Let’s Talk Consistency
I’m going to cut right to the chase: Consistency is by far the most important piece of being successful at reaching your health goals (let alone ANY goal).
That being said, consistency is also the biggest challenge I’ve witnessed people (including myself!) struggle with when it comes to nutrition or exercise.
Before I dive into the 5 biggest challenges of consistency and solutions that work, I want you to know that when I decided enough was enough with food and lack of exercise, I was thirty pounds overweight.
I was telling myself I was eating healthy – but the truth?? I was drinking nearly a bottle of wine a night (you know…just in a large “glass”), was under a lot of stress with work and family issues, I was hardly working out at all, and my “healthy eating” consisted of poor portion sizes and processed crap.
By this point, I’d tried a slew of different diets and ways of eating (more on this to come!), running/cardio, some weights every now and then, fat burners, etc…and I was overwhelmed by the notion of starting over yet another time just to eventually “fall off the wagon” (as my mom used to say).
But I was also really tired of feeling shitty and I was determined to make this time different.
This is when I had a paradigm shift. I took a step back and stopped hyper-focusing on the day-to-day details (like weight, clothing size, and my muffin top) and started playing for the long game…so I made three goals:
- Clean all the processed crap out of my cabinets.
- Make it to the gym 4 to 5 times a week (just literally GET there).
- Cut out alcohol on work nights.
…And then I went to work making each of those a habit. I know – it’s not very glamorous – but it’s real life.
What I’ve learned since is how often we wait for big changes to just happen “someday” when circumstances are perfect – instead of consistently performing small habits over time.
So we spend all this time fixated on how unhappy we are with our circumstances – wishing they were different – waiting for the right time to come – when we could be taking small steps each day toward our goals.
Here are 2 guarantees I can make based on transformation experience:
Circumstances will never be perfect, and change will always bring some discomfort.
And those two facts are crucial in reaching goals because achieving anything is just culmination of performing small habits repeatedly over a period of time.
I feel like that deserves repeating: Reaching a goal is just a product of doing the same thing over and over again until you get there. It does *not* happen suddenly, it happens over time.
So how do we become consistent? Especially when it seems like we are being pulled in so many directions all at once?
Here are 5 of the biggest challenges I’ve observed and experienced and how to crush them.
Challenge #1: Expecting Perfection
I have no idea who to attribute this picture to, but I would like to thank them because I think it describes our expectations vs. reality perfectly when it comes achieving anything.
We set a goal like “I’m going to make it to the gym for 30 minutes 3 times a week,” or “I’m going to eat well-balanced meals three times a day.”
Then…life happens, and we get sick. We miss Monday and only eat comfort food. By Wednesday, we are feeling better but don’t feel like going so we say “Ugh, this week is already off to a crappy start, I’m so tired, I’ll just start next week.”
Rigid rules and not expecting challenges are unrealistic and don’t leave room bad days or misses (which are going to happen!!!).
If you have a rough day around food or miss a workout – the most important part is how you handle it!
Those who are most successful at being consistent say “oh well, shit happens” and keep it moving!
Guilt – wallowing – and negative self talk will not get us where we want to go – they only serve to hurt us and keep us stuck. (I’m speaking from both personal & professional experience here).
The only reason we should think about our mishaps is to learn from them and figure out how we they can help us grow.
Challenge #2: No Plan
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of people say they just don’t know what to do when it comes to planning a workout. I can definitely understand how it can be intimidating with all the different forms of exercise out there. But remember:
The only wrong way to exercise is not to do it at all.
You will only figure out what you like to do through experience! What is it you’d like to work on? Strength? Cardio? Your dance moves? Think about your goals or what you enjoy and then plan accordingly. (***This comes after consistently getting to the gym becomes a habit!!)
The days I go to the gym without an idea of what I’m going to do I end up getting easily (and voluntarily) distracted by conversation – or I find myself lacking motivation and am not as productive as I normally would be if I’d gone in there with a plan.
It’s easy to just wing it when you are tired from life (or your monster of a toddler fought you at every turn while you were trying to get yourselves out the door…).
But a plan doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to be executed.
It could be as easy as saying “tomorrow I am going to walk on the treadmill,” or “I’m going to perform three exercises three times each.”
When we plan, we are actually visualizing the events happening in our lives – and visualization is one of the strongest tools we can use to follow through to desired outcomes. Many times we are doing this without even realizing it!
And yes, there will be times our visions don’t happen as we planned (see above for challenges…) but we are more likely to follow through or pick up where we left off if we set an intention and visualize ourselves doing something specific.
