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One of the most consistent frustrations I see people have is not their ability to lose weight but the ability to keep it off.

Most people can, for short periods of time, manage to lose 20 to 30 pounds by sheer force of will. They get in a groove, they knuckle down, they get focused, and voila, the weight comes off. Sweet, sweet victory. And deep down, they hope that this time, it’s for good. But deeper down, they know it isn’t. Sooner or later, old habits start to creep their way in. They loosen the reins, stop doing what worked, and before they know it, they’re back where they started.

Losing weight is one thing. But living a lean, healthy lifestyle is something else entirely. It will require you to do some hard internal work to undo years of bad habits, and you’ll need to be patient, but if you persist, you’ll be off the dieting hamster wheel for good.

You just have to be a little self-aware and keep yourself in check. After 16 years, here is what I’ve found works best: 

1. Always focus and be crystal clear on your “why.” Hands down, the most common questions and/or frustration I hear is, “I just can’t get motivated to work out or eat healthy.” This arises from the misconception that in order to work out and eat healthy every day, you have to feel pumped about it. As if “feeling it” is a prerequisite to getting the results we want. That is not what motivation is. Motivation is not a feeling, it’s a fire. One that burns internally, fueled by deeply personal and important reasons. No one can get you motivated because no one can decide for you what’s important. And once you have your reasons, you have to understand why what you’re doing today is serving those reasons. 

2. Be realistic about your expectations, both about your progress and what you’re willing to do to get said progress. Not everything will happen as fast as possible and when you want it to. If you’re serious about what you want, you’ll need to have the patience to let it happen on its own time. Effort is not an ATM machine. There will be long periods of time where you’ll need to keep doing the work without the gratification of instant results. When you begin a diet, you’ll lose a lot of weight fast, then nature’s survival mechanisms kick in and seem to fight you every step of the way. You’ll lose fractions of a pound one week, nothing the next, and even gain some back in others, all while you’re still doing the hard work. This is normal and part of the process. Your success will depend on your ability to trust the process and set expectations accordingly.

3. Align your fitness with your personal preferences and personality. Let’s face it, exercise is hard. Eating healthy is hard. But it’s a non-negotiable if you want to look and feel healthy. That being said, it can still be enjoyable if you pick a routine and plan that fits you. You might like to lift weights or run or do Pilates. Whatever it is, it’s got to be something you see yourself doing forever. The same goes for diet. If your nutrition plan is a constant battle between hardcore restriction and all-out bingeing, you’ll always spin your wheels. Find a middle ground between freedom and discipline. And here’s a little secret: as long as you hang in there, your appetite will change. Over time, you’ll want the ice cream less and protein shake more because of how it makes you feel (well, most of the time).

4. Create an environment and relationships that sustain and reinforce the positive changes you’ve made. And lastly, all of the above is infinitely harder when you’re going it alone. If no one around you is trying to live a healthier lifestyle, it’s hard not to succumb to the gravitational pull of your lesser self. You need to surround yourself with people and circumstances that push you, challenge you, and pull you forward. 

Do that, and fitness will be yours for life. spt

photo of san pedro today author Ricky Magana

Ricky Magana

Ricky Magana is co-owner of Heyday Elite Fitness. Heyday offers a two-minute scan that provides a full one-page body fat analysis to help you tailor your fitness goals. For more info, email