Why I Ditched Attempting to Stick to a Diet ‘PERFECTLY’ …. and Got Better Results.

I’m not brilliant with too many rules in life.  I like to make them – not follow them.  Probably why I’ve worked for myself for over 10 years.  I’m also not a lover of routines that mean my life looks the same day to day, week in, week out.  I like variety and I love to be able to follow my mood.  Probably why I’ve worked for myself for over 12 years now!

However rituals.  Now there’s a word I love.  Reliable, soothing, grounding, predictable rituals.

So recently I had a super interesting experience.

The Summer Body Challenge.

I signed up to a ‘Summer Body Challenge’ with my bootcamp.  I didn’t think twice, and signed up as I have gotten brilliant results with them over the years.  They know their stuff, they know women, and the know how women get results.

Challenges are also something I love.  To me, a challenge is an opportunity for growth, for learning, for moving forward.  It’s what I live for, so it was a no brainer. Sign me up.

I think these kinds of challenges are BRILLIANT for a kick start – fantastic if you need some focus and motivation and would highly recommend them….however for me, this time, things went a bit wrong ….

The Challenge I Didn’t Expect

The challenge was 8 Weeks.  The challenge was simple.  Submit a food diary each week, come to 3 classes a week, and do the weekly challenge we send you by email.  Join the Facebook Group, and post about your journey.  Easy.  I was pretty much doing this already.

Before the challenge (which was entirely optional) I was doing consistently 4 – 5 workouts (3 x botocamps and 2 PT sessions) every week, and eating clean 80-90% of the week.

As soon as I felt the pressure of the challenge, I started to sabotage myself.  It was just so weird.  I’d never experienced this before.  What was happening?

Something fundamental about this challenge was all of a sudden making me feel stressed, and I stopped enjoying my usual workouts and diet.

Whilst some of the ladies doing the challenge were having phenomonal results, I was going backwards, then round in circles. Seeing how great everyone else was doing was making me MORE stressed!  Hmmm. Interesting.

So, as I do, I reflected, analysed and started to look for answers to my behaviour.

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More Work = Less Results

Better Habits = Better Results

Turns out there was one big factor, that has caused a bit of a revelation.

By signing up the challenge I’d inadvertently given my brain more to do.  I’d made my life more hard work.

Even though I attend the bootcamp anyway, 3 x times per week, now I HAD to be there.  Even though I eat clean 80/90% of the time and often fill in food diaries for myself, now I HAD to hand it in. If I didn’t I would FAIL.  Failure does not feel like something I want to do, be or have.

This concept of failure did something weird to me, and I started to feel more and more overwhelmed.  All of sudden I didn’t feel like I was doing these things for me anymore.  I felt like I was doing them to prove I was doing them.  This hadn’t entered my head before I started!

Now in reality, the challenge wasn’t really anything extra to do at all on paper, but in my often overwhelmed and busy head, it had added more things I needed to do … PERFECTLY, in order to achieve ‘success’ with the challenge.  Perfect being the key word here.

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Being Perfect

I was getting so frustrated because I was forgetting to hand in food diaries, and I had a holiday booked which would ‘ruin’ my efforts and mean I would ‘fail’ the challenge.

I was spending so much energy focused on how to stick to the challenge and play by the rules – I was trying to be PERFECT – and it actually started to stress me out.

In my head I could either do it ‘perfectly’ or I’d ‘fail’.

It was here I started to have a major light-bulb moment.  When we try to do things perfectly, we create a situation where we either win or lose.

However when we make the goal simply to improve ourselves WE ALWAYS WIN.

What Has Worked for Me.

When I sat down to analyse the situation I found I had the same pattern with detoxes, or strict juice diets and all that stupid stuff.  I never stick to the rules.  Then I feel like I’ve ‘failed’.  Then I punish myself by eating more rubbish than I would normally or working out less to prove the theory, that in fact, I am a failure.

