How often have we heard ourselves, our friends or loved ones talk about their plans of starting an exercise regime to lose weight and get fit when shortly after, these plans end up falling through?... What went wrong? Why is it that so often many of us struggle to follow through despite being very motivated at the start?
This blog will discuss common mistakes and provide some key tips from an Exercise Physiologist perspective on how to achieve healthy weight loss goals. If you are one of those who has started their weight loss journey multiple times, only to fall back into poor habits after the initial phase, then this is a good read for you…
TIP 1: APPROACH THE CHALLENGE WITH DETERMINATION BUT LOWER THE EXPECTATIONS ON YOURSELF.
Very commonly we get carried away in the beginning, starting off being super motivated, acting our own greatest cheerleader, feeling unstoppable and in some cases tend to overtrain rather than following a progressive path. While we may be thriving on that initial excitement, it will not last forever. There will be ups and downs, motivation will fluctuate. Be prepared for this, expect that you will meet obstacles along the way and that you will need to adjust your decision making around these disruptions. We do not always see the progress that we are hoping for – despite all the hard work we put in. This is where it becomes challenging and we stand to battle frustration and self- doubt. Of course, giving up seems tempting at that point doesn’t it? But you have the power to change your actions and make the decision to try again! Remember how strong your willpower can be and be smart in how you tackle the challenges. Setting the expectations right from the start and striving for realistic goals is important in order to avoid slipping down that slippery slope.
Generally, setting unattainable goals is where most of us go wrong, especially if starting from a place where exercise has not been of priority before. Do yourself a favour and chuck the “Go Hard or Go Home” mentality away, as it may cause you more grief than benefit at an early stage leading to fatigue, injury, and/ or lack of motivation.
In the beginning of a weight loss journey, it is all about establishing GOOD, HEALTHY and SUSTAINABLE HABITS that will set you up long- term. This is unlikely to happen if you try convincing yourself to train ‘hardcore’ 2 hours each day, then feel disappointment when not managing to keep it up. It is easy to become overwhelmed when our willpower is put to the test so allow yourself to start SLOW and PROGRESS GRADUALLY.
TIP 2: THE KEY TO SUCCESS IS FOUND IN YOUR DAILY ROUTINE! BUILD GOOD HABITS.
This is the biggest truth of them all. Read it again. Take it in. Make use of it.
Your daily dose of exercise is essential, likewise your diet. Follow professional advice and you will be set on a good path, but let’s not forget to factor in how you spend the hours of your day outside of gym sessions you attend. What do you do? How much of this time is allocated to sitting versus moving? We need to remember that the physical activities we do throughout the day all adds up and is of importance, therefore do not underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.
Changing our ways is by no means easy, we as humans are creatures of comfort (and let’s be honest, most of times we like it that way), but keep in mind that creating small habits and circumstances is what makes goals achievable. You have a choice to make healthy decisions while being given opportunities to do so every day. Start focusing on one change at a time (this can be short walks on your lunch break or choosing to take the stairs rather than elevators etc.). Research has shown that focusing on creating/ changing one habit at a time or selecting a habit that encourages multiple behaviours at once works most effectively.
TIP 3: MINDSET IS YOUR CORE DRIVE.
You may witness someone’s incredible body transformation within a short period of time, and you think “Yes, this is doable! I will follow the exact same exercise and diet plan as this person did, and I will get there too”. However, keep in mind that there are multiple factors that will determine whether a person will achieve a goal or not, and it is very individualised. You may witness this person at his/her peak, but keep in mind that no part of their journey was ever easy up to that point.
The Iceberg illusion. By Sylvia Duckworth.
What is usually hidden from the eye is an individual’s actual MINDSET. Our mind is our greatest power and our core driver. But it can also act in ways of being our biggest vulnerability holding us back. Building resilience takes time, so be patient and kind to yourself. Consider your motivations, and let it come from a place of acceptance and self- care because most likely, this will determine your success. The most important question before you start is actually: What is your motivation?
A reoccurring mistake amongst many of us is to let the actual weight loss be the motivation. Yes, weight loss is one of the most common reasons why people start exercising, but is that where your focus should lie? Speaking from EP experience, I would not say that weight loss seems to work as the best motivator due to the fact that when the process does not play out the way we want it to, our drop out risk becomes high. We are more likely to pursue our goals if we shift our focus onto exercising for HEALTH BENEFITS RATHER THAN BODY IMAGE. Once you have come to terms with this, you may find that your exercise routine is easier to maintain. There is extensive research supporting the many great benefits of regular exercise, including stress relief, reducing anxiety and depression, supporting the immune system, improving brain health and sleep quality, pain reduction, and lower risk of developing chronic disease.
TIP 4: LET’S DISCUSS MOTIVATION
There are two types of motivators: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic refers to the motivation that is driven by producing internal “rewards” such as sense of enjoyment and satisfaction based on a genuine interest of task, something you would complete even if you did not receive any external “rewards” (e.g. money, status, validation etc). Extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards, you may for example attend a gym class purely for the reason you do not want to disappoint your partner who convinced you to go (rather than doing it because exercise makes you feel good). Both types can be very valuable and influential despite working in different ways. External rewards can be helpful when creating new habits, such as rewarding yourself with something when you reach small goals perhaps weekly/ monthly. Rewarding good habits most likely will encourage these habits to become permanent. It may be good to have a combination of both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. If we can shift our mindset to being predominantly driven by intrinsic (going for a run because you love how it makes you feel) you may enjoy it more and increase the likelihood of growing an appreciation for being physically active on a regular basis throughout your lifetime rather than only during phases where you feel at your most determined to lose weight.
TIP 5: HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY GET THERE
How do we develop a positive relationship with exercise? Here are some of the most bulletproof methods for long- term adherence:
• Workout with friends, family, co-workers or even your dog (this is key motivation booster as it makes you accountable and feel supported, meanwhile encouraging personal improvement in an environment where interests are shared).
• Engage in enjoyable activities (exercise should be the highlight of your day, make it fun! There are countless options to explore and I bet at least one will suit you. Exercise does not always have to be inside the gym, try outdoors, engage in social sports etc).
• Set both short- and long-term goals (make a plan. It is easier to reach a goal if you know “why” and “what” you want to get out of it).
• Track your activity levels and your progress (this is a powerful tool to reinforce consistency! This could include tracking your Fitbit daily step count).
• Silence your excuses… (we are all experts at coming up with excuses! Be wise and stop yourself. The only one you are cheating is yourself, and most perceived barriers are possible to work around).
• Keep in mind that CONSISTENCY is KEY (create habits you enjoy and stick to them daily).
• Seek support if needed (weight loss is never linear, and we understand that different life circumstances may cause barriers that needs to be considered. Allow yourself to make the adjustments that you need both physically, mentally and emotionally. Allied Health Professionals are able to provide you with the help you need, do not be afraid to ask for it).
If you are struggling with your weight loss and need guidance. An Accredited Exercise Physiologist can help you implement strategies and set up a plan suitable for your individual needs.
For Appointments ring our wonderful reception staff on 5445 8292 or book online at www.exercisephysiologyrehab.com