This is a continuation from Benedict Arnold’s last piece. You can read the first half of the post, about how to transform your body with a little help from your friends, here.

After 1) Knowledge and 2) Motivation / Support, the path to body transformation is only half way complete. Body transformation also requires:

3) Discipline

Carrots and sticks. That’s what life is about. Carrots and sticks. So maybe you’re at dinner with your workout partner / someone who cares about your fitness and you’re thinking about ordering a slice of chocolate cake. Only, it isn’t a night you’ve allotted for a cheat meal, and so you’re just going to try to wing it. You wait til he or she goes to the restroom and quietly order the case. Your friend gets back to the table, sees the cake, and immediately, without warning, grabs it and heads for the nearest trash can. True friend.

Sometimes it’s a kind word that keeps you on track. The carrot. Other times, it’s someone getting in your face and telling you what an asshole you’re being. The stick. Both are important. And if you know that you’re someone who struggles with discipline, you absolutely NEED someone in your life to keep you on track. Because consistency is a linchpin of success in body transformation. Just as it’s important to have people around to make you happy about sticking to your routine, it’s perhaps even more crucial to have people who can keep you tough enough to stick to your routine.

Another note here: if the person you’re seeing belittles your efforts or makes fun of you or tells you he doesn’t want to hear about your diet, dump his / her sorry ass. There was a “what men think” piece about this issue that ran a day or so ago. The guys who said they didn’t want their girlfriends to diet or that they didn’t want to hear about it should settle in for dating a BBW. If you’re taking the time and painstaking effort to go through a diet and exercise regimen in order to look better, the LEAST someone who cares about you can do is listen to you talk about it. If you’re doing it right, it’s going to be rough and you’re going to want to vent. Listening? Not nearly as hard as what you’re doing. Not in the least. The guy who insists that you eat lasagna and cheesecake three nights a week but expects you to remain a size 2 is probably going to find some other way to ruin your life once he succeeds in making you fat then excoriating you for it. I think you can do better.

The people you surround yourself with–friends, family, significant others–don’t necessarily have to agree with your decision to transform your body (in a healthy and safe manner). They don’t even have to understand it. But you need to demand that they accept it. Ideally, somewhere in that set of people you’ll find a few who can push you to stay on track as well.

4) Perspective

This one is the least important until it becomes the most important. Like I said before, the process of body transformation can be a rabbit hole. Sometimes, you fall in and you don’t remember which way is up anymore. Sometimes, you forget what’s most important. And it’s in those moments that other people can help.

When I started lifting weights, I did it for fun. I did it because I wanted to change the way my body looked. I was excited about the new me that would result after countless reps and sets in the gym, and days upon days of carefully controlled eating. I was 16 years old, 5’10”, 118 lbs, and filled to the brim with unbridled optimism about someday competing in bodybuilding. Years later, I accomplished that goal, and shortly thereafter quit not only bodybuilding, but working out entirely. The truth is that I started taking it too seriously. I forgot to laugh. I forgot to smile. I lost sight of how happy my body and my achievements made me and locked all of that away so I could “focus” more on training for shows in the future. All that didn’t matter, I told myself. All that mattered was what was to come. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My biggest mistake was training alone. I had my workout and diet routines down pat. I didn’t require day-to-day instruction. I never missed a workout and never missed a meal. I needed no one for the purposes of motivation or discipline. I lived my life like a machine. And then the machine broke down. In the weeks after my competition, I felt a sort of uneasiness start to fester inside me. It was over, now what? Another competition? Probably not for a year or two, I told myself. I needed to pack on more weight. I tried getting back into the gym but it wasn’t the same without the approaching goal of another show, looming ahead of me like a mountain waiting to be climbed. What was I doing in the gym, then, besides being miserable? And so I stopped. I just stopped working out. Eighteen months and I didn’t set foot into the gym. The thought of it just made me sick, and I had no idea why.

It wasn’t until yesterday, swimming around Youtube, that I sort of figured out what was up with me. A buddy of mine asked me if I could find a good instructional video on bodybuilding posing routines. Clicking around, I landed on this:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYymkM9fA8c?version=3]

And maybe this should have been obvious to anyone, but I couldn’t see it with my head so far up my over-competitive ass: bodybuilding, just like everything else, is supposed to be fucking fun. You’re supposed to laugh. You’re supposed to enjoy it. You’re supposed to have your friends around. Just like any other aspect of life, you shouldn’t be afraid to run it like a party. The girl in that video competes as a professional. And she’s doing it while having fun at it. Because that’s how it’s supposed to be done. No trainer ever told me that. No coach ever did. None of my friends did either. But sometimes you learn the biggest lessons of all from some people you don’t even know through a video they put up on Youtube.

Maybe you’ve got the training down. And the hunger to hit it hard every day. And the discipline to never deviate. You still need others, if only just to make you laugh. Take note.