“It’s a lifestyle not a diet” cue the bad meme. WE HAVE ALL HEARD that before. Your nutrition should be a lifestyle but what does that mean? I am a practical guy who needs the nitty gritty on how to get something done. Not just catchy phrases. So how do we truly turn our fitness into a lifestyle? First let’s define what lifestyle means.
Definition of lifestyle
- : the typical way of life of an individual, group, or culture :Merriam-Webster
In other words, lifestyle is what we DO on a regular basis. Often there is a difference between what we DO and what we WANT TO DO. We have a lifestyle we think/want/perceive that we live and the one we actually live. This incongruence causes frustration and disappointment. The key is to first identify these incongruencies and then take steps that work us towards harmony. If we say we want to live a healthy life but can’t give up our daily soda/candy/sugary coffee (oh no you didn’t!!) than we have a rub that will cause friction.
“ Wait! What? Huh?”
To build a fitness lifestyle we have to break our goals into small, achievable habits. We must turn our Goals into Skills and Skills into Habits. Let’s dive into this further.
First, we must learn how to set good goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are great, but what are goals ultimately? Goals are the destination. Without a destination how do we know which way to point the car? Most of us have these goals, whether we have vocalized them or not. “I want to lose 20 lbs” “I want to fit into this outfit” “I want to lower my cholesterol” “get to such and such bodyfat%” “get a 400 lbs back squat” “be able to do a pec dance” (ok maybe that last one is just me!) These are examples of outcome based goals. We NEED these BUT we can not stay here. If all we do is write them down (which is more than most people even attempt) and stare at them every morning, speak them out loud and wish they would come true, nothing will change! We will not move the needle forward at all. We are lacking an important component: ACTION! This is an important shift. We must go from “looking up” at our outcome goals to “looking down” to behavior goals.
Behavior goals are where the rubber meets the road. These are the practical next steps. If outcome goals are our destination, then behavior goals are our baby steps that walk us toward that destination. Interestingly, our behaviors are really the only thing we can control. WE CAN’T CONTROL THE OUTCOME and we most certainly can’t control the behaviors of others as we have all painfully felt and some point in our lives. What we can control is how we respond to situations and what behaviors we manifest and cultivate. (ok, ok enough of the psychological stuff how does this help me get a six pack?!) So what are some the behaviors that we will need to build in order to achieve our fitness goals? Well, we will probably need to:
- work out 4-5x/week
- learn how to meal prep/plan ahead for the week
- learn how to eat more whole foods
- move better and more often throughout our day
- develop better sleep rituals
- learn how to handle stress better or figure out ways to reduce it
- be more mindful of what we are eating/feeling/saying/thinking
“That seems overwhelming!! Where do I start?”
To develop these behavior goals, aka skills, we need to break them down into smaller, achievable steps. We have come full circle, this is where building habits starts. We all know what habits are. These are the things we do without thinking about them. We all have good ones and we all have bad ones. Here is the key component when building any new habit, it must not stay as only a component of self-discipline. There is a lot of research that shows that the amount of self-discipline we have is finite. Now I am not saying you can’t learn how build more self-discipline. You definitely can but it is still finite. AND back to our original point, to make healthy nutrition a lifestyle, the things we do must be habitual. Right along with this idea, is that building habits typically requires a trigger. A trigger is something that reminds you to act on the habit you are trying to build. We all brush our teeth (er, uh…hopefully) BUT at one point in your life someone had to remind you daily to brush your teeth. I have three boys and every night I have to remind them to brush their teeth but at some point I will not have to do that anymore and they will just do it habitually. (Their future wives can thank me!) Even though it’s a bit elementary, we as adults need the same thing. WE NEED SOMETHING OR SOMEONE TO REMIND US until these new behaviors become habits. Often having an objective third party can help us identify which habits to start first. Here are some examples of starting places for building healthy nutrition habits. (Surprise! It’s not what supplements to buy)
- Eat slowly
- Stop eating at 80% full
- Drink only calorie free beverages
- Eat 2 big handfuls of veggies at each meal
- Eat a palm size serving at each meal
Navigating the world of nutrition is not and should not be complicated. Healthy nutrition is simple but not easy. BUT it is attainable by taking small steps (habits) that will allow us to develop behaviors (skills) that will get us to our outcome (goals)!!
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