As we are immersed in a culture saturated with messages about quick weight loss fixes—buy this pill, do this quick wrap, do this cleanse, etc– I think it’s so easy for us to have a clouded view of the big-picture healthy LIFESTYLE. We become so obsessed with how to lose weight fast, that we fail to see how to lay down a foundation thing brings about long-term results.
In this article, I want to walk you through 8 principles that I believe help establish a long-term healthy lifestyle.
1 | A WEIGHT LOSS PLAN SHOULD HAVE LONG-TERM RESULTS IN MIND
I’m sure this resonates with you in some way–you do a cleanse or some kind of short-term fix with the intent of losing weight. THEN, you tell yourself, THEN once you are at your ideal weight, you’ll keep it off. Right?
But that is usually not what has happened. Instead, that weight loss temporarily happens and then seems to climb right back on.
I’ve seen this happen quite often with friends who have had surgery to help with severe weight loss. The problem is, those quick fixes are only temporary. They aren’t pinpointing the issue: the habits that led to the weight gain.
My own financial journey has helped me understand this better. For years Andy and I have struggled with student loan debt. And we keep thinking, “Gosh, if only we got some lump sum of money to rescue us from this debt.” And we have had lump sums of money–and guess what? We end up RIGHT back where we started. The problem isn’t the money, it’s our habits. So now we aren’t looking for a quick fix–we are looking at our habits closely and making long-term changes. And those long-term changes lead to long-term results.
I want to encourage you to think about how your health/fitness plan aligns with long-term goals. Sure, at times you might do a temporary plan that is more strict, but what’s the end goal? Is it to change HABITS or is it just to get you to a NUMBER? If the plan is set up to attack the problem at its source, you are much more set up for success. Remember: your ultimate goal should be to create a healthy lifestyle.
2 | SOMETIMES WE NEED TO MAKE SOME FOOD SACRIFICES AT FIRST IN ORDER TO BREAK HABITS
I know I mentioned before that quick diets can be a problem, and I still stand by that, but I think sometimes dialing things in a bit and limiting certain foods temporarily could challenge you to break bad habits.
For example, Andy and I recently did a food elimination plan to determine what was causing severe stomach issues for me. During this time, Diet Soda was completely off limits. Poor Andy, he went from drinking SIX cans a day to drinking ZERO! He was a pathetic mess for 30 days. But he started to learn what else to grab for. And guess what happened after those 30 days? He tried a Diet Coke and found it was gross to him. That experience pushed him out of his comfort zone a little and led him to find healthier habits.
I experienced a similar situation when I did the 21 Day Fix for the first time. On this plan, I had to significantly reduce my carbohydrates. The problem is, I eat rice like a boss– it’s my favorite food, so I was desperate to find an alternative. That’s when I discovered cauliflower rice. Had I not been desperate though, I wouldn’t have tried the “rice” at all!
I believe that temporary fixes with the intention of fixing habits can be very beneficial because it helps us discover new healthy habits. I also believe this should be done on a small scale—not on immediately categorizing all foods on the planet as either “good” or “bad”, but instead pinpointing a particular trigger food and troubleshooting healthy substitutes.
3 | FOODS SHOULDN’T BE “OFF LIMITS” PERMANENTLY–IT’S ABOUT LEARNING MODERATION
One of the biggest traps I fell into on my health and fitness journey was in labeling foods “good” vs “bad”, “clean” vs “dirty.” It got me into a trap of self-sabotage. I would eat “good foods” and then if I “slipped” and ate a “bad food” I’d say “screw it, I’ll eat a few more bad foods before I go back to eating “good” again. Sound familiar? I’m pretty sure 90% of America can relate to this thinking–we are pros at this attitude!!!!
I have since learned how to still say “yes” to foods, but to limit my use of them. Now, don’t get me wrong, like I said in the previous section, for a short-term basis sometimes you need to limit foods to break habits–but I don’t recommend banning that food for a long-term period of time.
A friend of mine recently lost over 100 pounds and she said something really poignant: “As I set about to lose weight, I decided that I wouldn’t restrict myself from any foods that I couldn’t live my whole life without.” Instead, she sought to learn how to watch those portion sizes and create a healthy lifestyle.
