Think of something you do consistently, day in and day out. Now try to recall the very first day, and the exact time you started to do this “thing”. For many, you probably can’t identify the specifics, but you know that it is still a very consistent action or behavior present in your everyday life or it wouldn’t have come to mind.
Now think about the last time you skipped doing this “thing” or forgot it was part of your daily plan. How did you respond and adjust in response? For many, one major misstep most people make while trying to change the size or shape of their body is overlooking the importance of consistency.
Consistency is key, and here is a scenario that helps to describe why:
January 1 rolls around, and you decide this is the year to change your life for the better. For you, this means instilling some healthy habits where the added side-effect is weight loss. For the first few days, or maybe even up to 1-2 weeks, you have excitement about your goals. The excitement fuels your motivation, so eating healthy meals, or halting night-time snacking seems pretty simple. You’ve even built in some blocks of time for moderate exercise and hitting your step goals.
Then life takes a bit of a turn. You can’t put your finger on it, but “things” become difficult. Hitting your step count suddenly seems like a chore, and your after-dinner food cravings are harder to ignore. The first time you miss the mark in staying consistent, you see this as a failure. Now it seems like putting your goals on hold until February 1 is a better idea because surely life will slow down and “things” will be easier. You’ll be in a better place mentally to achieve your nutrition, movement, and exercise goals for sure. But what will really be different with your mindset come Februray 1?
Let’s back up and unpack these thoughts a bit. I notice some thought distortions here, and maybe you do too:
1. A slip-up, or missing the mark was viewed as a “failure” instead of an opportunity to learn. If you are a bit of a perfectionist, you may see 80 or 90% goal achievement as a poor success rate and feel discouraged without giving yourself a pat on the back for the days that went well. 80 or 90% is still pretty darn good!
2. Delaying your goals due to life’s challenges ignores the idea that life doesn’t always go as planned and throws out the idea that there are often going to be challenges that pop up unexpectedly. Maybe your goals need to be scaled back or revised to make them easier will lead to greater consistency and higher overall achievement of your goals.
So what does consistency look like for most who are successful at weight loss or shape change? Immediately getting back on track when you fall off of your plan rather than falling off, feeling like a failure, and quitting. Consider this definition of consistency and see if it helps you to redefine what consistency can look like for you: behavioral consistency should be thought of as your tendency to behave in a manner that matches your past decisions or behaviors.
Notice that this definition allows for flexibility. It states that your behaviors match your past decisions or behaviors, but doesn’t say that you have to be perfect. It allows you to define your own actions and behaviors rather than following absolutes that are sure to work for everyone. Meaning, Sally’s behavioral consistency can look different from Sue’s behavioral consistency., which looks different from you.
Hitting 10k steps every day while eating 150 grams of protein, getting to the gym, and drinking tea to avoid after-dinner cravings does not have to be a part of your plan. If your goal is 10k steps, but you are consistently hitting 7k steps, why not revise your goal to 8k steps and consistently hit that? You can always raise or revise your step count goal once daily movement is consistently at 8k steps. If you are always 50 grams short of your protein goal, why not aim for being 35 or 40 grams short until you can consistently hit your goal? See how this works?
If you need some help with redefining why consistent actions or difficult for you, here are some questions to help you understand the relationship you have with consistency:
1. Are you putting effort, time, patience, and work into what’s important to you?
2. Are you keeping your word, or are you making excuses?
3. How often are you putting other people’s needs above your own? What can you do to work on achieving better balance in your relationships?
4. Are you avoiding or distracting yourself from the things that feel hard because it is easier to do what feels more comfortable? And are these distractions in alignment with your priorities?
5. What can you improve in your relationships, goals, and priorities moving forward? (Pro tip – when thinking of improvements, think of things that will initially feel so easy, or so simple, that the steps outlined almost feel silly to write out).
If you read through our last few blog posts, you’ll notice we’ve spent time focusing on particular habits and behaviors that may be helpful to you as you practice your metabolic detective skills, and now is the time to add consistency to the mix. If you’ve been “on” and “off” of your plan, perhaps that is why you aren’t achieving your goals or seeing results.
And for those who feel motivation and discipline are absent, consider this. Although motivation and discipline assist with the process of shape change, it places focus on the “why” and allows for the creation of your plan. On the other hand, it is consistency that leads to clarity around what a realistic plan looks like for you!
Focusing on consistency allows you to create a plan that suits your own preferences, practical circumstances, and psychology, and allows you to move into action. Once you have some clearly defined goals that you feel you can consistently implement, be sure to check out this recent blog post on how to make your goals sticky! Let us know what you are taking away from this post and share how you plan to practice consistency as we head into the New Year!
Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash