african american woman working out

For many people, starting a new fitness or healthy eating routine is easy. It’s sticking to it that seems impossible.

And that makes complete sense. The excitement of a new routine, combined with an eagerness to see results, can carry just about anyone through those initial first days of hurdles. Alas, what happens when reality starts to set in, and your eagerness is overpowered by the stress of work, or kids, or unexpected circumstances? When your schedule is bombarded by extended work schedules and kids’ events and family needs, will that newness and excitement be enough to carry you through?

The honest answer is, “likely not.” And that’s okay.

What I often have to remind my clients is that when you say you have a “weight loss goal,” you’re not really talking about weight loss. You’re [often] talking about changing the way you live so as to allow for your body weight to change in a permanent fashion. It’s a lot of small goals – include more veggies in dinner, control portions better, go for a quick 20 minute run every day – that result in one massive result: permanent weight loss. And achieving these goals isn’t about discipline as much as it’s about preparation.

The discipline required to do all of this isn’t innate – it is learned over time. There are lots of slip ups, but there are also a few things that you can do in your early days of excitement to set yourself up for success in those later days of stress. Here are a few tips to carry you through:

1) Make a Plan. No one knows your schedule better than you. If you know that you’re prone to evening calls, meetings and general things that prevent you from leaving your job, create your healthy living plan of attack around your super-busy schedule. Do your meal prep on the weekends or whenever there’s least likely to be interruption, so that you can come home and heat up your own homemade TV dinner. Get your workouts done in the morning, when all your bosses are sleeping or otherwise too pre-occupied to interrupt your you-time. Do your best to bullet-proof your schedule, and you lessen the likelihood that something will interfere with your ability to get it done.

2) Schedule in your needs the same way you’d schedule a business meeting. No calls, no internet, no nothing but your training time. No interruptions, no “excuse me”s, no nothing else. The important parts of your particular journey – be it exercise, committing to a food diary, or proper sleep – must be taken as seriously as your career, primarily because your career hinges on you being healthy and coherent to do your job.  

3) Encourage Yourself. Leave yourself notes around your home and desk, to snap yourself out of potentially giving in to a bad habit or “auto-pilot” moment. Running on auto-pilot means you might find yourself slinking off to the junk food vending machine instead of downstairs to grab some apples or grapes, instead of practicing some self-care techniques to de-stress. A note of “remember to take deep breaths” or maybe “we don’t use the cookies to feel better, we use good music!” can make a world of a difference… and that’s coming from a businesswoman, a trainer, a writer, a mom, and a wife who still has six post-it notes on her monitor that all say the same thing: “Have you practiced yoga today?!” It doesn’t even have to be post-it notes – many of us use our calendar apps on our phones to remind ourselves to get in those 20 ounces of water every few hours, or to remind ourselves to scribble down in our journals what we ate. A little reminder makes a huge difference.

4) Make healthy living a natural part of your life. Most importantly, remember the ultimate goal: to make being active and eating better a natural part of your life in the way that best works for you. Being upset that your results aren’t the same as someone else’s does you no good, especially since you don’t live their life and don’t know what’s going on inside their body. Disappointment regarding the speed of progress is easily a top 5 reason why people never develop the discipline to maintain their routine: they presume it isn’t working, therefore it’s useless to continue. Don’t let yourself get discouraged by what you see around you -  the most meaningful points of progress actually can take weeks to appear, and you owe yourself at least that much time to see what results you can uncover.

Taking these tips early on will help you develop the discipline you need to stay on your routine and, ultimately, see results. Proper planning combined with preparation and focus is what breeds the discipline necessary for success, and if you give it your all, your body will thank you for it!

Erika Nicole Kendall is a trainer certified in women’s fitness, fitness nutrition and weight loss coaching who also chronicles her own 160lb weight loss journey on the award winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss. Hit her up on Twitter, or check her out on Facebook.