The Key to Achieving and Maintaining your Ideal Body Weight.
If you’ve followed my health and fitness posts, you probably know that about twelve years ago I made some really big changes in my thinking, which totally changed my life. I left behind a lifestyle of obsessing about food and my body, and found freedom and a healthy weight which I have happily maintained ever since.
I talked about it in this Vlog, and then followed up with a bit more detail in this one. And I also opened my big mouth and started talking about writing an ebook on the subject. Well, I still have a lot of passion about finishing that project, but until I do, I’ll keep writing about these topics here. (UPDATE: The ebook AND paperback version were created and you can find out more about them HERE. :))
To kick things off in the New year here (February is still the New year, right?) I thought it would be good to talk about what I believe is the key to achieving and maintaining an ideal body weight for a lifetime.
I would call this my secret weapon. And as a personal trainer, I found it to be the most common denominator in my successful clients. I see this trait in friends who I have known for years and have observed to be healthy, fit, and balanced.
So what is it?
Well, first…Let me be clear about a few things it is NOT:
It is not a specific diet plan.
It is not an exercise regime.
It is not cutting out all of one food group, or adding another.
It is not about calories or cleanses, workouts or supplements.
It is a simple little habit called:
For each person, consistency will look a bit different, but I do guarantee that it can be your key to the changes you would like to make. Whatever they are.
The key is to find a reasonable approach to food and exercise, and STICK WITH IT FOR A LIFETIME.
I know, a lifetime sounds so...so long, right? But if we put our adult thinking caps on, then we have to agree: Anything less than a lifetime does not make a bit of sense.
First I’ll remind you about my position on a few things…
I am anti-diet. Diets do not make logical sense. Unless you plan to be on a “diet” for the rest of your life (and that sounds about as horrible as I can ever imagine,) then your eating will eventually change. And when your eating changes, so will your body. The diet industry has worked hard (and invested billions) into making us think diets are normal and useful and effective. Don’t buy into it.
I am anti-hard-core workout plan. Similar to how I feel about diet plans, I am not a believer in hard-core workout plans. Unless you plan to keep it up forever, anytime you go heavy-duty on a workout plan (especially if there are very little or no days off each week,) then you’re setting yourself up for frustration/disappointment later.
(There are exceptions of course– if you have the desire to train for a race or a specific personal goal. But in general, a rigorous daily workout plan will burn you out.)
To find the kind of consistency that will be effective and practical for you, you need to decide what your goals are. Once you have some objective goals, you should begin to live in a way that leads to accomplishing those goals. Then get busy living and let the results come over time.
Consistency will look a little different for everyone, but here are a few suggestions I have for creating some new habits that will pay off in the long run.
1. DIET: If you need to lose weight, or make dietary changes for health, try to take the slow approach. Decrease your portion size, and begin to slowly cut out things that you know are dragging you down. I will always recommend giving yourself a little room for the things you most love every day. (be reasonable–if you love dessert go for a piece of chocolate, but not a hot fudge sundae, and if you love fried foods, look for healthy alternatives that still satisfy the craving.) See my post “The 80% Rule” for more on this.
2. EXERCISE: As you put together an exercise plan, consider a realistic approach that can be maintained for the long term. For example, it is recommended that we average 20 minutes a day of cardiovascular exercise. Ask yourself: Is it reasonable to get out for twenty minutes a day? (not me.) So, you might find a way to get cardio exercise four times a week for forty minutes at a time. (I only do that three times a week, and I’m doing ok. ;)) If you get overly ambitious and jump into a seven-day a week routine, you likely will burn you out so quick, you may not last a month. Pace yourself and you’ll be able to stay the course much longer.
3. PERSPECTIVE: Set your sights on the long-term. This is hard. We live in a time where everything is QUICK and instant gratification is the name of the game. But rise above it! Don’t look to lose ten pounds this month. Instead, look to lose two pounds this month. Or better yet, plan NOT to weigh yourself for three months! Make it your goal to have looser fitting clothes over time, and to drop five pounds over the next three months. Each day keep your mind set on the long-term plan of who you are becoming.
4. NO EXCUSES. Once you’ve made some plans–be it diet, exercise, or both–Refuse to compromise. Eliminate the guesswork by being as objective, and as unemotional as possible. Find a way to work out those four days, and unless you are sick in bed, do not skip. Or if you are tempted with certain snack foods, portion out the amount that can still work for you, or don’t even go near them. Whatever your plan is, make it your personal commitment. And then if you do slip up–get RIGHT BACK on the train and find your groove again. One screw up should not devastate you. But if you have had the habit of letting a screw up lead to a week of screw ups, then you need to Unlearn that bad boy immediately. No more “I’m on vacation (or it’s a holiday or the Superbowl or whatever) so I’ll just eat everything I want.” No more “I’m busy so I won’t workout for three months.” JUST STOP IT.
Finally, my personal motto: I major in moderation.
