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The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Dieters

When a book has sold more than 25 million copies around the world in 30 years, it’s a safe bet to say that someone has probably written a good book and that good book has struck a chord with people. That’s especially true whenever we’re talking about self-help books. Like Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

I remember that being one of the first books I recognized on my Dad’s bookshelf as I was a kid, right alongside Zig Ziglar. Those two were my intros into the personal development and self-help world. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was a book I read for the first time in my freshmen year of high school, and I still remember having my mind blown by the differences between principles and values, and how Covey explained one being external and one being internal.

So while I’m no Stephen Covey, we are going to adopt the same approach he used for his international best-seller. And for good reason. So much of this journey and what we work on comes down to habits and behaviors. More often than not, those things aren’t groundbreaking or new. In fact, they tend to be timeless things that can be applied across all spectrums of life.

Here are the 7 Habits of Highly Successful Dieters

1. Consistency

How can we not lead with consistency, right? It’s one of those things that we as Coaches preach all the time. You’d be hard pressed to find a Coach that hasn’t used the word consistency in a check-in email at some point over the past week. But we talk about it so much because it really is a big deal.

Weight loss is a fickle game. The scale can move around like it’s got no method whatsoever to its madness. That’s especially true whenever we’re highly inconsistent with our food intake throughout the week. Having a day where we’re spot on with our numbers, another day where we’re slightly under, and yet another day where we’re 10-20g over on each of our macros can play out on the scale for days to come.

It muddies the water as we try to gauge what is going on, how your body is responding to these numbers, and evaluating whether or not we need to make a change.

What doesn’t do that is consistency. Consistency offers us a clearer picture of what’s going on. It helps give us a reliable idea of what we’re looking at and when we need to make changes. A helpful way to think about is that each and every one of us is like a constantly moving, constantly evolving experiment. We have all kinds of things that help influence our behavior and our decision making, and our bodies are incredibly adept at changing how much you do or do not move based on how much you’re feeding it.

So like all good scientists, we want to try and keep one of these variables stable to see if we can start to elicit some change. For us, the easiest variable to keep constant is food intake. The more consistent you are on that front, the more we’re able to help you based on the data and feedback we get.

But to be honest, that’s not the real reason I love consistency. To me, consistency also means that you’re likely ingraining the behaviors that are going to help you stay successful at this for the rest of your life. It means that you’re working on those behaviors and actions that help you get to those numbers on a daily basis, and people who develop those skills tend to be successful for a lifetime.

2. A Growth Mindset

Dr. Carol Dweck, from Stanford University, is responsible for what I think is one of the most impactful books there is when it comes to behavior change – Mindset. In it, Dr. Dweck specifically laid out the difference between two mindsets: a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.

Dweck went on to further explain that those who had a fixed mindset were typically people who believe that many of our qualities were fixed traits. For people who have a fixed mindset, things like beauty, intelligence, and willpower are largely set and unchangeable. Whereas those who had a growth mindset believe that most basic abilities merely represent a starting place and that with time and effort just about any skill or attribute can be improved.

While Dweck’s research has been hard to replicate in other labs, I think it’s pretty understandable to see how the difference between a growth and fixed mindset plays out in the real world. Especially when talking about dieting.

One of the phrases that we hear most often from people who are thinking about joining Stronger U is that “Tracking just isn’t for me.” a phrase that could serve as a hallmark example of a fixed mindset.

In reality, weighing food, tracking, measuring, and moderating yourself are all skills that we can develop with time and practice. They represent things that we can grow into. Those are all things that were probably hard for you when you started this program. But as time has gone on, those are things that have gotten easier and easier.

Sure, at times there might be challenges. But the longer you go on, the fewer and further between those challenges show up.

That’s the result of adopting a growth mindset towards dieting, or any situation that life might throw at you. Your first attempt at something will only ever represent a starting point. Let yourself try, fail, and try again. Those are where the lessons are learned, and it’s in those lessons that change happens.

3. Knowing That The Real Goal Is The Process

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of process-oriented goals. But in reality, when it comes to goals and the process, I’d go even further than to say I’m just a fan of process-oriented goals. I fully believe that the real goal for all of us should be the process (hat tip to Aadam Ali of Physiqonomics for that phrase).

What do I mean by that?

It’s not to say that I’m anti-goals. I love the idea of having a goal and working towards something. More than that, I think it’s useful to constantly be setting new goals in a number of different arenas in life. But it’s also important to remember that goals are ephemeral. They come and go, changing shape, form, and function. Because of that ephemeral nature, it’s important to look at them like benchmarks, but not anchors that keep you moving forward.

So sure, you can sign up for more events, set new performance goals in the gym, and set a new goal for a streak in MFP. Those are all great things to go with if those benchmarks help motivate you.

But what doesn’t change in any of these scenarios is the process that you use to reach that goal. You still do the same things. You still eat your food. You still weigh it and log it. You still get your miles in and put your time in at the gym.

Those are the anchors that you can always rely on. Those are the things that are going to carry you through any time or trial that might come your way. Those are the things that are dependable and will be around long after the goals are gone. Those are things that you can lose yourself in, finding a sort of comfort and rhythm in how you handle the day to day work that helps you reach those goals.

4. Forgiveness

Want to know what one of my favorite things to tell a client after they slip-up?

“Congratulations! You’re a human! Now let’s start today fresh, find the smallest positive action we can do and make that our top priority for the day.”

I do this for a couple of reasons:

  • I think it’s important that we set up a place where we can all feel safe to talk about the fact that we’re not perfect all the time, even though our Instagram may say otherwise.
  • It’s important to know that we all screw up. It happens. Time to move on.

