Trying but failing to reach the goals you have set for yourself.
Wondering why you can't seem to stick to a balanced diet, or even be bothered to find your trainers, let alone get to the gym. You have started to think that you just don't have the motivation to get to where you want to be in relation to your health and fitness. You are not lacking motivation, if you're reading this you are already motivated to make the changes you need to create a healthier lifestyle.
Motivation is what gets you going, but it's actually habit that keeps you going and it might be your habits good and bad that are stopping you from reaching your goal.
And you're off.
So you have set yourself some goals: exercise every day, cut out all junk food, drop a stone or two in weight.
You may have initially got off to a flying start, annoying your friends with constant fbook updates about how much weight you have lost, how many miles you have run or poses of you working out in the gym. Then gradually as the weeks roll by, you might drop a gym session or two, have more bad food days than good and the scales are now going in the wrong direction. You're starting to wonder why this keeps happening to you, for all of your good intentions, you just can't seem to reach your goal.
In fact this cycle of trying to reach those goals and not achieving them has happened time and time again.
No You Are Not A Failure.
No wonder you are finding it hard, you have put yourself under a tremendous amount of pressure, it's not surprising that at some point your new healthy routine becomes impossible to maintain. Not only do you now feel a failure but you suspect that some of your friends are secretly pleased you've not managed to make any significant changes to your body.
Meanwhile one of your mates has quietly been going about reaching their goals and sickenenly they seem to be sticking to their plan. No they are not more motivated or better than you, they have just managed to create better habits.
We all know what we are supposed to do in order to gain a healthier lifestyle - drink more water, move more, eat less rubbish, so why then are we so bad at doing it?
Setting your goals too high.
First of all the goals you have set yourself could be far too high and therefore doomed to failure before you start.
For instance if your goals are along the lines of: workout five times every week, eat clean every day and ditch alcohol completely, you may find this hard, especially if you lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle, never cook from scratch and have an active social life. Trying to reach these goals all at once will be nigh on impossible and feel really overwhelming because you have set yourself such high expectations.
Your motivation will push you so far, but if the goals you have set are overly ambitious, they could ultimately lead to your downfall. However motivated you are, life has a habit of getting in the way, you might be too busy to cook every night, or feel too tired for five gym sessions and you definitely deserve a glass of wine after a hectic day. You are starting to realise that the goals you have set are not manageable within your life, so you skip a gym session and then maybe another, cooking from scratch every night proved too much and life without wine well let's be honest, it's a bit miserable. After a few weeks of trying to maintain your routine you start to feel deflated, you have slipped so much that you feel as though you are failing to get anywhere. It doesn't seem worthwhile carrying on and you may as well give up, you can't seem to stick to any of the goals you have set for yourself, all of your hard work has been for nothing and you are now back to square one.
CREATING A HABIT IS THE KEY TO A LONG TERM HEALTHY LIFESTYLE.
So once your motivation has disappeared, how can you carry on, the key is to create good habits which are performed without too much effort on your part. A habit is a ritual that is performed on autopilot, you fit it into your daily schedule without even thinking about it. Hitting your goals will be easier if you can make that gym session, or commitment to eat less of the bad stuff habitual, meaning you do it without consciously thinking. You will find that if you have turned the process of reaching your target dress size or fitness level into habits, you won't constantly waste your time thinking of excuses not to go for that run or eat a piece of fruit instead of a chocolate bar.
Focus on the habit first then the results, so instead of saying I'm going to be a certain size or weight, say I'm going to: exercise for ten minutes each day, cut out some processed food or only drink alcohol at weekends. Make the habit ridiculously small so that when you are struggling for willpower, you really have no excuse not to do it. Creating small habits that are good for you, is a much more effective route to gaining and maintaining a healthy lifestyle than setting yourself a goal that can be difficult to reach with bad habits holding you back.
How bad habits creep up on us
Ever reached for the biscuit tin when you are fed up or bored? A bad habit is created because our brains have received a positive response from something that's not too great for us, so delving into the biscuits has made your brain associate biscuits as a pick me up. We have learnt to associate bad food with a good feeling, this in turn makes it difficult when faced with temptation not to give in.
The habits you have formed over your lifetime have lead you to where you are today, you just need to adjust the habits to lead you to where you want to be.
A habit is formed by three things, a cue, a routine and a reward, this is what leads us to eating six biscuits with our afternoon cuppa, having a dessert or checking that the lights are off when we leave a room. Lots of things we do, day to day are a string of habits.
By way of explanation I will use one of my bad habits
Cue: kids come home from school, I feel drained
Routine: grab a handful of haribos
Reward: sugar rush
My brain has been trained to act on a cue, a routine and reward pattern, performed so many times that eating a handful of haribos or two is now one of my bad habits.
To change a bad habit into a good one, you need to amend the cue/routine/reward sequence.
Cue: kids come home from school, I feel drained
New routine: eat a rice cake with peanut butter
Reward: I feel healthier, have more energy, my brain has received a positive response from performing a new habit, helping it to became an automatic action.
Don't give up too quickly.
In today's world we have become increasingly used to instant gratification, so if you are hoping for dramatic changes in shape or fitness too soon, this can lead to disappointment when you don't see results quickly enough. Try and concentrate on the smaller changes that are occurring because of your new lifestyle, being able to complete five more minutes of exercise instead of concentrating on the number on the scales, is a much better measure of how well you are doing in your pursuit of a healthier body. You can also treat yourself when you reach certain milestones, this type of reward can act as a motivational push, giving you more of an incentive to get to where you want to be, just try and make sure it's something healthy and not an excuse to have a blow out.
Don't view a missed workout or a bad food choice as a failure, you don't have to create a new habit by next week, just start again the next day.
Remember persistence is vital you must repeat, repeat and repeat any new habit, it can take at least 66 days for it to become habitual.
Make your health a priority, if you view it as non negotiable, you are more likely to stick to good habits, making them an essential part of your life - after all you wouldn't skip cleaning your teeth.