For me this means I am truly “careful” most of the time. Watch me for a day or two, and you’ll see that I eat light for most meals. I do not eat whatever happens to sound good at the moment. I choose the things that I know are healthy, and satisfying. Then I treat myself a little here and a little there. I also know that consistent exercise has kept me relatively toned and fit. I am committed to three to four workouts a week. If I travel or am sick, I might occasionally miss a week, but it is very rare. I try to be religious about my workouts. But three times a week is really not that hard to keep up, which I think is the KEY to why I have been able to keep it up!
WHAT CONSISTENCY HAS TAUGHT ME…
How I’ve been tempted: I can think of many women who I have met over the years who were extremely thin, or incredibly toned, and I knew they were super obsessive about their workout or diet. I’ll admit that sometimes this has brought up a temptation for me to compare myself to them. I’ll think, “I may be at a healthy weight, but just think, if I did what THEY DO, I could really get skinny and toned.” (or whatever that person represents, depending.) But because of my personal commitment to moderation, gratitude, and healthy living (plus my love for an occasional steak or ice cream,) I make myself move on, change my thinking, and NOT go that route. I left that life behind, and I don’t want to go back.
How it works out: Now, Years later I see some of those same women, and they are not only NOT skinny, some of them are heavy. They are still beautiful of course, but my point is this: I am so glad I have chosen NOT to jump back on that diet train! I lOVE that I am the same weight…year after year after year. I love that I’m at a size and shape that feels good, and healthy, allows me live life fully, and with freedom.
And all of that is because of my commitment to consistency.
If this is an area that you struggle in–May I encourage you? It is NOT too late to find a consistent pattern and lifestyle that will work for you! It takes maturity and perspective, but I believe you can do it! Share in comments any thoughts you have on this, and check back for follow-up posts on health and fitness in the weeks to come! 🙂
FIND OUT MUCH MORE ABOUT MY PHILOSOPHY ON DIET AND EXERCISE, AND JOIN THOUSANDS OF OTHERS WHO HAVE FOUND FREEDOM (AND WEIGHT LOSS) BY READING MY BOOK, THE SECRET OF YOUR NATURALLY SKINNY FRIENDS! <—CLICK TO FIND OUT MORE. 🙂
love this!!!1 thank you!
Oooh the excuses have been a tough one for me lately… I’m working on it however…
I love this post. I have 2 classes I do at the gym every week and am trying to work in a third day that alternates between BARRE and Fit Club.
I was just talking to one of my closest friends about this very thing today! What great timing to read your post! I value healthy eating and exercise so much… but lately, I haven’t been making myself as much of a priority as I need to. I’m getting back on track though… and found lots of encouragement in your message! For sure – consistency is key! Thanks, Monica! 😉
Thanks Monica! Great post as always and so true in my experience too. Slow and steady wins the body race! 🙂 Hugs from Sydney xx
Fantastic advice! I recently posted on why I am not a diet queen, life is to be enjoyed, with healthy choices, and exercise, we can still enjoy a treat, moderation is the key.
I have no words of wisdom here but want to say thank you for this blog. I ALWAYS feel like I need to work out every day and never slip up in my eating and if I do slip I feel awful about myself. This message of moderation and consistency hit a chord. I think 3-4 times a week with normal healthy eating i can handle. Thank you for this . I needed to read it.
Tania—Your comment makes me so happy. Seriously, if you can trust me on this one, you would be amazed. I switched from 5-6 days of working out to three in a short time, and my body didn’t change a bit! It’s amazing how we can think we “have to” do things, not realizing that our world really won’t fall apart if we don’t. Try backing off, staying consistent in your eating, and you’ll do just fine!!
Get a Fitbit! (Or any accurate pedometer) I can’t believe how much it changed my life. It was eye opening at first to see how sedentary I really was and it became my goal to simply shift to a more active lifestyle. Just by walking more. My friends tease me sometimes (personally I think they’re just jealous!) because I’m always moving now, but I feel great! Talk about an easy change. I don’t walk fast, I just stopped sitting around. I walk around the bathroom while I’m brushing my teeth, walk around the downstairs while looking at the mail, etc. Unless it’s unavoidable, I rarely sit or just stand anywhere. It’s really easy!
Perfect! I wrote about this topic for yesterday – I realistically knew that right after Christmas was just not going to be the time I was going to get moving. I’m going to keep this post handy – consistency is tricky to create for me.
Thank you for sharing! I agree that being consistent is the key. My father passed away almost a month ago, and I have been using that as an excuse for my 90/10 rule to move to a 50/50 rule. But I am back on track- ready to eat clean and exercise. Two things that make me feel happy and energized!
I use the same key.
I’m not quite as diligent, currently, with 4 workouts a week, but as far as food intake, moderation and consistent “carefulness” has led to weight control.
Consistency is the sermon we moms need for everything!
Thank you for the inspiration.
Love this! I take an hour long bootcamp class with some ladies twice a week that I love. The teamwork and challenge is right up my alley. But I also know twice a week is my limit. I don’t look like my instructors who work out six days a week, but that’s ok. I consistently do it twice a week and it’s good for me. My husband and I did a whole30 diet in January that was really really hard. I won’t do it again but I did actually like breaking my sugar habit and plan on continuing with that most of the time. You have to find what works and be consistent. I agree!!