We've all been there. We've all done the "complete diet overhaul" thing, right? Where we try to change everything that we're eating, all at once, and end up in one of these situations:
At Girls Gone Strong, we realize that relying purely on motivation to eat well and exercise just doesn't work.
"Motivation is an emotion, and since we can't sustain any intense emotion over a long period of time without serious burnout, relying on an emotion (i.e. motivation) for behavior change is just setting ourselves up for failure."
— Lau Hanly, in her article, Why Motivation Is Overrated
If staying motivated isn't the key, then, what is?
Over the years we've found that instead of making a complete diet overhaul overnight, creating new habits, slowly over time, is what's most likely to "stick." Maybe you start drinking more water, or maybe you start centering your meals around protein. Whichever habit you're creating or cementing, make it simple and sustainable and just do it.
Which habit should you work on?
Earlier this week, we asked several of our favorite fitness professionals to to tell us the smallest habit change that has had the biggest impact on their health, physique, and life.
Check out what they had to say:
The smallest change that had the greatest impact was learning to just let go, and relax. I stopped obsessing over the minutiae and instead focused on the few basic principles that produced the majority of the results. After forcing myself to just let go I was much less stressed and was actually able to enjoy my health and fitness journey.
Food used to be something that was entirely too time-consuming for me. The change that helped me break free of this was eating more fat. Once I started eating more fat, and decreasing starchy carbohydrates, I felt full for so much longer and ate less frequently. Food stopped being so mind-consuming and time-consuming.
I am horrible about drinking water. So I start my day off with a glass of water and a slice of lemon. The minute I walk into the kitchen in the morning, I grab a glass, fill it with water, slice up a lemon and boom! One glass down. 7 to go. This is in addition to my cup of tea. I pee like mad. But it's worth it!
Depending on my goals, one of the best, but smallest changes I made was where I placed my starchy, but muscle-building carbs. If I'm in more of a relaxed time of eating (maintenance mode), I found that placing my carbs in the evening—the night before a morning training session—worked really well. It helped me control my food choices during the day and I could still enjoy the necessary carbs I need, but in a limited window.
Then, when I'm really working on building some serious muscle, I place my carbs around my workout—before and after. This small detail helps me manage exactly when to eat those foods and on occasion even sneak in a tasty treat.
The smallest habit change I made was upping my protein intake. Last month, I spent some time tracking my macronutrients, and realized I was essentially eating a high-fat, high-carb, low-protein diet. Oops! (This happened when I shifted away from lower-carb eating.) I didn't notice it as it was happening, so instating macro tracking for a bit has been very helpful for getting reacquainting with portion sizes and the macro breakdown of my meals.
The smallest habit change that made the biggest difference for overall was shedding the all-or-nothing mindset, and refusing to be a victim of my beliefs about food. "I can't have this." "This will make me fat." "Person X looks like this, and I should too, so I shouldn't eat Y". When I stopped having these negative attitudes around food, the world became a lot kinder. It felt like a relief.
Chilling the f— out. That's not actually a small thing, when you think of it. But it was really just telling myself to "chill out" when I would feel desperate, angry, frustrated, frantic, depressed, or hating my body in relation to my "fitness". Diet, training, a squat, a "fat day" or whatever. This allowed me to step back and see what I needed better and just keep the bigger picture in mind, or even just rustle up the patience and enjoy the process more.
If you are not enjoying the process to some extent, you're doing it wrong.
Slowing down and removing distractions when I eat. Of all the changes I've made in my nutrition, THIS has been the most impactful thus far. I've learned to honor my food, both while I'm eating and preparing the food, which in turn honors my body. Slowing down helps me digest and prevents me from overeating.
The smallest habit I changed was making sure every meal revolved around a source of protein. Many moons ago, I literally ate fast food for almost every meal, and ate very little protein in general. For the last 10 years, anytime I've thought about what I'm going to eat next, the first thing that pops into my head is, "What protein source am I in the mood for?" and then I build the rest of my meals around that. It took a few months to get used to this, but this has stuck with me for over a decade now and it's been a game-changer.
Drinking more water. Eating protein at every meal. Chilling the eff out.
Sound too simple to work? It's not.
We challenge you to adopt a new habit every two to three weeks for the next three months and practice staying consistent with them. Don't think of them as "diet rules." With some consistent practice over time, they can simply become what you do, and shouldn't require any effort, thought, or willpower once they've become a habit.
We can guarantee you'll be looking better, feeling better, and feeling way more in control of your eating.
If you want to heal your relationship with food and your body image, and rock a healthy lifestyle… and you want some support as you work your way there, our GGS Coaching program is perfect for you.
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