The first place I start with all the people I work with is:
‘How long do you think it will take to achieve your goal?’
For me, short fixes and challenges just do not cut it for promoting everlasting behaviour change. We are setting people up to fail when we have no follow-up.
Just look at the state of the Western world. We have so many challenges and quick fixes, yet people are more ill, buy bigger clothes and are sadder than ever before. What is happening?
Yes, amazing things can be achieved within short periods, but will the changes last?
Are they sustainable?
It can be argued that challenges are a good kick-starter.
Let me tell you about kick-starters.
I once worked at the most famous women’s boot camp in the UK. There were several women there who had been more than once. I asked them: ‘How come you are here again?’. ‘It’s a great kick-starter,’ they mostly replied.
Now, if you just want to be beasted and find out how far you can be pushed, I get it. Boot camp may be just your thing.
But ‘a great kick starter’ every year makes alarm bells start ringing. What within their behaviour is driving them to fall out of a good routine and go back to poor habits, meaning they end up back at boot camp for a quick fix?
Quick fixes can lead to quick nose-dives when it comes to health and fitness. They amount to putting plasters over gaping holes that are about to burst wide open and reveal the truth: that you must do something more about your health than just a boot camp.
Don’t get me wrong: as I said earlier, boot camps are awesome for finding what you are uncomfortable with and facing it. But what may be missing from them is teaching people to leave with solid behaviour changes and empowering beliefs that they can make exercise a lifestyle.
What do I think is missing mostly from people’s habits? Patience and consistency – and these are my go-to mantras every single day.
I guess we can all be impatient at times – especially in today’s world, when we can literally find anything using devices in the palms of our hands.
That said, when it comes to our health, the principle has never changed over thousands of years of evolution: to make progress that is lasting, we must remain patient.
What challenges our patience is being consistent during the times when nothing much is happening. This is where I believe most people fail when trying to sustain their ‘new healthier lifestyle’.
What will happen is they will reach their goal in the 90 days that were promised. They will get applauded by all their friends and family and told that they have done marvellously (which they have, 100%).
Then, after a few months, they hit a plateau and can’t seem to make any more progress. There are many reasons for this.
One reason is that most people perceive fitness as a destination, not a journey – so once they reach that destination, they have nowhere else to go.
Another reason is that people don’t change focus. Let’s say that fat loss is your goal. You get down to the percentage you are happy with.
Maintenance of the level you have achieved is harder than getting there in the first place. What I think exercise professionals must do is prepare the client for the journey, not the destination.
Changing to a new goal of maintaining the healthy weight you have achieved is what is needed at this point, and this is done through conditioning the mindset so that making sensible eating choices is no longer an effort.
Dig deep. If you want ever-lasting results, you must treat this as a lifelong (that wasn’t a plug, by the way) journey. Have something to focus on that is meaningful.
I often suggest to my clients that they get involved in charity events or fitness clubs to give them incentives.
These things support, reinforce and bulletproof their beliefs that being healthy is better than being unhealthy (believe me, there are people who believe they are better off being unhealthy).