We Are What We Repeatedly Do
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle
One of my clients reminded me of this quote the other day as she excitedly said...
"I'm so into kale right now it's ridiculous."
She said her body has been craving all sorts of fruits and veggies and she was shocked at how much her tastes had evolved over the last six months. You guys, these are the kind of texts I live for! I seriously get giddy.
I can relate to her because I, too, crave vegetables now. It seems bizarre if you haven't experienced this phenomenon, but stay with me here.
Recently, I heard Melissa Hartwig make an awesome analogy. She compared addressing your relationship with food to a set of dominoes. It's the first domino and it's the hardest one to tip. However, once it tips... everything else will start to fall easily. Think about fixing your relationship with food and implementing habits as the first domino. It's going to suck at first. It's going to be hard. However, once you've addressed it and truly dealt with it, you'll be amazed at how everything else begins to fix itself.
Sacrifices Vs. Priorities
When you first embark on the journey of changing your habits to better your health--like fitting movement into your lifestyle and implementing whole foods as your main fuel source--the task can seem incredibly daunting. It's hard to imagine it as something that's easy and fulfilling. Something that's a new norm..something that you look forward to. This particular client wakes up at 4 am to be at the gym by 5 am...It's not easy, but it's a habit. Also, she knows she needs to meal prep for her week in order to be successful. Done and done! It's a HABIT.
The thought of this can seem like a dream to some...but it's not impossible. Not even a little bit. It does take time, patience, and the ability to be unwavering at times. I'm not going to use the word "sacrifices" because I believe the way in which you speak to yourself can make all the difference. If you look at this situation as a "sacrifice" and think about the downsides and how painful it can be...If you think about the FOMO you might experience or all the delicious food you'll be missing out on...That's all you're going to focus on. Let's try to switch our mindset to focus on what we're GAINING vs. what we're LOSING.
How about we rephrase it and use the word PRIORITIES. Priorities are something that you do not budge for. It's something that's important to you and in line with your current values. If fitness and health are high on your value rankings, you should feel EXCITED to make health-related tasks priorities because you know that you're going to feel more energized, more confident, and more at-home in your body. You should feel lucky that you have the resources to do these tasks. It's important to focus on the delicious food you CAN eat and imagine how this is going to open up a whole new world of possibilities. You're not closing your world....You're expanding it.
How to Begin
When you first begin, the above scenario might not be possible for you. It might not even be in your wheelhouse to imagine prioritizing your health and fitness. That being said, we want to come up with things that you can bite off and chew. Your priorities might seem small. That's okay. You want to feel like you can make time for them and accomplish your goals with relative ease. The importance is to keep challenging yourself once your prioritized tasks become easy.
For example, maybe your first prioritized task is prepping your lunches for the week (I often recommend this as a first goal). That's all. You're not going to add a movement regime yet, you're not going to eliminate everything you enjoy from your diet, you're just going to focus on prepping your lunches. Ideally, we make it a balanced lunch (shoot for 20g protein, 15g fat, and fill your plate with veggies) BUT if prepping a lunch at home-even if it's homemade pizza-is an improvement for YOU...You've fulfilled your promise to yourself for the week. You win. Keep track of these wins on a tally sheet. Once you've been nailing it with ease, tack something else on. Take pizza AND some prepped veggies. Try to one-up yourself.
Action is always the answer
Let's say you start off with a bang. For the first two weeks, you prepped nutritious lunches and even made time to get to the gym here and there. Uh oh...all the sudden, life happens! You're busier at work, the kids are starting school and you're not getting as much sleep. Maybe you have family in town or you're studying for a test. Anything that throws you out of whack. Guess what? You've got to adapt. Life is ALWAYS going to happen...and the answer is to take action immediately. I know that it's harder to prioritize prepping your lunches and making sure you have the groceries to do that when things keep piling up in your life and you can feel your motivation waning. However, ACTION is always the answer. Even if it's a small action. Try to look at these "setbacks" as "challenges." Our brains actually get excited about "challenges." Look at it as something you can overcome and an opportunity to make yourself proud. The more you keep promises to yourself, the more you build a report with yourself. Having trust in yourself is KEY to changing your habits.