Turns out, I kind of liked how I was doing things, and the results I was getting, so all I had done was added more pressure in my life, I didn’t need.  The pressure to do things ‘perfectly’, when in fact, what I was doing was leading to personal and physical growth already.

For me, over the years, it has created a massive mental shift and empowered me, when I stopped focusing on trying to do things ‘perfectly’ and instead focused on consistency.

I needed the Summer Body Challenge to finally help me realise – as long as I focus on growth and improvement, I can never fail. Theres no point in trying to do things perfectly because humans are inherently flawed with up and down days.

***NOTE THE PRESSURE ALL CAME FROM MY BRAIN, NOT AT ALL FROM THE BOOTCAMP OR INSTRUCTORS WHO ARE AMAZING!!!  see Heatone Fitness if you need some support or I can introduce you.  I would highly recommend them!!!

**** EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY PLEASE NOTE MANY WOMEN HAVE ACHIEVED INCREDIBLE RESULTS FROM THIS BOOTCAMP (including me in the last 2 years) AND THIS CHALLENGE – IT WAS ALL WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN MY HEAD.

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The Easy Road, The Hard Road, and The Growth Mindset Road

Why do I find it so hard to stick to the rules?  Because it involves trying to be ‘perfect’ in my head, and this puts too much pressure on me as they aren’t the rules I WANT to live by.  It’s too hard, it feels miserable and I resent it.  I want balance (I am a Libra after all).  I want life ON MY TERMS.

I approach my life in a certain way.  Growth is hugely important to me.  Learning, growing, education, getting steadily better in one or more areas.  I’ve always been this way.  I like to challenge myself.

I want to ENJOY life.  Challenges, for me, are (as the name implies) challenging, but they don’t feel HARD.

Hard makes me feel bored, flat, tired or deprived (diets and detoxes).  Challenged makes me feel alive (lifting heavier weights or doing a new exercise).

The fact I had ‘committed’ to submitting food diaries and doing little challenges AND had another Facebook Page to monitor in my feed, felt hard.  Turns out this was all it took to throw me off my game.  Just this tiny change….It was fascinating.

How could something so simple, and so similar to what I was already doing tip the scales for me in such a dramatic way….?

By intending to motivate myself, what I actually did was gave myself MORE to think about, and MORE to do, and added MORE pressure to myself (I can be a tad competitive!), when the irony was, what I was doing before it was working great for me.

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The Revelation

In addition I had a major revelation.  I no longer cared about losing weight.  It isn’t a goal of mine anymore. I’m trying to maintain my results and tone up.  So I’d given myself more to think about, more to do, and the goal of the entire challenge (weight loss) wasn’t even my goal.

Turns out, I’d gotten used to thinking I NEEDED to lose weight, because as a girl / woman I’ve spent my entire life thinking this way.  It was a pattern of thought, not a conscious goal.

So I started to think about what HAD worked for me over the years and what had worked AGAINST me….It got really, really interesting…..

The irony in this whole crazy situation is that my normal week is working out 3 – 5 times a week and eating clean 80 – 90% of the time.  These are my daily / weekly habits.

I’ve drank a litre of water upon waking since I was in my teens. I then drink warm water with a slice of lemon.  I eat eggs most days for my breakfast.  All habits.  All easy.  All on auto-pilot.  At first they took some getting used to, but then they became rituals and routines.  Like making the kids breakfast.  Just part of my day.  Easy.

Creating positive habits have to be things you think you add to your life and do them long term.  Creating positive habits isn’t about depriving yourself or removing things from your life that you enjoy.  Creating positive rituals that set you up for the day involves ADDING, REPLACING, REFINING.  Now this is something I enjoy immensely!! Feels like growth, not a slow painful death like detoxing feels for me.

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How to Create Rituals that Stick

The more often you perform an action or behave a certain way, the more it gets physically wired into your brain.

Every time you act in the same way, a specific neuronal pattern is stimulated and becomes strengthened in your brain.

Enthusiasm is Common. Commitment is Rare

Apparently 54% of people who wanted to change their ways fail to last longer than 6 months.

