If you’ve ever tried to lose weight or gain muscle, you’ll know that there are about a million-and-one diets out there telling you how to get there. In fact, what with paleo, clean eating, juice cleanses, Mediterranean diets, fresh meal delivery, probiotics, keto and bowl meals, it feels like we’ve hit peak body fad saturation! With this in mind, we think that it’s now – more than ever – that we need a no-BS guide to how to form healthy eating and fitness habits in our lives.
Fad Diets – Are They All They’re Cracked Up to Be?
Sometimes a diet fad can seem like the answer. It works for that super hot girl on Instagram, or that really ripped guy on Facebook – but actually, it’s not going to work for you. Sorry. Maybe the meal prep is too time-consuming, or the restrictions are too severe. You start off strong and optimistic, but you fall off the wagon weeks or even days later because it’s unrealistic for your lifestyle or tastes. Many times, fad diets are just that – fads. And sometimes they’re designed to sell a product (like the Lemon Detox or Skinny Tea).
But if you set yourself up with an eating plan that is realistic and an exercise plan that is achievable, you’re far more likely to be still following that plan six months down the line as opposed to a plan that has you only eating cabbage soup or things that are yellow.
Let’s Get Real
We don’t believe that you should use an unrealistic fad diet and strive to achieve some society-deemed version of model-like perfection if that’s not what is realistic or healthy for YOU. Disordered eating can be triggered by restrictive diets or exercise that can start out healthy but turn into something unhealthy, so it’s important to be smart about what you want, and how you’re going to get there.
At Witness the Fitness, we are about FITNESS and HEALTH. So whether that is putting on muscle, losing fat, rehabilitating from an ACL reconstruction and getting back into running, losing your baby weight, or making an awesome meal plan for your future, we want you to achieve your goals.
Because healthy eating and exercise vary so much from person to person, we’re not going to give you a meal plan or a workout plan here – rather we’re going to show you exactly how to stick to your plan once you have it.
STEP ONE: Know what works for you
The first step here is understanding what is going to work for you. You need to be honest with yourself and to set realistic goals that are tailored to YOU. And hey – it’s totally ok to want incredible things from yourself; indeed as motivational guru Tony Robbins says, “One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”
This is 100% true of your health and fitness. After all, if you direct your focus to figure out what you want for your health and fitness, and make a plan that helps you to get there, you’ll achieve your goals.
- Set your food and exercise goals. Make them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time sensitive). You can’t just say “I’d like to lose five kilos” because that has no basis in reality. By when? How much fat? How much muscle do you want to gain – if any? Your brain isn’t going to latch onto an “I’d like to” statement and make that happen. Saying you want to lose five kilos is only ever going to be a dream unless you make a serious plan.
- Make your plan for your weight loss. Your SMART goals will say, I want to lose exactly 5.5 kilos of fat and gain 2 kilos of muscle, I am going to achieve this by altering my diet and cutting out (XYZ) foods and eating more (XYZ) foods, I am going to exercise cardio three times a week and do weights twice a week, and I want to have achieved my goal by (a specific date).
- Set a new standard for what you are going to expect from yourself and make this part of your everyday If you expect yourself to lose five kilos by a certain date and have a high standard for yourself, you are far more likely to say no to a piece of cake at work or to go for a run in the morning.
At Witness the Fitness, we are a transformation and performance centre and can help you to make SMART goals and to offer coaching and training that is geared to helping you achieve success. You don’t have to go it alone! If the idea of goal setting is scary, or you think you could fail, you’ll have us and a support network of other gym mates to help you stay on track with your self-control. Actually, speaking of self-control…
STEP TWO: Harness self-control
This is a big one. Self-control is the reason you say no to a slice of cheesecake, or go for that run in the morning. Building self-control is TOUGH. No one said it was easy, but it’s definitely possible.
We’ve cut through the noise and have a few quick and dirty tips for building self-control. Self-control is a muscle that you need to train, so here are some training tips:
- Increase the appeal of your task at hand. If going to the gym and eating right are hard for you because you think of it as limiting and painful (“Ugh I hate the gym, it’s so hard; and I miss eating pizza!”), try to focus on the benefits instead: “I feel really happy when I get to the gym three times a week, and I know how good I feel when I eat a healthy dinner.”
