Consistency – “consistent behaviour or treatment“.
When it comes to achieving your health and fitness goals (or any goal for that matter), being consistent with the positive changes you make to your lifestyle are key.
In today’s blog post I’ll explain why consistency is so important and reveal my top 5 tips to help you become more consistent so you can successfully achieve your health and fitness goals, permanently.
Heads-up… It’s a pretty long blog post, but well worth the 10 minute read as it may well be the answer to why you’re finding it so difficult to achieve your goals.
Why Is Being Consistent So Important In Achieving My Health & Fitness Goals?
Okay, lets say your goal is to lose 1 stone in weight, improve your fitness levels and generally ‘tone-up’. Fairly standard and normal fitness goals.
To achieve those goals, you would have to change your eating habits, your exercise habits and most likely elements of your lifestyle as well. You would also have to be consistent in those actions over a period of time.
In others words, whatever positive changes you made would have to be repeated consistently if you wanted to make any significant improvements / changes to your health and body shape.
Unfortunately this approach is somewhat rare in our modern ‘quick-fix solution’ society. It seems many (most) people follow more of a ‘yo-yo’ or ‘on-off’ approach to health and fitness.
Periods of “being good” or “getting back into it” when you exercise more often and generally look after yourself better are often followed by longer periods of “falling off the wagon” or “being naughty” when healthy living takes a back seat.
In this situation your body simply has no time to adapt… “Hey, are we being healthy, or are we not?!”, is probably what your body would say if it could speak to you 😉
The result is little (if any) progress towards your goals and perhaps ending up in a worse place than when you started.
Truthfully, this yo-yo approach can also cause ‘problems’ with your hormones and metabolism in the long run, making it increasingly difficult to lose weight and improve your health after every ‘yo-yo’ cycle.
Now clearly this isn’t ground-breaking research. Most of us already know that consistency is important and that the ‘yo-yo’ approach doesn’t work, yet this awareness doesn’t seem to be enough…
Why Is It So Hard To Be Consistent & Stick To My Exercise Routine & Healthy Eating Plan?
We now know how important consistency is, but clearly we find it difficult to be consistent.
That initial burst of enthusiasm and excitement we experience when we first start a new exercise routine or eating plan soon fades, usually after disappointing results or perhaps a dip in motivation.
I believe the battle to remain consistent first starts in the approach to achieving your goal.
For example, I believe the aforementioned ‘yo-yo’ approach is often paired with the ‘quick-fix’ mentality. People are searching for fast solutions to their body problems.
The health and fitness industry doesn’t exactly help with this. Messages of ‘rapid transformation programmes’ and ‘7 day weight loss detoxes’ are shoved in our face daily.
Now, these programmes are not necessarily bad or wrong, they simply don’t promote a change in habits and behaviours. And this, ladies and gentleman, is exactly why being consistent is so hard.
Conversely, an approach that IS based around promoting a change in habits and behaviours is the ONLY proven long-term solution I know of to develop the behaviour of being consistent and achieving safe and lasting results.
Until living a healthy lifestyle become habitual, it’s very unlikely you’ll be consistent. And as you now know, and may well have experienced, without consistency there will be no results.
The Key To Consistency Is To Create Habits
Changing your habits is about establishing a ‘new normal’ so that healthy living becomes your way of life rather than something you either do or don’t do, depending on which phase of your ‘yo-yo cycle’ you’re in.
To demonstrate my point, let me first ask you some questions:
– Do you have to think about brushing your teeth? Or do you simply make your way to the bathroom to do this before you go to bed?
– Do you have to think about your break-time cup of coffee? Or do you simply head to the coffee machine at 10.30am for your caffeine boost?
– Do you have to think about having a shower in the morning? Or do you simply switch on the hot water and jump in before you get dressed?
Well, of course we think about these things, but we often give them very little thought, and do these things more or less automatically, on autopilot. It’s just something we do.
Can you say the same about your exercise and eating habits? Probably not.
For most people these things are not automatic. They require a lot of conscious thought, and with a lot of conscious thought comes a lot of reasons and excuses not to do them!
The clients of ours who have achieved the best results working with us and maintained their results for the long term are those who formed new habits. Those who have made healthy living habitual and automatic.
