If you make your health a habit, it is far easier to keep on with it than if you rely solely on motivation and willpower. Habits are things we do without thinking about them; good or bad. But we do them. If eating sensibly and exercising are habits then they are just part of your routine and daily life. And let’s be honest, that’s the way it should be really.
Joining a gym or working out maniacally for a week or month at a time will show results. But they won’t last. Likewise, following a “detox” diet will cause you to drop weight. But it won’t all be fat, you’ll lose lean tissue too. And that weight will likely come back very quickly when you start eating as normal again.
I know that this advice will seem obvious. But it’s amazing how many of us are looking for a magic or quick solution. Rather than putting the time and effort in over the longer term. Extremes work extremely well; for a remarkably short period!
I speak from experience here. I’ve trained fairly regularly for a good few years now, am sensible in what I eat, and have been able to lose weight and then maintain it. Some of it was about accepting things I didn’t want to hear (less beer = more progress!), but a lot of it came from adopting healthy habits.
I know colleagues and friends can think me a killjoy when I don’t want to drink lots or eat calorie dense food, but I like to choose when to indulge in situations that mean more to me. Like when we are travelling. It means I can enjoy the local rums or tequilas with the local food 😉 I also enjoy training and to get the most out of it, I need to fuel my body appropriately. Sure, there are times when I drop calories (and obviously macros) to aid fat loss while still training, but again it is a conscious decision. I am a huge fan of eating to support training for the most part. I’ve made great progress with my training and body composition doing this.
How do I achieve all this long term? I have training goals (the subject of a forthcoming article), and I also schedule times to train. The scheduling varies depending on what and where I’m training, and things my husband and I are doing. But right now I train three mornings a week. If it is a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, I will head to the gym before work. No thinking about whether to go or if I feel like it. The training plan and my calendar says that is what happens, so it happens. The same as it is for most of us for turning up for work. That said I have been to the gym today, and not work since it’s a bank holiday! 😉 Thursday evening is Kettlebell Sport evening, which is set by the coach, but it is always then so I can ensure I plan around it. And then around this I am slightly more flexible with some cardio (usually three short sessions a week) and another kettlebell session. I treat these as tick box items. So long as I’ve ticked off three cardio sessions that’s fine. If it happens to be the first three days of the week, so be it.
Choosing to prioritise health is not selfish. Sure there needs to be some balance, but my husband and I both like to fit in (hah!) being active. For example I’ve done some kettlebell sets while he is out on the bike 🙂 My regular sessions should never be interrupted by work in the normal course of events either. My health is as important to me as my career. And I am a better employee if I am fit and healthy!
Food follows a similar structure. We like to meal plan (roughly) as it saves us money. It also leads to less food wastage. I am so used to my lifestyle now I can pretty much wing a day of food and still get very close to my desired macros. However, when I started out, I would plan a weeks worth of food at any one point. I would then spend a few hours on a Sunday prepping at least half of it. It made it very easy to adjust to being aware of what I ate. Initially, I needed to involve discipline so that I didn’t give in to the takeaway thoughts when tired. But now it’s much easier to find something quick and healthy with very little effort. I know I feel better for eating such foods too. It is now a habit to look for a quick and healthy solution with foods we already have in.
If you are struggling with eating badly and failing to follow a training plan, or even just to be active as much as you’d like, try imposing a structure for a few weeks. Ensure you have accountability through friends, or a coach/PT, or even with apps that let you check off progress daily and weekly. Once you have got used to the change, I can assure it will all become a lot easier.
Being brutally honest, you also have to examine if you truly want these things if you can’t motivate yourself to stick to them in the short term to be able to build the long-term habits. Which is a fair enough choice to make; just be honest with yourself! By all means have several drinks each weekend. But expect that to slow (or stop) your fat loss goals. Eat the chocolate (I do!) but if you eat beyond your required calories again it will prevent weight loss, or even add weight. And missing training is fine if through injury, tiredness, or you just can’t be bothered. But accept at least in the last case, it will slow your progress too.
If you have any healthy habits, it would be great to hear them. Drop me a comment below or on Facebook! Remember that simple actions will incrementally achieve more than massive gestures that tail away.
Aim for 80-90% adherence over time, all the time. Doing this will yield far better results than 100% adherence 50% of the time. Life is a balance, and health and fitness are just one aspect of that.