Goal Setting and Accomplishment
In order to stay focused, you must formally create goals for yourself. Choose reasonable goals, write them down, and put them somewhere so you will see the list everyday. If you're really worried about losing focus, you may even want to consider buying a notebook and writing specifically what you did that day to work toward your goals. By keeping a journal, you remind yourself that you must do at least one thing everyday in the way of your goals so you can have something to write at the end of the day. If you can, try to find someone to exercise with or diet with. It always helps if someone is there and understands exactly what kind of work that you are putting into your program. This way you will have someone to vent to or relate to. Trust me, most of your friends will not understand, and some will turn their noses up at you if they see you trying to eat right. Another way to keep from losing focus is to pick exercises or foods that you enjoy and are compatible with the program that you are in. If you choose a diet or exercise program that you hate, you'll be more likely to not follow it.
I think that the most important thing is to have fun. Don't approach dieting or exercising with a negative attitude. The more you put into a program, the better your results will be. If you do these things and have a positive attitude, exercise and diet will turn into habit and replace your old habits and then you'll be on track!
Discipline, Self-Control and Consistency
Hopefully, by now you have established some measure of discipline. Discipline is defined as control gained by obedience or training. I think it is obvious to see that having discipline is vital in creating self-control in a dieting or exercising program. Without it, you would probably stick with the program for a good 2-or-3 days before dropping it. So how do you maintain or improve self-discipline. In my opinion, you need to modify the places that you spend the most time in a way that makes you motivated to exercise or diet and promotes these types of actions. You can do this in many ways.
First, you could hang up pictures of what you want to look like (make sure the picture is realistic). A more effective, but similar technique is putting out a picture of yourself during a time that you feel you looked your best (if you have one). Try to put it in a place where you will see it first thing in the morning and right before you go to bed. Put your running shoes out in the open so that you have to walk by them when you walk around. This way you will be reminded to exercise, even if you try to put it out of your mind. Avoid decorating in such a way that you promote digression. If you do this, you yourself will be likely to digress. I have even gone as far as to make my bed uncomfortable so I don't just come home and lay around all day. Of course, there is a down side to that, but there is always a happy medium. Ultimately, establishing self-discipline results in consistency within your program. Consistent actions will eventually lead to habits in which you can break away from the initial "Die-Hard" techniques utilized in trying to improve self-discipline.
Plan to Cope with Relapse
Relapse is a term that, in this case, refers to going back to bad habits that you had before the exercise or diet regimen. Obviously you want to avoid this. However, at times it is easy to slip back into old patterns, but I'm going to give you a couple of tips that you can try for yourself to prevent this. This list of suggested actions comes not from my head, but from a list made by Marlatt and Gordon, and it was originally used to help out smokers and drug abusers. Recently, this list has also been successful in helping individuals maintain exercise and diet programs. First, identify situations that may put you at high risk for relapse. I think it would be a good idea to even write out these situations on paper, so that you'll know they're real situations.
Next, plan to avoid or cope with these situations by utilizing techniques such as time-management and confidence-building. Follow that by actually writing down the consequences you would suffer if you did not exercise and put these consequences in real prospective. For example, if you're extremely tired when it is time to exercise, it may benefit you more to skip exercising and sleep instead. However, be cautious to not exaggerate your degree of tiredness and use it as an excuse to not exercise.
Next, expect and plan for lapses. A lapse in a program is unavoidable. For instance, you might get injured or go on vacation in which you would be forced to take a break. In that case, do your best with the situation, have a back-up plan if you can. Also, you might be several weeks/months into the program and your body needs a break. In this case, don't be afraid to back off and even take time to rest and recuperate if needed. The fifth step is to block out any images or self-talk that center around the pros to not exercising. The more you try to self-talk your way out of skipping activity, the more likely you will be to follow through and skip. Don't go into a program with an all or nothing attitude. My professor, Dr. Rod Dishman, called this the "Abstinent-Violation Effect." Basically, it refers to a person who is so "Gung-Ho" about being flawless in the program that one slip up causes him/her to totally quit the program all together. Finally, enjoy exercise and don't look at it as one more thing to do. To avoid this mindset, simply replace time in which you are inactive with a time of activity. I've said it all along, enjoy your program, do exercises that you want to do.
If you utilize the techniques that I have described, you will have a full arsenal to fight off the mental battles that you will endure. The most important thing is to be realistic and have fun. These three articles contain a lot of information and I guarantee you will see benefits if you truly follow them with consistency. It can work for anyone who is willing!
Feel free to e-mail me any questions that you may have.