Updated: Apr 24, 2019
"If you are persistent you’ll get results, if you are consistent you’ll keep them!"
How many times have you fallen into the following routine?
Heard or read about an incredible new diet or fitness fad.
Decided that’s the plan for you and committed to it wholeheartedly.
Thrown out all the rubbish food in your cupboards, poured the booze down the sink, chucked the cigs in the toilet and cleared your diary of all upcoming social occasions that would tempt you to go off the rails.
Filled your cupboards with rice cakes, your fridge with cabbages, your wardrobe with yoga pants and your diary with gym classes.
Kicked off your new regime with vigour, sticking to it religiously for a good few weeks.
Started to see some results and got flooded with compliments from friends.
Been so pleased with your progress that you’ve rewarded yourself with a treat or two.
Cancelled a couple of gym classes because your mum was visiting.
Felt like you’d “fallen off the wagon” so decided to go all out and have a binge session.
Felt too tired and demotivated the following week to pick up the routine again.
Given up altogether and ended up back at square one.
If this sounds all too familiar, first of all - well done! No, seriously - what you have demonstrated here is brilliant levels of motivation, which absolutely is the first step to making progress. What you’re missing however, is consistency.
Being consistent means making exercise and good nutrition a part of your everyday life... forever. Now, if that word makes you shudder, I’m afraid it means you’re picking the wrong methods. If your health and fitness routine feels like horrible slog, you need a new routine my friend!
No one can live on rice cakes and cabbage forever. No one can do a 6am run, a 12pm Hiit class, a 6pm ‘Legs, Bums and Tums’ class and a 9pm yoga session every day forever.
To make fitness and health a permanent part of your everyday life, follow these three simple steps...
1. Find methods that you enjoy and work well for you.
You will never stick to a diet that feels like deprivation. As we all know, the moment you try to deny yourself something, it’s all you can think about!
The truth is, good nutrition isn’t about saying no to occasional indulgences, it’s about making healthy choices with the food you eat every day. So try switching your morning cereal or toast for a homemade smoothie or some scrambled eggs. Instead of a sandwich and crisps at lunch, have the sandwich contents you like in salad form. Instead of pasta for dinner, try butternut squash spaghetti. Swap out coffees for green tea, and try fizzy water with lime instead of coke.
As you start making more healthy choices, listen to your body. When you really pay close attention to the signs it’s giving you, you will realise how much better, more energised and healthier you feel when you eat real wholesome foods. Soon enough you will be eating healthily out of choice, not because you’re “not allowed” the alternative.
Equally, you must find an exercise regime that you enjoy and works well for you. You will never stick to anything that is boring, painful or feels like a gruelling slog. Finding a gym that delivers exciting, fun classes, teaming up with a workout buddy or trying an alternative activity such as dance classes or climbing are great ways to make your training more fun.
2. Turn these new behaviours into habits
What’s the difference behaviours and habits? Well, your behaviours can change regularly and require a conscious effort to perform them. Trying to meditate each morning for 15 minutes for example, would be a new behaviour.
A habit is the result of repeated behaviours that become routine, almost compulsive, like cleaning your teeth. You almost don’t have to think about performing a habit and if you’re unable to do it for whatever reason, it actually feels strange.
To turn new fitness and health behaviours into habits, introduce them gradually, one at a time. Do that one new thing, such as preparing a healthy lunch, every day for a week or even two weeks before you move onto the next new behaviour, such as walking to work. Add that into your daily routine for a week or two, then move onto the next thing and so on.
3. Give your new habits some balance
Once you’ve established your new healthy habits and find that they’re working well for you, a great way to maintain them is the “80/20 Rule”.
This principle usually applies to nutrition and states that you eat healthy foods 80% of the time, you can allow yourself to indulge a little the other 20% of the time.
So let's say you eat 3 meals a day, 7 days a week - that’s 21 meals in total. 20% of 21 is 4.2 meals, which equates to about one "cheat day" per week (it’s important to note that the naughty 20% should occur on just one day of the week rather than 20% of your intake each day).
You can apply 80/20 rule to your training as well. You have 7 days each week in which to exercise or be active. 20% of 7 is 1.4, so that equates to about a day and a half to two days each week resting.
Following a routine like this enables you to maintain consistency, as it's not so strict that you can't keep it up, but it's not so relaxed that you won't see results.
It means that you don’t have to be 100% perfect - you can go out to dinner at restaurants, you can have a piece of cake at your niece’s birthday party, you can share a bottle of bubbly with your bestie and you can take a week off training when you go on holiday.
Trying to maintain perfection is impossible. It’s what makes people fall off the wagon into a big pile of crisps and cream cakes and not want to get up. Don’t aim to be perfect, aim to be pretty good the majority of the time. Aim for consistency.