Albert Einstein supposedly said that compound interest was the greatest wonder of the universe. I think he may be right (no surprise there!) and I believe that the exact same principle should be applied to nutrition and fitness.

If you could ask Mr. Einstein to explain compound interest, he might have said something like this:

Let’s say there are two twins, each has \$1,000 to invest, Twin #1, who doesn’t understand compound interest chooses an account with simple interest at 5 percent. This means that each year her money is increased by 5 percent of the original \$1,000. After year one, she has \$1,050; after year two, \$1,100; after year three, \$1,150; and so on.

Twin #2 completely understands compound interest and puts her \$1,000 in an account that returns 5 percent compound interest. This means that she gets interest not only on her original \$1,000, but also on the interest that is added to it as well.

After 25 years:

• Twin #1 money will grow to just \$2,250.
• Twin #2, the compound interest twin, money grows to \$3,481.29.

This difference between compound interest and simple interest may at first seem minuscule. But it increases astronomically with two factors: time and rate of return. The power of compound interest over time is staggering. The more you put into your account the greater the return and the faster your investment grows.

Now what does all this have to do with fitness and nutrition you ask? Well let’s look at it the same way.

Twin #1 (the gal that won’t make much money through simple interest) gets so excited about starting her fitness program. She goes 4 weeks at full speed exercising 6 days a week, has hired a Personal Trainer and feels great! She omits all her favorite foods from her “diet” and drops her calories from 3,000 a day to about 1100. She is hungry and cranky but is determined. She jumps on the scale 4 weeks later only to find that she’s dropped about ½ pound a week. This twin gets depressed and angry, starts bad mouthing herself, wonders why she’s working so hard and finally says “Lump it!” She starts missing her planned workouts, starts eating more of the foods that made her gain weight in the first place and gets more and more irritated about exercise time spent, money spent and boring food! As you can imagine, Twin #1 is completely off program in about another 3 weeks. Most likely she’ll repeat this pattern hundreds of times over her lifespan.

In contrast, we have Twin #2 (she’s our compound interest gal). She knows that she is going to have to change her lifestyle to achieve not only her weight loss goals but also to learn to live a healthy and active life. She wants to finally break the cycle of starting and stopping a fitness program and wants to learn to shop, prepare and eat healthy, yummy meals. Twin #2 knows that to change the outcome you must change the process. So this smart gal changes her approach. She discusses with her trainer or coaches her top three habits and excuses that she has always used and gets a game plan. She tackles 1 habit at a time and focuses on mini goals. After setting a long-term goal she starts to train her brain to think only of the most immediate goals. For her, it’s all about taking each workout and each meal, one at a time. She plans her week and works her plan one day at a time. She takes the unforeseen challenges that used to derail her and she finds a way to get her plan worked around the challenge.

Twin #2 is using the compound interest principle. She knows that her weight loss, her muscle growth, her eating habits will be changed exponentially if she takes one step at a time and builds on each successful day. Twin #2 is not just getting fit and healthy; she’s changing her life slowly and consistently and she knows, by doing so in this manner, she will achieve every single goal she has ever had for herself and her family.

The greatest joy I have as a trainer is watching people who transform their bodies and their lives over the long haul. They understand the compound interest principle and embrace it as a way to live; they are the role models for all of us. Every testimonial I have ever read all follow this same principle.

When it comes to your life compound interest is really about having a plan and working your plan, no matter what. It’s about consistency in behaviors that lead you towards what you want and never looking back. It’s about short-term small gains and long-term goal attainment. As with financial investments, plugging away day in and day may not be fun, but wait until you see the million dollars in the bank down the road, or that million dollar smile on your face when you look in the mirror.