When we set ourselves a fitness goal, we usually do it for a reason: a beach holiday where we want to flaunt our rock-hard abs, a wedding where we absolutely MUST fit into that designer dress and upstage the bride or maybe we just want to improve our lifestyle and be in the best of health. The problem is that while people are amped up and raring to go when they get started, most of them seem to run out of steam and lose their motivation in just a few days or weeks. This has been observed over and over again and for some reason, it happens most of all with fitness goals such as the ones mentioned above.
We are what we do and if we want to become fit, then we would have to do all those things which will help us reach that goal. In this article, let’s look at the reasons why people find it difficult to change their habits and how to overcome them.
- Focus on the goal, Not the Reward:
When you set a goal, you set a timer on that because of the reward. Now the reward is your reason for setting the goal (the vacation, wedding, etc.) that you are doing this for. While it is good to have a reward, focusing too much on it could lead you to take drastic measures which might backfire in the long run. Plus, when your progress doesn’t match your expectations, you often feel like giving up all together. So, just enjoy the process and don’t let the reward be the driving force.
- An aggressive strategy will almost always backfire:
“I want to lose 10 kgs in 2 months so I’m going to cut all cut all carbs, train like Rocky Balboa and run like Usain Bolt on the treadmill.”
Yeah. Sure! Forget about 2 months, you probably won’t last even a week with such a mindset. Think about it – you’ve been rooted in your bad habits for so long, did you really think you’ll be able to make such drastic changes in the way you do things?
Start small; make small changes over a period of time and stick to them. Small incremental steps will help you stay on track for months to come and build consistency without running out of motivation. Your efforts need to be sustainable if you don’t want to fall off the wagon and hear those dreadful words: “Bro, did you stop working out?”
As a newbie, if you suddenly start training 6 days a week, the muscle soreness in the 1st week itself will kill your will to even think of it in the 2nd week. Start with 2 to 3 days per week of low intensity training and gradually build upon it; this way, you will never fail in this process.
- Go Easy on Yourself:
We all fall off the wagon every once in a while. This is especially true if you are starting something new that you are not used to; you are bound to slip a bit and that’s perfectly fine. Just make sure it doesn’t become a routine.
Don’t beat yourself up; identify the reason behind the slip and be careful next time.
Ex. ‘Today I was traveling all day for work. I was in a meeting for almost 5 hours and the moment I got out, I was starving and there was a burger joint just across the street and I just couldn’t resist.’ What can you learn from this? Carry a snack or a meal to ensure it helps you keep your appetite under control and you don’t succumb to hunger pangs.
Blaming yourself and feeling bad about it isn’t going to help. See what you can learn from this and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
- Educate Yourself: Understand Macros & Calories
Whether your goal is to lose fat or build muscle, the most important aspect is your understanding of the nutrition you need, what it needs to consist of and which food items fall under which food group.
Our body burns a certain number of calories a day. This can help us understand the amount of food you need to maintain your current state of health. Eat less than that and you will lose weight; eat more and you will gain weight. You need to keep in mind that this weight gain or loss could be in the form of either fat or muscle, so much care needs to go into designing your diet. (Bottomline: Aim to lose fat and gain muscle, not the other way around).
There are three main food groups known as Macronutrients viz. Proteins, Fats and Carbohydrates.
Don’t demonize any food group as each has its own role to play in keeping you in good health. You need a balance of the three macros so choose wisely. You can always google the nutrition label of the food item or just check it on the packet of the product.
- Practice Mindfulness While Eating
One of the best ways to create good eating habits is to simply be mindful about what you eat and the food choices you make.
Choose a portion of rice over pizza, switch from Regular Coke to Diet Coke, prefer grilled chicken to fried – these simple hacks and choices will go a long way towards keeping you healthy.
Being mindful will also help you understand your body better so that you make better food decisions. Here’s a simple tip: Stay hydrated! Quite often, thirst is mistaken for hunger and you might compensate it with food and end up over-eating.
Spend a few seconds on contemplating and choosing the food you need to eat rather than the foods that you want to eat just because they taste good. Letting your taste buds make decisions will likely make you forget about portion control; hence a few seconds of mindfulness will prevent you from indulging in food that is very calorie dense and could sidetrack you from your goal.
- Be Self-sufficient:
Relying on external motivation is not going to help you always stay on track. Eventually, whatever motivation or inspiration you’ve been relying on will fade away. Instead, create the right mindset and empower yourself by focusing your energies on the purpose and goal that you need to achieve for yourself. This way, you will never feel dejected because you will have, within your own self, your own source of motivation that will help you get through the rough patches of the process. Set a goal, focus on it and always remember the reason you started in the first place.
- Habit Checklist:
There’s an old piece of business advice which is just as applicable to life: “What gets noted down gets done”.
Create a check list of the to-dos’ over a period of time and rate yourself on success of each point on a scale of 1 to 10. Maintain a diary or paste a calendar on your wall and mark your progress. Seeing your progress on paper rather than in your mind will show you how far you’ve made it and will motivate you to move on to the next step of the process.
An example of a weekly check-list: (This needs to be in a table format with a 1 to 10 scale beside each line so people might actually use it as check list)
- Drink at least 5 liters of water.
- Have a portion of protein and greens in each meal of the day.
- Exercise 2 to 3 times a week.
Rate on yourself for each activity on a scale of 1 to 10.
Repeat the same steps but focus on improving your ratings for each activity.
- Start controlling your portions; try to understand your appetite levels and manage your meals accordingly.
- Understand the process of tracking calories.
Rate yourself for each activity on a scale of 1 to 10.
Repeat the same but focus on improving your ratings for the same activity.
- Start tracking your calories and macros and start planning your meals as per your body’s requirements.
- Increase exercise frequency.
- Learn more about the path you need to take to achieve your goals; if in doubt, ask an expert to guide you in your process.
Start building upon the habits and remember that you are doing it for yourself. Create a path, create a system, take guidance, do your research and start walking on the path. Rome wasn’t built in a day. So take it 1 step at a time, 1 pound at a time.
Author credits – Mukund Dawra