Meet yourself where you're at
That being said, during times of excess stress, you have to meet yourself where you're at. The action in which you take doesn't have to be big...maybe instead of GOING to the gym, you do a quick 10-minute bodyweight workout at home. You still took a step toward your goals without making a huge time commitment. Maybe you don't have time to prep your lunches for the week, but you have all the ingredients to make a balanced smoothie in the morning. Throw some protein powder, almond butter, flax, and berries into a blender and you have a balanced meal in a cup. *QUICK HACK* I ALWAYS have some sort of nut butter or MCT oil, frozen berries + greens, protein powder, and ground flax on hand for moments like this.
When traveling, you want to be constantly checking in with yourself. It's harder to stay in line with your goals and priorities when you're in a whirlwind of airplanes, hotels, Ubers, and fast food options. You might feel thrown off because you're out of your safe routine. Keep asking yourself "what's an improvement for ME in this situation?" One of my clients recently went on a family vacation and was struggling to get her workouts in. She was also finding it hard to consume mostly whole foods. Setting high expectations wasn't doing her any good...she needed to meet herself where she was at and celebrate the small wins. I told her to focus on walking and enjoying the company of her family. I told her to keep checking-in with herself and finding an improvement in any situation.
The verdict? An improvement for her was to not stuff herself and go overboard during meal times. She reported back to me everyday nailing this goal! She still ate foods she enjoyed, but never ate passed 80% full (even when she felt the urge to). Also, she wanted to monitor her alcohol consumption and give herself an allotted number of drinks at each outing. *BRAIN HACK* This can be incredibly helpful for our brains. Tell yourself 24 hours in advance that you're going to consume X amount of drinks (it can be any number, just make it realistic) and that you will not falter from this chosen number. I don't care if it's 7 drinks...you made yourself a promise and you stuck to it. That's the point.
Patience is key
Don't get me wrong. Habit changes don't happen overnight. Also, I know when you hear "trust the process" it probably makes you want to gag. It made me want to gag at first. But when 6 months go by and you realize how much you've CHANGED mentally and physically, the difficult beginning stages are all worth it. Everything comes to fruition and you realize how truly powerful your mindset is and what you're capable of. You've got to be patient with yourself though.
1) How can you build a morning routine that sets your day up for success? Can you wake up a 1/2 hour early to make sure this morning routine happens?
2) If the morning is totally out of the question...can you do a PM routine that sets your AM up for success? How can you find ways to "hack" this process to make sure it gets done?
WHAT WORKS FOR ME
My schedule isn't ideal. I'm a personal trainer, I bartend, and I'm in a band. Sometimes my shifts and practices turn into late nights...sometimes I have 6 am clients. Life happens. However, through much trial and error, I've figured out how to implement some habits that do not waver no matter what my schedule throws at me. It's not perfect, but it works. It's important to build buffer space in to give yourself some breathing room so that when your plans are thrown off, you won't be thrown off.
If I have an early morning, I'll make a Fab Four smoothie (recipe courtesy of www.bewellbykelly.com) the night before because I know that it's not always something I want to do at 4 am. My clients know how obsessed I am with these smoothies because they keep your blood sugar stable all day and they're delicious, quick, and easy. However, I prioritize other things on really early mornings and don't want to worry about making these in the AM. Another way I set myself up for success is to prep 2-3 lunches at a time. I don't like to do a whole week of lunches because I don't like eating the same thing every day and I want to be excited about my lunches. I go grocery shopping twice a week and I'll cook off a few days worth of protein and veggies. Throw it in a bowl with various types of starch (depending on my activity levels, of course) and voila!
I also have a Planner Pad (www.plannerpads.com) and I write in my tasks and workouts as if they are appointments I have with myself. If it's on my schedule and I make a promise to myself as if I was my own client, I'm much more likely to actually do it!
Did you try any of these tips? Did they work for you? If not, what DID work for you? Let me know in the comment box down below!
If you are struggling to implement your own habits and need some guidance and accountability, fill out an application under the coaching tab and let's tackle some goals together!