10 Ways to Stay on Track with Your Fitness Goals
Staying on track with your weight loss or fitness goals can sometimes feel like that illusion game with three cups and one ball. The object is to keep track of the ball, which has been placed under one of the cups, as the cups are wildly shuffled around. Most people begin the game with great confidence and a simple plan to keep their eye on that one, important cup hiding the ball, but inevitably their brains start to stumble and they have a hard time focusing as the rapidly moving cups begin blending together, and before they know it, their plan goes kaput… and the ball is lost.
Similar to the cup game players, people in the midst of their fitness journeys tend to believe it should be as easy as simply paying attention, but as those who have actually reached (and especially maintained) their goals can tell you, if it were that easy, we’d all be able to reach our goals easily. You are not alone! If you’ve ever struggled to achieve that kind of success, this list is for you.
1. Remind yourself every day it’s a marathon
If you begin a marathon full throttle, not only do you risk not making it to the finish line but you might not even make it to mile two. And the weight loss marathon is even longer than the traditional foot-race kind, so take it easy or you might prematurely bonk out. All that early enthusiasm makes sense, though. The beginning of the marathon is what most people focus on. Like the cup game, if you have a logical plan of action at the outset, the rest should fall into place, right? Sure you’ll have rough moments, sure, you’ll need to remind yourself of your “why”, look at your vision board a time or seven, tap into your willpower reserves watching everybody else order the ice cream, or split the giant dessert after a meal, while you opt for a healthier alternative, etc…but when the reality proves trickier than the perception, you might pull a mental hammie and have to drop out, which is why it’s important to make like the tortoise and take it slow. Moderation is key!
2. Stop buying your problem foods
If you have a penchant for junk foods or other unhealthy foods, and find yourself saying, “I’ll just buy one package of [insert your dietary kryptonite] so I can have some when I really want it…”, it’s time to consider that your favorite food might not be doing you any favors. You could be creating a comfort zone for self sabotage. So muster up some self-control and put the package of cookies down. But what if the problem is you don’t know how to define problem foods? Investigative science professional and health journalist, Gary Taubes might be able to help. In his book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, (one of many books he’s written about healthy diets), Taubes argues that calories themselves are not the villain but what the calories are made of that can create the problem. For instance, broccoli and bagels are both primarily carbohydrates, but do very different things in the body. And if people ate the same amount of calories of broccoli as they did bagels, they would get very different results. All of Taubes’ books go deep on the science around food, which may or may not be your cup of tea, but whether you take a page from his books or other books, we advocate for becoming amateur researchers before you hit the supermarket in order to make the best healthy food choices and real change.
3. Keep track of your nutrition when you feel you’re losing your grip
Eating too much or eating too little are equal enemies of maintaining weight loss. It might seem counterintuitive that each end of the spectrum can get in the way of healthy habits and healthy eating but eating too little can leave you, among other things, feeling deprived, which can lead to gorging on unhealthy food, which is typically readily available and easy to shove into your mouth. Eating too much is a more obvious way to clothesline healthy habits and healthy eating because we don’t tend to overeat spinach. The best way for people to stand up to healthy portion saboteurs is to keep track of their meals on a daily basis but especially when they feel most out of control.
Whether you’re using an app like MyFitnessPal, a manual journal or other ways to document your eating habits, keeping a food log is a great way to gain insights and point you back toward your “true north” on noshing. Seeing things in black and white make them real, and sometimes real startling. “I had no idea I was eating so much sugar!” You might proclaim, and while it might not be a moment of great pride, it may be a moment of great progress. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it’s there, and seeing your daily menu on the page doesn’t get any clearer.
4. Keep a tangible calendar on the wall so you can “X” off days
Visually seeing your goals “checklist” being marked off feeds the part of the brain that wants to list accomplishments and will keep motivation high. Whether it’s about meal planning, preparing healthy meals, stocking the fridge with healthy ingredients like healthy fat or your favorite healthy foods, all of the above will serve as daily reminders of the lifestyle you’d like to lead. Plus seeing those goals accomplished coupled with feeling healthier and stronger as the days go on, stokes the flames of victory creating a positive feedback loop that puts the wind at the back of your success and you become a weight loss freight train.
