It’s no secret that losing weight or attempting to make healthy lifestyle changes can be a true struggle. Most of us want change but let’s be honest, we don’t want to do the work that it requires to achieve it. As cliché as it sounds, lasting change really doesn’t happen overnight. Even when attempting to change our mindset we don’t typically wake up one day and just have complete control over our thoughts and desires. We can want change and the good things that come with it and we can plan and think good thoughts, but the execution of our plan is what truly matters.
Typically losing weight and implementing fitness into our lives doesn’t come easy and most people will fail multiple times before they succeed but the key is to focus in on our future not our failures. Implementing healthy lifestyle changes requires persistence.
To ensure persistence and success we need to set goals! It’s important that we have a plan before we jump into changing our habits. We need to set achievable short-term goals in order to eventually obtain our bigger goal. So, when you’re thinking about making a lifestyle change such as trying to lose weight or adding exercise into your daily routine, write down your main goals and then under those big goals (such as “I want to lose 50 pounds.” or “I want to run a marathon.”) list a few small and obtainable short-term goals. These should be goals that you know you can achieve with some effort and that will not take too long to achieve. Often if we go too long without seeing any progress we get discouraged and distracted and our goals become long lost hopes and dreams and we stay right where we are. It you want to lose 50 pounds that’s going to take some time. Under that big goal you set, you need to smaller ones such as, “I will not eat any meals out this week.” or “I want to be able to fit into last season’s winter coat once winter arrives.” None of the goals should be complicated or over the top, simply being able to reach these small goals while you work towards your bigger one will encourage you to keep on keeping on and get to that big main goal! Who doesn’t like pats on the back and high fives? This is just an amplified version of that.
The second step to take to help you succeed is to set up some accountability! I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I don’t like to feel alone. Let’s face it, most of us (although not all by any means) are going to be much more motivated to do things if we have other people joining us or cheering us on. Accountability typically improves our likelihood of success. So, after you set your goals and your mini goals you should work on getting a plan of accountability in place. You can do this in a variety of ways. If you have someone who will get active with you, go grocery shopping or meal prep with you, or simply be there to listen to your goals and check in on your progress this is a great way to hold yourself accountable. You can also sign up for different apps that give rewards for being active or losing weight (ex. Dietbet or Runbet). Another great idea is to join different Facebook fitness groups or purchase a workout or eating plan from a coach that will be checking in with you to see if you’re doing what you planned. You can also use apps/devices like Fitbit to set step goals and compete against others. If you are able to join some type of group training gym that is also a great option because as you make friends, they will naturally become your accountability partners and you can check in with each other on when you are going to go and touch base if one of you does not show up to the work out. Research shows that telling a friend increases likelihood of success when it comes to achieving goals. If you are not ready to reach out to others for support you can also try tracking your progress in a journal, app, or by doing a video diary. Self-monitoring is a great way to improve likelihood of success.
The last, and my personal favorite thing you can do to help you achieve your goals is to reward yourself! Now I am not saying you should reward yourself with a huge cheat meal or sweet treat every time you do a good job (although I am not going to say to never do it) but you should definitely reward yourself for progress in the right direction. Research shows that when we are given positive reinforcement for a behavior then we are more likely to repeat that behavior in the future. The behavior could be simply being more purposeful with your eating and not eating out and the reward can be anything you would like (perhaps buying yourself a new pair of athletic shoes after x number of weeks of performing the behavior consistently). As a result, you will feel proud and enjoy the reward and keep working in hopes of getting rewarded again in the future. For some people the good feelings they have both physically and emotionally from making diet and exercise changes are enough to keep them going, but early on it can be really hard to focus on those feelings and you may need something more tangible. The rewards can be small and frequent (which I would suggest in order to keep you motivated), but you can also set bigger rewards for when you hit those big goals. You could plan a weekend getaway that involves a physical activity that you couldn’t have done prior to your lifestyle changes or maybe the big reward is a beach vacation where you can go and hopefully feel comfortable and confident after making your healthy lifestyle changes. The reward can be something completely unrelated to health and fitness as well but the more relatable the reward is to the goal the more likely it is to keep you focused.
At the beginning of my journey, I set a lot of scale related goals as well as goals for weightlifting and fitting into certain clothing items. For accountability I initially had a personal trainer and a Facebook group that I created and invited people to and then switched over to a group training gym where people expected me to show up. I also used a Fitbit. I rewarded myself with new workout gear and fun activities at the beginning of my journey. Eventually being able to lift heavier weights, run faster, and do well in other exercise related activities became rewarding to me. Now I reward and test myself by competing in Spartan obstacle races. When I race, I am rewarded with good memories and travel as well as feelings of accomplishment when I finish a race and especially when I place well in the race. I also set race and fitness related goals on a regular basis as a way to keep me maintaining my weight loss and fitness gains. As for accountability these days, I have a private run and strength coach who writes my programming and that I also get to run with sometimes. That keeps me accountable as well as the idea of doing poorly in a race.
So, there you have it, 3 tips for starting your weight loss or fitness journey. But honestly these tips can be applied to any situation in which you are trying to change a habit or start a new one. Weight loss and fitness goals can feel daunting and discouraging at times. Do these three things to help you stay on track and succeed in losing weight and getting fit.
Goal setting, accountability, and rewarding yourself can help you to achieve your goals so get going now! Download the provided printable to get started!