The Groundwork for Diet Success
One of the most difficult aspects of Fitness and Nutrition is building lifestyle habits that are vastly different from your ingrained routines. Consistency and Habits are two fundamental keys to Success in all aspects of life. Without consistency and fostering productive habits, lasting change will not be achieved. Motivation comes and goes, but established habits keep you on track regardless. With that in mind, this article sets forth to put success into perspective, provide some tips and tricks to make the road a little less treacherous, and ultimately to serve as a guide for reaching your goals. In this article you will find sections discussing Core principles and Accessory principles, as well as tips for vacations, business functions, and other events.
It’s all about Perspective
Lifestyle is not going to change overnight, and neither is your outlook. Realize this, accept it, and adapt.
Accept that perfection is not realistic. Progress, not perfection, is the name of the game. There will be set-backs. As long as you recognize them and have a plan to deal with them (preferably pre-emptively), you will weather the storm and be back on track in no time. Consider changes in your habits and behaviors as markers of success, not changes on the scale.
Setting yourself up for Success (The Big Four)
First and foremost. This must be YOUR choice. Not for your significant other (this can absolutely factor in as secondary importance, but should not be the main motivator), not to impress your friends, not to get ready for a single beach vacation, and not to win over the Prom King/Queen at your 20-year reunion (they got fat and developed a smoking problem anyway). This is for you, to improve your physique, your health, and your life. Making a conscious choice that you want to succeed will lay the foundation for all that is to come. This foundation will be what supports all your future efforts.
Secondly, choose a modality of exercise that appeals to you. I have tried all different kinds of resistance training and cardio formats. I began my career as a hobbyist bodybuilder, then I tried powerlifting, then Crossfit/weightlifting, and now back to bodybuilding. Every step in between, I always found myself gravitating back, but I wanted to experience what other training styles had to offer. I’m a pump fiend at heart. That does not mean you have to be. If you enjoy Crossfit, program intelligently and enjoy Crossfit. If you want to mountain bike, hike, swim, row, metcon, or play basketball for your cardio, by all means take your pick. The important thing is that you have a choice in the matter, and that choice needs to provide you with fulfillment.
Thirdly, choose foods you are willing to prepare and eat as the basis for your new nutritional habits. This is why tailoring diets to the specific person is absolutely crucial. Much to the chagrin of the die-hard IIFYM crowd, your food choices should be what many consider “healthy” options (although I am hesitant to use that term since everything needs to be taken in the context of a diet as a whole). Lean meats, starches, veggies/fruit, grains, and dairy make a great foundation. By planning with these traditionally healthy options in mind, you will give yourself that cushion for when off plan meals or celebrations occur, and you will be forming proper habits for long-term health.
Lastly, establish a mental and emotional support structure. Now is when that significant other you are only secondarily doing this for really becomes your rock. Support can come in many forms: a dashingly handsome yet experienced personal trainer, a gym community, a good friend, a significant other, a training partner who is on the same path you are, or a combination. All of these can help lift you when you falter and cheer you on when you are crushing it!
Success Accessory Work (Successory Work!)
If The Big 4 are the compound lifts, the following is the accessory work that will make you perform in peak condition come competition day. These are adjunct strategies that work synergistically with the groundwork you set previously.
- Give yourself an extrinsic reward. Health and fat loss in the future are great and all, but what’s in it for me now? How about a new pair of gym shoes for every few months of hitting the gym regularly? A stylish new Maui Athletics tank top for completing your first month of training (your Maui Athleticsversary?). Treat yourself to a movie Friday night if you have 100% adherence for the week. These concrete rewards can be powerful motivators and can increase the chance the routine becomes a habit. The caveat is, if you aren’t 100% compliant, no treat for you Saturday night.
- Write down your specific goals and commitments. This is an informal contract between your current self and your future self. Literally dedicate a notebook to writing down what you wish to achieve. Compliance rates have been shown to drastically improve when this practice is performed. It can be used for anything from the mundane of “I will stick to my meal plan 100% this week and hit the gym 4 times” to “I don’t need to take 6 body shots at the bachelor party, I’ll only take 1 (or none, you don’t know where that’s been)”.