So, like the automatic habits I asked you about above, what would happen if you knew how to make healthy habits that would promote a healthier, slimmer and happier you automatic as well?
Instead of heading home after work at 5.30pm your habit was to go straight to the gym or meet with your personal trainer?
Instead of making your way to the coffee machine you grabbed a bottle of water and drank that instead?
Instead of having a chocolate bar mid-afternoon you had a healthy snack of fruit and nuts instead?
These simple changes would, over a period of time (through being consistent, of course) make a profound difference to your health and well-being.
Using these examples I hope you can now start to understand the power of creating ‘automatic’ healthy habits and how this is the key to long term health, fitness and body transformation.
Below we’ll reveal our top 5 recommendations on how to actually create these new healthy habits and begin your journey to permanent change.
5 Ways To Create Healthy Habits – Your Path To Success
Here are my top 5 ways to getting started with creating healthy habits and becoming consistent in your approach to losing weight, improving your health and fitness and changing your body shape for good.
Motivation – are you sufficiently motivated?
Before we explore the specifics of creating new habits, an important first step is to establish whether you’re sufficiently motivated to actually achieve the goal. A brief bout of motivation on the 1st of January or following a milestone birthday doesn’t count, either.
This is about a deep inner desire to achieve a goal. The going will get tough at some point along your journey, and motivation is critical to keep you moving forwards during those times. To help our clients at our private training studio create and maintain motivation, we help them connect to a deep seated reason for wanting to achieve their goal.
For example, if a client tells me they “want to lose weight”, I’ll always ask why? Asking why will always help us uncover the real reason for them wanting to achieve that goal.
You see, nobody really wants to lose weight as such, but they want the feeling they’ll have as a result of losing weight. Whether it’s the elation of playing with your kids without getting out of breath or that feeling of total body confidence when you wear your favourite dress to that upcoming party, this is the why behind the goal.
If your motivation comes and goes as frequently as the Scottish sunshine, it’s time to find your ‘why’ for an instant motivation fix.
Addition Over Elimination – Add-on rather than taking away
When creating new habits, we often devote all our energy to stopping our ‘bad habits’ and replacing these with new ‘good habits’.
This is not necessarily wrong, and it certainly may be a successful approach for some people, but most of it simply leads to overwhelm and frustration and the subsequent inability to follow through with your new habit creation.
I’ve found that by instead focusing on simply adding new habits to your current lifestyle, rather than trying eliminate and replacing old habits with new habits, to be a superior approach to successful habit creation. These new habits will naturally replace your old habits in time anyway.
Using an example to illustrate this point…
Let’s say you want to replace your coffee intake with water. Rather than completely eliminating coffee and replacing with water, it would be an easier transition to simply drink more water as well.
As you get used to regularly drinking water (habit being created) you could reduce your coffee intake by 1-2 cups per day as you continue to drink more water. When that then becomes habitual, you could repeat this process until your coffee and water intake is at your desired levels.
Reward Cycle – Cue -> Routine -> Reward
Habits are formed in the brain, and are ‘contained’ within a habit loop; a 3-step cycle of cue, routine, and reward.
I’ll explain this cycle here as simply as possible, but for a full explanation of habits, how they are formed and how to change them, I highly recommend the book ‘The Power Of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg – available on Amazon here.
Essentially, there needs to be a trigger or cue to initiate the habit loop. This could be your alarm clock ringing, an email coming through or the clock hitting 10am.
This cue is typically subconscious, which means we’re not consciously aware of it. In other words it’s automatic. Remember what I said before about habits being automatic? 🙂
The cue sets in motion the next stage in the habit loop, which is the routine. From the examples above, the alarm clock cue could trigger you to get up and go for your morning shower (or hit snooze 5 times in a row…) as your routine.
The clock hitting 10am could trigger you to get up from your desk and make your way to the coffee machine as your routine. And so on…
However, none of this would happen without a reward (or at least a perceived reward) for completing the routine. This is the critical step in the loop and why many fail to successfully create new habits – there is no reward!
The reward for your daily shower routine could be feeling awake and fresh. The reward for your morning coffee could be the feeling of alertness and energy. It is this reward which successfully completes the loop and makes it automatic.
When creating a new habit, there is of course a ‘ramp up’ period, where the aim is to create a new loop. This will require conscious effort and require discipline of repetition over a period of 30+ days but will eventually become habitual and automatic, which as you now know is where the magic happens.
