One thing you will notice in the dieting world, is that healthy eating and exercising only last for a short period of time. Why is that?
I believe it is the lack of accountability (or motivation) before the lifestyle actually becomes habit. And then later on, when a slip up occurs, there is a lack of accountability to assist that person in jumping back on track.
So how do we find this so called “accountability”?
Through my practice with weight loss counseling and through experience on my own with trying to stay accountable, I have come up with a list. So here are 10 things that I believe are important when holding yourself accountable
1. Log all foods, fluids, and exercise.
When you keep a record of what you’re taking in, you start to notice EXACTLY that. How many sweet or salty treats are actually coming into my diet? How many glasses of wine am I REALLY having during the week? This helps you realize just how much food or drink is really being consumed. Same with exercise. I believe it is important to look at a weekly average of what energy is being consumed and expended.
2. Get active with a workout buddy.
There is nothing more motivating than knowing someone is depending on you. It comes with a responsibility of sorts. You become a support system for someone and the last thing you want to do is be known as an unreliable buddy or a bad support system. This is also a great opportunity to help someone stay motivated on days they don’t want to be active so that they can then return the favor on your less motivated days. I know with my workout partner Kendra, she keeps me motivated when I just don’t feel like working out. But afterwards, I am so glad that I went.
3. Purchase a gym membership.
This one may or may not work for all. But I can tell you why it worked for me. Firstly, I am cheap… and if I am going to pay for something, I am going to use it. I end up going 4-5 times a week because I want to get my money’s worth. Second, I can go rain or shine. I have no excuse. Especially during the winter time. Before I got my membership, I would have no problem pushing off a run due to sprinkles of rain or the cold evening air. Now, I never have that option.
4. Prepare meals ahead of time.
Meal prep is such an important part of accountability. You are investing in a day or week’s worth of meals. This means you either waste your money and let the food go bad while purchasing food elsewhere, or you take advantage of the convenience of prepped food while saving money at the same time. Breakfast is one area I have trouble with and I know better than to think I might get up early and cook a high protein breakfast. Instead, I will meal prep Egg Burritos or Egg Muffins. Having a plan, making a grocery list, and shopping makes all the difference in staying on track or falling off.
5. See a dietitian.
Luckily for me, I am a dietitian that also has a dietitian as a very close friend and gym partner. But some people are not so lucky. I believe in what we do as dietitians because I know the level of accountability that we provide. When you do a weekly or monthly check in with a nutrition expert, you learn more about foods, fluids, and exercise. You’re provided with a promising plan instead of a “quick fix”… And not to mention, knowing someone is following behind you to see all the choices you’ve made can put the pressure on. This helps promote new healthy habits over the long term.
6. Wear a pedometer.
A lot of times we think we move more than we really do. (This is one reason I am loving the Fitbit right now. For a dietitian, it provides all the right information and will actually link up with food log apps.) Once you have an average of steps you take during the day, you can begin to challenge yourself by slightly increasing your activity. This way you begin to look at your day differently. For example: Knowing you need to achieve 1,000 more steps today, you may look for every opportunity as a chance to tick that number upwards… take the longer route to the bathroom, park further away, walk 10 minutes of your lunch break, run errands one at a time during your work day… etc.
7. Set goals.
I am a big believer in setting small goals to achieve an ultimate goal of overall health. If you begin setting big goals such as losing 100 pounds, running a marathon, or competing in a lifting competition, you may feel overwhelmed. But if you start small by trying to achieve a five pound weight loss goal, jogging every other minute during your walks, or strengthening muscle with resistance bands, you will eventually achieve the overall goal without feeling like it is millions of miles away.
8. Weigh weekly.
When you have a weight loss goal in mind, never weigh daily. Too many factors affect weight such as fluid and the time of day. And if you see that scale go up a pound or two after working so hard, the feeling of defeat may feel too strong and cause you to throw in the towel. I see it happen all too often. When you have a weigh in once a week, that gives you enough time to make the progress necessary without the frustration.
9. Eliminate the temptations from home.
If there are tempting foods at home, chances are, you are going to indulge in them more than you would than if they were not there. And by following #1 (food log), you may notice how often the indulgences happen, which will lead you to this step. Most of the time when we have a craving in the evening or want to snack out of boredom, we would not leave the house to go purchase those snack foods… But if they are sitting in the cabinet, your brain knows, they are sitting in the cabinet.
10. Be an inspiration.
This is where social media or online support groups can be helpful. When you are on target with your diet, post pictures and share the recipe of what you made. When you are on target with your exercise, post about what you did and how you did it. This is a great way to encourage others to be healthy too. I do not see this as “rubbing it in” as some would say. I would see this as someone being proud of their accomplishments and encouraging others to get started.
And if you fall off track or have a cheat meal, it’s okay to talk about that too. Because we are all human and we could all use each other’s support. Anytime I see someone working their butt off at the gym, I tell them they’re doing an excellent job. Anytime someone posts they are 20 pounds down of Facebook, I like it, and anytime someone tells me they are struggling with a diet I provided, I will call or email to check in and make sure they know I’m cheering them on.
We need to inspire each other and encourage each other. If we know we have others cheering us on, it keeps us motivated to keep going and keep working hard. So be that cheerleader… that motivator. And you’ll be surprised at how much support you’ll receive in return.
Accountability is so important when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. We know ourselves well. There is no sense in lying to ourselves and deteriorating our health. Sometimes we have to decide what is important to us. Do we want to see ourselves grow old? Play in the back yard with grandchildren? Or even hike through all 7 wonders of the world? If so, we need to stay accountable. It’s never too late. Start today.