- Re-Frame your outlook. Think positively. This can work several ways.
- If you can imagine an obstacle, you can plan how to overcome it (this works in tandem with the informal contract strategy). This will greatly increase your success as it takes spur of the moment decisions out of the mix. You already have a plan, and you know you can succeed. The obstacle is no longer a boulder in your path, it’s a pebble.
- Alternatively, you can re-frame negative thoughts into positive ones. You choose to eat a “healthy” food instead of an “unhealthy” alternative. You choose to wake up early to work out and feel good about yourself. You choose to eat a donut on the weekend and you will adjust accordingly (you aren’t going to beat yourself up over the little things). You choose not to drink during the day (it’s not 5 o’clock somewhere, stop that). You don’t have to eat well and exercise, you choose to.
- Have “healthy” foods available at home. Nothing kills a new habit such as improved nutrition like having Nutella/Biscoff spread in your pantry. Seriously, the stuff should be illegal. Replace these with healthier snacks you enjoy eating. Low fat or full fat cheeses depending on your diet, dried fruit/nuts, Greek yogurt, tasty protein powder, etc.
- Set a Food Prep Day. A few things go along with this. Have your meals planned out for the week, make a grocery list, prepare to cook in bulk and have storage containers (even individual ones if you are responsible enough to stock individual meals for busy days). A high-quality blender, air fryer, and/or crock pot can help immensely. I also highly recommend investing in borosilicate or Pyrex storage containers.
- Have a killer playlist (or podcast) ready. Nothing ruins a gym experience more than Achy Breaky Heart. High-energy music is your friend. A good mix makes time in the gym fly by. Enough said.
- Don’t exercise to lose fat, exercise to relieve stress. The losing fat will come with a proper nutrition program. That’s what a personal trainer/dietician is there for if you are unsure how to manage one yourself. Your life is hectic enough with work, family, and commitments. Gym time is YOUR time. It is a break from your obligations. Let the bad air out, and the good (body odor tinged) air in.
Vacations, Parties, Holidays, Business
These types of events can often be the most trying and confusing times for those attempting to stick to their plan. Some of the same techniques used above have carry-over and some extra modifications are required to stay on track. We will delve into some planning tactics as well as some tips/tricks in this section.
- Break that pen and notebook back out! Make a conscious plan. Write it down. Stick to it. Decide whether you are going to have a drink or two, or abstain altogether. Plan out how you are going to eat/prep your meal or, in extended instances, meals.
- Consider not drinking during the day. You are old enough where you should not have to worry about peer pressure, but even if that is an issue, virtually everyone understands not wanting to drink while the suns out. That’s the time for guns and buns. Alternatively, tell them you are taking part in a Challenge (whether it be 30 days, 6 months, or a year). People will give you the benefit of the doubt and not push you if you are taking part in a Challenge, let alone one you may have paid into. Lastly, you can always be doing this for your children. You are getting healthier and setting the right example for them.
- Aim for better, not perfect. Life happens, avoid a binge by accepting that in particular situations you will deviate within reason from your standard practice.
- Hunger is not an emergency. Focus on the situation at hand until better food options are available.
- Use your plate as a guide. 50% of a normal circular plate should be a variety of non-starchy vegetables, 30% lean protein, and the remainder can be up to you. This will allow some flexibility on vacation, while also practicing moderation.
- Eat slowly and eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. This is especially helpful when trying to burn fat/prevent over-eating. After each bite, set your fork down. Chew thoroughly, swallow, and have a few sips of water. Then you are ready to pick your fork back up and continue.
- Continue to stay active. Whether that means hitting up the hotel gym, bringing resistance bands to perform a circuit in your hotel room, participating in some enjoyable outdoor activities, or dropping in one of the 10 billion Crossfit boxes in every major US city (Starbucks and Vape shop adjacent), you will have options if you prepare for it. The Metcon Bible© can be an invaluable resource during these situations as it has numerous on-the-go workouts ready for you to tackle.
Ultimately, this is for you. It is intimidating to start, but the rewards are well worth it. You simply need to set yourself up to succeed. We wish you all the best in your health endeavors, and if you ever need our help you know where to find us.