One of the main reasons that our clients achieve such spectacular results, is that instead of focussing on changing this or removing that, we coach them on how to develop habits that ultimately lead towards their goals.
To fully understand the importance of this, consider the following:
Jane is a 46 year old mother of two children, who has recently decided to get into shape. Jane is particularly motivated and as a result informs her coach to ‘bring it on’ as she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to get results. Marvelling at their good fortune, her coach devises the ultimate plan, one that will include a complete nutritional overhaul, a comprehensive exercise schedule and carefully calculated lifestyle changes. All of which are designed to deliver maximum results in minimum time.
Jane gets started and throws herself into the plan, committing 100%. One week later she’s making great progress and already feeling better. There have been a few challenges, (where to put all of the vegetables she’s now eating for one thing), but overall, it’s all been made manageable in light of her progress.
Two to four weeks into her ‘makeover’ Jane’s starting to struggle. There’s so much to remember and so much planning to do. Not only that, she’s starting to miss some of the food she used to eat and feeling like she’s going cold turkey.
Shortly after, Jane slips and goes wild at an all you can eat buffet. After which she feels absolutely no satisfaction and a boatload of guilt and remorse.
Jane will probably repeat this cycle at least once a year for the rest of her life until either she changes her mind-set or someone else intervenes.
So why does this approach often fail?
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act, but a habit". - Aristotle
Firstly, I’d just like to clarify one thing. We occasionally offer this kind of service at RF, because for some people it’s exactly what they need. This can either be to address health issues or because of physique deadlines. However, without those either of those two motivating factors in place, we’ll generally advise on a more gradual approach. Here’s why:
- A complete overhaul results in a lot of changes. Quite often, too many for someone to stay on top of.
- A complete overhaul can result in very drastic changes inside the body, some of which are less pleasant than others.
- A complete overhaul is psychologically challenging as most people have mental or emotional attachments to their existing eating and/or exercising habits.
- A complete overhaul is rarely sustainable without on-going support and accountability. And by on-going I mean almost daily. If you’re not held to the maintenance of certain standards at least every 48 hours, your brain will start to strategise reasons for defaulting (especially if your motivation isn’t clear or strong enough).
- A complete overhaul can be incredibly stressful for those around you, family, friends and even co-workers.
Now, some people are able to suck it up and crack on. Not because of any will power issues, but because they’re good at doing what they’re told. Take me for example. I work better when I’m being coached. This is because, client testimonies to the contrary, I am human and I enjoy a glass of wine or a tub of Ben & Jerry’s as much as the next person. However, when I have a plan to stick to and someone to report to, I’ll do whatever it takes to deliver on my promises. Especially if there’s a goal to hit. However, left to my own devices, without that accountability, I’ll do okay rather than excelling.
So what’s the solution?
Focus on taking little steps. Coming up shortly there’s a list of little steps. Each of which can be broken down into smaller steps if necessary. Remember;
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". - Hare's best friend, the Tortoise
"From little acorns , oak trees grow". - Tree salesman
"Rome wasn’t built in a day". - Roman labour contractor
Regardless of the saying, the meaning is the same, there’s rarely a need to rush.
The long term approach almost always wins the sustainability competition. Why?
- Smaller steps are easier to take
- Because they’re easier to take, there’s more chance of you doing them
- As a result of doing them, you’ll feel progressively more successful and more in control
- After repeating those small steps for long enough, they eventually become habits
- Habits are just ‘thing you do’. They don’t imply restriction or denial, in nutrition terms, they just become how you eat.
- Small changes are less abrasive to those around you. Now whilst I’m all for telling silent saboteurs or naysayers to go forth and self-propagate, having to put up with constant questions and criticism can make life significantly harder. So our advice is to avoid the risk and save yourself some hassle. That said, If you’ve got a great support network of family, friends and peers, then we often suggest taking slightly bigger steps and letting them help.
- Small changes often motivate you because of the big changes that result. Something as small as having breakfast before rather than after you leave for work can work wonders.
So with all the above, here are some of the habits we coach our client towards:
- Have breakfast
- Have protein as part of your breakfast
- Eat regularly throughout the day
- Earn your naughty foods (this generally means being lean enough to deal with them)
- Eat vegetables or fruit with every meal
- Add colour to your meals (vegetables and fruit again)
- Eat better complex carbohydrates (beans and pulses, instead of pasta and rice)
- Drink plenty of water, but not too much, (your pee should never run white or dark yellow)
- Walk more, aim to build up to 10,000 steps a day or more
- When you exercise, commit. No half-arsed efforts. If you need to ease up, change the workout to something you’re prepared to put some effort into, even if it’s a session entirely on the foam roller.
If you incorporate the above habits into your daily life, you’ll start to change for the better. To give yourself the best chance of succeeding, follow the following five principles:
- Set the goal at 50% of what you feel you’re capable of and what you think is manageable. Habits should be easy
- Break the habits up. Rather than drinking 2 litres of water a day, aim for drinking 250ml of water 8 times a day
- Take on no more than two habits at a time
- Wait at least two weeks before taking on new habits
- Record your progress. We encourage all our clients to keep a food diary and activity log. Knowing you’ve got to write something down, good or bad, definitely helps with motivation.
As a little bonus, if you have an iPhone or iPad, there’s an app I use that works brilliantly and allows you to follow all of the above tips with ease, (although it takes a little setting up). It’s called Healthy Habits Premium and you can either buy the full version here or try the free version here. We make no money from this recommendation and are in no way affiliated with the developers, we just like the app.
Best of luck and please post any questions or comments on our Facebook page here.