“I just need to lose 20 lbs.”
“I want to drop a couple dress sizes.”
“I need to get swimsuit ready for the summer.”
“I want to be more toned.”
I get it, you want to lose weight, get more muscular, and finally get that body you’ve always dreamed of. We have all been there before and it seems like no matter what we try we end up asking the same questions – Why isn’t this working? How do I get there?
The truth is, there is no magic pill, no secret exercise, nor special fat burning food. The real secret to successful weight loss is CONSISTENCY. If you consistently eat at a slight caloric deficit, then you WILL lose weight. Guaranteed. Consistency breeds success. So instead of searching for the quickest way to lose weight, we should be following a diet that we can consistently follow for the long haul.
It seems too simple. Just consistently follow your diet and you will lose weight. But anyone who has followed a diet before knows that after a while it is hard to be consistent. Our willpower is limited and once the newness and excitement of the diet wears off, compliance becomes hard.
After eating low carb for a while you just can’t resist eating your cheeseburger with the bun for once. After eating “clean” for a month you can’t resist eating a slice of cake at the office party. Maybe you successfully reach your goal of losing 20lbs and then ease up on the diet and gain it all back. One way or another you eventually stop.
So if consistency is the key, then how to stick with a program long term? How do we make it a lifestyle?
We follow the path of least resistance. We make the program sustainable.
The program has to be something that fits into your busy lifestyle and is more rewarding than it is a burden on your life. Put simply we want to eat as much as possible and spend as little time working out as possible while still getting results. We need our plan to be flexible so that no matter what happens we can keep going. The following tips and strategies will help you make your plan more sustainable.
Tips for Diet Sustainability
- Give IIFYM a shot. IIFYM, or “If It Fits Your Macros,” is an effective and flexible form of dieting that works well with any lifestyle. We track the macronutrients we consume to ensure we are maintaining our caloric deficit and losing weight. Tracking macros is more effective than just tracking calories because it helps us stay fuller and makes the diet more sustainable. You can read more about IIFYM and macro tracking here.
- Planning is key. Whether you cook and prepare your meals in advance or you sit down and figure out what you will eat the next day, you are more likely to stick to your diet if you plan it out in advanced. Once your meals are planned for the day, don’t deviate from the plan, don’t think about food, just follow the plan.
- Your diet should be flexible. This is where IIFYM comes into play. Tracking macros gives you the flexibility to make your diet fit your life instead of revolving your life around your diet. Have a family picnic on Saturday, then enjoy some BBQ and plan your other meals around what you ate so that you still hit your macros.
- No food should be off limits. There are no bad foods. Our diet should allow for us to indulge occasionally when we get a craving for something. It’s a lot easier to stick with a diet when there aren’t any foods that are off limits, so don’t deprive yourself. Are you craving a nice bowl of ice cream? If it fits you macros, then eat it. If it doesn’t, then plan it into your meals the next day.
Tips for Workout Sustainability
- Give weightlifting a chance. Most of us hate cardio, but weightlifting can be a lot of fun. Few things in life are as motivating as setting a new personal record in the gym. Not to mention that muscle growth will go a long way toward helping you achieve that physique you’ve always dreamed of.
- Simplify your program. Most of us don’t have the time to go to the gym five times per week or spend countless hours on the treadmill. A successful training program is one that is efficient and makes the best use of our precious time. Cut out extra exercises and stick to the basics.
- Focus on full body movements. Instead of performing a lot of exercises, perform exercises that give you the most bang for your buck. Focus on full body movements rather than isolating muscles. Exercises like the Squat, Overhead Press, and Deadlift that work your whole body are more effective and time efficient than doing a single exercise for each body part.
- Always be improving. Whether your exercise of choice is weightlifting or running, focus on getting better every workout. This means adding weight to the bar, performing more reps, or shaving a few seconds off of your time. If you consistently improve, then results will follow.
- Less is more. It may seem counter-intuitive, but less is more when it comes to exercising on a diet. We should focus on achieving our weight loss through nutrition, and our workouts should supplement the diet. If you exercise too much, then it is going to be harder to stick to your diet. So work hard 3-4 days a week and use the other days to rest and recover.
Some Final Tips
- Make it fun. Keep your meals interesting and try out new recipes. Create a playlist of your favorite songs for the gym. Make your diet and workouts something you enjoy and look forward to each day.
- Involve your friends & family. You are more likely to be consistent if you have the support of friends and family. They can hold you accountable and will help you get through the tough times. Maybe after they see your fantastic results they will join you on your journey.
Bringing it All Together
In order to be consistent, and therefore successful, we need to create a chain of successes both in the gym and in the kitchen. Diet and exercise are two pieces of the puzzle. Your success with one piece will increase your likelihood of success with the other and vice versa.
When you miss a workout you are more likely to justify ditching the diet for the day. But at the same time, when you do your workout you are more likely to comply with your diet plan because you don’t want to ruin your progress. So we need follow these tips for sustainability to help stay on track.
But what do we do when the inevitable happens? Eventually life will get in the way and something will cause us to miss a workout or be off track on our diet. So what do we do?
We don’t worry about it. We are never more than one meal or one workout away from being back on track. So we carry on and don’t sweat it. What is one day over the course of a 12-week program, or a year, or a lifetime? Nothing.
Successful dieters have a short memory and a long focus. We don’t sweat the mistakes and we focus on things that allow us to be successful over the long term, which is where we see real results.
Featured image courtesy of Brian K and used under a Creative Commons License.