Challenge #3: Our Goals Aren’t a Priority
I read a great quote about this recently: “You can tell what is important to a person by looking at their bank statement and their calendar.”
I love this…except I would add “actions” to bank statement and calendar.
My husband recently called me out on this when I was crying about not having time to write content for my website. (ha!) And you know what? When I was honest with myself, he was right.
I had time, I was just choosing to give it to other things…like social media, working out, and texting with friends.
Think about what you give your energy to throughout the day…Work? Family? Meals? Social media? Phone calls? TV? Friends?
Now think about what you say your priorities and goals are.
Do they match? That gap is where your solution lies.
If your priority is losing weight, feeling good in your body, being healthy and strong for life, fitting into your clothes etc. – it needs to show up in your calendar and your actions – not just in your mind or on the tip of your tongue!
Two objections I often receive to this are regarding work and family. This is a tough one because of course, we all need to work to live – and of course family is a priority.
My response is this: if you don’t put your health first, everything you care about will eventually be impacted.
When we take care of ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally, we are able to function better in every part of our lives. Some positive side effects of consistent movement and gentle nutrition are more energy, elevated mood, confidence, lower stress, not to mention all the physiological effects!
Challenge #4: Short-Sighted Goals
There are two prongs to this one:
1) Long Term Goals (I like to call these big picture goals)
I’m actually going to start with long term goals. A long term goal I hear a lot is “I want to lose ____ pounds” or “I just want to get back to fitting in all my clothes” or “I don’t like my ____ (arms, legs, stomach, etc.).”
If our big picture goal is losing weight, we will always be at the mercy of the scale, tape measure, or where our body decides to lose fat from first.
However, if you create a big picture goal such as “I want to be as strong as I can be,” or “I want to be able to do pull ups” or “I’m training for life – to be the healthiest version of myself, ” fat-loss and body changes will be a by-product automatically and we give ourselves permission to relax into the process.
And when we can experience the process – we set ourselves up for longterm success because regardless of what life throws at us – we will always be able to accomplish one small thing to get us closer to our goal.
This brings us to the second prong…
2) Short term goals!
When setting weekly or monthly goals – what matters is how confident we are in being able to achieve them (not how much we want to achieve them).
A quick example: Let’s say a woman named Rose hasn’t been working out – or if she has it’s been minimal – once or twice every week or two. Rose decides she needs to lose weight and sets a goal to workout five times a week for 45-minutes.
Chances are since she hasn’t been going to the gym, it’s going to be really tough to keep that goal.
Rose will most likely experience burnout, fatigue, or what I like to call the “all or nothing” mentality (where we just bag the original goal after a few misses).
Going from zero to 100 just doesn’t work.
If we start by making a goal we are 100% positive can be achieved – we are more likely to adhere to that goal until it becomes a habit!
For example, if you can’t seem to get to the gym because you are exhausted and overwhelmed by the thought of figuring out what to do once step foot in the door – start by simply getting there!
It doesn’t have to be some grand event. At this point it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you make a habit out of getting there. So maybe set a goal of just getting there for 20 minutes 2 to 3 times a week – and once you’ve been doing that consistently for a month or two – then make start planning your workouts (see #2)!
Your new motto: “Something is better than nothing.”
Challenge #5: We Don’t Enjoy It
I think it’s a pretty safe to say we are very unlikely to be consistent at something we don’t like.
Think about it: if something doesn’t give you some sort of satisfaction or have a payoff – do you do it? Probably not.
I don’t like doing laundry, but the tradeoff is clean clothes (and not being the smelly one in the gym…).
So if the thought of getting on an elliptical makes you nauseous – you dread going to the gym – you really dislike running – or you are bored of the same old weights and cardio – try something new or different!
The exercise that is the best for you is the one you will do CONSISTENTLY.
There are plenty of resources, programs, classes, and types of exercise out there to spice things up and keep us moving our bodies. It doesn’t just have to involve cardio equipment and weights.
And just because something works for your neighbor, aunt, cousin – or even you 15-years ago – does not mean you have to do it. Try it, and if you find yourself shuttering at the thought of having to do it again – change it up.
If we are in it for the long haul – a lifetime of consistency will take many phases of movement – so finding enjoyment in it is a must!
Here are the 5 keys to consistency:
1) Manage Expectations – Progress not Perfection
2) Plan – Visualize – Follow Through
3) Make Your Goals Priorites
4) Have a Big Picture Goal & Set Realistic Short Term Goals
5) Enjoy Yourself! 🙂
And remember – feeling worthy, happy, and healthy is a process: an ongoing development involving many changes. Learning to be consistent is just part of the process.
Until next time…
Yours in Health,