How to Be More Consistent With Your Diet and Exercise
If you struggle to stay on track with your health and fitness, you’re not alone. While many of us have embraced a short-lived health kick from time to time, consistently eating well and exercising seems to be a different challenge altogether.
Here are some strategies to help you find consistency with you health and fitness habits.
Avoid the Extremes
One of my biggest frustrations is the impression created by the diet & fitness industry of what it takes to get in shape. The idea is that health and fitness means diet foods, iron discipline and unwavering dedication in the gym. And you can never stop. As a result, many people are trying too hard.
While it’s true that some effort is required, consistency of effort beats intensity of effort every time. 6 months of steady progression will likely leave you in a better place than 6 weeks of a crazed health kick.
Maybe you experience ‘good’ weeks and ‘bad’ weeks with your routine. After a week or two of dieting and feverishly working out, everything collapses. The pendulum swings the other way and you eat everything. You don’t feel like exercising. So you do nothing. It’s a bad week.
But what if the good weeks cause the bad weeks? What if the good week simply isn’t sustainable? If you starve yourself for a period of time, sooner or later your body will rebel. It needs energy. Your appetite and cravings will grow, and your desire to exercise will diminish. You can willpower your way through for a while, but it never lasts. The harder you have to try, the sooner you’ll give up. The bigger the restriction, the more extreme the rebellion.
Be Careful of Overcompensation
After poor choices, there is often a strong temptation to make up for it. I’ve repeatedly made this mistake. Overeat one day, attempt to starve yourself the next. Miss a workout one day, train twice as hard the next.
Whilst a reduced appetite following a binge is understandable, forcing yourself to eat less is a bad idea. The same goes for punishing yourself with exercise.
Actively overcompensating to make up for poor choices is another example of extreme behaviour. The pendulum will inevitably swing again the other way. The fast will be followed by another binge. The brutal workout will be followed by soreness, apathy and reduced enthusiasm.
Rather than attempt to make up for poor choices, your goal should be to return to normal behaviours as soon as possible. Eat slowly and mindfully, obey your appetite, and pick up your training programme where you left off.
Make it Easier
“Diet harder, stupid!” When we can’t seem to stay on track, we mistakenly to believe that the solution lies in trying harder. What’s with that? That makes no sense at all!
What matters most is whether or not you can stick to your plan. If you can’t do that, you don’t just need more discipline. You need to make things easier! That probably means fewer dietary restrictions, not more. It might mean fewer workouts. It might mean reducing your weight loss goal. Remember we want to avoid the extremes. Reaching a bigger goal in less time requires more extreme action. More extreme action is less sustainable which is why you can’t stay on track in the first place.
I don’t know how many people I’ve consulted with who have a goal to lose 15kg, for example, when it’s been 5 years since they weighed even 5kg less (if ever!). Make it easier. Reduce the goal. In fact, for many people, sustaining a weight loss of 1kg this year would be great progress! A personal best!
Do the Bare Minimum
To stay on track, to be consistent, we must do something. One problem we face is that sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes we don’t have the time. Sometimes it’s not practical. Sometimes we just don’t feel like it.
My suggestion here is to do the bare minimum. Don’t have time for a 60-minute workout? Do 20 minutes. No time for that? Do 5. No energy for a workout? Can you go for a walk? Can you do some stretching or mobility work? Do something.
It might not seem worth it, but doing the bare minimum reinforces the habit and steers us away from all-or-nothing thinking. Committing to the bare minimum also makes it easier for us to get started. I call it having a low barrier to entry.
An example – one of my clients recently decided to commit to doing 20 push-ups every day.
“That’s great!” I said. “I challenge you to do one push-up a day.”
“That’s less”, she said.
“I know,” I said, “But sooner or later 20 is too much. You won’t have the time or you cannot be bothered. When you miss a day, the routine is broken. And when it breaks it becomes difficult to pick it up again. But you can always do one push-up. Some days you might do more, which is great. But committing to the bare minimum makes it easier to be consistent. You develop the habit of doing push-ups, which is more important than how many you do. One push-up is also an easier habit to return to if you do happen to miss a day.”
So what’s the bare minimum for you? What commitment can you make that you are at least 90% confident you can carry out consistently? Do that.
Struggling with even the bare minimum? That’s ok. It’s a mistake to believe that you should feel motivated all the time. Everybody struggles sometimes. Everybody has days when they just don’t feel like doing what they’re supposed to do. It’s natural.
However, there have been times you have felt motivated. When you decided to make a change – to become healthier, fitter, stronger, to lose weight – something inspired that decision. What was it? What sparked those moments of motivation? Why did you want to take action in the first place?
Rather than wait for the motivation to take action, sometimes we need to take action in order to feel motivated. Remembering your why can help get you moving on the days you don’t feel like it. Inspiring music, photos, videos and visions can help.
BIG IDEA: Staying on track with our health and fitness – being consistent – is a common challenge.
Consistency of effort beats intensity of effort.
Following poor choices, your goal should be to return to normal behaviours as soon as possible.
You don’t just need more discipline. You need to make things easier!
Committing to the bare minimum creates a low barrier to entry and makes it easier to develop the habit.
Remember your why.
Review your goal in the context of the last few years. Is it realistic?
Consider your behaviours. Are they sustainable?
What is the bare minimum you can commit to and do with consistency?
Get the exact nutrition guidelines I share with my clients.
Always Keep Reaching!