Starting a new diet or exercise program is kind of like being a kid at Christmas. You’re excited to dive in! You can’t wait to try the first workout or taste that new healthy meal, and you look forward to how you’ll look and feel after a week, a month, or at the completion of the program.
But have you ever started a new diet or exercise routine, totally stoked about it, only to mess it up by the end of the week? Either you missed a workout, or you didn’t have anything to eat and resorted to ordering out when you were desperately hungry, even though it wasn’t technically on your new menu…
I’ve been there. It’s hard to maintain the same excitement you have on day one when you’re faced with friends inviting you to happy hour during your workout time, learning how to prepare new foods, and weekend trips where you don’t have access to a gym or a kitchen.
Want to know a little secret for sticking to any fitness or nutrition plan?
Stop making excuses. All of the “reasons” you fall off your plan are merely excuses for not being prepared. You may have a great plan, but if you can’t stick to it, it doesn’t matter how great a plan it is.
What you need is a plan to stick to your plan. You need to prepare yourself for the roadblocks that are going to pop up along the way so that you can stay on track. And that starts with engineering your environment to support your exercise and nutrition goals.
Engineering Your Environment For Easier Health + Fitness
You are the product of your environment. Show me a person who is successful in their career, and I guarantee their car is detailed, their home is well-kept, and their calendar is organized to keep them on track with their day to day schedule. There may be exceptions to this rule – the tenured college professor whose office is overflowing with books and loose papers, the entrepreneur whose ideas litter their office on random scraps of paper…. But I’m willing to bet those people are few and far between.
In the book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” author Marie Kondo talks about our relationship to objects and how our environment impacts everything from our mood to what we’re able to accomplish.
Simply put, keeping junk around makes you feel weighed down. Clutter is stressful. Get rid of it.
Kondo suggests starting with your clothes, literally cleaning out your closet to free yourself from some of that stress. If the reviews of readers on Amazon are any indication, this first step alone is amazingly simple, effective, and freeing. I recently donated a large black garbage bag full of clothes I never wear. It felt amazing. And now I actually have room to store things in my closet, instead of piled on a chair in the corner of the room.
What’s that have to do with diet and exercise? Stress in any area of your life adds up. As much as we think we can, we CANNOT partition stress. If you have a bad day at the office, you’re more likely to snap at your roommate when you get home. They don’t work with you, and it’s not their fault. But our brains aren’t sophisticated enough to say, “let’s leave that stress at the office now that we’re home.”
So that tiny bit of stress from a closet bursting with clutter and useless junk? It just compounds with everything else stressful going on in your life, making it harder to stick to a new training and nutrition plan.
A recent study at Cornell showed that our surroundings can have a big impact on food choices. Participants in the study were separated into two groups, one of which was gathered in a clean kitchen, and the other was gathered in a disorganized one. Then the researchers offered those people cookies.
The people in the clean kitchen ate fewer cookies than the people in the disorganized kitchen. Researchers suspect that feeling in control (in a clean, organized environment) is beneficial to willpower, while feeling out of control and disorganized zaps our willpower. Even if the people in the messy kitchen didn’t want cookies, they’d probably eat some anyway to assert a feeling of control over the stressful, disorganized environment they found themselves in.
We are also creatures of convenience. If you are surrounded by vending machines, donuts or coworker’s birthday cakes in the break room, and a candy jar on your desk, guess what you’re going to eat all day at work? If you come home to a fridge full of last week’s leftovers and ice cream in the freezer, it’s not hard to figure out what you’ll eat for dinner after a stressful day at the office.
But our environment is made up of more than just our surroundings. We are also the product of the people with whom we associate. You may have heard the saying “you’re the product of the five closest people to you” – earning about the same amount of money, driving similar kinds of cars, living in similar neighborhoods, and having similar fitness levels to your five closest friends and family members.
If your friends only ever hang out at happy hour, drink excessively, and don’t exercise, you probably do those same things. Which makes starting a diet and exercise routine that much harder. I’m not saying that to be successful, you have to ditch your best friends. But it may be beneficial to find friends willing to start training with you or make some friends at the gym who will support your fitness goals.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, your internal environment is essential to your success. If you start a diet or exercise program as a means to “punish” yourself for misbehaving (ie, after binging your way through the holidays or at a summer cookout) your likelihood of sticking to the program isn’t very high. If you start the program because you’re genuinely excited to see how you look and feel at the end, your odds of success are much greater.
What motivates you, matters. And so does your ability to bounce back from setbacks along the way. People who beat themselves up about missing a workout or slipping up on their diets are at risk of developing the “fuck it” mentality, spiraling even further out of control. Pump the breaks! If you mess up, make the next choice that comes up the very best one that you can, and get back on plan.
Your Action Plan
Here are some actionable strategies to take control of your environment so that you can stick to any training and nutrition plan and build the body of your dreams:
- Eliminate roadblocks (excuses): if your excuse for not going to the gym is not having the time, schedule your workouts into your phone, pack your gym bag the night before, and go straight to the gym after work. If your friends always go to happy hour during one of your scheduled workouts, promise to meet up with them afterward. Reward yourself for leg day with a beer! You know what’s gotten you off track before, so come up with responses to those situations and follow through.
- Get organized: If your house is a mess, take the time to clean it up and get rid of the clutter that is getting in your way. Stock your fridge and pantry and office drawers with food that is on your diet plan. Don’t keep junk food at home at all! You won’t eat it if it’s not there.
- Plan ahead: If your training plan calls for four workouts each week, plan them out in your phone calendar. Seriously, take out your phone now and create repeating events on those four specific days, setting an alarm for an hour or two beforehand to remind you to head to the gym. Have a grocery list so that you don’t forget anything and don’t buy anything that’s not on the list. Prepare lunches for your work week on Sunday so you don’t have to order out and destroy your diet.
- Surround yourself with a support network: If not your five closest friends, find someone with similar goals and check in with them regularly to keep each other accountable. A trainer or coach is great for this, but it could be anyone. Tell them your exact goals and plan and ask them to hold you to it no matter what excuses you make.
- Get your mind right: You will slip up, but that’s okay. Acknowledge what happened and move on. Think of ways you can respond better the next time that situation comes up, and execute.
Having a training and nutrition plan is one thing, but what’s more important is having a plan to stick to the plan. Take control of your environment and make it work for you instead of against you.
Need help coming up with your action plan?
>>> APPLY HERE for your free strategy call today. <<<
We’ll discover exactly what’s holding you back and develop an action plan customized to you!