Change Takes Time – Tips to Stay Consistent
We live in a world of instant gratification. Amazon sells buttons that you can put on items (example: laundry detergent) to automatically reorder them, you can get frozen yogurt delivered to your door without leaving your house, and you can watch television on demand. These convenient and efficient systems usually add value to your life. However, not all change happens instantaneously. Unfortunately, you can’t press a button to automatically change a habit, because behavior change takes time.
Regardless of what an ad on Facebook tells you, there is no quick fix to change your health and wellness behaviors. If there was, the weight loss and diet industry would not be worth $72 billion in the United States. Unfortunately, these companies are extremely strategic with their marketing strategies and provide people hope that change can happen quickly. This usually results in a “yo-yo” or “on-off” approach to health and wellness.
Everyone has been there. You start something new and do really well with it for a short period of time then stop or “fall off the wagon”. It happens to everyone. The problem with most of these programs is that they promote unrealistic changes rather than feasible lifestyle behavior changes. Also, they guarantee people results immediately and that is NOT realistic. The best way to see lasting results is to consistently and safely make small habit and behavior changes.
Here are some tips on how to stay consistent and see long lasting behavior change:
Focus on How You’re Feeling, Not what the Scale Says
If you’re trying to change a behavior related to your body composition, that scale can be your worst enemy. If you expect to see change immediately, it is incredibly easy to get discouraged when the scale doesn’t show the number you want. Consistency is the biggest determinant of long term change, and not seeing immediate changes can really impede your ability to continue with a behavior. There are so many factors that influence body composition, so using a scale should not be your primary way to monitor change.
Rather than focusing on the number on the scale, use how you’re feeling to gauge change. Do you have more energy throughout the day? Do you feel more confident, because you lifted a barbell with plates overhead for your first time? That’s huge! Focus on those accomplishments, because they are what will motivate you to continue long term and stay consistent.
Add or Pair, Don’t Take Away
Many diets or recommendations tell people to remove things from their lives to see change. We tend to focus on stopping our ‘bad habits’ and replacing them with new ‘good habits’. While this may work for some people, it can be very difficult to put into practice and see successful immediately. This may result in frustration and feelings of failure, which may lead someone to give up on changing the behavior.
Rather, consider adding new habits to your life rather than taking away old habits. In time, these new habits will likely replace your older habits that you originally wanted to change. If they don’t, at least you have added something beneficial to your life. For example, let’s say you drink soda with every meal and want to start drinking water instead. Rather than eliminating soda completely, you could add a glass of water with the soda. Once you get in the habit of always having a glass of water with the soda and the meal, you could take away the soda from one meal then eventually another. This process will lead you to feel more successful with this behavior change and you will be less likely to give up.
Keep It Simple – One Change at a Time
Another obstacle to creating lasting change is taking on too much change at once. When you get excited about making change, it’s common to want to change everything at once. However, tackling everything at once rarely works. Behavior change takes energy, both mentally and physically, and you only have so much energy to dedicate to all aspects of your life.
Identify habits, only one or two, that take the shortest amount of time to change but will have the biggest impact to focus on first. This will give you confidence in your ability to tackle larger behavior changes that may take more energy and time. For example, you are likely to experience immediate effects from integrating more movement into your day. If you haven’t been active, try adding a 30 minute walk to your day or going to a Get Fit Strength and Conditioning class 2-3 times per week. Sleep is another behavior that you will notice the impact of immediately and doesn’t involve any monetary investment or major changes. If you are typically on your phone or watch TV before bed, try reading a book instead. This will improve your quality of sleep, which will allow you to feel more rested when you wake up.
Change Your Mindset
You can’t be successful at everything, all of the time. That’s what makes you human. To assume you will be perfect at something 100% of the time is just setting yourself up for failure. You are not failing at something just because you aren’t doing it perfectly, so don’t tell yourself that you should give up. Success for you will look different than success for someone else trying to change the same behavior. The most important thing is to do the best you can most of the time.
It’s easy to get discouraged and give up on something, if it doesn’t go as planned. However, learning how to change your mindset and the way you talk to yourself about behavior change can have a huge impact on your long term success. If you’re trying to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet and go a whole weekend without eating any, don’t use that a reason to think you failed and should just give up. Rather, ask yourself, “What could I have done differently?” Changing behaviors is a constant learning process and having positive conversations with yourself is incredibly powerful for long term change.
Next time you want to change a behavior or join a new workout program, remember these tips and more importantly than anything, be patient and trust the process. Your coaches know what they are doing and want the best for you. Give yourself time to notice change and focus on how you feel. At the end of the day, how we feel on the inside is much more important than what you see on the outside.