Why do diets and exercise routines fail? Part II
In Part I of this series, we discussed the most common reason we see people fail when they attempt to change their routines and habits around a healthy lifestyle. But another common complaint we hear is that people just don’t know where to start.
I was having a conversation with a gentleman recently, whom wanted to start getting healthy again. He is overweight and in his mid 40’s with no exercise routine and his diet mostly consists of fried foods and beer (He did explain he does 12oz curls regularly, so he does some exercise). I asked him why he hasn’t already started to change his lifestyle and his answer was one I hear often. He said “I don’t know where to start. I want to go to the gym and pick up where I left off after my senior season of high school football where I could bench press 300lbs and do wind sprints all day. But I know I can’t do that, I can barely get up my stairs without getting winded.” I hear this sort of explanation often. The other excuse I hear is “I want the body I had when I was 18. But no matter how hard I work out I can’t get even close.” These are real issues that many of us face when considering a lifestyle change.
Let’s take these two common complaints one at a time, but they actually tie in together!
First, for someone just getting started, the gym or really any lifestyle change is scary! All the machines, the fear of judgement from other gym goers, the recipes that sound easy, but you’re afraid won’t taste good, and of course the fear of failure. These are all valid fears! If you can work with a trainer or other health care pro, DO IT! We are trained to tailor exercise regimens to your needs. But for the many of us whom can’t afford someone or simply can’t get over the fear, let’s focus on what you can do!
Starting out means discovering just how far you can push yourself right now. Start by walking either on a treadmill, or just around your block. Find out how far you can go and time how long it took you, and make it your goal to decrease your time every day for a week. After a week, go a little bit farther and do the same thing. If you’re exercising at home, start with pushups, squats, and planks. Start with 10 reps or 10 second holds for the plank. See how many sets you can do. Every week add another set of 10!
You may be reading this thinking “How boring” or “that’s not enough” well, it’s more than you’re doing now isn’t it? If you added in these 4 exercises, you’d have a complete workout of cardio with walking, upper body, lower body, and core. For the average individual just trying to get healthier by toning up and losing some weight, this is a great start! Everyone has a different starting place.
So what about the total results, let’s address the “I want my 18-year-old body back” or “I need to lose 60 pounds”. Simply put, the starting point we discussed above will not be enough to reach these types of goals. So how do we reach them? Think of building a house; you dream of the beautiful stairway, the granite counter tops, the hardwood floors, the large windows, the white picket fence etc. Well, you need to start with a foundation, you need to dig deep, and slowly build a structure that will support all the beautiful amenities. Our bodies are no different. If you’re 55 years old and 60 pounds overweight, going to the local high school and doing 2-a-days with the football team is not going to be a good idea.
The secret here is to accept where you are and own it!
So I said we would bring this all together. We’ve discussed how to start, but the question is what next? Again, how do you get the weight off, how do you build the strength, how do you get back to your teenage body? It’s all about setting goals. You have to first make your new lifestyle a priority (see Part I of this series), and once you’ve made it a priority, you have to set goals, both long term and short term. I’m not going to sit here and say you are easily going to get back to your 18-year-old body if you’re 55. Nature has a way of preventing that in most cases. But you can learn to love your new body as it is and enjoy how healthy you now feel! If your goal is 60 pounds of weight loss, that’s your long term goal. Start with 10 pounds lost in the first month. If you don’t reach 10 pounds the first month, look at your routine, have you truly pushed yourself hard enough? Have you kept to a healthy diet? If you exceed that goal, set higher goals for the next month! Weight loss is a fickle animal. Some months the weight will slide right off, other months, no matter what you do, it just won’t budge.
This brings up a very important topic. Should weight loss really be your goal? We’re going to cover this topic in detail later, but for now the short answer is truly, yes and no. Yes, losing weight if you’re overweight is vital. But should it actually be our most important measuring stick? I say no. I think losing inches in the mid-section, increasing strength and stamina, and overall quality of life are more important than numbers on a scale.
I hope you’re beginning to see this all come together now. Knowing where to start and not wanting to start because you want to get your old body back right now have the same difficulties. You have to start at the foundation. There are female competitive figure athletes in their 50’s and 60’s with amazing bodies, but they started with a foundation, and dedicated themselves to sculpting their bodies. Maybe that’s not your goal and you can’t dedicate that much time. Find out what you can dedicate and never falter from the time you dedicate. If you can only dedicate an hour a day, you likely won’t end up on the cover of a fitness magazine, but again, it’s not all about that! You have to ask yourself why you want to change your lifestyle. If you simply want the looks back, you’re going to have to dedicate a lot of time and work extremely hard. If you want the health you deserve, with a body you can be proud of, take the time you have and give 100% in that time. A 20 minute, high intensity workout can be extremely effective! High intensity has a different meaning for everyone depending on where you’re at!
I hope this gives you a basic understanding of where to start! Of course, it’s always ideal to work with a professional who can guide you personally through your lifestyle change, but that’s not always an option. It all starts with making a decision, followed by putting action into that decision!
Stay focused, stay motivated, and stay consistent!