You could have the best diet, but if you’re not following it consistently. You won’t see results.
People tend to always be hunting for the most optimal program. The most optimal diet.
But it is not the most optimal which gets you results. Rather what you can do for a sustained period of time.
I have a few pointers in my head today that I’d like to share. And if you’re someone who’s struggling with sustainability, I think you’ll find it useful.
When it comes to exercise, towards very key junctures. Like end of the year. People have this epiphany:
“I want to get in shape and next year I’m going to be in the best shape of my life.”
And that’s a good thing. It’s good motivation to get started, but what happens instead is that just driven by sheer motivation.
They go into the new year trying to do everything at once.
“I’ll do weight training six days a week. I’ll do cardio.
Then I’ll also do some yoga.
Maybe I’ll join an MMA class as well.
And I’m going to do all of this at once.
Because I’m going to become an athlete for the next year and I’m going to be in terrific shape.”
But you have to understand that as someone who’s coming from a very sedentary lifestyle. You cannot turn into an athlete overnight.
It’s not going to happen.
When you subject yourself to so much of workload within a short amount of time. You’re not able to sustain it for more than one week, two weeks. Maybe a month at most.
And then you go back to your old lifestyle.
So you either do everything or you do nothing.
It creates this all-or-nothing mindset. I have a solution for this.
If this is something you’re struggling with, the solution would be to start with something very small.
And by small, I don’t even mean going to the gym.
If you’re someone who is sedentary i.e., you don’t move at all. You have zero movement in your life.
Apart from the walk to the kitchen or to the washroom.
Then what you need to start is walking more. That seems so simple.
Yet people consider walking to be not even exercise. But it does count.
So if you’re starting from zero. You don’t have to become someone who walks for 15 kilometers a day.
Get a step tracker to track your step-count because you don’t want there to be any guesswork.
And start with something very reasonable, like 3000 steps. Very easy to do. If you’re a very fast walker, you can get this done within half an hour.
And get a habit tracker with a goal that says ‘Walk 3000 Steps’. Do this for at least two weeks. Every single day. Build a streak in your habit tracker.
If you’re able to do that on the third week, add 1000 more steps. Make it 4,000 steps.
Able to do that on the fourth week? Make it 5,000 steps.
Add thousand steps every single week till you get to 10,000 steps. Then just maintain that for another four weeks.
Start with something so easy that you want to do more. You must feel like:
“Oh this is so easy! I can do 2 times more. Even 3 times more.”
You should feel that.
And when you feel that, resist the urge to do more. Just stay at the easy part and hold on for two weeks; even three weeks.
And then make the slightest increment possible.
And then when you can do 10,000 steps very regularly for four weeks.
Start with a two days per week, full body weight-training routine. You can pick any two days.
It could be Monday and Friday.
Why two days? Because you are someone who is not used to lifting weights. You’re not used to a gym routine.
So the first thing that you need to do is not think about how optimally you can train. What you need is to ingrain the habit of just going and showing up at a gym.
And this is much easier to do if you only have to go twice per week.
It’s easier because if you miss Monday. You have six more days to make up for that.
But if you have a six days routine to start with. You’ll miss one day and feel like you ruined the whole week.
Similarly if you are able to do 2 days a week for four weeks, make it 3 days a week.
Stick with it for another one year. 2 years, I would say.
Because 3 days a week, full body weight training routines are extremely effective and this is what I program for all my clients.
Because my clientele comprises people who are in very high performing jobs; high stress jobs. And they don’t have the time and the energy to think about the gym all the time.
They’re not full-time athletes. These are working professionals. But they want to look good.
They want to feel good in their skin.
And that can only happen if they follow a program which is sustainable for them long-term.
For nearly 5-6 years I followed a 3 days per week, full-body routine. And I had pretty good results (as you can see in the photo below).
So start with two days; go up to three days per week.
Now maintain that for two years. If after this you think:
“I’ve been doing this for two years and this feels too easy”, make it 4 days per week.
But don’t start with four days and then not be able to sustain it.
Because remember this.
If you put something in the microwave to heat. If you overheat it, there is no way for you to fix it. The damage is done already.
