This is Sid.

I LOVE teaching classes at the resort and working with clients — teaching nutrition, cooking, and my small steps approach to health and happiness. If there’s one lesson that is the foundation of everything I teach, it is this:

Mind first, body second.

A very simple lesson, but essential – one that enables people to not only reach their goals for health and happiness but maintain them forever.

Most of the time, in our desire to become healthier, we focus our attention on our bodies – on eating better and exercising, on physical goals like scale weight, body fat percentage, and on attaining a flat stomach or increased muscle mass. But there’s a hitch: if we want healthy actions to become healthy habits AND maintain a healthy body long-term, we have to mentally prepare first.

This means thinking – about what your goals really are, e.g. hitting a number on a scale vs. becoming someone who maintains a healthy weight, how to avoid burnout and overwhelm, and even how to avoid doing too little. In other words, mind first means avoiding yo-yo dieting, militancy and rigidity around food, and not jumping from one fad to the next and then feeling like a failure if/when you can’t keep it going.

Fact is that diets, DVD fitness plans, and even a couple months with a personal trainer will yield significant physical results. Problem is that without proper mental preparation, any gains you achieve will be lost almost 100% of the time. Quick fixes fail because they aren’t just body first, they are body only. Most health programs sell the desired physical results without providing the tools to earn and incorporate long-term habits. A 21-day diet or 30-day challenge is fun and exciting, to be sure, but making improvements stick takes hard work. Real work. Thinking work. Not particularly exciting work, but work that will deliver the long-term health and happiness that we all want.

So…next time you think you’d love to have more energy, feel better, and be in better shape, repeat this mantra: mind first, body second.

Get your mind ready. Get mentally prepared for a long-term endeavor. And then, and only then, turn your focus to your body.

MIND FIRST, BODY SECOND is penned by Sid Garza-Hillman, Stanford Inn & Resort Wellness Programs Director | Certified Nutritionist & Author