The average person makes the same resolution 10 times over their lifetime.

Once again, it’s not that we don’t know what to do to change it.  It’s that we find it too hard to commit long term.

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Consistency over a long term period is the 1 Thing You Are Missing.

Losing weight is simple, and although it takes effort, it is easy.  Eat right, move more.  We’ve all done it.  The hard bit is KEEPING IT OFF.

So what’s the secret to CONSISTENCY?

1. You need a NEW GOAL.

If you’re goal is weight loss, you will be motivated UNTIL YOU LOSE WEIGHT.  For some this could be a few pounds, and then they lose interest.  For others who have a goal weight, they might even reach their goal weight, then put it all back on again.

Once you have lost weight, or get near your goal, you will then lose motivation because you have been driven to your goal by the pain of feeling overweight.

Instead, you need something that continues to drive you AFTER you reach your goal weight.

This is all related to associating lots and lots of happiness, joy and pleasure to the process of being healthy and fit.

You have to learn to love movement, exercise, challenge and nourishing your body.

You have to make it feel good, and get those habits locked down on auto-pilot.

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2. Ride the Motivation Wave

Motivational waves are when you feel really inspired to take action!  Ride these all the way and take advantage of the moment, before your brain talks you out of it.  Get in your car and go to the gym, put on your trainers, sign up for that class… take action now!

You have about 5 seconds to do this before your brain goes “WOAHHHHH there….do you REALLY think that’s a good idea?  It’s too hard.”

So use this motivation wave to your advantage and act in the moment.  Commit to something, someone or somewhere.

3. Predict the Obstacles Ahead of Time

You have to analyse ahead of time where you may run in to trouble, and come up with the solutions ahead of time.  At least try to prepare for them.

For example, I know when I work from occasionally, I can be tempted to get a treat to eat at my desk and drink way too much tea and coffee.

So I prepare for this by making sure that if I’m working from home, there are no treats in the cupboard.  I also try to fit in a personal training session or bootcamp on the days I work from home, to ensure that if I do succumb to temptation, at least I’ll work some of it off!

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4. Think Small Consistent Wins

Huge life altering changes that make you feel ‘put out’ will not last because they feel ‘hard’.

Instead think small, consistent, daily wins which over time will be compounded to greater longer lasting success.

“Compounding is the greatest mathematical discovery of all time.” — Albert Einstein

So, in order for a good habit to become sustainable and enjoyable, you should make progress in increments as opposed to going “all in”.  This way you’re much more likely to maintain the change.

When consistency is the problem, it is far better to commit to practising for just 5 minutes or less a day and succeed at it, and then slowly build on success.

For example when I first started to try and eat eggs each morning I used to feel so sick and inconvenienced.  So I started trying to just eat them twice a week.  Before I knew it I was enjoying them so much, nearly 3 years later, I’m still doing it nearly every day!!  Even on holiday.

To make a habit stick, it must be do-able enough for you not to ‘fail’ at being consistent.  For example start with 2 pushups for 1 week.  Drink just one glass of water more.  Replace just 1 cup of tea with a herbal tea.

The goal at this point is not volume or amounts.  The GOAL IS TO CREATE A NEW AUTOMATIC HABIT.  A RITUAL.

5. The Secret to Permanent Weight Loss

You need to learn to love the process.  You have to love eating well and moving more as a way of life.  THIS TAKES SLOW AND CONSISTENT EFFORT.

Throw everything at it, too quickly and too intensely and you’ll keep falling off that wagon in spectacular fashion every single time.

Embrace the process. Look for rituals.

You’ve tried magic bullets, life hacks and detoxes before.  Yet here we are.

It’s time for a new approach.  Embody the tortoise, not the hare.  Think marathon, not a sprint.

If you have fallen off the wagon, and you don’t seem to be able to keep up that will power, check out my blog on 8 Things You Never Tried Before to Stick to a Weight Loss Plan

Has anything I have said resonated with you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts…. please do share them with me?

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