I recently issued a poll to ask people which aspect of healthy eating they found to be the most difficult. A number of you guys contacted me directly to say that the thing you struggled the most with was staying on track and being consistent after the initial excitement had worn off. In order to address this, I have put together a few top tips, which I have personally found to be very helpful over the past few years. They are not in order of importance, as depending on where you are at, and the battles you face, some may stand out to you more than others. None of these are the silver bullet, just ideas to help you get to where you are going a little easier.
Know your goal: Everyone has a unique goal, but broadly speaking, if you have decided to start eating healthy, it’s because you want to look better, feel better or perform better. These things are not goals, they are fuzzy ideals. Let’s take looking better as an example. Saying “I want to look better,” doesn’t really mean anything. It isn’t quantifiable and it doesn’t have a time frame attached to it. Furthermore, you have no way of measuring to see if you are any closer to it. A more concrete goal would be, for instance, if you are currently a size 18 and you set a goal for yourself to be a size 14 before your holiday in July. This goal is quantifiable, you have set out what you want to achieve and by when. As well as that, you will have clear indications along the way to tell you if you are on track to achieve it or not. If, for instance in May you find yourself needing to buy a size 16 because all your clothes are too big, well that’s a good indication that you are on track.
All of this sounds simple, and it is. But, believe me, changing your lifestyle is not always an easy things to do. There will be times when you ask yourself “what the hell am I doing this for?” and when that question comes, you need to make sure you know the answer.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew: When we embark on lifestyle change or any change, it is very tempting to jump in head first. If you are anything like me, you will scouring the internet trying to garner as much information as possible, so that you can be sure you are doing everything “right!” Often times we go from zero to sixty in 3 seconds only to find that half a mile down the road we are spinning out of control. My advice, having taken numerous spins myself, is not to rush.
Successful lifestyle change is about implementing small, incremental changes and making them habitual. I try to make two or three small changes each month. Nothing too big or seemingly overwhelming. Just little things like replacing my after dinner coffee with a peppermint tea, or having eggs for a mid morning snack instead of something sweet. Once I feel confident that I have embedded these changes into my lifestyle, I start thinking about other possible changes I can make. It is really important to remember that you are trying to make changes which will stay with you for the rest of your life. They need to be sustainable. If something you are doing feels like an epic struggle, forget about it.
Allow wiggle room: If you are regular reader, you will have heard me say this before, and you will hear me say it again. You need to have a degree of flexibility in your diet or it will never work. If you have yourself so tightly controlled that you can’t enjoy a piece of birthday cake or take your kids out for a burger, you will never go the distance. Having a 100% “clean” diet sounds wonderful in theory, but the reality of it is most people do not have the level of will power required to sustain this long term. More importantly, you don’t need to.
As long you do things which support your goals 80-90% of the time, you really don’t need to worry about the occasional off plan moment. Whether this is a missed workout, a meal out, a few drinks or whatever. You need to be able to do these things without feeling like the wheels are coming off your wagon. Flexibility is what will make your new lifestyle sustainable in the long run.
Be consistent: Just as important as flexibility is consistency. There is no point making changes that last a week or a month. You need to continue to do these things consistently, long term in order to achieve results. This might not be a popular stand point, but it is the truth. The small, incremental changes I spoke about earlier, add up, and have the power to get you to your goal, and keep you there, only if do them on a continued basis. As I said, there are no silver bullets or quick fixes.
Be realistic: I am fairly active on social media, and every day I am awed by the flawless physiques of fitness models and professional athletes alike. I find myself day dreaming, having thoughts like “maybe if I put in more hours at the gym, or ate a bit better I could look like that!” Maybe not Arwen! I have to remind myself that I am not a professional athlete. I am an accountant, with a full time job, a house to run, a big furry daughter to look after and a million other responsibilities. The people I look at so enviously look that way for a living. They are operating at an elite level, only a very small percentage of people can ever reach that level. Apart from which, they have the benefit of genetics, good lighting and airbrushing. So comparing myself to them is completely unrealistic. It undermines my progress and makes my goals seem insignificant.
So what’s the answer to this? Just stop doing it. Stop comparing yourself to other people full stop. Stop looking for Fitspiration or Thinspiration. Be your own inspiration. Focus on your own, realistic goals and keep moving forward. While moving forward, check that rear view mirror every once in a while. Check in with where you were last month or last year. Compare yourself with that person, and if the comparison is favourable, you know you are going in the right direction.
Don’t believe the hype: There are many, many trainers and on line health gurus out there. They portray a seemingly perfect lifestyle. Nothing but organic, vegan food ever passes their lips, and they spend all their time either training or practicing yoga! In my 34 years on this planet, one thing I have learned is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Just remember, when you come across these perfect specimens, that there is probably a large degree of filtering going on. They are most likely not going to put up a post about the curry they had Friday night. Neither will they take to social media to tell us about the days when they struggle to get to the gym.
Don’t get me wrong, some trainers do show the good with the bad, and that’s great. Just bare in mind, if the trainers you follow are not showing you the difficult side, you probably aren’t getting the whole story.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will you be. I hope these tips will make your journey towards your goal a little easier. Next week I will be offering some practical tips and small changes you can make to help you get big results. Check back with me then xxx