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Healthy Forever: 7 Keys to Making It Stick (this time)

In yesterday’s post, I talked about the difference between taking extreme measures to reach your physique goals quickly versus the longer route of “healthy forever.” Many of you guys emailed me about where you are on the spectrum and where you want to go. The overwhelming feedback sounded like this: “Jill, I knooooow I need to be patient for long term success, but I am working so hard, I NEED to see results faster.” :)

I can relate completely. You are putting in so much effort only to look the same day after day for weeks. Of course, there is something to be said for fast results. Seeing results quickly is a key motivating factor for people to KEEP going. Not seeing results DE-motivates.

But in order to maintain perspective, it is important to remember a couple key things. First off, you probably ARE changing, you just can’t recognize it yet, but second, you are still at the point of pushing the boulder UP the hill. You have to practice consistent change for days, weeks, months to finally get the ball rolling in your direction. The problem with taking EXTREME measures in order to accelerate the process is that they inevitable don’t stick. They are extreme, so by definition unsustainable. Not going to work for long-term body change.

Instead, I ask you for one thing: patience. It is the one thing all new years resolutioners just don’t want to practice, and yet it is THE thing that has made people who are successful in staying lean successful. We can learn from people who practice moderation and who stay lean fairly effortlessly–they practice certain behaviors, thought patterns and habits every single day, month after month, year after year. If that’s not patience, I don’t know what is.


And so, in the name of patience and FINALLY making it stick this year, here are my top 7 tips for getting to that Healthy Forever place, and guess what?  If you do it right, it should not be hard to maintain. In fact, that is the definition of sustainable :)

1] Don’t make drastic changes. Anything too drastic or out of the norm for you will not make the final cut. For some people, the idea of “going cold turkey” has appeal and may work in the short term, but in the long run, it doesn’t deal with the underlying habit or value there. For example, going off sugar 100% will most likely lead to more sugar consumption once you are allowed to eat it again. Instead, focus on small incremental changes that can be implemented consistently without much effort. It is the sum of all the small changes that make the biggest, lasting impact.

2] It needs to be easy. Aaron Spelling once said that “TV is the path of least resistance from boredom” which is essentially like saying that watching TV is easier than sitting quietly on your couch. That’s the kind of easy I am talking about. In his book, “The Happiness Advantage” author Shawn Achor talks about how in order to implement change effectively, you need to find shortcuts and create a path of least resistance. For example, do not sign up for a gym that is nowhere close to your home or place of work simply because it is the cheapest. The high amount of activation energy it takes to go out of your way to get to the gym will almost assure failure in consistent implementation. Convenience trumps everything else here. This is the reason some people pack their food the night before or sleep in their gym clothes. Find ways to make the changes you want to implement as EASY as possible.

3] Visualize. This has been something I have done for all of my adult life, and I didn’t even realize it was an effective technique of mine until Jade pointed it out. Every single night, while I am lying in bed, I draft out in my head my agenda for the next morning, working backwards–what time I have to set my alarm, what time I need to be out of bed, having my gym clothes set out and actually reviewing my morning workout in my head. If I am lifting, I identify which body parts and exercises I will do. If cardio, what machine? How long? What workout? I don’t have to write anything down, I simply review it my head so that I don’t have to deal with any guesswork in the morning. In a sense, I am making myself accountable by not winging it. Whenever I don’t have a plan, I have excuses. Visualization of the attack is priceless and it doesn’t take all that much effort, it’s only thinking :)

4] Align your goal with your purpose. Take out your JillFit 2012 Goal Setting Worksheet and refer to your FIVE core values. These describe your purpose, who you want to be in the world. Are your actions in line with these values? Are you goals in line with who you want to be?  Think about what is most important to you. If it’s being a good role model to your kids, then start right now implementing healthy practices for YOURSELF to set the right example for your kids. If it is important to you to build your career as an entrepreneur, stop watching TV (unless it is a show on how to be a successful entrepreneur) and start working your ass off. If your purpose includes helping others to get fit, then realize that you are a walking billboard for your services and get yourself in shape. The closer you can link your goals with your overall purpose or who you want to be in the world, the more successful you are likely to be at attainment. And like Jillian says, if you don’t know what your purpose is, that’s ok too. Most people don’t and that’s just fine–there’s no judgment here. But if you do want to investigate it further, start searching: read, introspect, complete your worksheet, introspect some more and then simply start moving :)

5] Expect imperfection. This is a tenet of Metabolic Effect and having worked with hundreds of clients, I agree that the biggest issues arise when individuals have an “all or nothing” mindset. I did for years–I was either ON or OFF. Now, I am ONF :) Or rather, practice moderation and know that I don’t need to be perfect to be successful. In fact, I feel MOST successful when I feel neither deprived nor overindulgent. Feeling deprived is hard. And believe it or not, eating everything you want is its own personal hell. Ask anyone who can’t control their eating habits and they are just as controlled by food and they’re not happy either. The trick is to find balance. And it is not easy, but it is certainly doable with practice. But, the first order of business is getting out of your own way–stop expecting perfection and throw yourself a bone. The less you stress about eating, the less it owns you.

6] Give up your timeline. We all have our expectations set, whether we know it or not. Our timeline materializes without us even realizing it, until all of a sudden we are upset because “it’s time” and we are not there yet (see our post on “the expectation gap”). And the idea that if there is no deadline that you won’t be motivated to change? Not necessarily the case. In fact, deadlines only set us up for last-ditch efforts and unsustainable practices. Just because you don’t name a date in which you need to achieve something or else, doesn’t mean you won’t work hard to achieve it. A date does not drive us as much as we think it does. In fact, the people with the most urgency are the ones who are driven from the inside. And tend to be the most successful long-term. Aligning your goal with your purpose helps propel us more than anything (see #4)

7] Rally your support team. You don’t have to go it alone, however, don’t EXPECT your closest family and friends to be on board either. If they are, that is a gift. But if they aren’t, don’t stress or blame them for not being on the same page as you. They are doing their own thing and if they don’t get what you’re trying to do, then that’s their issue :) Love them and don’t hold it against them. However, go ahead and seek out like-minded people to help further your own progress. Surround yourself with positive messages from people who are on a similar journey, even if it’s a Facebook friend or fan page or web forum or the twitterverse. Who cares. This is the virtual age, and many people have more close friends that they have never met than ones they do see, so embrace the opportunity to connect with people like you online. Support and accountability of a group are huge motivators–that’s why group fitness classes are so popular. Seek out people who can be on your journey with you–help each other, swap recipes, dish on workouts and offer positive motivation.

Related: Change the way you think about food: 3 key insights

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