By Lara Thompson, Personal Trainer and Owner of Pure Physique
Question: Only a month has passed since I made my New Year’s Resolution and I’ve already missed workouts and slipped on my diet. Why is it so hard to keep to my diet and exercise resolutions?
Answer: Many of us make a myriad of New Year’s resolutions. Lose weight. Save money. Be a better parent. Get a promotion. The turn of the calendar page offers us all a fresh start and an opportunity to consider the aspects of our lives we’d like to improve. Unfortunately, less than one in eight people will be successful in their New Year’s resolutions. If you’ve fallen off the proverbial wagon (again!), it’s time to dust yourself off and get back on – this time armed with a plan for success!
There are many possible reasons for not following a diet or exercise plan, but there are also many ways to be successful!
You actually need a plan! (and it should be a SMART one)
SMART is a popular acronym in goal setting. It reminds us to set goals that are: Specific; Measureable; Attainable; Relevant; and have a time frame.
Resolving to “eat healthy,” “lose weight,” or “get in shape” is too vague. What is it you actually want to achieve? There are all kinds of extreme weight-loss programs if you simply want to lose weight. But they can leave you weak and lethargic with a figure that’s difficult to maintain.
A SMART weight-loss goal might look something like this: I plan to reduce my body fat to within the normal, healthy range. I’ll avoid processed foods and added sugar, and consume an appropriate number of calories for my body. I’ll consult with a fitness professional to measure and confirm what my target body fat and caloric intake should be. I plan to take a brisk 20-minute walk every day. In addition, I’ll participate in registered fitness classes at least twice per week: one class that will teach me exercises I can do on my own, and another that will promote flexibility and relaxation. I’ll reevaluate this plan after three months.
Consider that maybe you’re being too hard on yourself – did you set some lofty goals New Year’s Eve? “This is it! I’m going to lose 20 pounds, eat healthy, run every day, and be swimsuit-ready by March!”
Stop the negative self-talk. You’ll do more harm than good standing in front of the mirror noticing all your flaws. If you step on the scale and it doesn’t reflect all your hard work, don’t berate yourself. A slow start is still a start, and a set-back is just that, not a derailment. It doesn’t mean you should start skipping meals, nor should you necessarily double your time in the gym.
If your child or spouse was having trouble achieving a goal they’d set out to accomplish, you wouldn’t admonish them for all their little mistakes, rather, you’d help them determine where they might be going wrong and encourage them to continue until they’re successful. As nationally renowned author and speaker, Brene Brown once said, “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” You’re not “fat,” “ugly,” or “lazy.” You’re a flawed human being, struggling to become better. And you will.
You MUST exercise
Despite the ramblings of some strict diet programs that forbid exercise, you must exercise in order to be successful. When you lose weight without exercise you lose both fat and muscle. When you gain weight without exercise (and you will!) you gain only fat. So every lose-gain cycle leaves you with proportionately more and more fat and less and less muscle. That muscle is what fires your metabolism, allows you to eat more and move more, and creates the physique you desire.
If your eating plan has you restricting calories or reducing or eliminating sugar or starchy carbs, your body will be starved for it’s usual energy source. This will ultimately lead you to a binge. However, if you add moderate exercise to your daily routine it will help energize you and keep cravings to a minimum.
Arm yourself with knowledge
Learn what proper portion sizes are, and how many calories you should be consuming. (Did you know it’s not the same for everyone?) One of the most common problems I see when counseling for weight-loss is people who aren’t eating enough. I’m not talking about extreme disordered eating, but well-meaning people who have cut back their calories in hopes that some magic dietary math will make them skinny. It’s a little more complicated than that, but not much more. Do your research. Most people put more hours and effort into a new vehicle purchase than they put into their own health.
Plan for failure
Guess what’s right around the corner? Valentine’s Day! Chocolate, candy, wine… a dieter’s dream! Oops, make that nightmare. Then a month later is St. Patrick’s Day. (Who doesn’t love an ice-cold green beer?) A loved one’s birthday coming up? Office party? There is at least one ‘holiday’ every month that poses a challenge for those looking to eat, drink, and live well. Good old-fashioned will power will only get you so far. Instead, have a plan. Visualize yourself at the office party making healthy choices, not apologizing for them. Plan healthier versions of family-favorite dishes for big occasions.
Visualize your success and plan for setbacks. As long as you don’t let a lapse derail you, it’s not a failure! Accept that you made a mistake, you’re not perfect, and get back on track. Now. Not tomorrow. Not Monday. Now.
A new resolution
If you decided on your fitness or weight-loss plan at 11:59 on New Year’s Eve, and are now finding that it’s not working, it may be time to regroup and come up with a better strategy. What have you learned this past month? Can’t actually make it to the gym twice a day? Don’t really enjoy eating all the ‘clean’ foods you swore you’d stick to? Use what you’ve learned, relax, and make a new, informed, SMART, plan. Give yourself a few days to prepare, then get started – the right way.
If anyone has a fitness or nutrition question they’d like answered in a future article, to please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org