But if you start with a lower wattage to heat the food. If it’s not heated properly.
You can put it in for longer.
So if you start off with a 6 days per week program. And you crash and burn.
You’ll just go back to zero.
But if you start instead with walking, then a 2 days per week gym routine.
Then you go to a 3 days per week routine. And sustain that for two years.
You would get a good idea of what is suitable for your lifestyle.
Throughout the year, there will always be many events that come up. Right now you may have a lot of time on your hands.
You may be thinking:
“I’m working from home.
I have my food situation sorted. I don’t have a lot of stress.
I think now is the time to go in 100% with my workouts.”
Now is not the time to go 100%. Right now is the time to build those systems, which you can sustain when life is full of stress.
What can you do during a hectic high-stress workweek? That is what you should be planning for during your low stress period.
And you should start doing that now itself so that when the high stress situations come. You’re already in the groove of going to the gym twice a week and doing 10,000 steps a day.
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Do the bare minimum. Not as much as possible, when it comes to exercise.
And don’t do a lot of guesswork here. Get a step tracker, get a habit tracker.
On the habit tracker, write down your goal: ‘3000 steps a day’. Then wear your step tracker and walk 3000 steps every single day for two weeks. Increase that over time.
Once you get to 10,000 steps per day, do two workouts a week for one month. For two months. And then make it three workouts per week.
Just go from there. Start at the bare minimum.
Can you sustain it? If you cannot sustain it, that shows that you’re still doing too much.
Cut back down a bit.
Stick to what you can sustain long-term because adherence ultimately is what gets you results. Not how effective something is.
You’re not a full-time athlete. You have work, you have family, you have all kinds of stress. And exercise is just another stressor.
When we talk about nutrition the same principle applies.
People are always looking for the best diet to get them results.
I was speaking with a prospect a few days back. They told me they were about to get married. And they said:
“I want to lose weight, but I also have my wedding coming up. So I want to look good as soon as possible.”
And they had 20-25 kgs to lose according to them. Could have been more.
They were asking me if it’s okay to go on this liquid diet. Something they had heard of from friends and family who had been apparently practising it. The way they described it sounded like a very extreme kind of diet where you’re not eating any solid foods.
Some kind of high-fat diet with just juices and fats like coconut oil.
The question I asked them was:
“Do you see yourself eating like this 15 years down the line? Like for 15 years, can you do this?”
And they told me:
“I cannot do this for 15 years. But I want to try it for two weeks, drop some weight, and then I’ll see what I can do.”
The problem here is that as soon as you go into that mentality. It won’t work out.
Because you feel that:
“Once I lose this weight. Once I get in shape. I can go back to being my old self.”
But if you go back to your old self. You won’t sustain the physique you built with your diet and exercise.
The body that you have right now is what you can maintain with your current level of exercise and diet. And that is what you will go back to.
The only way to prevent this from happening is to have a long-term vision of where you want to be.
So think not in terms of two weeks when it comes to your diet. Think in terms of 15 years. Nothing less than that.
And ask yourself. Before whatever new diet you’re about to hop onto.
“Can I sustain this for the next 15 years?”
If the answer is no, just don’t do it.
Another thing I wanted to get out of the way. I’ve seen a lot of people go looking for diet plans.
I’m personally very against these diet plans.
Because they are a crutch and they don’t teach you what actually needs to be done.
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What do you do once you are done with the diet plan? What do you do when you go out with your friends?
What do you do when you go out for a party? What do you do then?
When you have to eat outside a diet plan, what do you do?
It creates this all-or-nothing mentality.
“I have to eat everything that is on the diet plan. If I miss something, the plan is ruined. Now I can eat whatever I want today since the damage is already done.”
Instead this is how I like to approach things.
The first thing I need to know: What are you currently eating?
A lot of the times when I talk to people and I ask them:
“What are your current food habits like? What do you eat in a day normally?”
And their answers are very vague.
If I asked you:
“What did you eat today? What are the quantities of food that you ate?”
You will not be able to recollect in a very quantified manner.
If someone asks you to list all the ingredients from your meals. You will be missing a lot of things. Because the general population is not very mindful of their food habits.
