How many times have you started a fitness program in order to lose weight and get in shape, only to abandon your efforts in a few weeks or after only a few days?
How many times have you lost weight on a quick weight loss diet, only to find that once you started eating normally you put the weight (and probably a few extra pounds) back on?
Although there are many reasons this may have happened, the major component missing from your efforts is the development of a “fitness mindset”.
A fitness mindset will keep you moving forward and making progress in your efforts to lose weight and get in shape, even when you make mistakes or encounter obstacles.
THINGS YOU MUST UNDERSTAND
In order to develop a fitness mindset one of the first things you have to understand is that whatever physical shape you are in today, it is the result of thousands of habitual actions performed throughout your life.
And you have to understand that just as you didn’t get out of shape and overweight overnight, you won’t get in shape overnight either. You have to truly understand that “instant gratification” is not possible.
Most importantly, you have to understand that a fitness mindset sees life as a journey rather than a destination.
I know this firsthand because I spent many years pursuing fitness destinations.
I went on many quick weight loss diets and tried many extreme exercise programs that were successful for a short time, but were not sustainable for the long haul. As soon as I resumed my normal eating habits and stopped performing hours of exercise I gained weight and got out of shape.
It wasn’t until I read Bill Phillips “Body for Life” that I really began to understand and develop my concept of a “fitness mindset.” Phillips explains that his eating plan is a sustainable plan – it is not a diet. It is an eating plan for life. It is a plan that is built on sound nutritional principles and it also includes a plan for eating those foods that you believe you just can’t live without!
It really got me thinking about how to develop sustainable eating and exercise plans – how to get started and how to make them a part of my life FOREVER!
I described my first efforts at developing a fitness mindset in my post How to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Get Fit.
LESSONS I LEARNED
I didn’t call it a fitness mindset at first – it took some time for me to come up with the full concept. However, along the way I developed some steps anyone can follow to develop a fitness mindset and maintain a successful fitness lifestyle.
Here are some of the things I learned:
1. Any changes you make have to be sustainable (meaning they can’t be severely restricting or extreme).
You have to find ways of eating and exercising that are effective, AND that are compatible with your lifestyle because these are things you are going to have to sustain throughout the rest of your life.
I knew that as a new mom I could not find the time to go to the gym and work out for an hour, and that I had to find ways to change my diet while still eating the same foods I prepared for the rest of my family.
2. You need to take baby steps rather than overwhelming yourself by trying to make too many changes all at once.
Research shows that trying to make too many changes at once is the number one reason people fail at developing good eating and exercise habits.
So instead of overhauling your entire diet all at once, and implementing an extreme exercise plan, you need to begin to make only a few small changes. Continue to remind yourself that success breeds success.
You have to change your mindset (from instant gratification) and realize that small changes add up to big results, and small successes make it easier for you to increase your efforts.
My first changes were very small – I jumped rope for 15 minutes every day and I cut all sugared sodas out of my diet.
3. You need to make your baby steps your habits.
You have to find ways to make your baby steps your habits, so you do it easily without even thinking about it.
There are a number of ways to develop new habits, but I found it easiest to develop new habits by anchoring them to existing habits. For example, if you want to start drinking more water, you might try saying to yourself “I will drink a glass of water before I brush my teeth in the morning”.
When I wanted to start jumping rope, I made it a habit by anchoring it to my habit of putting my daughter down for her afternoon nap. After I put my daughter in her crib, I changed into my workout clothes and started jumping.
4. You need to focus on systems and processes rather than long term goals.
Long term goals tell you there is something wrong with you, and that you won’t be happy until you reach those goals.
Focusing on systems and processes still moves you forward and your satisfaction is found in completing these systems and processes. You can be happy while you are getting fit instead of waiting until you have reached your long-term goal.
Jumping rope was my process and my system was to jump for 15 minutes every day. By focusing on the process and system, rather than a goal of losing 65 pounds, I was able to feel good about my daily efforts and make progress toward losing weight and getting fit at the same time.
5. You must accept responsibility for your current circumstances and take control of your life.
QUIT MAKING EXCUSES!
You have to stop blaming other people and circumstances for your physical condition. You have to stop playing the victim – allowing other people and circumstances to control your life.
I had a million excuses when I first started trying to get in shape. Some of them I had kept around for so long they had become family pets.
It was not until I quit making excuses and made myself a priority that I was able to make progress.
6. You need to develop a strong “why power”.
Instead of focusing on HOW you are going to lose weight, you need to think about WHY you want to lose weight and get in shape. And your reason needs to be based on an intrinsic motivation rather than an extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivations come from inside and they are based on personal satisfaction, rather than satisfying others.
Extrinsic motivations require validation by others or have an external reward. Examples of extrinsic motivations are things like wanting to please your significant other or spouse, or wanting to impress your old classmates at a high school reunion.
The danger of relying on extrinsic motivations to sustain you, is that when you don’t receive the response you expected, you lose your motivation and quit.
My “why power” was born when I overheard two students talking about their “fat” teacher. I was so embarrassed and humiliated that I resolved I would take control of my life so no one could ever refer to me as that “fat” teacher again.
Four questions to ask yourself when trying to find your “why power” are:
- Why do I really want to lose weight?
- Why is losing weight really desirable to me? (how will it improve my life)
- What’s in it for me and others? (Not what kind of response will I get)
- What are the consequences of me not doing it?
7. You need to develop an “identity-based” goal.
Decide what type of person you want to become and do the things that type of person does on a consistent basis.
When I decided that I wanted to be strong, I did the thing that strong people do – I started lifting weights. As long as I was lifting weights I was meeting my “identity-based” goal.
8. You need to overcome “stinking thinking.”
This is the last and most difficult thing you MUST do.
“Stinking thinking” tell you that you aren’t good enough and that you won’t ever be good enough. Stinking thinking says you are “less than enough”. It points out all your past mistakes and makes you label yourself a “failure”.
Even today I battle with stinking thinking, but positive affirmations, meditation and journaling help me overcome these negative thoughts. I am learning to stop looking at the past, and to live in the present.
As Buddah so aptly put it:
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A FITNESS MINDSET – IN ALL AREAS OF LIFE
A fitness mindset – is it only applicable to the area of health and physical fitness? I don’t think so.
As a personal trainer, and online fitness coach I obviously help my clients develop this mindset to reach their health and fitness goals and to sustain them throughout their lives. However, I also encourage them to develop a fitness mindset in other areas of their lives.
A fitness mindset is a mindset that sees life as a journey, rather than a bunch of destinations.
Once you truly understand that, you begin to realize that the joy is in the journey.
You begin to celebrate your small successes and to look at your obstacles and mistakes as challenges rather than failures.
You also begin to see through your efforts of consistently taking baby steps, developing GOOD habits, focusing on the process rather than the goal and eliminating your stinking thinking (in whatever area of life you want to improve) you are developing a fitness mindset’ – a mindset that will be the difference between success and failure on your journey to whatever you want to achieve in your life.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Are there areas in your life that you want to change? What do you think about developing a fitness mindset? Have you tried other methods that helped you progress successfully on your life’s journey?
Please leave your comments below. I really want to hear from you.
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