Commitment and change. Two buzzwords that I'm sure you see everyday, especially when it comes to the fitness industry, but what do they really mean for each of us? There's so much psychology behind each of these ideas and mindsets so what I'm going to try and do is explain what each has meant to me and how I've harnessed my personal commitment to invoke positive change in my life. Both ideas are absolutely intertwined because in order to achieve your goals you can't realize positive change without having been committed and vice versa. For me, the hard part is not only finding and honing your personal commitment to your goals in order to achieve successful change, but it's the focus on maintaining the good habits thereafter by creating your own personal lifestyle.
There have been two occasions for me over the last 10 years which I found myself defining my own version of commitment. The first occasion happened in my late twenties when I was sixty pounds overweight and most recently last year when I was around fifty pounds overweight. Each scenario was different though in that the first case was mostly due to laziness and terrible eating habits catching up to me while the more recent case was more from going through a "dirty bulk" in an attempt to put on as much muscle as I could in a two to three year period (more on this in another post. I do not suggest dirty bulking...) In each scenario though I had come to the same realization about myself. I needed to lose all of this unnecessary fat and I promised myself that I would use whatever power I had in me to commit to the goal of losing fat until I could look at myself in the mirror and be proud of what I saw. Some would say this was a vain goal and that I should have viewed it instead by gaining the positive health benefits of having lower body fat, but I'm being honest and I think most people at the end of the day want to be happy with how they look, aside from the usual health benefits. So what does my version of commitment mean? It means that when I wake up each morning I make a silent vow to do what is needed to get me to my goal and having a plan in place that allows me to achieve my desired result. I realize that not everyone works the same way, but at the end of the day each of us needs to figure out what motivates us to reach your set goals because if you don't have the proper motivation that's when we "fall off the wagon".
1. Figure out why you have a certain goal in mind and what sparked your initial motivation to acknowledge the change you are seeking. Keep your goal short and sweet while restricting yourself to one major goal at a time. List out all of your short term and longer term reasons as to why this goal is important to you and be brutally honest with yourself when doing so. Once you have your list pick out those that really make an impression on you and decide if these reasons are enough to keep you on track and motivated for a long period of time. This should now give you a taste of what your personal motivations are along with allowing you to understand your personal commitment.
2. Have realistic expectations along with smart time estimates on achieving your stated goal. In the example of my fat loss, I wanted to lose a certain amount of weight over a duration of time. So if it's January and you want to lose 30 pounds by June, this is a relatively healthy and achievable goal (assuming you indeed have 30 pounds to lose). since you would need to average five pounds a month for six months (1-3 pounds a week of weight loss is within a healthy range). A mini-goal for each month would be to hit that 5 pound weight loss at the end of each month to ensure you are on track.
3. Have a plan. It's one thing to say you want to do something and it's another to actually know what to do about it. In the case of the fat loss goal, you should first establish what your eating on a daily basis and review what you can eliminate. An easy place to start is eliminating liquid calories (sugary, high calorie drinks, milk, alcohol, etc...) so you would commit to drinking water with your meals and nothing else. Maybe you'd like to stick to whole, nutrient dense and fibrous foods that allow you to be satisfied for longer periods of time in order to avoid cravings or snacking throughout the day. Or maybe you decide you want to count your macronutrients or calories using an app (MyFitnessPal) to really get a gauge as to what your eating and how much. You may also want to have a consultation with a good nutritionist to start learning more about the food you eat and gain more knowledge so that you can make smarter choices when it comes to meal selection. Whatever you plan on doing just keep it simple at first and don't try and change too much too fast. Change one or two things with your diet and stick with that for a few weeks. You will see that this not only makes it easier for you to stay true to your commitment, but that the positive change you've been seeing over the last few weeks will build momentum for further change going forward.
4. Partner up with a friend or loved one who may have a similar goal and hold each other accountable. There are going to be times where our will power will give way and nothing helps us to get back on track then good old fashioned accountability and guilt.
5. You will lose battles here and there, but you will WIN the war. Consistency is key, but you will experience days that were not perfect or downright terrible. It's OK! Embrace the failure and learn from it by going back to your list of reasons that motivated you in the first place. Re-commit yourself starting the next day or meal and you will be stronger for it in the long run.
6. If there is ever doubt in your mind look back at where you started and how much you've achieved since that first day of commitment. Change is not easy, but it helps to re-assure yourself every once in awhile that momentum is on your side.
These are just some of the bigger points I thought would be helpful and inspiring for those trying to figure out where to start when it comes to a goal such as fat loss. Obviously there are many routes one can take in terms of diet, exercise and habits to achieve this goal, but I think these general guidelines are a good starting point.