Hello, hello! Happy New Year! I hope everyone had lovely holidays and is now easing nicely back into routine. As for us here, we are back to our traditional 30 days of Yoga with Adriene and I am back to writing daily, whether short stories, future books or blog. So here we go, the first blog post of 2023 is going up!
Today I want to talk about diet plans or exercise routines that many of us start only to never finish. Some of us do stay until the end but find that it didn’t quite bring us the results we wanted. Then others do get the results but struggle to keep them up. And only a small percentage of us start something, follow through, get the results and keep the results. So what’s the secret? Why do the diet and exercise plans fail to work? What can we do to make them work? Let’s dive right in.
Why do we choose to follow a plan?
It’s not always easy to turn our lives around and start something new without a clear plan. When we want to change our diet or start exercising, it’s easier to turn to someone who has expertise and knows exactly what to do and how to do it. And so we choose to buy a plan and follow it, rather thank spend time finding out through trial and error what works and what doesn’t. We want to get results and we want them quick.
But even the best sought after diet plans and exercise routines don’t always work the way we expect them to, or only work for a limited time until we lose the motivation to continue. Why does this happen? Why do we fail to follow the plan until the end or stick to newly built routines after the goal is reached?
Why do diet and exercise plans do not work?
There are a few reasons why they may not work the way they should. These reasons may come into play on their own or in a combination. Let’s look at some of the most common ones.
1. The program doesn’t suit your body or lifestyle
My Sensei says, karate is for everyone but not everyone is for karate. A keto diet may be for everyone but it doesn’t mean that you would stick to it, or that it’s right for you. Same goes for weight lifting or running. Just because everyone is doing it does not mean that it’s right for you. So no matter how healthy or good the plan is, it may simply not be the right one for you – maybe not now, maybe never at all. Such plans will make it near impossible for you to stick to them long term. If you hate peanut butter and your diet plan is loaded with it, you won’t enjoy it. The same goes for running half marathons when you are more of a sprinter type. If you cannot enjoy it, it feels off and you can’t motivate yourself to do it, it is not for you. Even if everybody else is doing it.
2. There is no accountability
Do you know why people are more likely to not finish a self-taught, self-paced course as opposed to a tutor-led college course? Because there are no deadlines and no accountability. Hence, no motivation to go on. Fitness and nutrition are no different. If the creator of the plan does not offer follow ups or is not coaching you to ensure that you stay on the program and achieve results, then you are less likely to achieve them. Accountability is paramount when it comes to success.
3. Lack of long term plan
The plan you got may be for a week, a months or even three months. But what happens after? Is there a long term plan to sustain the new diet or exercise regime? The results that you achieved? If there is not, it is a human nature to give it up. The downside of diets and exercise plans is that they are time limited and are usually viewed as something short term to get you to a certain goal. A quick fix. This is especially magnified if the plan does not suit you and you cannot enjoy it. Once the time is out or the set goal is met, we easily go back to out old ways, undoing the good work.
4. The mindset is not right
When people talk wellness, they tend to overlook the other aspects of wellbeing beyond dieting and exercise. Wellness is not two-dimensional. It encompasses your emotional, social and financial wellbeing too, your work-life balance, relationships. All of these aspects play a vital role in your wellbeing and affect one another. All of them are also greatly affected by your attitude towards them, your mindset. Being mindful in daily life, taking time for self-care to balance out the stresses of daily life can go a long way. However, if this step is missed, we risk creating even more stress by trying to follow regimes for which we do not have the mental space and time.
5. You overcommit
Have you recently signed up for a gym membership and then pilates classes? Then you found this nutrition program online and one other diet plan, and couldn’t choose between the two so you have signed up for both? (“Hey, the more recipes, the better!”) You’re also working overtime because you have a project deadline coming up and you’re helping your mother renovate the house. And there is this friend who signed you up for Zumba classes (“it will be fun!”) ahead of her wedding in April, which you are also helping to plan. Your actual commitments may look completely different, but I hope you see where I am going! If you are overcommitted, there is (again) no physical and mental space to look after wellbeing. In the best case scenario, you’re falling out of your plans. In the worst case, you are creating so much unnecessary stress that it does you no service. Trust me, you can overdo the good things too. And when you do, they become just as toxic as the bad things.
How can you be more successful?
After you analyse what is not working and why exactly it doesn’t work for you, the good news is you can fix it. Here are a few ideas how to combat these shortcomings, maximise your chances of success when it comes to following a new plan or looking after your wellbeing in general.
1. Find what feels right for you
It is so important to find a program or a plan that feels good for you, that is healthy and nourishing but the one you actually enjoy! If your workouts or diet plan feel like a torture, you will not stick to it, but if you find it enjoyable, it may become much more than just a short term plan. Do not rush, take your time and shop around. Try different things! Take a spinning class or a personal training session at a gym, go swimming, take a yoga class, pilates, barre… there are so many choices! You can do some things for free using YouTube or other social media. Get a feel of what you actually like before enrolling into any program. When you’re doing something healthy and it feels good, then you know that it is right for you and you are likely to stick with it.
2. Get accountable
There are several ways to get accountable for completing your plan.
- Get a plan that includes personal follow up with the creator
- Get a wellness coach
- Get an accountability buddy
While an accountability buddy can be anyone you trust and comes for free, be careful who you enlist for your accountability check. This person must have a certain presence that will motivate and empower you and will be able to put you back on track if you fall off. Hiring a wellness coach on the other hand will cost you extra, but they can help you take care of way more than just your plan. It can be a life-changing investment in your wellness.
3. Set clear long-term goals and make a conscious choice to follow
Don’t look for quick fixes, invest in the strategies instead. Use SMART planning techniques to help you set long-term goals. Have a clear idea how to keep up your new activities once the duration of the program is over. Most of the time, the plans are just not long enough for the new routines to become habits. It takes planning and making a conscious decision to keep going day in and day out. And again, don’t overlook the accountability aspect. It is just as important to stay accountable once your plan is over.
4. Create balance and be mindful
They say, we do not find balance, we create it. For this, we need to be mindful of what is going on in our lives, what’s triggering us, draining our energy. Then we can find ways to counteract it and balance it out. Daily meditations, even if only 5 to 10 minutes long, can help shift your mindset and see where you need more space and where you need more focus. Cutting down on overtime, taking care of relationships and spending less time with people that drain your energy, going to bed a little earlier to get more sleep can do a lot if you find yourself tired, restless or unmotivated. Waking up a little earlier and prepping clothes and packed lunches in the evening can help you free up morning time if you feel too rushed and don’t have time for breakfast.
5. Have a minimalist approach
To start something new, we need space, whether physical or mental. If your life is too busy, you will not find the time for more commitments, even if you have the best intentions. So un-commit first. Review and audit your own life. Eliminate things that no longer serve you. It’s ok to let go of some relationships, unfinished projects, activities, subscriptions, material possessions that clutter your home and your mind. If they bring you no joy, no real value and are not essential, you do not need them. Just like we unfollow accounts that we no longer wish to see in our newsfeed, un-commit from things you do not want in your life. And once that space is free, you can start something really meaningful and have capacity to actually sustain it.
I hope you find these tips useful in the new year and I wish you success in all new endeavours, whether they are your wellness plans or something else.
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