We recently discussed “baby steps” and the simple act of changing ONE habit at a time. So let's talk life application and your fitness goals…
In his book, The Power of Less,Author Leo Babauta shares some interesting data:
- Adopting one new habit at a time results in an 85% chance of success
- Adopting two new habits at once: a 35% chance of success
- Adopting three or more new habits at once: less than 10% chance of success
WOW! According to those stats, most of us put ourselves at a 3-5% chance of success! (or less!)
But remember, it's not just the “choosing” of a new goal/habit that makes you successful. You must also make sure that the habit is realistic. Simply saying, “I want to run a marathon” or “I'm going to add more cardio” is much too broad (even if it is the ultimate goal). The couch to 5k programs are a great example of this, as they take a “big” goal, and break it into manageable pieces (aka habits), until the “true” goal is accomplished somewhat effortlessly. So a manageable habit would be along the lines of “I'm going to begin a C25K program”, or “I will add 30 minutes of cardio twice per week”, etc..
To declare, “I'm going to clean up my eating this month!” is not sufficient either. Break down the specifics of what “cleaning up your eating” means to you. This will be different for everyone. Let's take a walk through this process to see how it could look:
Suppose that cleaning up my diet means that I want to: lower my sugar intake, increase my protein, eat more fiber, and drink more water. I would then look at this list of items and decide which one would have the greatest impact. Let's say that I know that my protein is WAY too low for my muscle building/maintenance goals, so I decide to increase protein as my first fitness goal. I would take this one step further and decide how to increase protein. I would think of how and what types of proteins I like to eat, and then break it down a smaller goals. If I love organic beef jerky, I may decide that I will add an extra pack of jerky to my meal plan three times per week for the next month. This is in addition to what I already eat. So this would mean that I am adding protein to my diet. Or, I may decide to add a protein shake to my day, on top of my usual eating. This adds protein to my diet without changing any other factors. Once this has been done consistently I can then tackle more proteins if I'm still not at the level that I want to be at. Or, move to the next goal (i.e. fiber). But trying to attack all three macronutrients at the same time typically doesn't pan out well.
The same goes for a goal to “lower sugar intake” (again, too broad). Instead of attempting to cut all sugar out of the diet all at once (not realistic), break it down into smaller attainable goals. An example would be to remove one soda (or Salted Caramel Frappuccino, Kiki) from each day, if prone to drinking multiple sodas per day. Simply cutting a daily soda out of the diet reduces sugar intake, which in turn lowers carb intake. Lowering your carb intake will naturally increase protein to carbohydrate ratio.
See where this is going? One change, sparking multiple results.
Are we saying that you should cut all sodas and Fraps from your diet and run a 5k? Ummm, no (and I'm sure we all know, that Kiki will do neither). We're looking for major impact items here, remember? If you only drink soda a few times per month, or despise running, those may not be your “wow factor” items. Only you know what you need to work on, what is unnecessary “excess,” or what you are willing (or NOT willing, as in Kiki's love of sweets/hatred for cardio) to let go of. Make room for things that you love, in moderation, change (add OR subtract) what you feel you can/should change (without being unrealistic with yourself – don't force yourself to eat quinoa, for instance, if you can't stand it).
Yes, these seem like simple things that we all know and have heard since the beginning of our journey, but yet sometimes the simplest things are the ones that we neglect. We want to “multitask” EVERYTHING, including our weight loss. In the long run this accomplishes nothing other than putting us on the fast track to nowhere – with habits that cannot be maintained. Although it seems that progress will be snails' pace when it is one thing at a time, these things add up over the course of one, two, or ten years, leading to a changed LIFE.