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What causes people to burn so brightly with enthusiasm and motivation and then burn out just as quickly? Why do so many people succeed brilliantly in short term but fail 95 out of 100 times in long term? Why do so many people reach their fitness goals but struggle to maintain them?
The answer is simple: Health and fitness is for life, not for "12 weeks."
You can avoid on and off, yo-yo cycle of fitness ups and downs. You can get in great shape and stay in great shape. You can even get in shape and keep getting in better and better shape year after year, but it's going to take a very different philosophy than most people subscribe to. The seven tips below will guide you.
These guidelines are quite contrary to quick fix philosophies prevailing in weight loss and fitness world today. Applying them will take patience, discipline and dedication. But remember, only thing worse than getting no results is getting great results and losing them.
1) Don’t “go on” diets.
When you “go on” a diet, underlying assumption is that at some point you have to “go off” it. This isn’t just semantics, it’s primary reason most diets fail. By definition, a “diet” is a temporary and often drastic change in your eating behaviors and/or a severe restriction of calories or food, which is ultimately, not maintainable. If you reach your goal, diet is officially “over” and then you "go off" (returning to way you used to eat). Health and fitness is not temporary; it’s not a “diet.” It’s something you do every day of your life. Unless you approach nutrition from a “habits” and “lifestyle” perspective, you’re doomed from start.
2) Eat same foods all year round.
Permanent fat loss is best achieved by eating mostly same types of foods all year round. Naturally, you should include a wide variety of healthy foods so you get full spectrum of nutrients you need, but there should be consistency, month in, month out. When you want to lose fat, there’s no dramatic change necessary - you don’t need to eat totally different foods - it’s a simple matter of eating less of those same healthy foods and exercising more.
3) Have a plan for easing into maintenance.
Let’s face it – sometimes a nutrition program needs to be more strict than usual. For example, peaking for a bodybuilding or fitness contest requires an extremely strict regimen that’s different than rest of year. As a rule, stricter your nutrition program, more time you must allow for a slow, disciplined transition into maintenance. Failure to plan for a gradual transition will almost always result in bingeing and a very rapid, hard fall "off wagon."
4) Focus on changing daily behaviors and habits one or two at a time.
Rather than making huge, multiple changes all at once, focus on changing one or two habits/behaviors at a time. Most psychologists agree that it takes about 21 days of consistent effort to replace an old bad habit with a new positive one. As you master each habit, and it becomes as ingrained into your daily life as brushing your teeth, then you simply move on to next one. That would be at least 17 new habits per year. Can you imagine impact that would have on your health and your life? This approach requires a lot of patience, but results are a lot more permanent than if you try to change everything in one fell swoop. This is also least intimidating way for a beginner to start making some health-improving lifestyle changes.
5) Make goal setting a lifelong habit.
Goal setting is not a one-time event, it’s a process that never ends. For example, if you have a 12 week goal to lose 6% bodyfat, what are you going to do after you achieve it? Lose even more fat? Gain muscle? Maintain? What's next? On week 13, day 1, if you have no direction and nothing to keep you going, you’ll have nothing to keep you from slipping back into old patterns. Every time you achieve a goal, you must set another one. Having daily and weekly short term goals means that you are literally setting goals continuously and never stopping.
6) Allow a reasonable time frame to reach your goal.
It's important to set deadlines for your fitness and weight loss goals. It's also important to set ambitious goals, but you must allow a reasonable time frame for achieving them. Time pressure is often motivating force that helps people get in best shape of their lives. But when deadline is unrealistic for a particular goal (like 30 pounds in 30 days), then crash dieting or other extreme measures are often taken to get there before bell. The more rapidly you lose weight, more likely you are to lose muscle and faster weight will come right back on afterwards. Start sooner. Don't wait until mid-May to think about looking good for summer.
7) Extend your time perspective.
Successful people in every field always share one common character trait: Long term time perspective. Some of most successful Japanese technology and manufacturing companies have 100 year and even 250-year business plans. If you want to be successful in maintaining high levels of fitness, you must set long term goals: One year, Ten years, Even fifty years! You also must consider long term consequences of using any "radical" diet, training method or ergogenic aid. The people who had it but lost it are usually ones who failed to think long term or acknowledge future consequences. It's easy for a 21 year old to live only for today, and it may even seem ridiculous to set 25 year goals, but consider this: I've never met a 40 or 50 year old who didn't care about his or her health and appearance, but I have met 40 or 50 year olds who regretted not caring 25 years ago.
Tom Venuto is a certified personal trainer, natural bodybuilder and author of the #1 best selling diet e-book, "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle. You can get info on Tom's e-book at: http://www.burnthefat.com. To get Tom's free monthly e-zine, visit http://www.fitren.com