5. Memorize this phrase, “No thanks, I’m full.”
When you’re trying to make better choices regarding eating, it’s easy to get bombarded with turbulence over, “you can have just ONE” or “I heard thinking of certain foods as off limits can actually be BAD for you” when in reality people just want you to join in on the fun. When you say “No thanks, I’m full,” it’s not a choice or a judgment on the food being offered it’s just a fact about your own personal satiety, which no one else can feel but you, which means no one else can refute it. This (sometimes) little white lie, or perhaps statement of fact, cuts down on having to defend yourself around indulging in problem foods or snacking after meals. Most people mean well, and statements like this can diffuse the situation in a hurry so everyone can move on and enjoy the reason they gathered in the first place.
6. Drink as much water as you can
Drinking water is not only great for hydration but it improves your skin, your digestion, your mood and in terms of energy, helps your body fire on all eight cylinders, all day. Pro tip: Get into the habit of leaving a glass by the sink and every time you pass it, drink a glass of water. You could also invest in an awesome water bottle that’s your favorite color, a nice texture, or in a shape that feels great to hold (sensory impressions can go a long way) and keep filling it throughout the day. If you don’t like the taste of plain water you could enhance the flavor with things like lemon, an orange wedge, cucumber, herbs like mint or basil or even some fresh berries. Caution: There is such a thing as drinking too much water so if you start to get Charlie horses or feel lightheaded, you could be going too far. You lose valuable electrolytes with “water intoxication” so drink enough, just not too much, and because every body is different it’s difficult to say what the optimal level is for each person. You want your urine to look very pale, so check the bowl when you go and go from there.
7. Ask yourself “Will I be happy with that decision an hour from now?”
Odds are the answer is no (if the question is, “Should I see how fast I can down that banana split?”) and it helps to focus on the long term outcome rather than the instant gratification. So, when you want to dig in on a bag of chips, pause, take a deep breath and say to yourself inside your head or or out loud, “Will I be happy with that decision an hour from now?” Chances are the logical part of your brain will fire, triggering some self control and help you hold steady to your healthy diet. If the answer is yes, then that’s what you should be doing! (Of course, in this case, hopefully the question is more like, “Should I put some almond butter on these apples?”) but you know yourself best, so whatever the choice is, it’s yours to make, and never forget there will always be another moment just around the corner to choose again.
8. Establish an accountability buddy
It helps knowing that someone else understands the struggle of maintaining a healthy diet and exercise plan, and having an appointed friend or coach you can call or text in that moment of weakness can do wonders for talking yourself off the ledge. Even if you don’t call/text it’s a great tool just knowing you can. And for people who take this advice a handful of steps further according to a Dominican University of California study by 1.) rating the goal according to difficulty, 2.) importance, 3.) the extent to which they have the skills and resources to accomplish the goal, 4.) their commitment and motivation around the goal, 5.) whether they have pursued the goal before (and, if so, their prior success), 6.) share these commitments with the friend above, 7.) AND send that friend a weekly progress report, research shows those people are 76% more likely to achieve it. And with those odds, we’d say checking the items off that list is a great idea.
9. Get rid of clothes that no longer fit
The roomier or tighter end of your wardrobe can serve as a safety net or wishful reserve, that, frankly, you don’t need anymore. So donate it to charity, give it to friends, or have it tailored for today. If you decide against tossing for storage, no problem. It’s fun to reward yourself, one new piece at a time, even if it’s just an accessory, to get you into the spirit of transitioning from your old self to the new. It could be too costly and too much pressure to make a radical closet refresh prematurely. Again, marathon versus sprint. You’ll get there, with small changes, incorporating more and more healthy food into your healthy diet and exercise plan, bolstering your self control at a sustainable pace, the success will be all the sweeter…and oh, so stylish!
10. Never give up on yourself
No matter how much you learn about healthy diets, how many great books you read, or how much you want the weight loss, study after study shows that unless you believe in your ability to lose weight, it’s going to be a struggle and maybe even a failure. You’ve got to want it more than anything because researchers have found that if your bond with yourself is unbreakable…especially if you want to lose a lot of weight…you’ll do better than those who don’t have a strong personal pact with themselves.
It’s a weight loss jungle out there, but with sound advice from folks like us and the support of other people in your corner the scales will start tipping in your favor.