5 Tips on How to Get in Shape and Stay Fit (Forever)

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Let’s say you want to get in the best shape of your life – and stay that way. You’re tired of losing the same 15 pounds over again every year and you want to put an end to the drastic ups and downs of your fitness journey.

You’re informed and equipped with the knowledge on what to do. You’ve got your goals written down. Vision boards are decked out. You’ve got your diet dialed to the gram. You’ve drafted a training plan that matches your desired adaptation. You’ve announced on Facebook that I’m ready for change and posted a selfie with you at the gym.

Related: The Real Truth About How to Get in Shape

Maybe you’re even the fit person among your social group. The person who everyone goes to for answers. Heck, you might even be the one who advises not to eat the third piece of red velvet cakes at parties and forwards articles in a mass email about how to drop body-fat without doing any cardio.

You look the part too. Exo headphones outfit your ears. Dry-fit tights and $200 lifting shoes find their way into your closet.

But here’s the irony in this narrative: You can’t seem to follow through and stay consistent yourself.

You play the part. You look the part. However, you may not be walking the part.

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In your mind doing this stuff seems simple. Eating high quality protein, getting enough sleep, lifting several times a week, adding in some sprint work, eating more veggies, cutting back the soda and mocha fropa latte’s.

You know all this stuff – the gap is between what you know and what you do. And now that know this, it’s time to stop ignoring it.

One side of the coin, you’re right.

It is simple to do all this stuff. But if you’re a newbie to the health and fitness lifestyle or if you haven’t quite nailed down all the healthy habits, trying to do them all at once dooms you for frustration and often times failure.

Why?

Turning habits into daily practices is something like learning how to spin plates. In plate spinning, you first learn how to spin one plate. Then, and only then do you learn how to spin the second plate simultaneously. Then, the third and so on. With consistent practice, multiple plates can be spun all at one time.

But it all starts by learning how to spin that first plate.

Learning how to be fit forever has as similar ilk. You need to build healthy habits one by one. With time and practice, you’ll be able to spin multiple habits all at once.

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This is counter-culture in most fitness circles. Typically, a lot programs and diets have you jump into several behavioral changes all at once.

Shallow change might be experienced, but lasting change is doubtful. Guelph University psychology professor Ian Newby-Clark explains why:

“Habits are highly ingrained behaviors. They are almost automatic. Changing one habit is hard enough. Trying to change more than one at a time is often a recipe for disaster. So, despite the occasional example to the contrary, my advice is to focus on one habit at a time.”

This is good news for those of you who are “super-busy.”

You can breathe again. You don’t have to have a mild panic attack about overhauling your entire life in a few hours in order to feel great and look amazing.

Instead, you can take a gradual, but effective approach to lasting change. Say goodbye to trying to spin 8 plates to when you’re not even ready to do – and adding that task to an already crowded schedule.

Being fit forever starts (and is nurtured) with a simple daily practice executed consistently over time. The following are a handful of habits you can employ into your life to be fit forever. Where you enter the habit wheel depends on where you lie on the health and fitness spectrum.

You might already be doing one or two of them. Great! Move onto the next.

You might be new to all of them. No problem. Just start with one.

Regardless of where you lie, the important take away is that you practice one habit until it becomes automatic. Then, you stack another habit on top of the one you mastered and repeat this cycle until you’re able to spin all of them.

How to Get in Shape

#1 – Identify your dieting personality

The diet world has come a long way. We know now more than ever about the science of nutrition and how it plays a critical role on body composition and health.

However, the advancement has also brought some drawbacks along the way. While there are some great people doing wonderful work in this space, there is also a handful of zealots that base their advice and approach on data points of one.

Meaning, because it worked for them, it’s the end-all-be-all for everyone else.

There seems to be a unceasing civil war on the nutrition front. Of the many battles, the clean eating vs. IIFYM seems to be the most emotionally charged.

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Both approaches work – there are countless examples.

But your success in deciding which is best for you relies heavily on something that gets overlooked – your dieting personality. People are abstainers or moderators.

Abstainers prefer to say “no” one time. For example, a person who can’t have just one bite ice cream will cut ice cream from their diet. This eliminates the possibility of having to wrestle the temptation all together. For the abstainer, discipline sets them free.

Moderators need flexibility. Without the choice to indulge if they have the urge, they feel confined – miserable. For obvious reasons, this crowd usually makes up the IIFYM circle.

You have to do some leg work to figure out which is better for you.

Do you do better with hard parameters? Do you prefer to say “no” one time instead of seeing how far you can go without letting the wheels fall off? Do you enjoy automation and routine? You may be an abstainer.

Do you like flexibility? Do you want the responsibility of choosing what to eat? Do you work better when you have options? You might be a moderator.

2. Focus on quality and quantity of food

The quality the quantity of food you eat matters.

You simply can’t only focus on quality and forget quantity. You also can’t skimp on quality and focus on only quantity.

