Have you ever found yourself trapped in a cycle that looks like this?
Monday: “No more bread, pasta or rice EVER again."
Friday: I guess I’ll have a third piece of pizza.
Sunday: I have no willpower. I hate my body. No bread this week and I mean it! *tosses all the bread out in the garbage*
*Buys bread, bagels and tortilla chips at the store the next day*
Consistency with healthy choices is really hard and, contrary to what diet culture would have you believe, it is not because you lack willpower, are bad or less than...it's because diet culture is built around the idea that restrictive behaviors are the recipe for success.
Approaching anything with an "all or nothing" mindset sets you up for failure before you even start.
Some other reasons consistency is really hard:
- We tend to rationalize or make excuses for our "bad" choices.
- We put things off that we don't want to do...eating healthy and exercising being at the top of the list of "unfun" things
- Temptation is literally everywhere
- Life gets in the way
CHANGE IS HARD. And falling back on what's comfortable and known is much easier.
Here's the deal-- It's a lot easier to stay on track if you never fall off it. It's a lot less complicated than we often make it. Here are some tips on how to stay consistent, and throw out all the reasons you craft that stand in the way:
1). Establish Realistic Expectations.
It is easy to bite off more than we can chew (pun intended). When we don’t see the results we expect, that’s when we give up… and have to start all over again.
You have to start small, and that starts with your expectations.
Expectations, by the way, are not the same thing as goals. Your goal may be eventually to lose 20 pounds, but you can expect to eat healthier snacks every week. The key is to keep expectations realistic. Small steps still count!
If you expect to lose one pound a week, but you don’t see that reflected on the scale, you’re going to fall off track because you’re not seeing “results.”
Action step: Pick something else to track your progress with instead a number that relates to your body (inches, weight). Some ideas include:
-->How many home-cooked meals you eat per week (I help you with this in my meal plans)
-->The number of healthy snacks you eat per week
-->The number of times you have fruit for dessert instead of junk
-->How many hours you sleep every night
-->The number of glasses of water you drink per day
-->Sleep more night without your phone right next to you
-->How many days you bring lunch to work
2). Change Your Environment
If you want to change your lifestyle, you have to actually make changes to the things around you.
That means the food in your cupboards and fridge, your morning and nighttime routine...
I tell clients to make their home their sanctuary-- a place to keep clean and healthy because it's one of the few environments they truly have control over.
If you only buy nutritious foods, that is all you'll have to eat at home. Even as a nutritionist, I am human, too-- If I have sweets in the house, I am going to eat them. So I don't keep sweets in the house or keep them to a minimum.
Planning ahead is Key:
--> Leave a big water bottle on your desk at work so you remember to drink h2O
-->Put your workout clothes by your bed or in a bag in a location you won't forget before work
-->Keep non-perishable snacks-- like low-sugar protein bars and peanut butter packets-- in your purse or work bag so you always have healthy options on hand for when you get hungry between meal times
-->Lay a yoga mat next to your bed as a reminder to stretch before you go to bed
-->If a friend likes junk, hang out with them outside of mealtimes. Go to the movies, shopping, go for a hike, get your nails done, work out together… do something not food-related!
3). Be Accountable
If you don't have something scheduled, it's much easier to let yourself off the hook. Find a workout buddy, or sign up for a few workout classes ahead of time at times you know you can commit to.
Tracking progress is another great way to keep yourself accountable. Seeing it in writing, in a calendar, etc. is a great way to make a promise to yourself-- that you're not going to let yourself down.
Action step: Create a simple tracking method based on your current lifestyle and daily routines. Some ideas:
-->Create a daily reminder in your phone that pops up
-->Keep a calendar or checklist somewhere that you will see it daily
-->Add ONE healthy habit-related task to your daily agenda to check off every day
--> Reward yourself for working out or eating a healthy lunch...one month of consistent habits equals a spa day, or whatever self-care reward that will incentivize you. Don't reward yourself with food.
-->Create an event in your calendar (and also carve out time) for your healthy habit. Color code it so you can see how much time you’re REALLY dedicating to it.
4). Shift Your Focus
If you typically have a negative voice when talking to and about yourself, how do you expect to maintain good habits? You've turned them into something negative!
Instead of focusing on LOSING weight, why not shift your focus towards GAINING healthy habits, i.e. "today, I am going to nourish my body with good food it needs to thrive," rather than "today, I am NOT going to eat crap." What's the alternative to crap? You haven't given yourself healthy options to replace them with.
Positive thought yields positive results. It's as simple as that.
Make healthy choices your POSITIVE focus and you will consistently make them.
As a rule of thumb, I start my day thinking about the ways I will be kind to myself, and the main way I do that is feeding myself well. It might seem cheesy, but it works.
-->Focus on the good things you're going to put in your body each day versus the "bad" things you're going to avoid
-->Set healthy goals, such as making a nutritious smoothie every morning during the work week, rather than "lose 2 pounds."
-->Build your plate around what you need: protein, fat, fiber and greens-- rather than calories.
--> Listen to your body versus your head-- eat when you're hungry, stop when you're satisfied, not when you're stuffed.
-->Eat slowly. Taste your food. Enjoy it. Allow yourself to feel gratitude for the gift of delicious food rather than punishment/ judgment.
--> Choose exercises you enjoy. If you don't like running, don't do it. Exercise isn't a punishment, it's a celebration of what your body can do, today.