I have a resource below to help you out with this part, but for now the take home message is to ensure you are consciously creating a reward in your mind for creating your new habit.
What is the reward you will get for going to the gym and completing your exercise class? Is it the endorphin high? Is it being able to have a guilt-free meal? Is it the feeling of moving one step closer to your most important goal?
Whatever it is, link the reward to the new habit you’re creating or the habit loop simply won’t be complete! Cue -> Trigger ->
Reward. No reward = no habit created = no consistency = no results.
As an aside, a ‘hack’ or ‘shortcut’ we often use to create new habits is to hi-jack an already existing habit loop. The cue and reward stay exactly the same, but the routine in the middle is changed, forming a new habit loop.
Keep It Simple – One At A Time
Another obstacle to creating new habits is taking on too much at once.
It’s common for many parts of your lifestyle to require adjustment in order to successfully achieve your health and fitness goals, but tackling them all at on time rarely works.
This somewhat depends on your unique ability to handle change (often linked to your stress levels) but my team and I usually recommend just 1 or 2 habits to focus on at any one time. We help our clients figure out which 1 or 2 habits to focus on, but it’s typically those that will have the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time that are dealt with first.
An example of these ‘high impact’ habits include:
– Daily exercise or movement (walking/yoga/pilates)
– High quality sleep of at least 7-8 hours
– Daily hydration with 2-3 litres of pure water
– High quality nutrition based on whole, unprocessed foods
– Stress management strategies to reduce the impact of stress
There’s a high chance these habits will also be relevant to you, so may also be a good place to start when creating your own new habits.
Use A System – Don’t Wing It!
Last but not least, as an extra step to ensure your success in creating a new habit we recommend using a system to track your habits, your consistency and your progress.
There are a few resources we use with our clients to help them do this, which I will share with you below.
1) A Habit Tracking Worksheet – to help you track and record the new habits you are creating.
This sheet includes a section to help you first identify limiting factors. In other words, what factor is limiting your progress that a new habit would help to overcome? Examples would include lack of daily exercise or lack of water intake.
It also includes a section to write down the behavioural goal (new habit) you intend to introduce to create a new habit. Writing things down makes them ‘real’ and keeps them front of mind. It also helps you consider what your habit loop will look like when you create this habit; the cue, routine, and reward.
2) A Success / Consistency Log – to help you log the days you successfully completed your new habit which greatly improves your chances of success.
The recommended time-frame in this log is 66-days, presented as a ’66-day challenge’. Many sources will quote a significantly shorter period to successfully create a new habits, but we recommend sticking with the full 66 days to maximise your chances of integrating this new habit into your life.
Simply place a large red cross in the calendar for each day you successfully complete your behaviour goal. This method works so well because as a chain of red crosses starts to form, we don’t want to break it (with some studies suggesting doing so can actually cause feelings of pain!).
Complete this behavioural goal for the full 66 days (or as close to it as you can) and there’s a very high probability this behaviour will become automatic and habitual.
I highly recommend using both of these resources as your system to ensuring your success in creating your new healthy habits, which will help you finally achieve (and exceed) your health and fitness goals.
Summary – Bringing It All Together
Well done if you’ve made is this far without skipping over any sections!
This is without question the longest blog post I (Luke) have ever written. I wanted to take the time to get it done properly without leaving out any information as I truly I believe the information it contains has the ability to help you transform your health, fitness and body shape.
The basic premise is that most people fail to achieve results – whether it’s improving their fitness, their body shape or losing weight – when following exercise and nutrition programmes or plans. The few that do achieve results very rarely maintain those results and may end up right back (or worse) to where they started.
The reason for this is because there has been no change in behaviours or habits, they were simply following the advice provided to them.
The key to long term, sustainable transformation (results that stick!) is to become consistent in your approach to achieving your health and fitness goals by changing your habits. This is the approach we use with our clients at our private personal training studio to deliver results (which you can read about here) so we know it works!
This blog post has provided a detailed description on exactly how to do that and I sincerely hope it’ll help you change how you approach your own transformation and achieve the results you desire.
If you’d like to find out more about how we help our clients achieve life-changing results by creating new habits you can find more information about applying for your complimentary consultation below.