Have you ever found yourself trapped in a cycle that looks like this?
Monday: “No more bread, pasta or rice because I want to have rock hard abs in two weeks!”
Friday: I guess I’ll have a third piece of pizza.
Sunday: I am so unhappy with my body. No bread this week and I mean it! *tosses all the bread out in the garbage*
*eats bread out of garbage 20 minutes later*
This is called the Restrictive Eating Cycle, and it’s the opposite of what being consistent looks like.
When I started my first job after school, I had no idea how important consistency was… or how to even go about being consistent.
Every week, I’d overhaul my diet or workout schedule, but nothing ever stuck. I was so unhappy with the way I looked and I felt like a failure for not being able to stay on track.
It didn’t matter how badly I wanted toned abs and for my size four jeans to be loose on me… the results never came. I couldn’t make my healthy “habits” stick longer for 72 hours at best.
Formally, consistency means “conformity in the application of something.”
In terms of a healthy lifestyle, it means staying “on track” which involves being able to practice the same healthy habits every day.
We already know that to be healthy you have to do all those things. What we struggle with is doing it over and over and over… every day of the year. For many years in a row.
A healthy lifestyle is actually so simple. I mean, look at that short list of four things! But simple does not mean easy. If it were easy, you wouldn’t be reading this post right now.
Why is consistency so hard anyway?
- First off, it’s boring. It’s the least sexy, but most effective strategy for reaching our goals.
- We also tend to justify and rationalize our “bad” eating habits. And on the other hand, we procrastinate when we have something on our to-do list we don’t want to do, like exercise or grocery shopping.
- The fact that media confuses us all with information about the newest diet or superfood or study doesn’t help either. It forces us to question basically everything.
- Temptation is everywhere. At work, at home, in our friends’ houses, on social media… we can’t hide!
- Life gets in the way of staying “on track.” Stress at work, stress at home… These are unavoidable aspects of life that make focusing on improving our health more difficult (and stressful).
Let’s face it. Consistency means change. Change is UNCOMFORTABLE… and our daily lives present other challenges that make consistency harder to achieve and change harder to focus on.
That’s why falling back into old habits is so easy.
I know. It seems like the odds are stacked against you.
That’s why I’m sharing four key steps to becoming consistent with healthy habits.
And before we jump in, I want to share two things to put this all in perspective.
- Consistency is what got you to where you are in life right now.
- It’s a lot harder to have to keep getting back on track than it is to just stay on track.
Most articles I read online about consistency talk about WHAT to do consistently to be healthy, but they don’t talk about HOW to be consistent.
Hopefully, these crystal clear steps will make that part easier.
Step one: Adjust your expectations
As ambitious people with goals, we tend to bite off way more than we can chew. If it were magic, you’d have a perfect sleep, workout and eating schedule tomorrow… and following it would be seamless.
When we don’t see the results we expect, that’s when we give up… and have to start all over again.
But we have to start small, and it starts with your expectations.
Don’t confuse expectations with goals.
Your goal may be eventually to lose 20 pounds, but you can expect to eat healthier snacks every week. The key is to keep expectations realistic. Small steps still count!
In college, I expected to work out twice a day and maintain my senior prom weight of 115 pounds. Yeah right!
You’re probably not surprised that I fell off the wagon immediately. I had a new schedule in a new environment I had less control over. I started drinking and eating greasy dining hall food. And I wasn’t 17 anymore!
Yet I’d beat myself up for gaining 10-15 pounds. I didn’t realize then that my expectations were the issue.
After college, instead of setting expectations around my appearance, I started focusing more on my bank account.
I had a very tangible goal: set aside $1,200 for the upcoming ski season.
I happen to have one of the most expensive hobbies (snowboarding) and my takeout habit didn’t exactly help me save money to make it to the slopes in the winter.
That changed everything.
I became so focused on saving money by cooking at home that the weight I had been trying so hard to lose just came right off in about six months.
When my expectations changed, consistency got easier. The stakes were lower.
If you expect to lose one pound a week, but you don’t see that reflected on the scale, we both know what will happen: you’re going to fall off track because you’re not seeing “results.”
Action step: Pick something else to track your progress with instead a number that relates to your body (inches, weight). Some suggestions:
- How many home-cooked meals you eat per week (I help you with this in my new meal plans)
- The number of healthy snacks you eat per week
- The amount of times you have fruit for dessert instead of junk
- How much you go to the gym every week
- How many hours you sleep every night
- The number of glasses of water you drink per day
- Sleep more night without your phone right next to you
- How many days you bring lunch to work (this is what I started with!)
Focus on the process, not the goal.
Step two: Alter your environment
If you want to change your life for good, you have to actually make changes to the stuff that exists around you.
That means the food in your home, your morning and nighttime routines… even the people you hang out with.
I became more consistent when I stopped buying junk at the grocery store. I said, “If I don’t buy it, I can’t eat it!” So that solved the problem at home, where I can control what I eat. But at work, it was a different story.
