is the key – you have to control stress, get your sleep, eat natural foods and keep toxins out of your body!”

And on and on and on these arguments go.

While all of these factors could be argued as important and some even essential, none of them is THE difference that makes the difference.

There’s something else that must come first to make any diet or training program work.

Weight loss studies have started giving us some clues in recent years as the time-frame of the research has stretched beyond your typical “12 week transformation” period.

We already know that in the long run, most people regain the weight they lose from dieting, but some even greater distinctions have been made in the most recent studies.

For example, the Harvard study published in the February 26th edition of the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year had newswires, forums and blogs buzzing, especially if they were loyal low carb or low fat themed sites.

In this large (811 subjects) two-year trial, subjects were assigned to diets with different ratios of protein, carbs and fat and were given reinforcement through group and individual counseling sessions.

All four groups lost weight, although the results were not very impressive: average weight loss was 6 kilos after 6 months and only 4 kilos at the end of the study.

The researchers said that the principal finding was that all the diets were equally “successful” in promoting clinically meaningful weight loss and maintenance over the course of two years.

Hmmmm. Imagine that. So after all that bickering back and forth about low carb vs high carb, it’s not macronutrient ratios or composition of the diet program that’s most important after all eh? In the big picture scheme of things, that certainly appears to be the case.

We would also probably be safe to extrapolate these types of findings to all the various training programs; almost any halfway-intelligent workout can work to some degree, but over an extended period, the average results aren’t all that great, regardless of the training approach.

Even transformation contest winners relapse, and big losers become even bigger regainers. Only a small handful of people are truly successful for life.

So what does matter? And what is the secret of those who are successful at lasting health and body change?

Well, when it comes to the fat loss side of things, we could say that clearly calories matter. Low carb, high carb or anywhere in between, if you want to get leaner, a calorie deficit is an essential condition.

But let’s not focus on the nutrition details. Let’s pan back out to that bigger picture. What REALLY makes you successful, whether you want to lose fat, gain muscle or increase your level of fitness?

In the NEJM study, one factor was VERY strongly associated with success: Attendance to group counseling sessions. In fact, the researchers considered this a proxy for commitment to achieving weight loss goals and staying engaged in the program. In a word, I would call this accountability.

Over the last few months, I have written at length about the power of accountability and there’s little doubt that this could be a legitimate candidate as the ultimate success factor – or at least one of the factors that make a real difference.

This is one of the reasons I’m a huge advocate of accountability-based fitness and nutrition programs, personal training and the entire field of personal coaching.

But is that it? Accountability? I think we’re getting warmer, but we need to drill down a bit deeper to try and articulate a foundational principle even better.

An interesting statement was made in the NEJM research paper which echoed findings from previous studies:

“These findings together point to behavioral factors rather than macronutrient metabolism as the main influences on weight loss.”

Aha! So now we have “accountability” and “behavioral factors” singled out as more important to your long term success than any particular diet program you could follow. In other words, it’s not what diet you follow, it’s what makes you follow your diet!

I would also contend that the same is true for exercise programs as well.

Some people may call this a “no duh” sort of conclusion, and yet the obviousness of this solution makes it no less true or important to teach and emphasize. Sometimes what’s most obvious is the most glossed-over because it’s taken for granted.

If behavior change is the crux of the matter, then the questions we must ask include:

* What makes behavior change so difficult for most people?
* What factors are controlling your behavior?
* What creates lasting changes in your behavior?

Accountability provided by coaching or counseling is one answer, but unless you have a coach, counselor or trainer all the time for the rest of your life, the presence of this external accountability will define the limits of your success.

In the end, the buck stops with you. You must accept personal responsibility for your success. You must develop and use your personal power.

Peak performance coach Anthony Robbins has a great definition for personal power. He said that “personal power is the ability to take action.”

And THAT excellent definition leads us right into the real ultimate success factor:


Diet, training and lifestyle are unquestionably important, but what’s more important than which specific nutrition or training plan you choose is whether you have the ability to put them into action consistently.

The MOTIVATION to ACT is the ultimate key to success.

I’m sad to say that this is also the single most neglected aspect of achieving health and fitness success. In fact, motivation is often the subject of ridicule.

The critics dismiss anything that reeks of self-help as Pollyanna or psycho-babble and say, “Just take action and get it done.” Yes exactly. That is the solution. It’s also the problem.

Most people have chosen a plan of action but fail to act on it. They don’t get it done. They don’t follow through. They don’t stick with it. It’s not enough to tell your clients that action is the key – you must understand the psychology behind action. What makes a doer a doer?

In all the peak performers I have ever met in my lifetime, every one of them understood that self-motivation was responsible for driving behavior, creating action, changing habits and… GETTING RESULTS!the psychology of action – the physiology of exercise

That’s why I’ve been studying and teaching the psychology of motivation for more than 20 years, right alongside my studies of exercise physiology and nutritional science.

A big part of the future of fitness lies in “mental training.” Not as a replacement for physical training or nutrition, but as the perfect companion to them.

Make no mistake: This is not some kind of magic that replaces an intelligent, effective approach to nutrition and training. In fact, I suppose if you were totally motivated to follow a lousy program, that might be no better (or even worse) than not being motivated at all!

The point is, you must master the mental strategies, in order that good physical strategies will be carried out to the max.

If you’d like to discover the mental training secrets of the doers and join the peak performers, then this week you can learn how in a special BLOGINAR I am hosting here at the Burn The Fat Blog, called OPERATION MOTIVATION.

Over the course of the next week, I will be posting numerous free lessons on the psychology of fitness motivation on my blog including topics such as:

* My personal approach to motivation and working out consistently for the last 26 years
* Goal setting: the master skill of success & starting point of motivation
* How to harness your subconscious mind power to create effortless change
* Framing: transforming your life with the power of perspective
* The theater of your mind: visualization secrets for peak performance
* Self image secrets and how to stop self-sabotage
* Motivational propulsion systems: How to turbo-charge or “rocket-boost” any program
* Success semantics: How words can transform your body, your health and your life
* How to end emotional eating: get control over the most common cause of diet failure
* Motivation and your environment: How small changes in your surroundings lead to big changes in results

If you go to and listen to some of the success story audios, and read some of the testimonials, you will hear over and over again, that many of our most successful clients said it was the information on goal setting and motivation found in our Burn The Fat program that was first and most important key to their success.

We are now building on that foundation with these new lessons in our upcoming bloginar.

you’ve ever had a hard time making long term changes in your behaviors, if you’ve ever gone on a diet only to be right back to your old ways in just months or weeks (or even days!), if you’ve ever had difficulty breaking bad habits, then this week’s Internet Bloginar event is for you.

Be absolutely sure to watch your email box and keep checking back on this Blog for each bloginar lesson. And then, on July 15th, watch for some special offers on my latest motivational course material, some which has never been available before or which has only been available exclusively to members of my inner circle community. The bloginar is free and you are welcome to share the information with your friends and family. Stand by… OPERATION MOTIVATION is about to begin!

If you’d like to learn how to burn fat naturally – without drugs or fat burner pills – visit the Burn The Fat website.

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Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, personal trainer, gym owner, freelance writer and author ofBurn the Fat, Feed The Muscle(BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the World’s Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom has writtenover 140 articles and has been featured in IRONMAN magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development,Muscle-Zine, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise. Tom is the Fat Loss Expert for and the nutrition editor for and his articles are featured regularly on literally dozens of other websites.