The fitness industry often markets glamour over reality. We see rippling abs on a magazine cover and are told we can achieve that in just 15 days, with the right ab exercises and a diet of only egg whites. We are told in infomercials that measuring your meals in small containers is the answer to your weight loss conundrum. And maybe you’ve never considered the possibility that you could shed 10 lbs in 10 days, but suddenly the latest juice cleanse makes you think it’s a healthy reality to achieve that. It encourages you to flirt with the thoughts of how extreme you could take your exercise and nutrition regimen, for the shortest possible period of time, to achieve the tightest bod you’ve ever had. Sound familiar?
It’s ok, we’ve all flirted with those thoughts. Raise your hand if you’ve ever allowed yourself 1 weeks time to get in bikini body shape for your next beach vacation. And can I get an “amen” from anyone who has completely turned their life upside down to achieve a health goal, while giving up on nearly everything else in life that previously brought them happiness? We live in a world of extremes with our health. Which is funny, because our health is something that comes along for the ride our ENTIRE LIVES. Like the whole 75, 80, heck, 95 years we get to live on this earth, our health gets to be a part of how we experience the world. That’s a long time to be jumping from one extreme to the next.
What if there was a better way to approach our health that created sustainable change; something that allowed us to live our lives to their fullest potential, in addition to taking care of our health, because the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. What if there was a way to find balance; to quit the extreme and live for the mean. Now mind you, I’m not encouraging you to be “average,” I just want you to be able to find a healthy way of life that suits you for the long run and feels doable. Everyone’s definition of “doable” is different. For some, doable is lifting weights 4 times a week, running outdoors another 2, eating a whole food diet, and getting 8 hours of sleep every night. For others, it means getting to the gym twice, stretching and doing core on the living room floor another 2 nights, and eating well during the weekdays, but treating themselves to some less-healthy options on Saturday evening.
If person number 2 were to overhaul their approach and attempt the lifestyle of person number 1, there is a fair chance that it may last a couple weeks, but not much longer. Look at New Years Resolutions… recent research shows that less than 10% of people feel they are successful at achieving their resolutions made at the beginning of the year.1 LESS THAN 10%! And the #1 resolution being made, is to lose weight/eat healthier. There’s a gap there… people wish they were healthier than they are, but are struggling to find a way to achieve it.
The most sustainable way to achieve this desired change, is to bite it off in little chunks, to allow yourself to make mistakes and jump back on the bandwagon, and to accept that you won’t have the perfect before-and-after picture in 2 weeks time. It’s not glamorous, but it allows your body to reap the benefits of improved habits for years to come. And the even better news, is that you won’t have to overhaul your life and give up everything in favor of a skinny waistline. You can balance your approach, so you can still pursue the things that mean the most to you in life – your family, your friends, your career, your hobbies, etc. Hello habit change, nice to meet you! I think we can achieve some great things here 🙂
So you’re on board for sustainable change? Shifting your habits one day at a time? And to allow yourself to live your best life WHILE getting healthier, rather than giving it all up for a six pack? Great, let’s dive in!
The #1 piece of advice that I give, just so happens to be in incredible alignment with all of the aforementioned words. The cornerstone of long-term habit change is shifting your ways, one habit at a time. Yes, just one at a time. I know you’re getting antsy and saying, “But, but Reed, I once went super low carb AND increased my exercise routine to 5 days a week. I can handle more than one!” To which my response would be, “well are those changes still implemented in your life?” The answer is likely, “no.” So let’s jump into working through your laundry list of health, physique and fitness goals, one habit at a time!
Here are your action steps:
- Determine where you struggle most with your health. (If your answer to this feels like “everything,” that’s ok, but write out all the individual struggles that add up to “everything.”)
- On a piece of paper, rank these struggles from “easiest to overcome” to “hardest to overcome.”
- Identify ONE “easy/moderate to overcome” challenge to start with.
- Define your goal for just that one challenge – make your goal Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound (it’s the SMARTest way to goal plan).
- Start on this one, single goal and work at it until you are consistent for 10 days in a row. (That’s ok if it takes 30 days to accomplish 10 consecutive days.)
- Checkmark for goal #1! Now that you’ve established that new, healthy habit, it’s time to return to your list and identify the next challenge you want to tackle. (Remember that you are maintaining your new healthy habit while adding on the next.)
Understand that some goals will take 10 days and some will take 20. That’s perfectly normal. Allow yourself the time to create real change in your life, rather than temporary fixes. If it takes you 45 days to be consistent with cutting out late night snacking, there is nothing wrong with that. Believe me, 45 days of sustainable change is nothing compared to the thousands of days ahead in your life.
Watch these small challenges stack on top of each other and create long-term change that becomes a shift in lifestyle rather than a quick-fix. You’ll soon be looking back at your first, small goal and reflecting on how it’s now become an integral part of your life, that you can’t imagine NOT doing anymore. As you stack your new-found habits, you will begin to feel a shift in your overall health.
The great news is that you can begin implementing these simple steps quickly. No need to clean out your kitchen, purchase a gym membership and master meditation just to simply begin your new health regimen. You can choose that today is the day to begin drinking more water by simply determining your SMART goal and filling up your water bottle. Conquer 10 consecutive days and boom, onto the next habit while continuing to stay hydrated. Imagine that you’re building a tall tower of health. Brick by brick you are creating a foundation to live upon, that will support you in doing all the things you love most in life. Let’s get building 😉