When you first embark on a diet, of any description, it seems like you’ve made a permanent decision to change for the better. For about two hours.
Then the biscuits come out in the office, and suddenly it seems very much a temporary measure.
If you’re going to make a really substantial change to your weight, shape, and most importantly, health, you need to go into it with a long-term plan. You need to make (please God forgive me the cliche)…a lifestyle change.
However, unfortunately you don’t wake up one morning equipped with everything you need to make that lifestyle change happen. Motivation, yes – knowledge, no.
So how do you build up this knowledge? And where do you start?
Get to Know Yourself
What works for one person might not work for another. I know, for instance, that I need to be full at mealtimes, and I need to not have food to nibble on in my desk, to keep on the straight and narrow. And I can’t just eat half of ANYTHING and put the other half to one side for later. It’s all or nothing, as far as I’m concerned.
The whole ‘accept the things I cannot change’ idea really rings true in this instance. Spending some time thinking about the things you can and cannot do – and not judging yourself for the things you have to let slide – will pay dividends, long term, because you’re escaping the cycle of giving in, and beating yourself up, and thus splurging, that so many diets cause. The first step on the way to a lifestyle change is accepting yourself for who you are, and recognising the positive changes you can make, rather than the negative changes you can’t.
Do Your Research
I’ve learned almost everything I know from reading other food and fitness blogs, and trying things out. This is doubly true now I’m going gluten-free, leading me to scour the web for other bloggers who know what they’re talking about – I’m constantly jotting down recipes that I’m keen to try! And as for workouts, try Pinterest for inspiration – you’ll find a number of exercise moves, yoga positions, and just plain old inspiration to keep you going while you’re figuring out what works for you.
As I’ve said before, keeping this research and inspiration readily available will get you a long way in keeping your motivation strong, and will help you to achieve your goals, regardless of what they are. They’ll help you to keep that ninja focus you’ll need to make changes to your life.
One of the things you’ll learn fairly quickly is the importance of patience. If you’re on a diet, you’re aiming to lose as much weight as possible in a short period of time. If you’re making a lifestyle change, it doesn’t matter if you go three whole weeks without any weight loss - and in a postscript to that post – I’ve lost 4lbs since that was written, five days ago. I rest my case. Patience really is a virtue.
Work Around Your Life
It doesn’t matter how well you plan, life always gets in the way. I haven’t been to the gym since last Thursday, because I’ve been cleaning up the old house, hurting my back moving a sewing machine (!), catching a cold, and going to meetings – but that doesn’t mean I’ve ‘fallen off the diet wagon,’ because I’m not on a diet. Because I’m thinking long-term, a few days away from the treadmill isn’t the end of the world – I know I’ll make up for it when time allows (tonight, actually), and because I’m not in a manic rush, it’s not an issue.
Sometimes, you just have to jiggle the priorities a tad to make everything fit. You can’t go through life avoiding carbs, living on cabbage soup, or exercising for six hours a day, because you’ll inevitably encounter situations where this just isn’t possible – no matter how hard you try. Putting yourself under that sort of pressure is unfair, and will lead you to crack at the very sight of a dinner party in your calendar – leading to the inevitable situation where you eat twice as much as you need…for about three months afterwards.
Don’t do it.
If you’re focused on making changes in the long-term, these steps should help you to get going, and to build the knowledge which will step in when the motivation starts to flag. You’ll need a bit of both to keep going on this journey – but thinking of it as a permanent change, rather than a temporary extreme, will help you to keep the momentum going (and recover when it stops!)
It starts off as a learning curve, but you don’t reach a point where you know everything. I’m still learning, and I’ll continue to learn (and share what I’m trying as I go along!) Keeping the focus on continuous development and growth is a core part of this journey – and that doesn’t stop once you’ve reached your goals. If you’re not learning, growing, and improving, you’re probably not living, so embrace the learning curve. It’s an adventure!