So you missed another workout. Or you binged again. You caved and had that doughnut you told yourself you werenâ€™t going to have. Or maybe you had a few cigarettes because happy hour got turnt.
The most destructive thing you can do at this point is tell yourself you are a [insert negative description here].
You are not a binge episode. You are not weak. And you are not fat (you HAVE fat. We all have fat). What you ARE is an incredible human being capable of becoming leaner than you ever have, stronger than you ever have, and more fulfilled than you ever have.
Look at the past of any wildly successful person…what got them there? Sure, some people are born with great genetics, some have varying degrees of luck, but most people (and most people are not born with talent or with perfect genetics) got far because of hard work and consistency.
The secret to success in any pursuit is consistency. We are what we repeatedly do. In other words, we become what we do most of the time, not the single decision you just made. Not the single binge.
Let me make this clear…weight gain or weight loss, â€˜goodâ€™ food or â€˜badâ€™ food, your body fat percentage, DOES NOT define you. No matter what goal youâ€™re working towards, enjoying the process, viewing failure as an opportunity to learn, knowing that in this moment you are in the process of becoming a stronger, leaner, better version of you (why else would you be reading this?) is what matters.
Gandhi said it best:
â€œYour beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.â€
That being said, here are some guidelines and practical tips to nudge you towards your destiny
1. Focus on one thing at a time
Seriously. You canâ€™t do it all. When you do, youâ€™re giving less than 100% to each pursuit OR if you are following your new diet to a T and have not skipped a gym session in 3 weeks, you may end up with rigid, perfectionist tendencies that do more harm than good (social isolation, doing too much cardio, restrictive eating, etc.).
Life happens and one day youâ€™ll be forced to stay later at work, your kids will get sick, your car will break down, whatever million other things that can happen that is outside of your control will happen.
So donâ€™t combine 2 different fitness programs…donâ€™t do a complete kitchen overhaul…donâ€™t jump from program to program, either. Examples of things you can do:
– Swap one of your typical fast-food meals with a healthier alternative. Do this 3 times a week, and work your way up to 7x/week.
– If you eat out very often, make it your goal to eat 1 homemade meal a day. This should be nutritious and something you love to eat. Prepare it in advance or if youâ€™re very busy you can utilize a meal delivery service.
-Swap soda and juice for water.
Donâ€™t add any other goals until you have established a new habit that is second nature to you.
2. Set performance goals in the gym
My personal favourite is strength training, so see how much stronger you can get in certain lifts over the next several weeks. If you want to focus on reps, see how many reps you can do with a particular weight and increase that over time. Or if youâ€™re focused on aerobic conditioning, see how many burpees you can do in a minute over the next few weeks.
Setting performance goals redirects our focus to what our bodies can do; we start to LOVE and respect our bodies for it. Remember to celebrate all improvements, no matter how small, and WRITE THEM DOWN so that when you feel like you are going at a snailâ€™s pace, you can look back and be proud of what youâ€™ve accomplished so far.
3. Schedule it in
Schedule your exercise along with the specific exercises you plan to do in advance. Similarly, do this with your food for the week. Find a handful of staple foods that are good for you and that you love eating, and make enough to last you 2-3 days.
4. Identify triggers (and trigger foods!)
We do a lot of things out of habit, but do we know why we do it in the first place? When you feel like going for your afternoon coffee break (where you will always buy a snack as well), write down what youâ€™re feeling, what just happened, who is around you, where you are. Eventually you will identify your cue.
Maybe itâ€™s boredom… you ate something deep fried for lunch…you went a whole day without human interaction from your secluded office. Identify what your triggers are and what reward you receive from your habit, and try replacing it with something else.
Itâ€™s also important to banish trigger foods from your house and office. Personally, once I have a bite of something sweet, I want more. Unlike some people who can just eat a couple bites of something and put the rest down, I gotta go whole hog. (This is something Iâ€™m trying to work â€“ strengthening my willpower.)
5. Replace â€œI canâ€™tâ€ with â€œI donâ€™tâ€
This oneâ€™s pretty cool. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Consumer ResearchÂ shows that when we replace â€œI canâ€™tâ€ with â€œI donâ€™tâ€ (e.g., â€œNo, thanks. I donâ€™t eat cookiesâ€ or â€œI donâ€™t skip the gymâ€), we feel empowered and thus more motivated to take positive actions towards our goal, as opposed to having an external impediment on your own goals.
My suggestion is to use this hack for the first few weeks when youâ€™re trying to develop a new habit or routine. Once thatâ€™s established, drop it because it would be a tragedy to never eat cookies again.
6. Tell your friends, family, and colleagues
Your environment and the support (or lack of!) has a tremendous effect to your success. Share your goal with your friends, family, and colleagues and why itâ€™s important to you. Not everybody will support you, but if you can find the few who can it will make a big difference. The right social support is everything.
Pick one or two things from this list that resonates most with you and implement them right away. Let me know if thereâ€™s anything youâ€™ve done, past or present, that has helped you stick to your goals. Iâ€™d love to hear below.