I would still go for the cookies and chips that were free at work, which isn’t good when you’re trying to be consistent with healthy eating.
It wasn’t until I brought my own healthy snacks to work that I was able to avoid the free junk in the office. I kept snacks on my desk (apples and carrots are ok to not be in the fridge) and having them right in front of me gave me no reason to get up and wander to the kitchen.
After just TWO WEEKS of that, I ate a bag of cookies… and it tasted like crap.
I could actually taste the chemicals and the snack itself made me feel awful! After that, it was easy to never go for cookies or junk.
Your brain will always want to do the easy thing. Make healthy habits the easy thing, and you’ll see the magic happen.
Action step: change your environment to set yourself up for success. Suggestions:
- Leaving a big water bottle on your desk at work so you remember to drink water
- Putting your workout clothes by your bed or in your bag before work
- Put non-perishable snacks out on your counter so you remember to take it to work
- Lay a yoga mat next to your bed as a reminder to stretch before you go to bed
- “Hide” unhealthy snacks in your kitchen by storing them out of sight (think bottom shelf of a cabinet, hard to reach drawer)
- If your friends love junk, hang out with them outside of mealtimes. Go to the movies, shopping, explore your city, get your nails done, work out together… do something not food-related!
Step three: Track progress
You know why calorie counting and macro counting really sucks? There are so many numbers and math involved!
The tediousness of it alone makes it hard to keep up with.
Instead, tracking should be quick, easy and visual.
When I lived in Harlem, I had a studio apartment with a chalkboard. Every month, I’d draw a little calendar and put an “X” on the days I went to the gym.
My only rule was that I couldn’t let three days go by without putting an “X” on my calendar.
This simple method of tracking motivated me to get to the gym when I didn’t want to, and I worked out at least 3x a week.
Now, I track my healthy eating by making sure I have 16 homecooked meals a week, just like I provide in my new meal plans here.
In the beginning, when you’re still developing a habit, tracking is important. I think the tracking period should last between three weeks to three months. After that, you probably won’t need it as much.
Having a simple tracking method also makes it easier to continue being consistent even when life gets in the way (because it will). Going back to the expectations thing, we can’t expect every week to be perfect.
Learn to roll with the punches. Punches are going to happen!
Action step: Create a simple tracking method based on your current lifestyle and daily routines. Some suggestions:
- Create a daily reminder in your phone that pops up
- Keep a calendar or checklist on a whiteboard or chalkboard like I did
- Add ONE healthy habit-related task to your daily agenda to check off every day
- Throw a quarter or dollar in a jar every day you work out or bring lunch to work (whatever you’re tracking)
- Create an event in your calendar (and also carve out time) for your healthy habit. Color code it so you can see how much time you’re REALLY dedicating to it.
Without a simple tracking system, you’re 100% going to fall off track. This is crucial!
Step four: Be accountable
Accountability is such an important aspect of consistency that almost no one talks about these days.
Why do you think Weight Watchers has been so successful for many people? It’s not just the point system, it’s also the accountability groups and meet ups you can join.
Knowing that other people are going through the same thing you are and working toward those goals too motivates you to keep going AND keeps you on track.
You can have accountability in several different ways.
Personally, I feel VERY accountable to my audience and readers. I show up every day and meal prep every week because I know I’m inspiring lots of people to start or keep going.
Another way I keep myself accountable is by tracking my goals weekly in a Google doc. I’ll share that system in a future post because it works really well.
And lastly, I have a business accountability group. We share our goals for the week on Monday and check in on Friday to share what actually happened.
Accountability works because it’s a form of external pressure to keep you on track. But unlike other social pressures, it’s positive!
Action step: Incorporate accountability into your life if you want to stay on track. Some suggestions:
- Have a workout partner
- Have a meal prep partner
- Share meal prep photos with me! (Just use the hashtag #workweeklunch on Instagram or DM them to me!)
- Start or join a group for the healthy habit you’re working on
- Sign up for workout classes of your choice (yoga, kickboxing, spinning, etc)
- Get a meal plan or workout plan (like mine)
- Start a meal diary (or post photos of your food to Instagram, Twitter or FB)
What got you here won’t get you there.
Like I said before, consistency is the toughest part of your journey. But it’s doable if you take these steps above.
Remember that small steps lead to big results. On the days where you feel like you’re not moving forward, remember that you’re going to FEEL the results before you SEE them always.
On the days where you feel like you’re not moving forward, remember that you’re going to FEEL the results before you SEE them always.
And lastly, remember that “falling off track” is part of it. It’s how we learn.
I want you to let go of the idea of “off track” and “on track” completely. Because indulging is part of consistency.
To recap, make these small tweaks in your life to become more consistent with your healthy habits:
- Adjust your expectations
- Alter your environment
- Make tracking simple
- Be accountable
I believe in you! Stay positive and stay awesome.
Watch out for Part 2 of this consistency series next week: The Truth About Finding Motivation To Be Healthy.
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