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July 3, 2012

Is Your Diet & Exercise Routine Sustainable? 6 Ways to Know

At Metabolic Effect, we talk about the “Fat Loss Lifestyle” and we adopted it here at JillFit simply because in the long run, isn’t that really what we all want–a sustainable approach to exercise and nutrition that helps us stay healthy, fit, lean and happy? I know I do. In fact, it’s become my #1 mission for the last couple of years. I straight-up refuse to “diet” because it sets me up for failure. I lose before I even start because by definition, a diet is short-term.

So, are you dieting or are you fat-loss-lifestyling it? Here are 6 quick ways to find out:

1) Are you on a contest diet?

If you are on a competition plan to get on stage, then chances are, it’s unsustainable. We wish this wasn’t the case, don’t we?? We try to pretend that we should stay on a competition diet in order to stay in show shape. The competition diet can be healthy–lots of veggies, fruit and lean proteins, but it’s strictness and don’t-give-into-temptation nature means that it is not suitable for the long run.

The bottom line is that eating tilapia and asparagus out of a tupperware forever is no way to spend your life. At some point, you might want to have a single slice of pizza again, and the competition diet doesn’t allow for that.

2) Are you suffering from the instant-gratification mindset?

Ask yourself, “Could I see myself eating like this forever?” If the answer is no, then let’s reevaluate your mindset. Are you suffering from the instant-gratification mindset where you are focused on fast fat loss? Fine. But realize that the faster it comes off, the faster it comes back on once you resume old habits. If you are looking for sustainable results quickly, it doesn’t exist.

Sustainable results, by definition, take time and patience–because they are the results of habit, and not that of harnessing willpower short-term.

3) Are you forming new HABITS?

The bottom line for something to become a lifestyle is that it is based on BEHAVIORS and not on simply results. As you know, results aren’t linear, nor predictable, but you are always in control of your ACTIONS. You can practice BEHAVIORS day after day, year after year and move your physique down the leanness/health spectrum.

But you can’t begin with outcomes, simply because you can’t control outcomes. You must start with actions because those are in your control. The more you practice fat loss behaviors, the more likely you are to move down that spectrum.

4) It your exercise routine efficient?

If your exercise regimen is exhausting, then it is not sustainable. It’s as simple as that. I remember prepping for my first show, and I was doing 2 hours of cardio a day. I had blisters on every toe from all the running I was doing–ones that would bleed, then callus over, then bleed again (nice visual, yes?), etc. I remember thinking, well, this is only temporary–I will let them heal after my show. And did I ever! They got a big ol’ break because I was insanely exhausted from the ridiculous routine I was following that after the show, I pretty much stopped everything and gained 15 pounds right away. Not a recommended method. Learn from me, please :)

Are you working out at a back-breaking pace day after day, never taking a day off? Counting down the minutes of cardio day after day? I was. The whole experience made me hate exercise. The rush I got off exercise when I was young went away because it was becoming a job–I was clocking in and out of the gym like it was my job. And it sucked. It was unsustainable and miserable. And it certainly was not efficient. I was wasting hours working out, thinking about working out and trying to schedule it all out in my head. Since then, I have had to work hard to fall in love with exercise again (and thank goodness I have). Ask yourself, is my current routine sustainable? Or can I fix it so that it takes up less time and I get more out of it? For many doing hours of cardio a day, I dare you to cut it back to 1/4 of the time, up the intensity and watch as you get the same results.

5) Is your nutrition plan effortless?

I like meal plans as a way for people to start out. Many need direction or ideas, especially at the beginning, and I think meal plans and recipes help with this. However, as you become more in tune with your body and your individual reactions to food, it’s important to move away from the meal plan and begin creating your own menu that works in your schedule & with your personal preferences. Because if you are following someone else’s plan, it wasn’t made for you and will ultimately be unsustainable. Your personally-customized menu needs to come about as a result of your own experiences with food–what works and what doesn’t. This takes time. This takes introspection.

This takes practice. It took me 3 years to find MY plan. But, as a result of that time and diligence, it is effortless to eat the way I do–never eating everything I want, and never feeling completely deprived. It’s a BALANCE. Not hard-core, not sexy. But it works, day after day, month after month. Be patient and realize you don’t need to go cold turkey with this stuff–try something, monitor results, keep or discard, move on to the next thing. Systematically, you create your own effortless plan, feeling good, staying lean in a low-stress environment.

6) Are you caught up in the “do more” mindset?

Is your solution for getting results simply doing more? Working harder? More training. Cutting more cals. More cardio. More days at the gym. More protein. This is using the same old tricks and thinking by just doing more, you can keep improving results.

The bottom line is that your body reaches a point of diminishing returns, where the old way doesn’t work anymore, and you need new tools. You need to figure out how to work smarter, not harder. Instead of starting with a calorie count in mind, begin with food CHOICES. Like Metabolic Effect says, eating the right food more often automatically sets up calories to take care of themselves, because your hunger, cravings and energy are already balanced. You don’t have to try as hard to reach a caloric deficit. Long duration cardio is a very inefficient way to burn fat, and you risk losing muscle too. Make weight training your priority, 3-4x/week. Sprinkle in intense interval cardio like track sprints or elliptical intervals, 2-3x/week, 20-30 minutes. Don’t over do it. Less is more. And more importantly, less is sustainable. You could do it forever. And that is what living the fat loss lifestyle is all about :)

Related: How to Quit Needing to “Be on a Plan” Every Second

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