We are eating. But we’re not thinking about what we are eating.
We’re eating when we’re watching some movie.
We are munching snacks while working. And this is where the problem stems from.
In order to find a sustainable way to change your eating habits in the most fundamental manner, you have to find the root cause.
No diet plan is a solution to that. The root cause lies in your fundamental way of looking at food. What that means is. You are not mindful of your nutrition yet.
So you need to change that. You need to start maintaining some kind of a food diary.
“What did I eat for breakfast?” Write it down or use an app.
“What did I eat for lunch?”
What is going into your body? You need to be aware of that. In a very accurate manner.
This is the exercise you need to carry out for at least 1-2 weeks. And once you do this, you will start seeing patterns.
You may feel like you’re not eating a lot. But you will find that you tend to eat a lot when you are at your work desk.
Maybe you tend to have cravings at night. And munch on foods which are not providing any useful nutrition to your body.
In order to find out where the problems lie. You have to first become mindful of the situation.
And only then can you make changes, which again, have to be very small to begin with.
Just like in your exercise, like we talked about earlier. You cannot overnight resolve that:
“I’ll remove everything that I like to eat.
I’ll remove all kinds of snacks. And I’ll follow a very clean diet with only boiled vegetables and boiled chicken.”
It won’t be sustainable.
Here’s my suggested approach.
First understand your current eating patterns by maintaining a food diary. Find out patterns which are not serving your purpose.
Are you eating enough protein? Or do you have a tendency to not eat enough protein?
Which is the case for most Indian people. We tend to not eat sufficient protein. So you have to make a conscious effort to include protein in your diet.
We say things like:
“I had my breakfast with rice…
…and then I had lunch with roti.”
So the way we think about meals. We base them around a carb source and protein is just an afterthought. You need to change that thinking at its most fundamental.
When you sit down for your meals, you need to ask yourself:
“What is my primary source of protein here?” For every single meal.
And only when you have changed this fundamental way of thinking. You would be able to shift yourself to a more sustainable way of eating.
Because there are no magic foods that will get you to lose weight. The way you eat at its very core has to change.
When you start doing that. When you start moving away from your carb/fat loaded foods to protein-rich foods. And you make this change over time in all your meals.
For example in the morning, if you’re eating five slices of bread with just one egg. You can start eating three eggs with two slices of bread instead. Here you have shifted the bias to protein.
Similarly in the afternoon if you’re eating rice with ghee. And some kind of vegetable stir-fry. There’s no protein source here.
Instead incorporate a serving of fish or a serving of chicken. And remove the ghee.
It’s just a small modification which doesn’t drastically change your eating habits. But it makes a huge difference over time.
So my recommendation for you is that instead of looking for shortcuts like diet plans just start by making small tweaks. Which over time will lead to a big change.
Because of the compounding effect. The most effective solutions are the ones which don’t feel too effortful in the short term. They are very small steps towards reaching a certain goal.
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The more drastic your solution. The more it will feel like you’re making a huge lifestyle shift.
But it is not sustainable.
If I’m to put things in a very simple manner. For any kind of change that you’re trying to make in your exercise or your nutrition. Think about it this way.
If you’re trying to go from 0 to 100. 100 being your final end point.
Don’t try to change overnight from 0 to 100.
It will be incredibly difficult. You cannot go from sedentary person to athlete overnight.
Instead try to go from 0 to 5 and then stay there for a month.
Then go from 5 to 10.
Then go from 10 to 15. 15 to 20. And this will take time.
It could take one year. One and a half years.
One year at the very minimum.
But the difference is that when you do this, it will be sustainable. And the change that you will make. You will be able to keep it for life.
That is why you see so many people. They make a change. They see some result and they go back to wherever they were. It’s like a cycle.
You lose weight, you come back, you lose weight, you come back.
And you feel that something’s wrong with your metabolism. Or that you probably don’t have the best diet. Or the best exercise program.
It is not that.
You don’t need the best exercise program or the best diet. What you need is a fundamental shift in your approach.