4 | AIM FOR THE 80/20 RULE
If we aren’t restricting foods for life, and we aren’t doing fast fixes for weight loss, then what is someone to do if they actually want to LOSE weight? That’s where I believe that learning to eat healthy 80-90% of the time is so important in living a healthy lifestyle. I find that for me, it means dialing in my nutrition on the weekdays, when it’s easiest, but then eating out a few times on the weekend. Or maybe it’s having some dark chocolate at night–that’s ok!
The analytical part of my brain has always heard about this 80/20 approach and has gone “But EXACTLY how much is 80% and how much is 20%?”
I wish I had an answer for that! I find the best way to help with that balance is every time I have 1 treat meal or dessert, I watch my portion & make sure the next meal is healthy. In other words, I bounce RIGHT back. That can be so hard to do sometimes, but getting right back up on that horse is key, not saying “well, I ate this bad thing, let me eat a few more bad things before I get good again.” Again, that “good” and “bad” thinking can be dangerous!
5 | YOU HAVE THE STRENGTH TO GET HEALTHIER
I still remember the fourth of July when I was sitting with my sisters in law, listening to the amazing things they were doing with their health. They were working out, they were eating right….and I sat there feeling completely defeated. Here I had tried working out, and I failed repeatedly. What is wrong with me?
In that moment, I concluded that maybe I just wasn’t meant to be healthy. It just wasn’t in the cards for me.
It was not long after that when I got connected with a community that I love, found workouts I love, & had a nutrition plan that worked for me. It took finding what worked for me, but I now firmly believe that everyone has the strength to do it, they just need to find something that they can get excited about. Not only do you have the strength to get healthier, but it truly can become a part of you. You have it in you to live a healthy lifestyle.
6 | YOU NEED TO HAVE A BETTER VISION AND ACCEPTANCE OF WHO YOU ARE RIGHT NOW
Marketing Coach, Brittany Bullen, put it so well when she recently posted this:
Part of establishing a long-term healthy lifestyle means learning to love yourself. If you struggle with this, I recommend the book Mastering Your Mean Girl by Melissa Ambrosini.
7| DON’T WAIT FOR LIFE TO GET LESS STRESSFUL TO WORKOUT, WORKOUT TO MAKE LIFE GET LESS STRESSFUL
So often people tell me that life is busy right now, but once XYZ is over, then they will start working out. Here’s the thing, we will always have XYZ in our lives. If we are constantly working fitness around the crazy times, we aren’t creating a healthy lifestyle. The secret is learning to squeeze it in, even when life is crazy!!! There are people busier than you who are finding a way.
When I worked 50+ hours a week and with 2 kids at home I thought there was no way I could workout. But I found short, effective workouts to squeeze in. And you know what? The workout gave me so much clarity that I worked more effectively, accomplishing things in less time, and sleeping better to boot! If you ever want some help finding a good, fast workout, feel free to email me for help email@example.com
8 | WE HAVE GREATER SUCCESS WITH A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE WHEN WE ARE IN A COMMUNITY & HAVE THAT ACCOUNTABILITY
Someone put this concept well to me: if you skipped your workout, who would know? Who would care? When you are doing your healthy lifestyle on your own, it can be easy to skip working out, especially if you are early on in your journey.
Once I joined private accountability groups, I got that awesome pat on the back to help keep me going. I had a community of people who actually cared about how I did.
Our society has gotten the word “accountability” all wrong. We perceive accountability as finding some friend who can slap the cookie out of our hands as we reach for it. Honestly, that kind of accountability is ineffective. I rarely see negative reinforcement work like that. That motivation and desire to do well has to come from within, and then accountability is needed to reinforce the healthy behaviors, not punish a person for deviating off course.
That’s what drives my fitness accountability groups. Each day, everyone goes into the group to celebrate how they did! They share their struggles–and others chime in not to “slap hands” and make someone feel worse, but they offer their own tips because most of the time, they have been there before and can totally relate. But if someone is doing it all on their own, they completely miss all of that!! They miss that support. They miss getting strategies and tips from others. That was something that was missing for me—and by introducing that concept into my lifestyle, it truly has created a fit LIFESTYLE for me.