If you want to change your body, build lean muscle, lose weight, or reach most of your fitness goals it’s important to remember that those achievements take patience and perseverance. Before you embark on any nutritional or exercise regime you’ll need to tell yourself to take it “one day at time.”  We live in a culture of instant gratification. Anything we want or desire can be obtained pretty quickly, within reason that is. But when it comes to changing your body shape or improving your health, it takes time and effort. You’ll need patience to see it through and perseverance to stay the course. These two words describe what it takes to go the distance and endure the hard days when things don’t go your way.

During times of stress or hardship, sticking with your eating and exercise plan are the two best things you can do for yourself. Exercise has been shown to help alleviate the harmful effects stress can have on your body. When you’re stressed, your body releases the hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which can cause your body to hold onto fat.  If you’re eating a diet that’s already high in fat like processed foods and you’re not exercising enough then you’re setting yourself up for weight gain — putting yourself at risk of developing illnesses.

Here are five mantras to remember when the going gets tough and you want to stray from your plan.

  1. Patience is a virtue. Patience applies to everything in your life, but especially when it comes to changing your body and/or eating habits.  Recognize that you will have good days and bad.  Be kind to yourself and find an outlet (hit the gym, take a walk, sip tea) for those days when you feel like you want to eat everything in sight.
  2. Practice clean eating.  You’re not going to have six-pack abs after a week of dieting.  But, you will see your abs over time if you fuel your body properly and stay the course.
  3. Keep it real.  Don’t start an exercise or nutritional plan a month before a wedding or a reunion.  While these may be good motivators to get in shape or lose weight, use that kick-start as motivation to adopt a healthier lifestyle for the long haul.
  4. Slow and steady wins the race. Changing your body is like building a house. Establishing a strong foundation is the first order of business. Do your research, talk to a nutritionist and/or a personal trainer for tips on how to proceed if you’re unsure.  Take it one day at a time and watch the results unfold.
  5. When the going gets toughpersevere!  You will have days when you feel fatigued or unmotivated.  Keep inspirational sayings and pictures on your fridge or at your desk. (And follow Muscle & Fitness Hers’ Instagram) for daily motivation and tips). These reminders can help prevent you giving in to cravings and keep your goals front and center. When I’m craving junk food, I make a chocolate protein shake with powdered peanut butter in the blender with ice. This tastes like a milk shake without the added fat and calories of ice cream, and I’ve just fueled my body.

You will hit bumps in the road but don’t let that derail your progress.  If you slip up and overindulge one day, get right back to your plan the next day.  Don’t beat yourself up, just accept it and move forward.  There’s no better gift to yourself than the gift of health. Remember, it’s called bodybuilding not bodybuilt — it’s a process.

Learn more about IFBB pro and article author Linda M. Stephens on her websiteOpens a New Window..