The New Year is coming, which means that you’ll soon be carefully mapping out exercises, sets, reps, rest periods and goals for 2016. And that’s great. These well-planned variables will have you off to a running (and lifting) start in January but, as I have seen with so many well-meaning clients, these well-laid plans often fail because they’ve left out another, all-too-important factor: bad habits.

Anyone can toss on some new gym clothes and knock out a few hard workouts. But eventually, your true healthy resolve is tested by a million things. You may be someone who, just by habit, reaches for that glass of Chardonnay at the end of a long day. You may be accustomed to going to lunch at the food court everyday with your colleagues. It may be that it’s just tradition for you to nosh on pizza with the family every Friday night. These are all well in good in terms of living a fulfilling social life around food, friends and family but they are hardly optimal for achieving the body that you’re chasing.

Breaking bad habits is absolutely essential if you expect to exact drastic, lasting change to your body and overall health. Now, the term “bad” may be kind of strong. I’m not saying that doing any of these things makes you a bad person or that it’s not good to enjoy life. Quite the contrary – I want you to be healthy and living life to the fullest! That only happens when you’re ready to identify which habits may be holding you back, then tightening things up a little bit to achieve what you want.

Have you ever felt compelled to “eat your feelings?” Or do you ever “stress eat?” If you said “yes,” then bravo. If not, then you are either remarkably disciplined or you just don’t realize you’re doing it because these things are fairly common. We’re human and subject to moments of weakness. And when you’re plowing through a bag of Doritos, you may not realize that it’s related to something else – that those feel-good hormones that are surging through your body are really mending another wound. What triggered this binge? If it’s not already a daily habit, you may need to take a deeper look into your own emotional triggers that have led to this moment. Just like shoulder pain can be caused by a pinched nerve in the neck, your outward habits and behaviors may be caused by something else. Is it a present stress? A past event? As tough as it is, you need to honestly assess and address what causes you to falter in your fitness life.

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>> Just like they advise you to consult a physician before beginning a new workout routine, you need to schedule an appointment with yourself (or a counselor or trusted confidant) to take stock of your emotional and mental state. Take on anything that may present problems for you as you work to become healthier.

Well, not literally. But be a creature of action rather than thought. Knowing that the brain and our emotions drive so much of who we are and what we do, you can sidestep this obstacle by simplifying things. How do you do this? Make your behavior “action” oriented, rather than “thought” oriented. For example, if you’re fighting a losing battle against your bad habits, instead of focusing on “getting in shape”, which is very general, break it down a bit. Make it about tangible, “right now” types of things such as when, where and how often you’ll workout, which is more action-based.

>> Be specific with your goals. “Getting fit” is very vague…how do you know when you’ve accomplished this? Focus on writing down goals that are measurable, attainable and adjustable. These bite-sized chunks allow you to accomplish something every time out and success breeds success! For example, don’t say, “Lose weight this year.” Instead, say that you want to lose 5 percent of your bodyweight before spring. This provides a specific number to shoot for, it’s perfectly realistic and, if you come close — say 3 percent by spring — then, you can move your goal date back another few weeks.

Fuel is everything. I will spare you the ratio of how important diet is in comparison to your workouts but let’s put it like this: save for a very few metabolically gifted people in this world, you can train as hard as you want but if you’re not eating well, you’re going to be spinning your wheels. Progress will be elusive. So you have to work to gain control this aspect of your fit life. When it comes to eating, I’ve found it’s better to change my environment than just the food. For example, I tend to snack at night if I’m up working, like I am right now. No matter how many healthy snacks I make, I either want to go for bad stuff or I overeat the healthy snacks. I’ve found that if I work somewhere without food available or just stop working so late, I break the bad habit because I’ve eliminated the temptation. I have been down this road before, so I know the terrain. By changing what I can, I make the journey all the more productive.

>> Identify things that derail your diet and plan around them. Fast-food junkie? Prep your meals at the start of the week. Dessert hound? Find a high-quality snack, such as protein pudding, to indulge in instead. Always eat bad when you have drinks? Keep it to one or two and reach for the veggie tray in between rounds. Look for more on this topic in a future blog!

Are you ready to join the thousands of people seeing results from my 20 Minute Body workouts? Give them a try! Time is precious and so is your body. Accelerate your fitness journey with my new workouts for maximum results in just 20 minutes a day.

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