There are plenty of ways to eat right and exercise, and you probably know almost all of them. So why is it so hard to start, or stick with, a diet and workout plan? Perhaps what's missing is motivation: that mysterious ingredient that helps you do what you promised yourself you would do.
According to Jim Loehr, sports psychologist and CEO of LGE Performance Systems in Orlando, Fla., those who succeed with a healthy lifestyle don't have more willpower, they just know how to create a habit seductive enough so it "pulls" on them, rather than their having to push it. Based on extensive studies, Loehr recommends the following steps to creating those healthier habits. Use these tools to jump-start your fitness motivation, and success is practically guaranteed.
Tip: Find powerful reasons for your fitness.
To successfully create new habits, you need to connect them to your deepest values and beliefs. Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., sports nutritionist and owner of High Performance Nutrition in Mercer Island, Wash., has seen clients improve their eating habits when they tapped into something of vital importance to them, such as wanting peak energy levels for professional success. Ask yourself why you want to be fit—beyond just getting into a bikini. Do you want more confidence, joy and energy in your family, professional or love life—or simply in general? Mine your feelings about what is important to you, who you are and what you stand for, and you'll find fuel for new habits.
Exercise Write down who or what matters most to you, and how being fit will make a difference.
Tip: Put your health atop your "to-do" list.
Loehr notes that it takes a month or two to lock in a habit. So, for the next 30-60 days, stop and look at what you're focusing on in your life, outside of fitness, and say "not now" to as many things as you can. Were you going out of town to visit friends? Postpone it. Do you regularly meet the girls after work for drinks? Bow out for a while. You must nurture your new habit now. Treat the changes you're making to reach your fitness goals as minor surgery you suddenly need, with 30-60 days for recovery; this is referred to as "psychic surgery."
Exercise Write down at least three ways—and the hours involved—that you can make room for fitness in your schedule.
Tip: Take small, deliberate steps.
Those who are successful in creating a healthy habit map out the exact details of their diet or exercise, right down to the days and times, even the sets and reps. Then they log what they did, what they ate and how they felt. "Repeatedly, studies show that people who keep a log get results," Kleiner says.
Exercise Create a specific training schedule and/or eat-right plan, including a logbook in which to track your progress.
Tip: Put your emotion in motion.
"If you visualize and feel your purpose, you are forming new pathways in the brain," Loehr says. Mentally noting the fact that you're eating right and exercising, or even picturing yourself doing so, strengthens your resolve.
Exercise Review your plan when you need inspiration, and/or visualize yourself implementing the details.