- Keep temptation away. If you want to lose weight and not to eat lollies or lots of bread, then don’t keep them in the house. Simple. When you go out and a friend orders chips for the table to share, move away from the chips or make a joke about your lack of self-control and ask that they are moved away from you.
- Meditate – even five minutes a day. Use an app like Headspace or just a simple meditation timer on YouTube. The focus you get from being mindful will translate into greater self-control.
- Get enough sleep. When you are tired your ability to self-regulate is impeded, and you’re probably more likely to order a pizza for lunch than you are to make a salad in the morning to take to work.
- Forgive yourself. This is a big one because we can all be self-critical at times. We want the best for ourselves, and we want to achieve our goals. Slipping up and having cake is not the end of the world or our diet. The feelings of self-hatred or disgust aren’t going to help you stay on track. Don’t ignore how slipping up makes you feel – just acknowledge it, and move on to how you’re going to improve your self-control in the future. Treat every slip up as an opportunity to do better next time.
STEP THREE: Make it a habit
We are creatures of habit. We can’t help it. We’re animals, after all – albeit very clever and good-looking ones. But we cannot forget that we’re flesh and blood just like every other critter on the earth. And this includes our brains, which have evolved to recognise patterns as a means to keep us safe and functioning in the world. We recognise patterns and form habits based on the familiar.
Making a sandwich, going for a run… Same difference!
As an example of how some habits exist, think about making a sandwich. You get hungry, so you get up off the couch, go to the fridge, get out some cheese, grab some bread, maybe take some Vegemite. It’s a smooth, perfect dance as you nudge the fridge door closed with your hip even as you’re opening the cutlery drawer to grab a knife and reaching into the cupboard for a plate.
Then you whack the bread down, spread just the right amount of Vegemite on it, and if something is on your mind, you might be sitting back on the sofa and halfway through your sandwich before you even realise it. That’s the power of habitual behaviour. It’s almost an out-of-body experience as you do it automatically.
But picture yourself making the same sandwich at a friend’s house where the kitchen is not so familiar. Where’s the bread kept, what drawer are the knives in, where’s the cheese!? So foreign, so complicated! Argh!
Make exercise effortless
The key here is that when something is a habit, it happens effortlessly. Let’s not pretend that we were all born knowing how to make a Vegemite and cheese sandwich. We practised that sandwich time and time again and learned the fastest and easiest way to get it just right.
And guess what? Getting into the habit of exercise is exactly like learning how to make a fantastic sandwich. You just need to know how to tweak things to make it effortless.
Hack your routine
Consider this. You want to get to the gym three times a week for a workout. You always run out of time in the afternoon, so you decide to go in the mornings. It’s a hassle to get your gym gear ready in the morning, so you’ve slept in a couple of times. Make creating a habit easier by packing a gym bag the night before, and literally lay your exercise clothes out on your bed. Put your gym shoes next to the bed (with socks). Fill your water bottle. Have a protein shake ready. Do absolutely everything you need to for the gym the night before, and always do it the same way. It’s a habit like anything else – you just need to make it one.
As a side note here, habit forming has long been touted as taking 21 days, but this has been found to be largely incorrect in a 2009 study performed on habit forming behaviour. It was found by researchers that a new habit takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form. They also found that missing one or two opportunities to form the behaviour didn’t affect the habit forming process, so if you do miss a gym session, that’s ok – just go tomorrow!
Healthy eating habits?
It’s the same with eating healthy as well. Many people experience success by eating the same things over and over. You don’t have to eat exactly the same meals, but you might want to consider keeping things pretty simple. That way, grocery shopping is easy, budgeting is easy, calorie planning is easy, meal prep is easy, and you’ll find that you’re less likely to stray from your diet if you have the same things in your cupboards and fridge.
Ready for your best body? Come and see us today at WTF. Call us to book in on 1300 983 872. When you expect more from yourself, you get more.