The one thing I wish I figured out a lot sooner in my fitness journey is the power of accountability when it comes to achieving weight-loss goals, especially when it involves avoiding those otherwise inevitable holiday pounds.
Between festive baking, catered holiday parties and family dinners with all the fixings, you're bound to indulge and eat the goodies.
So, you'll definitely need to work it off.
But staying fit during the holidays is a huge challenge. ClassPass doesn't work, and telling yourself you'll go to the gym this evening doesn't work, either.
You could make plans with yourself to hit the gym, but are you accountable to yourself? Or, will you cancel those plans because nobody's around to crack down on you?
What you need in order to succeed is some solid external accountability. You need someone to answer to, someone who keeps track of you and someone who motivates you.
You need a plan you won't be able to duck out of.
A personal trainer, for example, is someone you will be accountable to. This is someone you won't cancel on.
Unlike a group fitness class, when you book a one-on-one session with your trainer, you can't exactly get away with pulling a no-show.
I never realized skipping the gym was due to a lack of accountability to myself.
My personal trainer at Steve Nash hit the nail on the head when he explained that when accountability is found in an external source, the subject becomes significantly more accountable to the fitness plan.
Here are five reasons external accountability is the one thing you need to ward off holiday weight gain:
1. There has to be someone who doesn't let you get away with bad eating habits.
My trainer made me realize I was lacking accountability not just when it came to fitness, but also when it came to my eating habits.
I'm single and my roommate is always traveling, so I can sit and eat without anyone judging me, commenting on it or telling me to put down the chips.
After a binge, I would make plans with myself to go to the gym, and of course, those plans always changed.
A really great friend (or a really great personal trainer) will check in with you and give you tips for overcoming bad eating habits.
Some of us can't buy a box of cookies or a bag of chips and have it last a whole week.
For some of us, there's only ever a "one-day" box of cookies because we don't have the control to stop.
Sometimes, people eat and eat as though it's an out-of-body experience, even though they don't actually want to eat bad foods at all. What they want is to eat healthy and watch their weight.
These struggles could very well be a sign of a food addiction, and without being accountable to someone, that food addiction will continue.
Food stimulates the brain's reward center, which is why some people binge on large quantities of food even when they're not hungry. It's common to binge when you're feeling depressed or stressed because eating junk food can release dopamine.
But, you know what also makes you feel good and releases endorphins? Exercise.
2. A source of external accountability guarantees you'll exercise more often.
If you really want to ensure that you'll exercise, don't plan gym dates with yourself, close friends or family members.
You know that close friends and family members will forgive you if you cancel on them, so your best bet is to plan a gym date with a co-worker or an acquaintance, someone whom you probably wouldn't cancel on because you want to make a good impression.
The absolute best person to be accountable to and plan a gym date with is actually a personal trainer.
When you develop a great relationship with your trainer, you won't want to let them down. You'll want to get results, work hard and share the before-and-after journey with them.
Your trainer is fully in it with you, and that's a rare relationship to obtain.
3. External accountability in the form of time and money can help you stick to your goals, too.
If you want to eat healthier this holiday season, go grocery shopping. Spend a significant amount of money on healthy food.
Then, spend a bunch of your valuable free-time meal prepping so that all of your healthy meals are ready to eat.
The fact that you've spent a bunch of time and money preparing healthy meals will deter you from going out and buying take-out from that calorie-rich pasta bar.
Just like how you'll still pay for your early morning personal training session if you decide to sleep in, you'll similarly waste all that money (and time) if you don't eat your meal prep creations.
4. You need people who check in on you because you need to answer to someone in order to stay on track.
You need people in your life who care enough to check in on you.
A good personal trainer will ask you about your eating and fitness habits in between sessions, as a way of keeping track of you and keeping you accountable.
In fact, you should fire your personal trainer if they aren't holding you accountable like this.
Great friends will check in on you to see how your progress is going if they know you have weight-loss or fitness goals.
Even better friends will actually come over and watch a movie with you on a rainy Thursday night because they know you'll be less likely to binge on a bunch of junk-food if you're with someone. (Most people tend to binge when they're alone, so the more social you are, the better.)
You might even have a friend willing to go on the exact same diet as you at the same time, so that you have a “we're in it together” mentality.
5. You can find motivation by being accountable to an end goal.
Another great source of external accountability is a pre-planned tropical vacation or a special upcoming event that you want to look your best for.
A great way to stay motivated by being accountable to a specific goal is to have your personal trainer measure you every two weeks.
Just knowing that he or she will be getting out that measuring tape to supervise your progress is enough to make you want to watch what you eat.
Find something or someone to be accountable to, and your healthy habits and fitness goals will have a much higher chance at being actualized.
Feel free to tweet me your fitness progress, and I'll tweet you mine!