If you are looking for the fastest weight-loss possible or have an important deadline like a wedding or athletic event, it is possible to hunker down and make it happen. After this strict routine, people often find themselves falling off the wagon and reverting to old behaviors out of frustration, exhaustion or to reward their achievement. After suffering through obesity & depression, I initially took this route in search of happiness and the “perfect” body. I cut out most everything I loved to eat and do, replaced it with endless amounts of cardio and torturing my body, and came out the other end feeling broken, despondent, and very hangry! The cycle of deprivation & overexertion followed by over-indulgence & guilt really affected me emotionally and psychologically.
By having superficial goals and obsessing over the approval of others, I set myself up for failure. My well being, lifestyle, happiness, and body image were the casualties of taking the wrong approach to my fitness.
Having toiled for years to achieve an aesthetic and routine that I thought would win me approval and happiness, I decided to change my plan. I decided to stop faking an interest in fitness and stop focusing on an ideal weight or body image. I enthusiastically began an active, healthy lifestyle while still allowing myself to live my life: indulging in treats, seeking new experiences, spending time with friends rather than trying to impress them, and making self-love a top priority. Personally, I am happier with a routine/lifestyle that allows me to focus on my fitness goals while still enjoying life’s pleasures. Most of us are happy enough to reach a comfortable level of fitness which allows us to have more energy, feel good and just enjoy life. Sometimes it is still fun to push myself, but if my happiness or lifestyle are jeopardized to achieve this new goal, I take a step back to focus on what really matters.
To remain fit and happy, it is far more important to focus on your mindset, positivity, and routine than your weight or superficial goals.
Making excuses is easy. Starting a lifestyle change is hard. You have a routine. Your habits are ingrained in your behaviors. It is unreasonable and unnecessarily hard to change your lifestyle overnight. If you are used to making the same meals or grabbing fast food, haven’t done a minute of exercise since P.E. in high school and don’t know the difference between a good fat & a bad fat, chances are a sudden change is not going to stick. With a specific action plan and manageable steps, you can make the change gradually but effectively until you are your happiest, healthiest self.
My approach to lifestyle change is to work in phases. Each phase provides you with the tools and structure needed to move forward with the next. Conquering each step allows us a natural and more permanent way to enact real change in our lives.
If you are ready to stop making excuses and start living positive, fit and happy, here is your new program:
Phase 1: Mindset, Planning & Support
The first step is to admit that you need the change and commit to making it happen. You must be willing to make the change. I can’t make you do it. Your family can’t make you. Your friends can’t make you. You can pay someone big bucks to come in to your home, drag you out of bed by your hair, and throw you on a treadmill… but if you don’t move your feet, no one can do it for you. Remember that you need to do this. You want to do this. And you will not regret it. Eliminate negative self-talk and replace it with positive affirmations. Be ready, be positive, and be excited! Your life if about to get so much better!
Once you have your head in the right place and are ready to begin, where do you start? Here are some simple first steps: start tracking your food and beverages (don’t worry about calories or nutrition content, just write it down. You will be surprised with how enlightening it is to see your food choices laid before you), make a list of programs/activities/fitness regimens you would like to try, and write down your goals & your excuses. Next look at your schedule/calendar. When can you fit in shopping, activities or exercise? Be honest. There are people much busier than you that can make it happen, so you can too! Write it all down. Schedule your grocery trips, meal prep and exercise on your calendar and make these appointments with yourself non-negotiable. Don’t move these activities to squeeze in social engagements or errands, plan around them.
So many programs and nutrition plans are at your fingertips (including my top-12 nutrition tips). Don’t get overwhelmed. Just focus on one aspect of your plan at a time until you have the whole picture before you. You can make the change on your own, and given enough determination, you will succeed. A plethora of information is available to help guide you. However, I have found that nothing will keep you going quite like accountability and support. A good coach or trainer will be able to help you analyze your routine, make a plan and give you the tools & motivation to be successful. Spend less time with people who are negative or pessimistic about healthy lifestyles, and seek out friends & family that are already active and/or positive to keep your head in the right place. Your positivity and drive will remind people of their failures or lack of discipline, but this is a reflection of them, not you. You are not alone and shouldn’t be. Join a support group, sports team or running club. Embrace the fitness community and allow it to guide, motivate and shape you.