The goat rodeo needs to stop around these topics. The combination of both is the key to lifelong health and fitness.

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I suggest you start with learning how to source high-quality foods first. There are entire books written on this topic, but I’m going to break it down in one sentence for you:

Eat protein, veggies, and fat at each meal (carbs are optional). In other words stop eating eat so much junk, adjust the macronutrients to the demands of your sport or desired adaptation.

Once you’ve banged your head against the wall enough times to finally stop resisting to what good foods are, then you can concentrate on the quantity of those foods.

Overall intake does matter, no matter how much the best-selling diet books argue otherwise. To figure out what you need to maintain your current weight, you need to arrive at your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure).

This takes into account how many calories you need to maintain your weight (it also takes into account your activity level). Once you find this out, you can then adjust your intake based on your goal. If you want to maintain what you’ve got, stay on track with your current intake.

If you want to be leaner with less fat, take that number and reduce it by 300-500 calories per day. As far as macronutrietns (proteins carbs and fats), a general jump-off point for most people is 45% protein, 25% carbs, and 30% fat.

This is the progression: Learn how to eat high quality foods consistently first (quality). Then, once that becomes a habit, dial in your intake and macronutrients second (quality).

3. Stop collecting (too much) information

I’m the first one to admit that I like to consume media: Articles, podcasts and books are a big part of my life. But even for me, someone who has been in the fitness industry for nearly a decade, I have to conscious of how much I consume.

Why?

Because too much input causes me to enter information overload. With everyone granted access to voice their opinion on the web today, I’m sure how you can see this causes a mild manic.

At times, I’ve caught myself in consuming a ton of stuff without really learning anything. And worse, not really doing anything.

Maybe you can relate?

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Perhaps you have a subscription to every health and fitness mag on the shelves, your email is blasted every morning with the “latest” research in nutrition and your phone has ran out of room because of all the podcasts you’ve downloaded.

Swimming in the pool of learning can be stimulating – but it also can be debilitating.

Before you know it, you wake up in this cloud of analysis paralysis.

You can avoid this with a two step process. First, if you feel swamped, go on a fitness media fast. Jettison any consumption of fitness media for one week.

Then, before you dive back into the ocean of knowledge, pick five to seven of your favorite resources and stick to those only.

By shifting your approach to this angle, you’ll still be able to enjoy your articles and such, but it drastically drops your chances of entering paralyzation due to so many opinions and inputs.

Essentially, it’ll help you stay consistent in your health and fitness habits.

4. Stop wasting time to make space for meal prep and grocery shopping

Your busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy, right?

That’s not going to change, and if you’re busy for the right reasons, it shouldn’t change.

The next question is “How do I fit eating well into my busy schedule?”

A painfully overlooked way to stop wasting time in order to have more space for meal prepping is time wasted at work.

According to research, 16% of people reported they waste up to two hours at work each day, and 31% of people claimed they waste about one hour at work each day.

That adds up to several hours each week.

The guilty mediums? You probably already know, but email, social media and online browsing are the devours of your time. Shut off notifications or disable social apps from your devices during deep work intervals.

Your output will be of a higher quality and you’ll likely get it done faster. This frees up extra time in the margins of your days – allowing space for grocery shopping and meal prep.

If you’re up to the brim with busyness, you end up lacking the time, bur arguably more importantly the energy to do the thing you know you need to do. By managing your energy in a more efficient and effective way, you create more room for the healthy habit of meal prepping.

5. Ditch the “something for nothing” attitude

Thomas Jefferson said this:

“The worst day of a man’s life is when he sits down and begins thinking about how he can get something for nothing.”

This something for nothing mindset is what plagues the thousands of people who buy gym memberships and don’t use them.

Coupled with the instant gratification mindset, the something for nothing disease adds fuel to the fire when it comes to health and fitness. I know there are publications out there that coddle your emotions and tell you that it doesn’t have to be difficult or challenging.

I’m not one to judge. Instead, you take a look at the people trumpeting that message and asses their health and fitness. Then, you can decide if what they are preaching is what you desire.

Some will disagree, but I believe that the health and fitness journey is a challenging and never ending endurance test – a test of the mind, body and soul.

It takes effort to be fit forever. Accept that. Or don’t. It’s your choice.

Wrapping Up

Changing takes effort. But its worth it. What you have now is the playbook for healthy habits that can help you bit fit forever.

Think of these five strategies as scaffolding – you need to put in the work to make them yours. Once you do, you’ll unlock the power of incremental progress which leads to lasting behavior change.

And after all, isn’t that what everyone is after? Maybe one day, you’ll be the one teaching these things you just learned.

References

1) Snappconner, Cheryl. “Wasting time at work epidemic continues.” forbes.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.
2) “We Are Creatures of Habit.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.

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Name: Brian McFadden

Bio: Brian teaches motivated but overwhelmed active individuals the importance of adopting an integrative approach to their health and fitness, so they can finally make the gains they want in the gym, but also live a healthy life outside of it.