Slipping up is a deeply human trait. The phrase “human-error” exists for a reason. We’re not all mindless automatons that subsist solely oil and WD-40. We’re people. We have thoughts, feelings, emotions, wants, needs, desires, and all kinds of other things that come with trying to navigate our way through the world.

And in case you hadn’t figured out, navigating your way through the world can be a pretty confusing and terrifying thing at times.

That’s why it’s important to understand that you’re gonna mess up. That’s gonna happen all the time. It’s gonna happen on your diet, in the gym, at your workplace, and in your family life. The important thing to understand about mistakes is that they provide an opportunity for reflection, understanding, and learning. (Growth mindset, anyone?)

When you slip-up, objectively recognize it for what it is. Try to work to understand what went on, why it happened, and what you can do in the future to try and handle that same kind of situation better. And then forgive yourself, accept that it happened, and move on with your life.

Nobody has the time to walk around beating themselves up for the cookie they had last Friday.

5. The Willingness To Listen

Everything in life is feedback and it’s on us to listen to that feedback. We know that things are working when we feel good about what we’re doing, we’re taking steps towards a version of ourselves we want to be, and we see a clear plan there. That’s feedback that says we’re doing the right things. That feedback provides us the opportunity to listen, recognize that we’re on the right path, and keep on doing what we’re doing.

On the flip side, if we’re unhappy with how we feel, how we look, and how we’re living our day-to-day life, that’s feedback that we need to change some things. It’s feedback that we need to look at, listen to, and work to correct.

Notice the consistent theme between both? Recognizing that everything is feedback, and it’s on us to listen to that feedback.

The sooner we can adopt that approach, the more quickly we can start objectively evaluating where we’re at, where we want to be, and how we can get there. Listening allows us the opportunity to ask ourselves if we’re actually treating this attempt at change with the respect it deserves. And if we’re not, it helps to provide a clear answer in how to fix that. Both through the form of a Coach offering you advice, but as well through looking back at past behavior metrics like your daily log.

6. Avoiding The Comparison Trap

In 2018 it is almost impossible to completely avoid comparing ourselves to others in some form or fashion. We live in a hyper-connected world where most people work to show off the most glamorous and staged highlights of their lives.

Then again, if we wanted to adopt a growth mindset in looking at this, we could say that this provides us with more opportunities to remind ourselves that the only comparison we need to worry about is between who we were then and who we are now. I don’t think it’s hyperbole that bearing that in mind can help keep us sane at times. If we’re not careful, it can be far too easy to wind up constantly feeling down about our life, our body, our relationships, and anything else under the sun whenever we get wrapped up in the comparison trap.

When we start beating ourselves up for the things we don’t have that other people do, we have to remind ourselves that we don’t live the life of that person. We don’t have their struggles, their wants, or their wins. We don’t have their body, their goals, or their relationships.

There is so much that comes along with this journey. So much of it that is about who we are, what our values are, and what is important. The worst and most ill-advised thing we can do on a journey like this is start trying to look to other people as a measuring stick.

The only measuring stick that we can reasonably use is ourselves. We can look into our past, see how we’ve behaved in similar situations, and use that as a measure to see if we’ve improved or made strides.

For you, that might mean you’re comparing yourself to a year ago, and how you looked in that dress. Or it might be comparing to a number you put up on a lift. All of that is fine and great. You should work to make that kind of comparison, as you’re judging against the person who really matters: you.

7. Understanding It’s All About Trade-offs

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Let’s talk struggles and hard things real quick. ⠀ First off, it’s important to recognize and understand that changing our behaviors, actions, and beliefs is one of the hardest things for us to do. Especially when we’re talking about food. We have decades of patterns, tastes, desires, and behaviors that all got us to this point. Changing some of those things to lose weight or chase a fitness goal is NOT easy. ⠀ At the same time, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible and it certainly doesn’t mean it has to be a miserable experience. ⠀ And you know one of the quickest ways to make sure it’s not a miserable time? Embrace the fact that you’re working on changing key aspects of yourself. Embrace the fact that these things you’re doing build up and strengthen you as an entire individual. They carry over into every single aspect of your life. ⠀ Will some of those things be hard at times? Sure. But will those things be harder to deal with than the pain of staying the same? That one is entirely up to you.

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There’s a saying that I remember reading somewhere:

“Show me your bank account and I’ll show you your priorities.”

That’s something that’s uncomfortably true – but it can be extended to so many other metrics that we use to track our decisions. Like our MyFitnessPal, for example.

Our MFP is a running history of the decisions we’ve made. It’s a backlog of behavior if you will. Which means it’s also a great place for you to look back and objectively evaluate if you’re really acting in the way that you say you are. Or that someone with your goals would.

Maybe your priorities are more socially inclined. Or maybe they’re more inclined to eating take-out than you think. No matter what they are, what’s important to understand is the next part:

Many of us are afraid to look at those priorities, because we don’t want to, in turn, change those priorities. Change hurts. It’s hard and it’s uncomfortable.

What we have to understand is that this is really nothing more than making a choice. It’s choosing your no. And whenever you recognize that you’ve already been choosing your no for years before this, you recognize that all you have to do is switch what you’re saying no to.

All of the sudden your behaviors are more in line with your priorities, and in no time you’re taking strides towards those goals. All because you recognized you were already making trade-offs, now you just switched those trade-offs.

The thing that I especially love about these specific habits is that they’re things that apply to all of us. No matter if we’re someone who has been involved in the fitness and nutrition world for 20+ years or if we’re someone who is just now thinking about taking the leap. Each and every one of these things are skills that will help carry you forward towards success. But if you would like a little help with that, we are currently in the last few days of our biggest sale of the year. All Stronger U sessions are currently discounted and both returning AND new members are eligible to take advantage. If you’d like to learn a bit more about it, head over here.

Tanner Baze
Director of Content