Everyone knows the whole cliché about fitness needing to be a lifestyle change to stick, rather than simply being on a diet, or exercising. Many people are unable to grasp what this concept truly means as they struggle to stay on the wagon, and inevitably fall off, only to try it again telling themselves they are changing their lifestyle each time they jump back on. The problem is, they are lacking the fundamentals it takes to truly make fitness a lifestyle.
Fundamental 1: Diet
Everyone knows this. Everyone knows that in order to change your body or become healthier, your diet is the most important. The majority of people believe that a diet change automatically means restricting all the foods you like and add in number of foods they don’t currently like or eat. This is why when someone is jumping back on the wagon, they hit the grocery store and buy all these super healthy foods, gung-ho to get started on Monday. It’s just not sustainable.
Do you ever wonder why it’s not sustainable? Why this excitement around your healthy shopping trip doesn’t last? Because, in the moment you are sick of being off the wagon and you’re ready for a change. You aren’t thinking about two weeks down the road where you are tired of prepping food, or missing the things you love to eat. You just dive in, thinking “this time it will be different” without taking the steps to make health and fitness a lifestyle rather than a hobby.
Before you go diving in again, track everything you eat for a few days. Apps like Myfitnesspal have a giant database so you can almost always find the food you eat, or at least something comparable. After 3 days, analyze. Are you getting enough protein? Fiber? Are you eating a ton of fat? Are you not eating enough? This creates a basis for the problems you have while you’re fucking off. Rather than dive in headfirst, you can start making small adjustments that could have a big impact.
Next, really take the time to find a diet, meal plan or program that’s right for you. Don’t just jump into something like paleo because you know people who have had good results. Find something that will most align with your lifestyle. Some people love having a set meal plan where they can have a cheat once a week. Other people like myself prefer flexible dieting where you can eat the foods you love and learn the discipline of portion control in the process.
Fundamental 2: Training
Just like the diet, many people throw themselves into training without giving it much thought. They join a gym, hire a personal trainer, purchase a program and before you know it they are burnt out. Most of us start doing what we think we should be doing, as opposed to what actually works for us. They will see the results of others and ask what it was that they did, and then try to emulate.
There’s also a lack of education surrounding different training styles. Women’s biggest fear seems to be the idea of getting bulky, like they are going to trip and fall on some dumbbells and muscles are just going to explode all over their body. They think that endless cardio is good enough to “tone up” if they just lose enough fat.
These things just aren’t true.
If you have specific goals then there are certain paths to take to get there. Whether you want a certain look, or you want to compete in any way, there are different ways to train to achieve these goals. (I highly suggest hiring a coach if you want to compete.)
If that’s not the case and you just want to look good and be healthy, Rather than asking other people what works for them, you should be asking yourself what you enjoy doing. We’re all different. Our bodies respond differently to training. What works for me, may not work for you. Some people do yoga 6 days a week, some people do crossfit, some run, some kayak, some swim, some do MMA, some play soccer, some powerlift—the point is to find what you really like to do and expand on it. You will find that when you are enjoying fitness, you’ll have a much easier time making fitness a lifestyle.
Fundamentals 3 & 4: Patience & Acceptance
A lot of people will try something for two weeks, not see results, quit, try something else, quit, find something else and so on. They will decide those things didn’t work for them rather than admit that they weren’t patient enough to see if they could actually render desirable results. In reality, giving up puts you that much further away from your goals. Changing your body is hard. Undoing the damage you’ve done to it is hard. You are not going to see results that are both fast and lasting.
There is a lack of acceptance that happens when you get back on the wagon. You don’t accept what you’ve done to yourself. You don’t accept the image you see in the mirror, instead you have this idea in your head what you should look like—whether that was in high school or just some image you created in your mind. You can’t make fitness a lifestyle AND be impatient with your results.
Let that image go. Stop obsessing over your high school, pre-baby or last year’s body. That’s not your reality. Your reality is this person, in this moment. You have to accept her. You can change her, but you have to accept that the changes are based on this person and what lies underneath the fat, or in the possibility of the muscle you can build. Not what you were able to accomplish in the past.
You are not going to be happy if you are able to achieve some set image you have in your mind. You have to accept and love yourself now, be patient with your progress, and keep moving forward.
Fundamental 5: People, Places & Things
One thing I see a lot when someone embarks on a fitness journey is that they don’t truly change their lifestyle. They don’t give themselves the chance to succeed because they are tethered to old behaviors and bad habits.
If you think a lifestyle change begins and ends with your diet and training regime, you’re doing it wrong. Partying every weekend, drinking every night, hanging with your buddy or significant other that always pushes you to eat crappy food with them, those are the parts of your lifestyle, your life—that are sinking you.
I know you don’t want to hear this, but if you can’t control your intake at a party–don’t go. You can’t make fitness a lifestyle if you are constantly sabotaging yourself. If there are people who can’t or won’t respect your boundaries, you may need to pull back. If your significant other is unsupportive, you may need to have a real heart to heart. It’s not easy to do nor is putting your health first– so surrounding yourself with support is crucial.
Have you truly made fitness a lifestyle? If not, what’s holding you back?
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