How to Make Your Fitness Progress Stick: Look at the Long Game
This is the recurring question, isn’t it? I think most people have thought this at one point or another: "I'm doing all the right things: mostly eating well and working out, but why does my fitness progress always seem to fluctuate and yo-yo?"
Have you or anyone else found themselves in a constant, never-ending state of "trying to cut those last few pounds?" It is so understandably frustrating to feel like you are constantly fighting an uphill battle, and never being satisfied for too long.
I've noticed a recurring pattern in all of my clients that come to me with a history of yo-yo dieting and progress-- they all share two commonalities:
1. They get stuck in the past.
They keep referencing "when they were a size 0" or about "1 year ago when I was fit." They get so wrapped up in the past and intently focused on recreating that figure they look back at with rosy-colored lenses.
2. They forget that that short-term goals are just that: short-term.
So many times we are like, "oh I'll lose a few pounds or trim my eating before that vacation (or that wedding or event); then they wonder why they're constantly yo-yoing?
Sound familiar? I know it does to me. I absolutely was stuck in this vicious cycle for YEARS. And only now after much time spent chasing my tail do I understand a healthy balance of keeping my fitness and nutrition progress stable.
My life used to be full of restricting stringently to look good for a specific time or event, then afterward, all hell would break loose. This constant yo-yo-ing led to so much unhappiness and frustration- not only because the inevitable increase in weight gain each time, but moreso the lack of sincere, comfortable satisfaction with my body at any given time. I was always trying to lose, lose, lose, rather than living my life. It gets exhausting.
I gained my happiness and freedom when I learned to have a new perspective to make my fitness levels and physique stay more consistent. How?
I looked at the long game, focusing on these three things:
1. Look forward, not backward
I know it's tempting to use a prior place of satisfaction as a reference point-- we are all creatures that like pattern. But in reality, just because something "worked" for you in the past, doesn't mean it will work now-- and conversely, just because something didn't work in the past doesn't mean it can't now. Also, if it really worked, you wouldn't be having this problem and need to change things again, would you?
You have never been exactly this age, in this moment, in this condition before.
Your body and health is in a different place than it was even 6 months ago. Stop trying to rewind time, and look forward to building something even better and longer-lasting.
2. Permanent results come from permanent changes.
No, I don't mean permanently eat the same salmon and broccoli every single day like a robot in pursuit of your goal figure. I mean a permanent mindset shift.
We tell ourselves to "tighten things up" before some event or deadline... but then don't think about what comes afterward. Usually what happens when we pile restriction and extremes on a timely event, we then inevitably give ourself license to "reward ourselves" by going wild on all the things we deprived ourselves leading up to said event.
If you make a temporary goal, your results will be temporary.
If you make a long-term goal that aims for results over the long-game, you will have long-term results.
3. Trusting myself
I view my occasional straying away from my typical health-centered eating habits while on vacation or PMS as temporary. One croissant and some extra ice cream while traveling doesn't break me anymore. Or invite any guilt. Or think about how it just upended all my hard work. Because it doesn't. Unless I LET it.
I no longer have the constant anxiety that I'm falling off the bandwagon and say to myself "I'm so bad, this is going to be so hard, I have to punish myself on Monday and make up for all the damage done this weekend." No more anxiety. This freedom was earned through mindful practice of choosing how I spoke to myself. Of course I will still have my moments, but I remind myself of this.
Trusting myself that I will bounce back to equilibrium.
Trusting that my body knows it likes nourishing food better than eating decadently out all the time, so my body will want to return to normalcy.
Trusting that I haven't lost my strength gains, but have more fuel and rest to use when I return.
Trusting that bloating after a big meal is normal, and my human stomach is digesting something.
Trusting that if my muscle definition decides to hide for a little while, it'll come back as long as I stick to my usual healthy habits and don't freak out.
Trusting that a few days is nothing in the spectrum of the long-game mentality I now have when it comes to my body and health.