Everyone gets stuck in a place in their fitness journey where they feel like they never going to make progress ever again. Bad habits have hijacked your life and you can't seem re-gain control.
There have been many times throughout my life where I just get stuck in the routine of "tomorrow" or "one more cheat" and one more cheat turns into days or weeks of eating like shit.
Over the years I have learned how to break these vicious cycles. Below is what has worked for me and hopefully will work for you as well.
1. Self control is great in theory but very hard in practice.
I know myself too well, I know self control only comes with time and repetition and still even when I feel like I have the most self control I can still manage to lose it in a moment of weakness. A bad day or a bad month and I wear down and give in. So, forget self control. You have to know yourself and prepare for those moments. You would never take a drug addict to areas of lots of drug use or take a recently recovered alcoholic to a bar to party.
No matter how strong you think you are, you will find that it just takes one trigger to unleash the monster that is always lurking. You have to learn to say no to things. You have to be self aware enough to know this place, this party, this ________ is not a place that is going to be good for you and your goals and you just can't go or do it, at least for awhile. As my mom once said, "Bad habits don't die, they just hibernate, keep them hibernating."
Psychology has shown that over and over again, our habits don't die, they essentially hibernate waiting to be awakened again. The brain doesn't just forget old ways of doing things, it just creates new ones but the old are still there. Be mindful of that.
2. We are creatures of the now.
We want things now, we want results now! Naturally we are not inclined to think or worry too much about the future. We enjoy gratification and delay not so much. We know that eating poorly, not exercising often and drinking is bad for us but hey, its fun and it's happening now. Getting heart disease, diabetes and fatter is something of the future and that's now so why worry about it? We all fall victim to the YOLO mindset and while I am a big believer in living your life to the fullest and taking advantage of every moment we have to weight the costs of our decisions at some point.
That is why I recommend not delaying gratification. Say what? Ya, I'll repeat it again. Know yourself. I know I don't want to miss out on pizza or burgers. I know that when I am stressed I am going to want something delicious. So, I manipulate those cravings. My brain wants a rush, it wants its dopamine fix and it usually wants it now. So, I give it to it, but it doesn't know the difference between a low carb healthy pizza and an unhealthy one. It doesn't know the difference between a healthy delicious dessert and a sugar packed dessert. You know what's not exciting? Working all day, tired and stressed out and coming home to a tuperware container full of grilled chicken and broccoli. No, thanks. That just makes we want to order pizza and call it a night. Lets be real, most of us aren't training for Olympia or the Crossfit Games. Be flexible, be creative. I plan my meals around what I usually crave during the week, then I find a way to make them healthy and fit my macros.
I got so tired of eating chicken and rice. Bleh. You can only force down so much chicken before it makes you literally gag even thinking about it. Get creative with your meals. You don't have to be a talented chef. Go on Pinterest or Instagram, search for the kinds of foods you want on your diet and in the way you need them. Keto, paleo, vegetarian, there is a way, find it!
3. Feels over everything
Two things that will crush motivation fastest is a scale and a mirror. If you focus too much on these things, they will rob you of all joy and deplete any motivation you may have had. Either avoid them or use them in moderation. Do not obsess about them. Hey, know yourself. You know what is too much and what you should avoid altogether. Sometimes I'll have clients eliminate mirrors for a couple weeks other than for their face and it makes a huge difference. Base your success on how you feel, that is the the most important measure of success.
You have to assess your day to day life and figure out what your triggers are. Your brain is a beautifully adaptive and habitual organ. It is complex, yet it is simple. It will always fall back on what it knows best, where it finds the most comfort and take the path of least resistance. It loves to work in autopilot. It saves energy that way. You have these patterns in your normal day that you may not even realize perpetuate your bad habits. Maybe because they are bad in and of themselves or because they trigger a bad habit. Such as binging on food while binging on Netflix after a long tiring day. Getting a soda everyday through the drive-thru at work when you are stressed. Sipping a glass of wine to relax that turns into a bottle every night. You know what I am talking about. You have to find ways to change the response to the trigger. Your triggers are your triggers, it's finding a new way to respond and build new habits that will help you succeed at changing.
It doesn't have to be boring. If your solution to your problem is boring, first off that's your fault and second off it's not going to work because if you are bored with it you are going to fall back on the more interesting habit.
Stressed? Go workout. Sad and like to eat sweets? Have fruit on hand, your favorite fruit or some dark chocolate.
Do not bring things in the house you know will tempt you. You are just setting yourself up.
5. Give yourself a goal that is close enough to care about
Remember way at the beginning of this blog I mentioned how we are creatures of the now? Well, hope you didn't forget that because it is key. Set some small goals that are close enough to care about. I am not saying don't set long term goals, but set small, attainable goals that are more near so that you can actually focus on them. If they are too far down the road, it can feel like you have all the time in the world to accomplish them, then you procrastinate.
In the end, it's not about being perfect. It is about knowing yourself and setting your world up for success based on the ways you usually destroy your success.