I recently had someone ask me for the secret to my fitness success. I had to really think about that question, because I’ve reached the point where a lot of what I do is habit, so I don’t really think about it much anymore. I’m also hesitant to answer that question because I’ve learned that what works for me may not work for another person. At the same time, it was an honest question, and I felt I should try to give some sort of answer. So, after some focused thought on the matter, I came up with this list:
- Exercise regularly.
- Watch what you eat and count calories
- Hold yourself accountable.
- Make changes to your internal dialogue.
Exercise regularly. If you want to lose weight and stay healthy, you really do have to exercise, and you need to do so on a regular basis. Even if it’s just a 20 minute walk once a day, it’s better than not exercising at all. More importantly, if you set a regular exercise routine for yourself and stick to it, it becomes habit. I went from thinking “Oh, God, I have to exercise today!” to “It’s an exercise day, time to hit the gym!” because at this point it’s just routine. These days, NOT hitting the gym on my designated days feels weird!
Watch what you eat and count calories. I touched on the calorie thing in depth last week, but I feel it bears repeating. If you consume more calories than your body burns, you’ll gain weight. If you’re trying to lose weight, then knowing how many calories you’re consuming is important. At the same time, you have to eat the right kind of calories! 100 calories of vegetables is more nutritious and will satisfy your hunger much longer than 100 calories of cake will. I’ve drastically cut down on the intake of fat, sugar, salt and overly processed foods. I also eat more vegetable protein than animal protein. Yes, there is a lot of controversy over whether or not we really need meat in our diets, but in my own experience I’ve found that I feel a whole lot healthier eating more plant than animal.
Be accountable. This one is really important to me, because if I know someone is going to call me on the carpet for NOT doing what I said I was going to do, I’m much more likely to follow through! I post both my exercise adjustments and my weight losses/gains on Facebook for all my friends to see. If posting publicly doesn’t work for you, then find someone who is willing to hold you accountable for your goals. I do have one friend in particular that is very good at kicking me into gear when I’m having one of those “I don’t want to do this today!” moments.
Make changes to your internal dialogue. Internal dialogue is that ongoing conversation we have with ourselves in our heads. It is a powerful thing and strongly affects our actions, even though we may not realize it. A year ago my internal dialogue was downright toxic. It was so bad that I’d start a diet and less than 24 hours later I was already throwing in the towel because my inner dialogue had convinced me that I couldn’t do it because I’d failed so many times before. Most of the sentences in my internal conversation contained words like “can’t”, “impossible”, “failure”, and “never”. The thing was, I didn’t even realize it until a close friend started to correct me when I’d say some of those things out loud. I started paying attention to what I was telling myself, and had to work very, very hard to rewrite that internal dialogue. A year ago my internal dialogue was telling me there was no way in Hell I’d ever be able to run two blocks, much less five kilometers. I know better now, because I made a conscious effort to stop using words like “can’t” and “never” in my internal dialogue. It made a HUGE difference.
So, there you have it, my “secret” to success. There are other things that help me on my fitness journey, but I believe that these four items have been most important.