Acquiring Healthy Nutrition and Exercise Habits.

One of the biggest challenges a trainer has is to help clients create a new habit of exercise and healthy eating.  It’s easy to provide fitness workouts and nutrition encouragement and motivational tips during fitness training sessions.  The real question is, “when clients leave the session, do they continue to habitually exercise and eat nutritionally sound in their own environment?”pt-appleportrait

So, how are these healthy nutrition and exercise habits acquired?  One of the first things I ask my clients when they come to me for nutrition and fitness guidance is ” Why is this important to you?”.  For some, it may be that they see that they are unable to function as they would like, or they want to be able to play with the grandkids, or they want to be an example to their own children.  The point is there needs to be a value placed alongside the desire to begin exercising and improving nutrition habits.    Once a value is given, it’s something to  come back to when  motivation is weaning.  “Remember how you wanted to be able to play ball with the kids?”  It’s not enough to say “I want to lose weight”.  It’s important to internalize the importance of losing weight.

Once the importance of a change in exercise and nutrition habits is identified, then it’s time to  begin the work of building new habits.  Setting up a trigger or cue for the habit to be performed gets the new exercise or nutrition behavior started.  For example, when teaching clients to drink more water, I suggest they use the following associations as cues to drink 8 oz.:  first thing in the morning, after going ‘pee’, before, and/or during and after an exercise session, among others.  Get the idea.  Provide a cue to enact the behavior.  Some exercise cues could be having the gym bag prepared in advance, set the alarm for a morning workout, or determing a set time each day.

Now, repeat, repeat, repeat.  I tell some clients to put a string around their finger, or a notification on their phone, or sticky notes at their desk to keep reminding them of the new exercise and nutrition behaviors they are going to carry out each day.  It’s too easy to fall back to old patterns of poor eating and lack of exercise if  not consistently repeated.  Perhaps, you just don’t ‘feel’ up to that 30-45 minute workout.  Just get there, and begin…if you truly don’t ‘feel’ like it, stay for 10-15 mins and leave.  You still will have ingrained a new pathway to get to your exercise station.  Typically, though, once there and started, you will complete the entire exercise plan.

Guess what happens now?!  Offer some self-motivation.  Reward yourself for staying with your new exercise and nutrition habits, i.e., buy a new pair of jeans, go out for tea/coffee with a friend and talk about your accomplishments, pat yourself on the back (literally!), or whatever meets your fancy  (so long as it doesn’t oppose your new habit…don’t go to McDs because you’ve met new nutrition habits!).

Eventually, these new healthy nutrition and exercise habits will become ‘ol hat’.  They will be as automatic as shifting into drive to move forward.  And, you WILL BE MOVING FORWARD!  You can do it!



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