Obtaining greater health comes through how and what we eat (diet) and how much we move (exercise). Aside from the physical aspects of exercise, the rest of the game, as is much of life, is mental. It may sound obvious but I'll say it anyway – health is both mental and physical; we cannot have one without the other. In order to navigate a successful path to weight loss, or really anything for that matter, we need to improve our mental game
In this post you’re going to get a map to obtaining greater health, both mental and physical.
It’s All About Habits
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle
Our lives are a culmination of what we do. Habits are those things we do without even thinking about them.
Habits are hard to change because we’re both unaware of them and they've been literally hard-wired into our brains. However, we can change them. For example:
- I overcame alcoholism
- Adam and Courtney Baker paid off their debt and traveled abroad for a year, with a newborn daughter.
- Ryan Biddulph and his wife Kelli continue to travel the globe and blog about it. I met Ryan and Kelli in person a few years back when we lived in Thailand. They’re still traveling.
Before we can change our habits, we first need to figure out what they are.
Figure Out What Your Habits Are
When it comes to weight loss the first step is to track your intake and output. At first don't think about changing what you eat or how much you exercise, simply record everything.
A few tips:
- Be honest – no one is looking but you.
- Be as close to accurate as possible – scan the items and enter new food items.
- Don't put much stock in caloric output – outside of a lab it's almost impossible to measure accurately.
- Be sure your scale isn't lying to you.
Suggested tool: MyNetDiary
Make Your Habits Easier To Change
As cliche as it may sound, set a SMART goal. Not only does a goal keep you focused on your objective, it tells you there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s an example:
Goal: I will weigh 175 pounds by November 1st
Specific: On or before November 1st, when measuring myself first thing in the morning using my scale at home, I will weigh 175 pounds. I will attain this goal because I want to have greater health, have more muscle, look better (less flabby), be more athletic (be able to jog a mile without collapsing, lift more weight), and feel better on a daily basis
Measurable: I will weigh myself on the scale every day
Attainable: I will attain this goal through a combination of diet and exercise so that I burn fat and gain muscle
Realistic: I am willing and able to work toward this goal
Timely: I will achieve a weight of 175 pounds by November 1st
One additional tip that really helped me and I want to pass on to you – make smaller, incremental changes that you can do for a week, and focus on one per week. For example:
- Plan a single meal for the week – either breakfast, lunch or dinner
- Take a fish oil supplement every day
- Take a multivitamin every day
Create a Framework, Not a Diet
A diet is defined as, “Food and drink regularly provided or consumed.” That’s pretty non-specific, and for good reason – there is no one true diet to rule them all. To use another cliche, the best diet is one you can stick to. That’s why I prefer a framework rather than a diet.
A framework is defined as “the basic structure of something.” In my opinion, a framework is better than a diet because it allows for flexibility.
Unless you’re a robot, you’ve got your mind to contend with, especially in the beginning of a diet. A framework allows you to be flexible yet have a plan in place that you can stick to.
An example of a framework is the Diet Quality Hierarchy (DQH) from the book Diet Cults. Per the DQH, when selecting foods to eat, start at the top and work your way down:
- Nuts, seeds, and healthy oils
- High-quality meat and seafood
- Whole grains
- Refined grains
- Low-quality meat and seafood
- Fried foods
Moderation Means Nothing Is Out of Bounds
Every “diet” limits what you can eat. There are many reasons for that. Ultimately these restrictions cause you to eat less, thus you lose weight. I don’t have anything against any of the diets out there, I just don't follow any of them because I like to remain flexible and not feel massive guilt for going off the golden path.
Having said that, some foods are more nutritious than others, and you want a large majority of the food you eat to be nutritious. However, you can and should be able to enjoy foods you love, and depending on how nutritious they are, you may simply need to eat them in moderation.
Although it should go without saying, if you eat cake all the time, more than likely you aren’t going to achieve your health goals, and you’ll be hungrier than you were before.
For the record I love cake, especially cheesecake.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up For “Going Off Track”
There's no such thing as “perfect”, and no need to be. One meal isn't going to throw your weight loss off track. Missing one training session isn’t going to throw off the gains you’ve made.
Our focus is on the long-term.
It can be difficult to keep the focus out a few months, however it takes your body time to adjust to a new way of eating and acting. So when you do go off track, and I’m sure you will, accept that it happened and then get back to your plan.
Many fail on their journey to health because they focus on the physical but do nothing about the psychological. It takes courage to look at yourself critically, identify your habits, decide to make a change and then take action on that decision
Be courageous. Determine your goal. Chart your journey and start on the road. Success will be yours.
How have you successfully lost weight? Please share your story in the comments below.
Image courtesy of Patrick Barry.