I've received some nice feedback after the article and two larger blog posts from last week regarding the psychology of food. While I appreciate the kind words, I write because I want to make a difference. So I realized there may be a problem.
I envisioned people following the advice I gave, working on improving their relationships with food and having success. But as we are so prone to do, I worried that many of us would let the concrete change fall by the wayside before the new habits could settle.
I thought I should offer some thoughts this week on a word that is sometimes tough to endure. I know I've certainly had my struggles with it. I'm sure many reading this have as well. Cover your ears if you're sensitive because I'm just going to say it -- consistency.
The mere thought of consistency, conformity in the act of something, sounds so drab. Hamsters run in a wheel consistently. Allergies hit us every year consistently. It's viewed as almost painful. And guess what? It certainly can be if you go about it the wrong way.
By fighting consistency -- like continuously falling off whatever bandwagon you're on only to hop back aboard -- can be quite the act of frustration. Like the movie "Groundhog Day." But if we instead learn how to tame the beast, it can become our biggest ally.
I obviously deal with exercise and nutrition. All of my clientele are in that domain. You know what doesn't work? Coming to the gym for five days a week, for two weeks, followed by three weeks off. Or eating spectacularly Monday through Thursday but horrendously Friday and Saturday. Confessing your dietary sins on Sunday unfortunately won't burn the calories.
So how do you get true progress from consistency? The same way you get progress from any other act in which you partake -- by tracking it.
If you want to know what you really eat every day, you have to write it down or scan it in. This is the only way to be sure. Our memory is fallible. If you want to see progress in the weight room or on the scale, keeping track can emphasize your results and identify plateaus.
The same applies for consistency. Whatever habit you want to improve upon, focus on being consistent in it. Track that consistency week-by-week and give yourself an honest grade.
Let's say you want to eat better. Count up how many meals you typically eat each day. Multiply that number by 7 for each week. If you eat three meals a day for seven days a week that's a total score of 21 meals.
Now let's say you eat great Monday through Thursday but let it all go for every meal from Friday to Sunday night. You'd give yourself 12 good meals (3 meals x 4 days) and 9 meals (3 meals x 3 days) that could've been better.
Math lovers can divide 12 approved meals by 21 total meals and find a consistency rating of 57%. To improve your chances of success, aim for percentages of 80% or higher for each tracking period.
You can apply this to almost anything and measure your efforts. If you find yourself slacking, make small improvement goals. Don't beat yourself up. A 5% increase each week for 2 months will equate to a 40% increase overall. And you thought you couldn't eat more vegetables. Pssh.
If you need to improve your consistency and progress, you can find free tips and tools by visiting my website and clicking the new blog, "Consistency counts." In the meantime, get off the hamster wheel. Life is pretty good once you stop going round and round.
Andy Frisch, NASM CPT, CES, PES, WFS, IFT, NESTA FNC, is a successful personal trainer and nutrition coach who enjoys working with clients of all shapes, sizes and ages. He currently train clients at Sports Village Fitness in Lebanon, works with clients online at www.FreshEvolutionFitness.com.
One last word to the wise
I'd strongly discourage against rewarding yourself for hitting your goals. The reason being that you can quickly turn your focus to the rewards and away from the act. A much safer, more productive way of thinking is to find satisfaction in marking down each new "X" for every time you complete a step in your goal. By knowing that every good habit "X" you tick off is moving you closer to your long-term goal, you'll be able to develop your new-found habits and routines into a pleasurable experience. You'll even begin to look forward to those gym days, those healthy meals, those days of consistency.
"GASP! Consistency can be something to look forward to?" the crowds will say, stunned at your odd behavior. And you'll simply smile as you reply, "Every.single.day."