Whenever I am asked what I do for a living, I am then asked “What is the best diet for weight loss?” or “How much exercise should you do to get in shape?” It comes with the territory of being a health coach.
It is not the asking of the questions that is the problem, it’s the answer I give that seems to be the challenge for most people.
My most common answer is “turn the lights out”, which is then followed by a quizzical look. Surely there must be more to it then simply turning the lights out?
In the fantastic book ‘Lights Out’ by T.S Wiley, it has been found that the more light someone is exposed to, the greater the desire is to consume sugar. Which increases the chances of developing metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
So if you what to improve your health through losing weight and becoming fitter, then having less exposure to light (natural or artificial) would certainly help. More so in my opinion than following a diet or exercise programme, even though they would be helpful as well.
Ask yourself, which would be easier to follow?
I myself have always found turning the lights out easier to do than following a diet or exercise plan. The easier the habit, the easier it is to follow.
Being a health coach for many years, I have noticed a pattern between my more successful clients and my not so successful clients. The more successful clients are able to follow simple habits consistently for a long period of time, in some cases years.
I am quite confident my clients who are reading this, are either smiling or rolling their eyes. Smiling because they understand what I am getting at, or rolling their eyes thinking here he goes again.
This is because I consistently harp on about the importance of consistency. It is the one and only thing that ultimately will ensure people achieve their goals.
Yes, you might have the best diet ever, or been given an exercise plan by someone who appears on the cover of a popular fitness magazine, but do you have the skills to do it over and over again for as long as you want the results to last?
What you have to do to improve your health and get in better shape is simple. Eat only natural food till you feel 80% full, and perform challenging exercise for as long as you can as often as you can. Simple.
It is the doing it that isn’t simple. The fittest and most in-shape people are capable of doing it day after day, after day. To the point it becomes their life and who they are.
Try going to a gym or following the latest diet craze and learning the skill of consistency.
There are very few health professionals teaching the skill of consistency, and it is a skill. It is something that can be learned and practised by anyone, anywhere.
So why are so few people teaching it as the foundation of any health plan they prescribe?
It’s because it is a very hard skill to learn and it takes time to master. In our current society, anything that is hard to learn or takes time to produce results is quickly sidelined for something more exciting, sexy and instant.
To learn the skill of consistency, you first must have a mindset that is long-term rather than short-term focused. You must want the results you gain to be sustainable and not last just for a few weeks or months.
I have had so many people say to me that they did follow a successful plan, but stopped following it after a while, therefore it was not a successful plan. Only when it stops being a plan and becomes a way of life is it truly successful.
Habits are what make up what we do each day of our lives. 99% of habits are subconscious and become a way of life. Only when something becomes a habit, will it become a part of who you are.
The first skill to learn to become more consistent is to start a behaviour that is simple to do and is linked to a habit you are already doing consistently. For example, brushing your teeth might be something you are already doing consistently every day. So when you brush your teeth, stretch your calves at the same time. You then end up with healthy teeth and flexible calves. Which can lead to less tooth decay and increased amount of walking (cardiovascular fitness) as your calves don’t get tired so easily.
This skill is known as an anchor. Anchoring a new behaviour with an existing habit increases the consistency of the new behaviour until it becomes a habit itself.
An anchor can also be a location. Whenever you are in a certain location you perform the new behaviour. If you do this every time you are in the location, then the behaviour becomes a habit.
For any new behaviour to become a habit, you also need the right type and amount of support around you. You might find a new behaviour is not in keeping with what everyone around you is doing. You might want to eat more veg at dinner, where the family is happy sticking with pasta.
Expressing the importance of the new behaviour with the people around you, will increase the consistency of it, as they will consciously make an effort to help you apply it. If they don’t know about it, then how can they help.
The last thing to do to make it easier to become consistent is to make yourself accountable. A large number of psychology studies have found, that the more you share your goals with people the more they will hold you to account, either directly themselves or you will not want to show people you failed to do what you said you were going to do.
Ultimately it is down to you to be consistent in making the changes you know you need to make to achieve the health you want. If you don’t have a strong reason for changing in the first place then you will be less likely to follow a new behaviour for long enough for it to become a habit and a way of life.
You can either keep going around in a circle and getting the same results you have always had, or become more consistent in following what it will take to change your life for the rest of your life.