Staying The Course

There are many things along the path to physical fitness that will try to lead you astray. Here are some tips to help you resist temptation and remain true to your pursuit of physical and spiritual well-being. Some of the suggestions might seem basic and maybe you’ve even heard them before, but believe me, they can be valuable tools if you find that “living the lifestyle” is becoming a struggle.

  1. Like yourself now.

People with low self-esteem are often the first to give into temptation. They expect immediate results, and if things don’t change right away they tend to despair and feel like their goals are unattainable, so they simply give up. Everyone’s journey on this earth is different, and the path to spiritual and physical balance is often a long one. And believe it or not, it’s really not so much about results as it is about making the effort and having the confidence to persevere. I’ve seen people get into great shape and still remain unhappy with themselves – happiness is not a superficial issue. You can strengthen your resolve and learn to like yourself by realizing that you are a unique creation of a God who loves you.

  1. Learn to recognize

all the lame excuses you’re going to use to avoid exercising. “It’s raining out.” “I’m tired.” “I’m busy.” “The car won’t start.” “The gym’s too crowded at five o’clock.” “I have to work late.” These are not legitimate excuses to skip a workout. If you can’t get to the gym, you can exercise at home, go for a walk or a run, jump rope, do some pushups, etc. If the President of the United States can find time to exercise, so can you! Sometimes you’ll have a good reason to skip a workout, but as soon as you start making excuses ask yourself if they’re really legitimate.

  1. Choose an accountability partner.

I believe that “you’re only committed to what you confess,” in faith as well as in fitness . That’s why it’s good to have someone with an under- standing ear to talk to about your successes and failures as you pursue health and fitness. Find someone you can trust and tell them what you want to accomplish, and what your concerns and fears are. For example, you might tell this person that you want to lose 20 pounds in three months, but you have a weakness for chocolate chip cookies. This person can be a professional trainer or nutritionist, a life coach, a like- minded friend, or even a family member. Whoever you choose (and you may have more than one person), they should be ready at all times to share your achievements and help you when you have a problem or an emergency. They should be some- one you could call while you’re walking down the cookie aisle in the grocery store!

  1. Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry!

You’re much more likely to give in to your particular food cravings and be tempted by the attractive packaging of processed foods.

  1. Don’t do fad diets!

They might work for the short term, but most people gain the weight back later. I’d rather see you learn how to portion your food correctly instead of depriving your body of particular nutrients.

  1. Don’t eat in front of the television.

People who eat in front of the tube generally overeat. This occurs partly because concentrating on a program makes you unaware of all the food your shoveling into your mouth, and partly because stimulating food advertising makes you think you’re hungry. Try eating at the dinner table before you watch television.

  1. Don’t be tricked by “fat-free” food labels.

Some people think that when a cookie package or ice cream container says “fat free” they get a license to pig out. Most of these foods that appear to be healthy are really just loaded with sugar and are a complete waste of calories. I’d rather see you eat a small serving of regular ice cream or cookies than consume huge quantities of the fat-free variety.

  1. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you’re  doing things right and not getting results.

Many people who start a program of exercise and nutrition think they’re doing the right things when they really aren’t, and then they say things like “I can’t lose weight,” or “I can’t gain muscle.” This isn’t rocket science, people, and the same basic principles of diet and exercise work for nearly everybody! The problem isn’t in the nutrition plan or the exercise program, it’s usually in ourselves. That’s why I encourage all my personal training clients to WRITE DOWN a list of everything they eat for two consecutive days. It’s usually a pretty loud wake- up call, and I challenge you to do the same thing. For the next two days, write down every drink, every meal, every piece of candy you consume. Write down the exact serving sizes you take in and the corresponding amount of calories. When you total everything up, I think you’ll see that you still need to make some changes!

  1. Pack your food for the day.

You must be prepared to resist temptation! This is one of my biggest “pet peeves.” I’ll write out a meal plan for a client that requires them to pack their lunch and snacks, and the next question I get is, “Can’t I just get something healthy at a drive-thru?” NO! Believe me, it’s important to take the extra time and discipline required to prepare your meals for the road so you don’t find yourself at a fast food place.

  1. Learn how to handle restaurants.

If you have to go out to eat, you can still make healthy selections. The first thing to do is skip the alcohol, soft drinks, and coffee and just drink water. If you’re out with friends who are all drinking, simply order a sparkling water with lime or lemon. If there are no healthy food choices on the menu, you can politely ask the server if you can order something that isn’t on the menu. Just create your own meal that consists of a portion of protein, a portion of carbohydrate, and a portion of fat that suites your taste. For example, you could ask for a grilled chicken breast or a grilled piece of fish with rice and a salad with oil and vinegar.You’ll find that most restaurants are happy to accommodate you.

  1. If you crave something, have a little

but don’t keep it in the house. I’m not trying to create any robots here, I just want you to make better decisions about your eating habits. If you want chocolate you can eat some, but just don’t be a glutton. By not keeping chocolate in the house, you’ll have to work harder to get it, and you may realize that it’s just not worth the effort. And if you do go out to fulfill your craving, just don’t over-indulge!

  1. At social events, don’t sit near a bowl of chips.

Strength is not just the ability to resist temptation, strength is the ability to avoid temptation altogether.

  1. If you blow it, don’t give up.

Physical fitness is a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. You may experience bumps along the way, but that doesn’t mean you have to give it all up. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again, knowing that every move you make in the right direction is a positive thing. There is no failure. There may be lapses in judgment, but you can always find strength in your accountability partner that can help you…STAY THE COURSE!


Clark Bartram has earned his reputation as "America’s Most Trusted Fitness Professional." In everything he does, Clark puts forth 100% in the hopes that he can benefit men and women who care enough about themselves and the people they love to do what it takes to "Live the Lifestyle." As a professional fitness model, Clark has appeared easily on the cover of over 130 fitness publications and is considered one of the most successful models in the industry. As a personal trainer, Clark has helped thousands of people transform their bodies and their lives, and is an ISSA Master Trainer. He is also the author of the how-to guide, You Too Can Be A Fitness Model, Spiritually Fit, A Fitness Program You Can Have Faith In and his most recent best selling book called Where Your Mind Goes, You Go.

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