There's no shortage of advice on fat loss out there. Seems so simple, right? Do this and you’ll lose weight and get healthier. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. Life is full of obstacles and detours that can send you into a tailspin if you’re not prepared.
People who are the most successful at reaching their goals tend to have the following 5 habits in common. If you’re serious about getting results, read on and implement their tactics.
1. They have a solid support system.
This can come in the form of a workout buddy, a supportive significant other, or even an online community (such as SparkPeople.com). When stress hits, training gets monotonous, or you struggle with your nutrition, you need someone there who will help you through the tough times and cheer your victories.
There will inevitably be negative people you’ll encounter who will discredit your efforts (or even sabotage them), so having positive influencers around you helps keep you afloat. As Kevin Plank of Under Armour, the athletic apparel company, says, “The bigger your dream, the more important your team.”
2. They have clear, prioritized goals.
Too often, when I talk to people about their goals and the reasons why they decided to join the gym, they’ll say something to the effect of “I just want to get healthy” or “I want to lose weight.” While these are certainly worthwhile goals, they are too vague. Without having specific goals in mind, they have no tangible way of tracking progress or knowing when they’ve hit their goal.
What is “healthy?” How much weight loss is enough? I think sometimes when people give the excuse that they don’t want to get caught up in the numbers or obsess about it, they are giving themselves an out later on when they don't achieve the results they were seeking. They are afraid of failing. In their minds, as long as they don’t put a specific measurement out there, there’s little chance of failure and disappointment. (Of course, I'm not talking about those who have a history of eating disorders or disordered eating that makes tracking macros and measurements a bad idea)
Dare to dream big. You deserve to get what you want out of life, whatever that may be, however you define success. But make that distinction clear from the start. It’s like jumping in your car to take a road trip with no clear destination in mind, but hoping that you’ll get end up somewhere awesome. How do you know when to take an exit or make a turn? Aimlessly driving around gets you no where fast. Why leave the final destination up to chance?
It’s also way too easy to justify skipping workouts or snacking on less than healthy treats when you don’t have a clear destination, let alone a road map to guide you.
3. They have a plan.
Without one, it’s difficult to stay on track. The days when your motivation is lacking, it’s even more tempting to put off workouts, because, eh, you’ll get there eventually, right? What’s one more day off? A plan lays out the appropriate steps to take to achieve your goal. You know how important each step is because you see the big picture and how each step and behavior fits in.
Putting a timeline on your goals conveys a sense of urgency. There’s nothing like a deadline to get you moving and infuse energy and purpose into your daily training. This is not to say that you have to follow your plan 100% perfectly or it’s all for naught. Things will come up — injury, illness, vacation, big projects at work — that you will have to work around. You may even have to push your deadline back a bit, but it’s still there. By planning ahead, you know how you can arrange your workouts and nutrition and still make progress forward. A week’s worth of missed workouts won’t threaten to derail everything you’ve already accomplished and lead you to falling off the wagon completely.
I don’t know a single person who would train for a marathon without the aid of a training plan. You just don’t approach that kind of race by training haphazardly, running when you feel like it, eating whatever you wish, and expect to complete it in one piece, let alone nail a time goal. So would you attempt to make big changes in your life and complete your own version of a marathon without one?
4. They value recovery.
You just can’t go all-out, 100% every single day without recovery strategies and expect your body to keep up, let alone transform itself. And the older we get, the longer it takes to recover from the same stimulus. Sooner or later, it will break down. This is especially true when you add in other kinds of stress, such as headaches at work and family drama. Our bodies can only handle so much. The key is to build in at least 1-2 rest days per week, as well as varying the intensity of your workouts from day to day, like the example below:
Day 1: Moderate
Day 2: Hard
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Moderate
Day 5: Easy
Day 6: Hard
Day 7: Easy
Even following these guidelines, it’s still a good idea to build in a “deload” week every few weeks, decreasing both your intensity and volume (sets, reps, and duration). This gives your body a chance to assimilate its gains and recover from the stress of training. Your mental game gets a break as well. You’ll come back even stronger and feeling refreshed and ready to smash some PRs (personal records).
5. They ask for help.
No one’s an expert at everything; even the pros have coaches. Having a trained, objective eye on your program, nutrition, and skill set can be invaluable. You may not even realize that your form is off or that you need to change an element to your program to continue seeing results. What worked in the past may not work today, and another perspective to guide you in another direction or to dial in the details even further can pay big dividends later on.
And help doesn’t just mean getting a coach. Asking for help from loved ones is crucial. By impressing upon them how important your exercise and nutrition program is to you (as well as the results!), they likely will be more than happy to assist you. Especially when you point out how it will affect them — you’ll have more energy to play with the kids, you’ll have an improved mindset and mood --- it'll be easier to get them on your side.
Whether it’s getting your significant other on board with diet changes at dinner time, or asking a friend to keep you accountable for hitting the gym four times a week, we all need others to help us pick up the slack and to make the path a little easier (and thus successful).
These five habits may seem simple, but they add up to a formidable plan of attack. By planning ahead, having a deadline, and anticipating bumps in the road, you will increase your chances of success, no matter what your goal is.