What keeps people from meeting their health and fitness goals? I’ve been pondering this question a lot lately. There is so much money dumped into fitness and diet programs, yet so many people are still unhappy with the results. Is the road to health and fitness really that difficult and complex? Well, not really.
If you can be active for 30 minutes a day, eat 5 servings of vegetables a day, drink 64oz of water a day and avoid smoking tobacco, you will be making healthier choices than about 97% of the US population. That’s it. No fasting or juice cleanses or saying no to cupcakes for the rest of your life or working out until you vomit (side note – vomiting is never a good sign unless you just swallowed poison.) We aren’t talking about any of that – we’re just talking about eating vegetables, drinking water, moving your body and avoiding tobacco. But a lot of us never even get to that because of three main problems: we try to force ourselves to do things we hate, we create unrealistic expectations and/or we don’t accept the trade-offs for higher demanding goals.
Here’s how to make the road to health and fitness as painless and smooth as possible:
Find an activity you enjoy. One time I decided I was going to do CrossFit. I worked at a gym where almost everyone was doing it and it seemed like a really good idea. I got all pumped up and enthusiastically showed up to the intro class 10 minutes early. But then we did burpees and wall balls, and I HATED it. This is nothing against CrossFit – it’s a great workout and a lot of people love it. So I hated the first workout, but I was determined to keep going. After all, a lot of the people who stuck with it consistently looked AMAZING. I got myself pumped up again. “HERE WE GO!” I thought. “I’m going to lift hundreds of pounds over my head and have perfect arms and do muscle ups and have friends who do muscle ups.” But guess what? I made it to about two classes over the course of two months and my arms didn’t look any different. That’s because I tried to force myself to do something I hated. Want me to dance for two hours? I’m in. Take 5 back to back POUND classes? No problem. Run a marathon at 5:30AM? I’m your girl. Hold a weird position for 3 minutes while holding onto a ballet barre? Cool. Do 100 burpees? NOPE I’M OUT. Schedule workouts that you know you will do and that you look forward to doing. It doesn’t matter how effective a workout is if you don’t show up to do it. Of course there is a catch to this – if your goal is to win a bodybuilding competition, you aren’t going to be able to swap heavy lifting for taking your dog for a walk. But if your goal is to be healthy, just do what you love. Roller skating, swing dancing, swimming – take your pick.
Manage your expectations. No matter what an infomercial tells you, you are not going to lose 50 LBS in a month. If you do, then you either have a parasite and need to go to the doctor immediately OR you are making some unsustainable, unhealthy decisions in your diet. Forget everything you learned from the Biggest Loser (by the way, most of the contestants have spoken out about the unhealthy tactics they used to lose the weight on that show.) Healthy weight loss is about 1-2 pounds a week, but even that rate is difficult for some people depending on health history, hormone imbalances and/or current lifestyle. When you start a fitness and nutrition program, expect your heart to get stronger and expect your blood work to improve. Expect your clothes to slowly start fitting you differently and expect to lose inches. But ACCEPT that there is no such thing as a quick fix. This is not going to happen overnight, or in the course of one week or even six weeks. Unrealistic expectations are the kiss of death. Hold the expectations too high, and you’ll find yourself giving up on your fitness program because “it isn’t working.” Never forget – slow progress IS STILL PROGRESS. Slow and steady. See the wise tortoise. Be the wise tortoise.
Understand trade-offs. OK so we know that you can make some small changes to move toward a healthier life – like eating more vegetables and drinking more water, but what if you want more than that? To be honest, when talking strictly about health, there isn’t much of a difference between 17% and 15% body fat in a woman. I also doubt you will add years to your life when your 6 pack abs become 8 pack abs, but everyone has their own goals and they’re as unique as the individual. If you are entering a fitness program with goals that go far beyond just being healthy, it’s important to understand and accept the trade-offs. Be honest with yourself about how far you are willing to go. Are you willing to implement strict meal planning for every day of the week and tell your friends you can no longer participate in Margarita Monday? Or do you just want to eat less processed food, add more veggies to your diet and say no to Margarita number two? Make your decision, understand the trade-offs and go for it. For me personally, I would rather enjoy the occasional cake pop and glass of Moscato than have the body of a figure competitor. That is probably why I will never enter a figure competition or drop below 20% body fat – but I’m cool with that and I’m proud of the steps I take to maintain a healthy body composition, feel confident in my clothes and dance for hours without passing out. Everyone is different, and as long as you are comfortable with your goals and the steps to get there, that is all that matters.
Looking to stay motivated and empowered on your journey to healthy living? Join our Soulful, Sexy and Strong Facebook group for a supportive online community of women who are on the path to body, mind and soul transformation. Share challenged and triumphs, celebrate each other and ask questions. We’re always stronger with the support of a community!