Phase 2: Habit Forming & Initiative
Starting phase 2 is simple: do it! Don’t worry about how fast you go, how perfectly you eat, how heavy you lift, or how awkward you feel. Just take your body through the paces. Habit forming is vital in changing your behaviors for the better. If you want to work out 5x a week, make it happen according to your schedule. Just going through the motions, even if you aren’t pushing yourself hard at first, will teach your brain and your body that it has a new routine. Start creating your new lifestyle each healthy habit at a time.
Be as consistent as you can in keeping to your schedule for as long as possible, ideally 21-30 days. If you miss a day, don’t quit. If you miss a week, you still shouldn’t quit, but it is definitely time to move back to phase 1 to evaluate your plan. Perhaps your 5am workout was too ambitious but an evening window is more reasonable. Maybe compulsive junk-food snacking is a sign that you should keep a stock of healthy snacks for emergencies. No matter how easy it seems to fall back into your old habits, don’t! You have a plan and you can do it.
Phase 3: Routine
As you are forming new healthier habits, you will be slowly building to a solid routine. Don’t think of your shopping, meal planning or exercise as steps to reaching a goal; they are becoming part of your daily life, your routine. Taking care of yourself will start to feel natural and even compulsive. As you are developing your routine, you should be gradually eliminating or reducing your unhealthy behaviors. It is ok to make the change incremental, just be sure not to drag out each modification. Your routine should be about improving, so doing the minimum each time will only delay your progress.
Phase 4: Repeat 1-3 But Step It Up
If you were able to make it through your first 21-30 days of your program, take a moment to congratulate yourself! Forming your new habits means you are on the way to living positive, fit and happy. Now it is time to step it up. Head back to Phase 1 to determine how and what you will do to improve your life. Again, you can do as much or as little as you prefer, but your efforts determine the speed of your transformation. Walk farther or faster, increase the difficulty of your exercise, eliminate more unhealthy foods & behaviors, and/or add on new challenges. Remember that the process is not getting easier as you go, you are just getting better.
You don’t need to take any time off before resuming phase 1. Because, remember, you are not on a diet and you are not working toward a superficial goal. You are making a permanent change to maintain a healthy, positive, fit and happy life. As you are continuing with your scheduled exercise and balanced nutrition, you will develop a routine and your body & mind will crave healthier choices. Each time you add a new facet to your plan, allow yourself time to adjust to the habits you are forming.
Remember not to give up if you don’t succeed on the first try, but rather reevaluate your plan and revise it accordingly. Hitting roadblocks and mishaps is totally normal and actually a blessing in disguise. Each obstacle you face is an opportunity to see how unforeseen circumstances effect your routine and strengthen your plan moving forward. Picture a baseball game. A batter strikes out repeatedly off the same pitcher. Does he stop coming to bat? No. He starts learning from his mistakes and anticipating what is to come until – BAM! Homerun! Not hitting it out of the park on the first shot is not the sign of a failure; it is merely the first step in learning to be better.
Don’t check out yet! I saved the most important phase for last!
Phase 0: Be Proud & Be Happy
When you focus your plan on making a lifestyle change rather than reaching a superficial goal, you do not need to wait for your results to be happy and proud. Be proud of every step you take toward a healthier life. Hell! Be proud of yourself just for choosing to make the change! Self-Love is not selfish, it is essential. Think of how much more you can give your family, give the world, if you are caring for yourself! Actively working toward your own wellbeing should be a priority in your life. You are already amazing. You are already enough. You deserve the best that this world has to offer. You deserve to be happy now. Happiness is not in the destination; it is in the journey.
One day you will forget to follow each phase of this program. Making healthy choices, adjusting as you go, and stepping it up will be your habits. Growing as a person, living an active life, and constantly seeking improvement will be your routine. Positive Fit and Happy will be your life.
Stay Positive – Stay Fit – Stay Happy
If you are looking to take the leap and make a permanent change in your life, head on over to Positive Fit Happy to find advice, recipes, guidance and support to turn your wishes of a better life into a plan.