How to stay consistent with working out and diet

To stay consistent with working out and diet routine, it’s important to understand why you want to change, develop a plan, consistently take action, and commit to these habits for at least six months. This method is called the Transtheoretical Model or the Stages of Change Theory.

Let’s use the Stages of Change Theory to stay consistent with your workout and diet.

Why is it so hard to be consistent with working out and diet

We get it, sticking to a workout routine and a healthy diet can feel like climbing Mount Everest, right? Our bodies naturally crave those tasty treats and the comfort of the couch. And let’s not even get started on life’s little curveballs that seem determined to derail our best-laid plans.

Sound familiar?

Well, you’re not alone. It’s not just your body whispering sweet nothings about pizza and Netflix, it’s about juggling all of life’s challenges too.

But here’s the good news: staying consistent with your workout and diet doesn’t mean being perfect. Think of it more like a cycle. Sometimes, you might skip the gym or treat yourself to dinner out – and that’s okay! These little detours, or “relapses”, are all part of the journey.

The real key to consistency? It’s all about bouncing back from setbacks. So next time you hit a bump in the road, remember: it’s not about the fall, it’s about the recovery. Keep going, you’ve got this!

The Transtheoretical Model and Stages of Change Theory 

Ever heard of the Transtheoretical Model and Stages of Change? Don’t worry, it sounds a bit technical but it’s actually a super helpful tool when it comes to adopting healthier behaviors.

So, what’s it all about?

Well, it’s a theory that breaks down the journey to healthier habits into six bite-sized stages. Think of it like stepping stones across a river – each one gets you closer to the other side.

Here they are:

  • Precontemplation: Hmm, maybe I should start thinking about this…
  • Contemplation: Okay, I’m definitely considering making a change.
  • Preparation: I’m getting ready to take action!
  • Action: I’m doing it! Here we go!
  • Maintenance: I’ve been sticking with my new habits for over six months now.
  • Relapse: Oops, I slipped up. But that’s okay, I can bounce back.

The ultimate goal? To reach the ‘Maintenance’ stage where your healthier habits of regular exercise and nutritious eating become second nature.

Stay tuned as we dive deeper into these stages and share some practical tips on how to navigate this journey towards consistency in your workout and diet.

Step One: Precontemplation

In the pre-contemplation stage, people aren’t planning to take action. They might not be fully aware of the negative consequences of their behavior and underestimate the benefits of change, focusing more on the drawbacks. (1)

For example, “I don’t like to workout, and eating healthy costs too much money.” 

If you struggle with being consistent with your workouts and diet, consider creating a pros and cons list for working and another for diet. This will help you identify your reasoning for making this behavior change. 

This assignment aims to help you become aware of why this change is necessary, which will become a foundation as we progress through the following steps.

Step Two: Contemplation

In the contemplation stage, people plan to adopt healthier habits. They recognize that their behavior may be an issue and carefully evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of changing. Even with this awareness, they may still feel unsure about changing their behavior. (2)

For example, “I want to change, but I don’t know how.”

It is hard to be consistent when you are unsure of how to make the change. In this stage, I suggest that you construct your environment and relationships to support and guide your behavior change. 

This might look like hiring a coach, finding friends who like to workout, or signing up for a group fitness class. In addition, limit trigger foods that you find hard to control in the house. 

I have also created two beginner guides for Weight Loss 101 and How To Build Muscle. Whether you are trying to lose weight or grow new muscle, these two posts will help you start!

Step Three: Preparation (Determination)

In the preparation stages, people are all set to take action within the next 30 days. They start taking small steps towards changing their behavior, believing it can lead to a healthier life. (3)

For example, “I am ready to make a change.”

The first two stages are critical as they will shift your mindset and give you the foundation to take action. In the preparation stage, you do the research and planning that will help you when you are ready to take action. 

During this stage, you may also practice affirmation and begin to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. (4,5) At this stage, many people find it helpful to hire a dietitian or trainer to help them plan their nutrition and workout routine.

Learn more about How To Set Goals For Weight Loss.

Step Four: Action

In this stage, people have recently changed their behavior (defined as within the last 6 months) and intend to keep moving forward with that behavior change. People may exhibit this by modifying their problem behavior or acquiring new healthy behaviors. (2)

For example, “I have worked out for 3 days per week for the past month and I have meal prepped every Sunday.”

In stage one, we identify the issue. In stage two, we begin to construct our environment and relationships, and in stage three, we do our research and planning. With stage four, we are ready to take action. 

During stage four, the new behaviors or actions (Working out and eating healthy) were previously behaviors that you did not want to do. Using a technique called counter conditioning, you reward yourself for taking the undesired action. 

An example of this is buying a bunch of inexpensive gifts from Amazon, like planners, pens, and clothing, and rewarding yourself with one of the items each time you complete a day of healthy eating or a workout. 

In the action stage, resources like meal plans and workout plans can be helpful. Grab a free meal plan, the most popular being 1800 calorie meal plan, 3500 calorie meal plan, 1700 calorie meal plan, 1600 calorie meal plan and 1900 calorie meal plan.

Step Five: Maintenance

In this stage, people have sustained their behavior change for a while (defined as more than 6 months) and intend to maintain the behavior change going forward—people in this stage work to prevent relapse to earlier stages. (2)

For example, “I have been consistent with working out and my diet for the past 6 months.” 

According to the stages of change theory, you need to follow a process to become more consistent with your workout and diet. This process includes becoming aware of the problem, accepting it, preparing for change, and taking action. 

Maintaining is tough. It needs continuous reinforcement of the previous steps and dealing with life’s unexpected changes. Lots of obstacles may come up.

Step Six: Relapse

In the relapse stage, people will return to one of the previous states. Often caused by an obstacle that disrupts the behavior. (2)

It’s important to remember that failure is a natural part of being human. It is an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating them in similar situations.

The Stages of Change Theory does an excellent job of representing the theory as a cycle rather than a linear progression. 

Understanding that relapse is a common part of change brings comfort, as it reinforces the idea that you can overcome obstacles and remain committed to your health.

Final thoughts

Are you finding it tough to keep up with your fitness routine and healthy eating habits? It could be that you’re grappling with the shift from just thinking about it (contemplation stage) to actually getting ready for action and then diving right in (preparation and action stages).

Remember, every stumble is a learning opportunity. By understanding what tripped you up, you can better prepare for any future hiccups and smoothly sail into the next stage of change.

Keep going, don’t stop!

Noah Quezada is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist located in Denver, Colorado. Over the course of more than a decade, he has gained extensive experience in helping clients manage their weight through in-person sessions. Noah is also the 2023 President of the Colorado Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.