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Statistically the third week of January is when most people ‘fall off the wagon’ on their New Year’s resolutions and fail in their fitness goals.
For a couple of weeks you might have been dedicated and disciplined; hitting the gym before work and strictly eating a healthy diet. After a couple of weeks, you will naturally start to crave foods you are missing, as the initial surge of motivation starts to deplete. The gym becomes less and less appealing.
What do you need to do to keep it up? To stick with your healthy lifestyle for more than 2 or 3 weeks, and finally make this the year that it sticks and you achieve your goals?
The first thing we must do is define what failure is and isn’t.
What is Failure?
Failure is not eating one meal that isn’t on your diet plan, or missing one gym session. We have to move away from the thinking that anything other than 100% perfection is a failure.
You’re a human being, life happens and you are never going to get everything right, every time. Expecting to do so, and using that as your measure of success is simply setting you up to fall. You will never be able to meet those expectations.
The only time you fail is when you give up trying. A bad day doesn’t mean you failed. Slipping backwards a little in your progress doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Only when you quit trying and admit defeat, have you failed.
You need to set expectations that you have a chance to meet. If you’re aiming too high – for perfection – you’re never going to attain that.
You must allow yourself a little bit of flexibility and freedom on your plan, for when life gets in the way. If you’re realistic with yourself, you know that you’re not going to never eat foods you like again. You know you’re not going to go to the gym every single day for the rest of your life.
The aim is for progress, not perfection. Every week, every month, you move forwards. Averaged out over a week, you should be sticking with your plan the majority of the time, and that will ensure you make consistent progress forwards.
Changing Your Self-Image
One of the reasons we struggle with setting realistic and sustainable aims is because we do not believe we can do it, before we even start.
If that is our belief at the beginning, we will set ourselves up to fail; to prove ourselves right. It lets us feel better about giving up, burying the feelings of wanting to change back into the back of our mind, and going about our normal lives, content that we tried to change.
To actually succeed, you need to change your self-image. You need to believe that you can become a fit person, slim person, or whatever it is you’re aiming for. That means setting targets that are realistic for you to achieve.
If you have 40lbs to lose, you’re not going to do it in 2 weeks. You should plan to lose 2-4lbs in that timeframe and no more. You’ve got to look at it from the perspective of the progress you have made thus far, not how far you still have left to go.
If you’re viewing it as “I’ve been trying so hard for 2 week, but I STILL have 38lbs to lose…” then you are going to kill your motivation. It took months, years or maybe even decades to get to where you are now. You have to be realistic about how long it is going to take to change that.
Not just because it takes time for your body to change, but because it is hard for you to change deeply embedded habits.
If you’ve never eaten healthy food; always picked up junk food on the go, and slumped down on the sofa to watch Netflix; it will take time to change those patterns. You will slip backwards sometimes. There will be days where you slump down with a box of fried chicken, instead of hitting the gym.
There is simply no way you can change how you act that significantly in an instant. It takes time and you will not achieve it every single day on the journey.
Progress, Not Perfection
Your aim should be to get to the gym just twice per week, instead of heading for the Netflix binge. To eat a healthy breakfast every day for a week – not to never eat junk food again.
It might not sound like a lot, but it is more than you were doing before. That is progress. That is moving in the right direction. After these things start to become habit, then you can add more things in – eat a healthy lunch, go to the gym 3 or 4 times per week.
You don’t have to start off with the ‘perfect’ routine. You just need to start doing a little bit more than you were doing before. Then you can build from there and add things in as you achieve them. Increase in small, manageable chunks, rather than giant leaps that are unsustainable.
Often when we set resolutions, we get too excited. We don’t look at making long-term sustainable changes. We have a wave of motivation and try to change everything on January 1st. It might work for a couple of weeks, but it is unlikely to work for much longer.
I urge you to re-assess your intentions, even if things are still going well for you right now. Are you going to be able to stick with this for ever? How will you feel when things go wrong?
You know that something will happen – work will get busy, you’ll get sick, something that puts a spanner in your routine and throws you off track. Will you be able to deal with that? Do you have a contingency plan? Will you be able to get back on track as soon as possible?
You should aim to enjoy the process of changing your body. To not feel deprivation or guilt. If you crave foods, work them into your diet in a way that is controllable and healthy, rather than depriving yourself until the point that you binge, feel guilty about it, and beat yourself up.
Sometimes moving slower will take you to your destination faster than trying to rush. A sustainable plan that you enjoy is always going to beat the ‘perfect’ plan that is overly strict and makes you miserable.