When it comes to health and fitness goals, consistency is key. Consistency is even more important when starting and maintaining a weight loss journey.
The actions one takes most of the time lead to sustainable, meaningful results. However, consistency can be difficult to maintain in this culture of immediate gratification.
Alas, discover once and for all the importance of consistency and how to be consistent to meet any and every goal.
What Does Consistency Mean?
Consistency refers to steadiness, regularity, and coherence. It means doing something over and over a majority of the time and does not concern perfection 100 percent of the time.
In fact, it could be argued that pursuing perfection is the quickest way to derail a goal. Perfection is not attainable and it is quite unnecessary, especially in terms of health. Oftentimes, perfection backfires because it inadvertently promotes the all-or-nothing mindset. Related to a health journey, this can translate into engaging the restrict-binge-restrict cycle in terms of food and exercise.
The human mind is largely hardwired to crave what it cannot have. Thus, when someone restricts foods they love, it typically leads to wanting them even more. So when said food appears, it becomes all too easy to overindulge. This then leads to guilt over breaking perfection and subsequent restriction once again only to repeat the cycle over and over.
Similarly, when someone aims to exercise perfectly, any obstacle that prevents or impedes a workout could initiate thoughts of "Well I missed one workout, so what is the point of starting again tomorrow?" All of a sudden, six weeks later, exercise is basically out of the question.
Adopt the 80/20 rule, where 80 percent of choices benefit the goal and the other 20 percent of decisions provide space to live life uninhibitedly. Imperfection promotes adaptability, flexibility, and joy!
Not to mention, it is a fantastic evolutionary adaptation to be metabolically flexible. Someone who can eat a variety of foods and skip a workout every once in a while, while still maintaining a healthy weight, is thought to have a high functioning metabolism.
The human body should be able to incur a variety of inputs and adapt accordingly. In fact, the body actually needs different stressors to progress, otherwise weight plateaus, which often happens when someone is eating too few calories to support their bodily functions. Eventually, their metabolism adapts and holds onto more energy, often causing weight loss stalls or even weight gain.
What does consistency look like in practice? Let's use a weight loss strategy as an example.
How to Lose Weight Consistently
Diet culture tends to suggest losing weight requires dramatically cutting calories, doing cardio two hours a day, omitting carbohydrates, and using low-fat products. Know that this could not be further from the truth.
Weight loss really can be as simple as eating nutrient-dense foods a majority of the time and consuming fun foods in moderation the remainder. In terms of fitness, it means achieving a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week and doing a combination of strength and cardio training. Other factors like sleep, hydration, hormones, and stress levels also affect weight loss, but perfection is not required here or there either.
On a day-to-day basis, consistency may look like eating three meals rich in lean protein, fiber, and healthy fats and consuming one fun snack such as a cookie. Indeed, eating cookies in appropriate portions can be healthy and lead to weight loss.
For another person, consistency might look like tracking macros three to four days a week and not on the others. Still, for another, consistency could be eating two very nutrient-dense meals and one fun meal per day and exercising four days a week.
There are no definitive criteria for consistency, which allows it to be adaptable to different lifestyles, health conditions, seasons, and more. Furthermore, consistency can shift throughout life cycles or even month to month. It all depends on the individual and their set goals. Someone with super-specific goals may need to be more consistent than someone with less stringent aspirations, and that is the beauty of it.
Nonetheless, there are some tried and true practices that, when done consistently, ensure weight loss.
1. Eat Plenty of Fiber
Fiber is always harped on because of its many benefits including increased satiation, balanced blood sugar, lower cholesterol and triglycerides, and improved gut health. Fiber is also a best friend to weight loss.
Men should aim to consistently eat 25 or more grams of daily fiber and women should aim to consume at least 35 grams per day. Fiber also helps excrete excess estrogen, which is why the recommendation is higher. Consume plenty of fiber from vegetables, fruits with skin, and whole grains.
2. Consume Lean Protein
Protein is essential for weight loss as well. It helps with staying full for longer amounts of time, helps grow and maintain muscle and cellular tissue, and is the most thermogenic of the macros, meaning it requires the most energy to digest and absorb.
Make this a consistent habit by alternating between:
• White poultry
• Fish and seafood
• Lean beef
• Pork (look for the word loin)
• Beans and legumes
• Nuts and seeds
• Vegetarian sources like tofu, seitan, and tempeh
3. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep not only allows the body and mind to rest, but it also promotes repairs and growth. Researchers have extensively studied sleep, and time and time again explain that getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep most nights of the week is undoubtedly wise for health.
Person A who achieves this is likely healthier than Person B who only gets 4 to 5 hours during the week and then attempts to compensate by sleeping 13 to 14 hours on the weekends even if they are both technically sleeping the same overall amount. This wonderfully highlights the importance of consistency over extremes.
Sleep is also exceptionally important when trying to lose weight as it helps balance all hormones. These include hunger and fullness hormones that are increased and decreased respectively when skimping on sleep.
4. Eat More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
No more are the days of low-fat fad diets. Conversely, research shows that eating plenty of omega-3 fatty acids may promote weight loss because it is a potent antioxidant and antiinflammatory. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines and tuna, walnuts and almonds, edamame and algae, and mushrooms.
Proportionally reduce omega-6 fatty acids found in refined vegetable oils and processed foods as well. Some research indicates a ratio of 1:1 is solid, while others say 4:1 (omega-3 to omega-6) is much more healthful and recommended.
Nonetheless, the current population is estimated to consume a ratio of 16:1, omega-6 to omega-3! Stick to fruit and nut oils when cooking and in foods.
5. Exercise Enough
It is difficult to make blanket statement exercise recommendations because everyone is slightly different. Importantly, experiment with different amounts and types of exercise.
Some people respond better to more cardio and minimal strength training while others are the complete opposite. Some people can handle consistently exercising six days a week while others can only tolerate three to four.
Signs that one's exercise routine is sufficient includes:
• Maintaining a healthy weight and immune system
• Building muscle if that is the goal
• Feeling energized throughout the day
• Feeling a generally good mood and recovering quickly
Remember to include natural physical activity like household chores, taking quick walks or stretch breaks, chasing children, or parking far away in a lot. Consistently doing this leads to better weight loss results for some.
6. Limit Refined Carbs/Added Sugars
Clients are always asking dietitians what their number one recommendation would be for weight loss. If someone were to only pick one habit to implement consistently, many dietitians would say to minimize refined carbs/added sugar.
This sweet molecule is associated with nearly every chronic disease, greatly contributes to insulin resistance (a root cause of many chronic diseases), and decreases the function of cells (aka reduces metabolism). So, consistently avoiding large amounts of refined and added sugar is very beneficial for health and weight loss.
This does not mean that eating one piece of cake at a birthday party will derail all goals. Again, consistency simply means normally limiting foods like cake and saving them to enjoy for special occasions.
Although the list could continue, the above outlines the most important aspects of weight loss. Consistently achieving those practices also helps guarantee a healthful, high-quality life.
Moreover, achieving any goal requires consistency. However, consistency need not be perfect and simply requires a majority of the time type of attitude. Perfection typically hinders goals while consistency allows behavior to be flexible and nuanced.
Most importantly, consistency allows one to enjoy the lavish parts of life every once in a while, free of guilt or fear that everything is ruined by a couple of outlier choices.