I’ve noticed a theme lately with many weight-loss seekers who I interact with in the gym: Frustration is seeping in.
We’re a few months into the year, and many people are still trying to keep to their New Year’s resolutions, but they aren’t seeing the results they anticipated and are feeling a little discouraged.
Others have apparently called “game over” for their 2016 efforts. I’ve noticed the gym isn’t quite as busy as it was in January and February.
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So what about you? Are you still in the game? If you’re considering giving up or need some help getting back on track, I’d like to offer a few words of encouragement.
Ditch your diet
Any plan that feels like deprivation is just about guaranteed to fail. Very few people who embark on “diets” keep the weight off. In fact, the number one statistical predictor of weight gain is having previously lost weight on a diet.
There is a powerful cycle of guilt and shame involved in dieting that sets us up for failure. It looks something like this:
Diet > Mess up > Feel guilty > Eat to soothe negative feelings > Gain more weight
So what should we do if we need to drop a few pounds?
Get on a plan that is sustainable for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. This means you don’t have to go to extremes with food or exercise. Shoot to eat healthy and get some sort of physical activity 5-plus days a week.
Have a setback or lapse in judgment? Don’t focus on the mistake: Focus on what led to the lapse and how you can prevent it next time.
Resist the urge to give up when you have a misstep. The true test lies not in whether or not we slip up (we all do), but in how we handle it afterward. Will we give in and give up or will we get up and keep going?
Rather than quitting, visualize yourself in a healthier, fitter state of being and keep pressing on. “Giving up on your goal because of one setback is like slashing your other three tires because you got one flat” (author unknown).
Think marathon, not sprint
You didn’t put on weight in a few days or weeks, and it certainly won’t come off any quicker than it went on. Believe that the changes you are making will add up and have an impact.
Remind yourself daily: It’s the little changes I make today that will add up to the results I want in the future. True, lasting change happens one baby step at a time.
We live in an instant gratification society. Perhaps that is part of why we struggle so much with maintaining healthy habits: They’re largely about the delaying of gratification.
Healthy results take time and consistency. Don’t compare your weight-loss effort to what you saw on a reality television show — those shows are certainly not “reality,” which is why most of those “losers” gain all the weight back.
Undeniably, it is very challenging to wait patiently for results. As a result, most people give up before they reach a positive outcome.
In light of this, I suggest focusing on process goals rather than outcome goals. Examples of process goals include: “I will eat three servings of veggies every day this week,” or “I will spend 60 minutes exercising Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”
We have control over the choices we make on a day-to-day basis: what we eat, how active we are, etc. We don’t always have 100 percent of the control over the outcome of those choices (such as: “I will lose 10 pounds this month”).
Focusing on specific, behavior-oriented goals helps us feel more in control of the process and may keep us from getting discouraged.
Keep your eyes on the prize
While you’re waiting for the results of your daily choices to become evident, keep yourself motivated by reflecting on what’s at the heart of why you want to be healthier.
Is it longevity? Confidence? Stamina? Quality of life? Feeling good in your skin (or your jeans)? Whatever speaks to the heart of your motivation, find a way to frequently remind yourself of why you want to make a change. Write it down and put it in highly visible places. Look at it several times a day, especially before exercising or eating. Read it when you feel tempted to make a choice that is not in the best interest of your health.
Focus on habits that really help
If you’re seeking weight loss, please don’t buy into gimmicks or fads. Every year, Americans spend billions and billions of dollars on products and plans designed to help them shed the pounds.
If any of the plans or products out there magically worked, would we need to keep spending that amount of money year after year?
So what really works? The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) is a non-profit research organization that is a leading authority on studying weight loss. The NWCR tracks over 10,000 people who have lost over 30 pounds and kept it off for more than a year (with the average study participant having lost 66 pounds and kept it off for 5.5 years).
The data collected by the NWCR indicates that successful losers have some basic habits in common. The majority report that they consistently:
▪ Get vigorous exercise for about an hour most days of the week
▪ Eat breakfast
▪ Weigh in regularly (an average of once a week)
▪ Watch less than 10 hours of television a week
If you want to incorporate a few changes to maximize your success, these would be some great habits to start focusing on.
Even as a health and fitness professional, I struggle at times to stay true to optimal choices. When I feel discouraged or burned out on “fighting the fight,” I remind myself that health is a path I choose one day at a time.
Every day, I wake with a blank slate to fill with choices that either bolster or burden my well-being. Which will you chose?
Maggie Williamson is a health coach, NASM-certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist and weight-loss specialist. She has a master’s degree in social work and a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Her business, BoiseStrongMom.com, specializes in working with women seeking to improve their overall health and well-being.