Whether you’ve got a few pounds to lose or the pressure of a big event looming, it can be tempting to seek a quick fix, such as a juice cleanse, exercise binge or fad diet. You name it, people have tried it — out of desperation, with varied luck and yielding only temporary results.
Why haven’t we learned by now that these short-sighted “solutions” only end up backfiring on us in the long-run? If our goal is finding equilibrium when it comes to a healthy weight and base level of fitness, a slow-and-steady approach works much better than engaging in erratic behavior.
I get it; eating well and working out aren’t always easy when you’re short on time, stressed and out of shape — but maintenance is much easier than bouncing back and forth, up and down, in and out. Those latter options are, quite frankly, exhausting.
So if you’re committed to forming a more sustainable diet and exercise regimen, here are a few helpful hints:
1. Think about the bigger picture
It took a while for you to settle into your current situation, so don’t expect any short-cuts for getting out of it.
Start by making a commitment for just 30 days. Mentally, a month is an ideal block of time to devote to a change since it easily fits in your calendar.
Once you get through that initial phase, it’ll start to become a habit. Then it’s a matter of turning that habit into a routine for at least three or four months when you’ll start to reap rewards in terms of seeing results.
2. Set yourself up for success with S.M.A.R.T. goals
Do you want to lose weight? How much, and by when? Improve your game? What would that look like, and how will you measure success?
Start by writing down a simple goal and quantifying it. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time in which to achieve it, and then plot out each of the milestones between Point A and Point B to keep yourself motivated along the way.
Say, for example, you want to lose 20 pounds before a wedding next month. Not gonna happen.
A better goal would be to say you want to lose 20 pounds between now and your high school reunion in the fall, based on the fact that it’s safe to lose one to two pounds a week with healthy eating and exercise.
Start by making sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely, and you’ve taken the first step toward making them a reality.
3. Take your interests into consideration
The trick to keeping consistent with exercise is taking the “work” out of workouts.
There’s something for everyone, whether you thrive off the competition of a team sport, the adrenaline rush of outdoor adventures, the challenge of improving upon a race PR, the contemplative nature of yoga or even the comfort of a repetitive of a walk around the neighborhood where you can simply zone out.
If you don’t know what you like, try it all until you find something that scratches that itch you never knew you had!
4. Buddy up for better accountability
It’s true — misery loves company, especially when it involves things like huffing and puffing through a run or learning to love vegetables.
If you’re hesitant to start a routine on your own, team up with a partner who has similar goals. Help keep each other motivated while getting over the initial hump, whether it’s empowering each other to make healthier food choices or distracting one another from checking the time on the treadmill.
Not only is sweating together more fun than going it alone, but partnering for fitness may also push you to work out harder.
5. Know when to use your “ace in the hole”
Finally, as with anything in life, personal accountability is crucial — both with positive and negative remifications.
Make a painful consequence — as in, if you don’t hit the gym three times this week, you have to wash and wax the car by hand this weekend — and tackling those mid-week workouts won’t seem so bad.
Positive reinforcement works just as well. Make a deal to splurge on fitness attire, a new workout gadget you’ve been eyeing, or even something as simple as a beer with dinner (within reason!), and you’ll find yourself actually looking forward to those daily sweat sessions.