Secrets to making a diet or exercise change that actually lasts
By Tia Norris, June 2019 Issue.
not going to sugarcoat it: starting a new diet or exercise program is hardly
sunshine and rainbows. In fact, the process usually begins with promise and
positivity, but can soon devolve into discomfort and internal mental warfare.
After all, making changes in diet and exercise takes time, energy, and for some
people, it takes some of the fun out of life.
While I can’t disagree that making a
commitment to diet and exercise is demanding, I can promise you that the juice is
in fact worth the squeeze. All of my clients have highs and lows through their
fitness endeavors, and here are some of my tips on how to approach the
inevitably uncomfortable journey ahead.
When to use your emotions
Make the connection
between good diet and exercise choices with how you feel. Notice how
satisfying it is to complete workouts, and the energy spike that often follows
a vigorous exercise session versus the sluggish state you were in before the
workout; notice how focused and light you feel after choosing a healthier lunch
option like a chicken salad, versus a gut bomb like a burger and fries when it
comes to your midday performance at work; notice how empowering it feels to
achieve your goals and stick to your commitments, versus how it feels when
you’ve squandered another day, week, or month without making those changes you
so deeply desire. These are the feelings worth studying and replicating!
Don’t get me wrong, I love pizza, burgers,
fries, and desserts; however, what I don’t love is how heavy, tired, and
unfocused I feel after one of these indulgences. You can’t argue that you
function just as sharply at work after eating dirty vs. clean. It’s a fact! Of
course, different goals have different levels of demand. However, if you make
the connection between any particular choice now and the expected outcome
later, perhaps the decisions will become easier. Do now, what makes you feel
When to use your brain
And on that note,
don’t overthink it. Oftentimes, people get hung up on the back and forth mental
dance of “should I?” or “shouldn’t I?” … “I want to eat cleaner, but this
little snack just sounds better right now … what should I do?” In this
scenario, try to make a split-second, perfectly logical, decision based on what
you know. Don’t get entangled in irrational patterns when it comes to
diet and exercise choices. Just do it.
I fully acknowledge that for many clients,
this purely logical approach may not be as easy as it sounds; emotions and food
choices unfortunately go way back for many of us. However, sometimes it’s best
to cut through the fog of emotions with ice cold logic and do what you need
to do. Not what you want to do.
Be patient with yourself
I’m looking right
at you, perfectionists: eliminate that black/white thinking pattern when it
comes to diet and exercise. These types of “all or nothing” patterns are not
only unsustainable, they’re completely unnecessary! Read this carefully: you do
not need to have a dreadfully austere diet and a grueling exercise program, to
see results. If you’re hitting about 80-90% of the program, most people will
see what they want to see. Give yourself a bit of a break and be realistic.
For most of us this means better execution
on the program during the week, with room for planned spontaneity on the
weekends. Remember, to see progress, you’ll need more days on the
program than off the program. However, sustainability of a program is
fueled by planned deviations off the program. Work, rest, repeat, right? Don’t
forget to take the “rest” needed on diet and exercise programs. Eat that thing,
or those things, that you like but you know you shouldn’t have all the time,
occasionally. I recommend for most clients, one “cheat” meal per week where
there are no rules on quality or quantity. These planned deviations help to
make the program more sustainable mentally and physically.
Food tastes good, and exercise can be hard. Remember that and set the goals low
and slow to start. But this doesn’t mean you get to stop when it gets hard! Use
your emotions when they serve you: connect the good feelings with good choices
and use that positive reinforcement to drive results. Use your logic when your
emotions aren’t serving you: know what you should do, and just do it without
letting your emotions cloud your better judgment. And be patient: make it a
long term lifestyle change instead of a crash diet. Allow yourself to have some
fun along the way, and I promise you’ll enjoy the work a whole lot more!