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I confess, I’m a creature of habit: I have dance classes on Tuesday night, watch TV or read from 8:30 on in the evening, exercise 10-11 most mornings, and my best friend and I exchange phone calls every Sunday at 9 a.m. Although I have my share of flaws, I’m nothing if not consistent, raised as I fortunately was by creatures-of-habit parents.
So, what do you do if you weren’t raised with a model of consistency and want to learn how to do things more regularly and stop flip-flopping between performing and avoiding certain activities? This is an especially crucial skill for dysregulated eaters who swing from under- to overeating and being a couch potato to becoming gym rats.
In How to Be Consistent, Brad Stulberg explains the five principles to follow to develop habits of consistency. I’m sure you’ve heard some of them before, but maybe this time you’re ready to heed the advice and it will lay down a track for you to follow.
Give up heroic efforts and keep away from extremes. Stulberg sites activities like “pulling all-nighters, working out until you vomit, and going on extreme diets” as activities that “usually end in illness, injury or burnout.” He points out the difference between behaviors that are “comfortable (sustainable), comfortably uncomfortable (can be sustainable in the right dose), and downright uncomfortable (very hard to sustain).”
Stop looking for visible progress or what I’d call immediate results. This is why scales are so dangerously addictive. You eat “well” for one day and expect to see weight loss the next. Rather, he advises to seek “small marginal gains that add up over time.” And when gains slow down or disappear to feel proud of your sustained, laudable efforts.
Recognize that progress is non-linear. Expect plateaus and to put in effort with no or few results. Reframe not progressing as consolidation of gains rather than failure. Keep zig-zagging along and learn the art of plodding towards goals.
Forget overnight breakthroughs. These are myths that are promulgated by movies and social media. Stop seeking quick fixes and instead value diligence and persistence. Most importantly, focus on developing frustration tolerance and delaying gratification.
Keep going when you feel good. This is exactly where many dysregulated eaters go awry. Things are going splendidly because of what they’re doing well and yet they stop doing it. This is the exact point to continue doing more of the same until it’s simply how you live your life. Becoming consistent isn’t magic, but it’s doable and will eventually bring you the success you want. The goal is to be consistent at being consistent!
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