Troubleshoot your “Get Fit” Game Plan
It’s February. Your co-workers have given up the veggies at lunch, hopping back on the pizza wagon, and that girl who has been hogging the stepmill for the entire month of January is nowhere to be seen. Studies show that it takes three weeks to develop a habit, meaning that, more often than not, the eager beavers aiming to conquer the world in the first weeks of the new year just won’t quite make it there. If you are reading this thinking you are the minority, good on you! You’re one step ahead of the game. On the flip side, if you are sinking lower into your seat with the shame and guilt of yet another year of failed ambitions, pick yourself up, sit a little taller, and keep on reading!
Let’s start at the top. From my experiences, people who most often bow out early expect results right away and set the bar way to high. We’ll focus on fat loss for this column but, really, the same perspective can be applied to breaking any habit, whether that be quitting smoking, improving sleeping patterns, or even calling a loved one more often. If you haven’t set foot in the gym for ten years, don’t take up the stairmill every day for the month of January! Small, attainable steps are the only way to go if you actually want to reach the top. Think about it; if you set off to climb a mountain and hit the ground in a full sprint, your legs will burn out before you even reach the peak. Always remember the tortoise and the hair, people!
The same can be applied to the second part of the weight loss equation: diet. It is believed that 90-95% of diets fail, but year after year millions of people start off saying that they are going to beat the odds and fall into that 5-10% of success stories. As a Dietitian, if I had a dollar for every time a client sat down in my office and asked me to write them a meal-by-meal, day-by-day plan for what to put in their mouth, I would be off living in a sweet mansion anywhere away from the -40 Celsius winters. Needless to say, I refuse to do this and opt rather to teach individuals how they can make eating healthy a part of their lifestyle by providing them with the tools to make better choices regardless of whether they are on the road, at a party, or out for a dinner celebration. I love the quote, “It’s a lifestyle, train like there’s no finish line.” If you want long-term success, you must retrain your habits and reframe your thoughts.
Fit people slip up; they indulge and they even “let themselves go” at times. The difference is that they have ingrained their habits so deep that good nutrition and exercise is a part of who they are as individuals. Their bodies are so metabolically conditioned that some extra Christmas cheer doesn’t show up as fast as their sedentary counterparts and getting back to baseline takes a fraction of the time. Anyone can be fit-anyone! It just takes time and it takes a different approach. The weight loss market is only a portion of a multi-billion dollar industry; if getting fit was easy, dietitians, personal trainers and other health care professionals would be out of work.
Here a few tips to make today your new January 1:
1. Find a buddy or, better yet, a couple of buddies. Be accountable. Rotate the responsibility of sending daily motivational quotes, texting a picture of your weekly weigh in, meeting for a workout, and sharing good recipe ideas. Get on the phone now and rally the troops!
2. Plan ahead. This is something that I always do to ensure my workouts stay consistent. Get your workout dates lined up and pack your gym bag in the morning. What or where are you going to eat? Think about it and have some healthy backup options available to eliminate any excuses.
3. Weigh yourself weekly. There is some debate as to whether daily or weekly weigh ins are preferred, so do what suits you best. You never want to become a slave to the scale and start obsessing over a number. Your body can go up or down five pounds depending on sodium and fluid levels, so don’t panic if you’re up after a soy sauce-infused stir-fry demolished the night prior. Body fat is a true measure of your progress and can be a great motivational tool as well.
4. Track your intake with an app or keep a food diary. For the first little while until you develop the lifestyle habits previously referred to, tools like MyFitnessPal.com can be valuable for providing constructive criticism. Are you going to log everything you put in your mouth for the rest of your years? I certainly hope not. Once you have an idea of how to make better food choices based on the data and analysis, you won’t have to be logging for much longer.
5. There are no “good” and “bad” foods. Do I try to avoid eating pasta, yes. Do I stay away from regular pop at all costs, yes. Do I generally push away the breadbasket, yes. But there are other times when I feel like eating pasta with bread and a regular pop, so I have it! As soon as you label something forbidden, it automatically makes you want it more, which is a recipe for failure and self-loathing. Everything is okay in moderation.
Failure is not an option this year. Gear up for the journey ahead, shake the snow from your boots, and get back in the gym because today is another chance to get it right!