And not trying to do too many things at once. You want to do as little as possible to make just that 1% progress from yesterday. And be able to sustain it.
These 1% additions that happen over days, over weeks, over months. Will finally lead to that result you’re looking for.
And before you know it, you will have become a completely different person. Because you will have developed these skills over time.
This is a very slow process. But this is what leads to sustainable results.
Unlike if you just were handed a 6 days/week training program and a restrictive diet plan.
You may see results. But it’s going to be very uncomfortable.
And soon after you’ll revert back.
Because you are not a full-time athlete. You have a day job, you have friends, relationships and parties to attend.
So whatever works for an athlete, you cannot do that.
Your job is to find the bare minimum thing that you can do. Which takes you just 1% ahead. And do that consistently. Add more only when it feels like you have built that habit for a couple of months.
Another thing I wanted to cover in terms of exercise is that.
When you are very new to exercise you tend to not have a structure to your workouts.
I have a 3 days/week exercise program available for free. If you download that, you’ll see that it’s a spreadsheet with four weeks and it’s very structured.
Once you progress, you can look back on the previous week and see what you did that week.
You know exactly what you’re supposed to do when you get into the gym. That is how it should be.
Because if you’re someone who is just starting out. You already have inner resistance to the new habit of going to the gym.
Why are you creating more resistance for yourself by not having a plan? Now you have to go there every day. Use your head and think:
“Oh, what should I do today? Should I do that machine? Then I’ll maybe do that other machine.”
Then you go and ask the trainer. The trainer doesn’t remember what your routine is because he’s working with so many people.
He doesn’t care. He’s just going to ask you to perform some random exercise. Now you don’t remember what weight you used the last time.
All this mental processing that you have to do. It’s an obstacle. And it sucks energy out of you. And you detest that.
So make it easy for yourself. Have a written plan. Already know beforehand what you will do.
And when you do your exercises, write down your weight and your reps. So that next week you know what you have to aim for. It’s already there in your sheet of paper.
Make it as easy for yourself as possible. Don’t leave anything to chance. Don’t try to do things which require too much brain power.
Because the more obstacles you create for yourself. The more difficult it’s going to be. So have a very planned routine.
And if possible, try to get your exercise done at the same time every session. Block this time like an appointment in your calendar.
You can make this even more realistic by scheduling your gym visits with a friend. You can tell them that you will see them at this time, this day.
What that does is it creates accountability. And if you do not show up. You told a friend that you’ll meet them. It creates a sense of obligation. Make use of techniques like this if you have a hard time staying consistent.
Most of the results that you will get through your exercise and nutrition. All boil down to consistency and adherence to a process.
It is really not much about the most optimal diet or the most optimal program. For athletes, there is something such as that. But to get to that level, you have to first start.
If you’re a beginner. More than the optimal programming, optimal diet. It boils down habit building and staying consistent with your nutrition and your exercise.
So you need to create some kind of structure around your exercise program. Create some kind of structure around your nutrition program.
And be tracking progress over time. What kind additions are you making week to week?
If you are doing a lot of guesswork: “uh, I’m doing 3000 steps”, but you don’t even have a step tracker.
“I have been doing this for two weeks”, but you’re not even counting it on a calendar. It’s just not going to work out.
If you’re very serious about your goals. And if you know that you have a consistency problem. Then you need to address it in a very structured, planned manner.
The next week is almost here.
If you are someone who is planning to start, what you should do right now is print out some kind of habit tracker or download a habit tracking app.
And then set a goal for the next two weeks. If you’re sedentary set a step goal.
If you have a smartwatch, that’s good. Otherwise get a step tracker.
For your nutrition, start tracking whatever you’re already eating, And try to figure out patterns.
Are you eating enough protein or are your meals mostly just carbs and fat?
When you make these fundamental shifts in your perspective. That is when you can achieve changes that are long lasting.
If you have been trying to reach your weight loss goals for a while now, but are struggling a bit in the process.
It’s probably because of a lack of consistency, a lack of guidance or a lack of support.
If you’d like a 24×7 support system to hold your hand and guide you through the process till you get to your goals, you should consider 1-on-1 coaching with Workday Physique.