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How to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

This is the final installment of our series on starting a healthier and happier life. To read the first two blogs click here and here...

You've done it! You stuck with your workout plan, achieved your goals, and now you are slimmer/stonger/healthier than ever before. You've come so far that it seems like the previous version of yourself existed only in your dreams. However, you seem lost as to what you should do next. As Dan John, author and renown strength and track coach likes to ask, "Now What?"

Getting started, for most people, will appear to be the hardest part of a healthy lifestyle. Continually working and achieving goals may seem impossible to others. Most fitness professionals will tell you though, it is maintaining a healthy lifestyle that is truly the most difficult. As we covered in last week's installment; maintenance is one long fitness plateau, and relapse can occur at any time.

The reason maintaining a healthy lifestyle, keeping the weight off, or being the strongest version of ourselves is so difficult is because we are constantly battling homeostasis. Homeostasis simply defined is: the state of steady internal conditions maintained by living things. Our bodies like being in the state that they are currently in, even if that state is not optimal or healthy for the body.

No one (usually) wakes up one morning to find themselves 50 pounds overweight, out of shape, and suffering from chronic pain. It's typically a process that occurs over many years. Your body was used to the way it was. It knew how to move (or not move) with that extra weight, you developed overcompensations for that old knee injury from college, and you are most definitely comfortable eating more food. So the sudden change in routine, body size, and diet are literally going to shock the body, for a time. This is because the new you is no longer in your bodies previous state of homeostasis. In fact, if change is too dramatic the body can enter into survival mode and certain body systems can be dramatically affected (this is the problem with yo-yo/crash diets).

Maintenance is all about getting your body used to it's new state, and it takes time. As previously mentioned, you may have been overweight/out of shape for decades. No it will not take that long for the body to readjust, but it will take time. Below are three keys to having successful maintenance.

Adjust Your Routine/Diet

Now that you've reached your goals it's time to look back at your routine that got you here. Often times the diet/exercise strategies you utilized to accomplish your goals are not sustainable over the long run, or may even be detrimental to your health if you were to continue them. This is the case for many fitness challenges out there today. These programs are great for a short amount of time, but when continued for longer than prescribed they can become unhealthy or even downright dangerous! Revisit with your personal trainer and get their advice first. It actually does not take much in terms of exercise to maintain most of your gains.

Your diet must also be adjusted. The only proven way to lose weight in a healthy manner is to be in a caloric deficit. If you're goals included weight loss you no longer need to be in a caloric deficit in order to maintain your goal weight. Again, consult with your personal trainer/nutritionist to figure out what plan is best for you.

Cheat! But Don't Relapse

That's right! You've achieved your goals, so now you can allow yourself to have a few sweets again. Just use good judgement here. Cheating on your diet is a strategy that can be successfully used to maintain a healthy diet, so long as the cheating doesn't turn in to old habits. An 80/20 rule works good for maintenance. If 80% of your meals are healthy and within your set parameters, you can generally afford 20% of your meals being outside of your diet. In the real world this looks like about one cheat meal every other day each week if you are eating 3 meals per day.

This rule also applies to exercise. If your crushing your workouts 80% of the time, then it's okay to miss or loaf through the other 20%. So if you work out five times every week, don't feel bad if you have to miss one workout every 7 days.

Create Maintenance Goals

Just how your created fitness goals, it's a good idea to create maintenance goals. Again, consult with your personal trainer to create 2-3 attainable maintenance goals. These may look like: staying within five pounds of your goal weight for 6 months; only missing 2 workouts next month; working out for the first time on vacation, etc. Maintenance goals will be different for every person and every situation. You may even decide to set new goals for your health too! Maybe you're main goal previously was to lose weight, but now you want to try strength training. Both maintenance goals, and new goals work to keep your routine interesting and motivating.

Create a Rewards System

So far we haven't brought up rewards, but it's a good idea now to think of how you can reward yourself for all that hard work. Rewards also work great for keeping your motivation high, but they should be used wisely and sparingly or else they can lose their effectiveness. Try to think outside of the box for your rewards, and also keep your rewards fitting within your goals. If your goal was to lose weight, it's not a good idea to reward yourself with a trip to your favorite buffet. It may take some introspective thinking to come up with a reward that is meaningful to you. Lastly, give yourself a budget for your reward. I find the best rewards tend to be the small, yet meaningful ones.

Thank you for joining us along on this blog series. We hope you found it both inspirational and helpful. If you are ready to start your own journey towards a healthier and happier life come see us at La Mision Fitness & Yoga and we will be happy to help you on your way

Corey Evans, CSCS, CISSN

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