Failure is an option

By Brian White | You Should Be Doing It

Nobody wants to fail, really. But if you are challenging yourself, getting out of your comfort zone or postponing immediate gratification for long-term gain, then it is bound to happen.

Brian White

Brian White

What’s important about failure is to learn from it, recover quickly and get back on track armed with new information.

When it comes to exercise, weight loss and nutrition you are going to fail from time to time in your quest. Whether motivation is incredibly high (my wedding is coming up) or you have a trainer (me!) or you are following the latest diet fad, you are going to fail.

Sometimes it’s just a little hiccup (you missed a workout) or sometimes it could be huge (you went on a vacation and paid zero adherence to your diet) but the goal is to recover as quickly as you can.

Too many of us use negative self-talk, or feel entitled or hopeless the second a tiny failure happens. You need to recognize that failure is going to happen — not if, but when — and you need to have plan in place for when it happens so you can recover and regain any momentum you had going with your fitness goals.

All of my clients who have lost 50 pounds or more have failed many times before they were able to succeed. They failed before they met me, some failed while with me, but we eventually found success, wild success.

Failure is extremely important with many of the clients I see and necessary. But only because we recognize it, regroup, devise a new plan and head in a better direction.

Failure happens.

Accept it and adjust accordingly. If you have created a plan to follow, there will be mistakes to correct. It’s like the analogy of an airplane in flight: The plane you are flying in is rarely “on target,” it is usually a little off — but, the pilot constantly adjusts and the plane ends up at its destination.

What does this look like in real life?

Small failure: You went to have just one chip and you finished half the bag.

In this case, you can just give up and use thoughts like, “I am never going to lose weight, I have no discipline, this day has gone to hell, I might as well go out to eat and get dessert.”

Or, you can learn from it and realize that when you are under stress you crave salty chips or poor nutrition decisions. Then you can create a failure plan so that next time you are under stress you recognize what is happening and avoid the poor eating and go for a brisk walk instead.

Small failure: You miss two morning workouts in a row because you can’t get out of bed.

In this case, you could pull the blanket over your eyes and proclaim, “I just need more sleep than most people and with my hectic schedule I just don’t have time to exercise anymore,” and be resigned to getting no activity the rest of your life.

Or you can reevaluate whether mornings are really the best time for you to exercise — and maybe you try lunchtime. If that fails, maybe you switch back to mornings and try a different workout routine that will get you out of bed, and put your alarm across the room so you have to get out of bed.

Small failure: You had a great week of workouts and nutrition and you feel entitled to have a few gin and tonics on Friday and Saturday night even though you are nowhere near your formidable goal.

This is the sneakiest failure of all because it is so difficult to recognize it. The failure here is feeling entitled to a treat. Who are you? Pavlov’s dog? Just because you got a few workouts in and made some healthy decisions during the week doesn’t mean you get to celebrate your triumphs all weekend.

If you are trying to achieve a significant body transformation then you have to be able to recognize when you are feeling entitled. If you ever catch yourself saying (either out loud or in your head) that you deserve something — rest assured you don’t. We are all adults here; we are not 4-year-olds that cleaned our rooms for the first time so we get ice cream. Plan for these thoughts and recognize them for what they are — you trying to find the easy way out.

To close up shop here, realize failure only happens because you choose it. You will fail, many times over, but it is only true failure if you don’t adjust accordingly, brush yourself off and get back at it.

Embrace failure, learn from it, forget it and move on and you will succeed.

—Brian White owns Brian White Fitness (BWF), located in Hillcrest. He also runs boot camps in Balboa Park and trains clients at Diverge Gym. Read his blog at, or take his seven-day video challenge to get back into healthy habits. Contact Brian at

Leave a Comment