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. 🙂