You’ve decided you want to get in shape. Somewhere you’ve read that people who share their desire to get fit with others are more likely to reach their goal. So you talk about your plans with others. You announce not only how you want to get in shape, but also talk about fears or problems you encounter. And almost inevitably, someone brushes your worries aside: “Come on, just eat less and move more. How hard can it be?”
You’ve probably heard variations of this a thousand times before. People who have never been in your situation often don’t realize that there’s more to losing the extra kilos than “just” eating less and moving more, and that losing weight can be incredibly difficult. Let's go through a few of these possible difficulties and how to approach them.
You’re confronted with a steep learning curve
If exercising never was your thing and you never kept a close eye on what you eat before, many things will be new to you when you embark on your weight loss and fitness journey.
When you first walk into a gym, you probably wonder what to do and where to start. Which exercises should you do? And how to use all that equipment? The same is true for other types of exercise. You want to use the right technique and the right equipment. You want to do everything correctly and yet you want to see results as soon as possible. This means, you are going to learn a lot within a short period of time.
And then there’s still the food part. If you want to change the way you eat, you’ll find yourself looking for new recipes, new cooking and preparation techniques, places where you can buy ingredients you never needed before. You’ll spend time reading up on the basics of nutrition.
All of this requires time and effort, which can be a challenge to budget for – and follow through with. At times it can be frustrating and you may be insecure if you’re on the right path. You may wonder if you’ll ever be able to get to your goal. However, overthinking this doesn’t help, as it keeps you stuck where you currently are and only increases the frustration and feelings of insecurity.
One of my favourite podcasters, Tom Bilyeu, answers the following to people who wonder if they got what it takes: You meet the minimum requirements. And so does everyone else.
What he means by this is that as humans, we all have an ability to learn, no matter where your starting point is. This ability to learn is the minimum requirement for reaching any goal, including weight loss and fitness goals. It then depends on you what you do with this ability. Whether you continue to apply it and strive to get better at the things you’re currently not good at yet. Or whether you decide that it’s not worth it and give up.
If you get frustrated while trying to acquire new skills, just remind yourself of your ability to learn. You’ve already proven to yourself many times before in other areas of life that you possess it. Fitness is no different. Eventually, you’ll get there.
You’re outside of your comfort zone
While you’re learning all these things, you’ll spend a considerable amount of your time outside of your comfort zone. Building a new habit can take from several weeks to several months. You need to practice it consistently and patiently until it sticks. Unfortunately there are many things that can get in the way of you forming a new habit.
When you’re new at the gym, you might feel uncomfortable and insecure. You might be afraid that others are judging you for being new, overweight or not lifting as much weight as them. When you come home from the gym, you need to make time to cook. And then, recipes that sounded promising might turn out disappointing. Dealing with this insecurity and frustration is hard, especially when the results don’t immediately show up. The longer it takes, the more it leaves you longing for convenience. This is often the reason why people give up. Understandably so.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t have to be the end. Most people experience setbacks or even temporarily fail when they’re trying to change their lives. It’s part of the learning process. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself a short break, breathe and then start again.
When trying to make a lasting change, it’s better to strive for progress instead of perfection. Showing up and trying is a lot better than doing nothing, and if you consistently show up that’s already something you can be proud of.
Set yourself some interim goals and milestones and follow them up regularly. These don’t take as much time to achieve as your ultimate goal, so they can boost your motivation while you’re waiting for the big results to show up. At the same time, they serve as a form of feedback on how you are doing, so you can get a sense of whether you’re going into the right direction or not.
Whenever you reach one of these interim goals or milestones, reward yourself! You deserve it.
The subject of “Gymtimidation” is something I could write a whole article about - and probably will in the near future. It’s a very common phenomenon and it sucks. In short, some things that helped me deal with it were working out together with others, wearing comfortable clothes (hoodies!) and earplugs to create some distance between me and the other gym-goers.
Remember that you’re not alone in this. Millions of people have successfully lost weight. At some point, they all have been new to the gym and to a healthy lifestyle. You may be out of your comfort zone right now, but as time passes, your comfort zone widens and all that’s new and uncomfortable for you now will become a normal part of your life.
You might have physical limitations
As if leaving your comfort zone and facing the learning curve was not enough yet, when you work out, you might also find out that there are some things that you simply cannot do. Not because they’re uncomfortable or inconvenient, but because your muscles are stiff or you don’t have the strength or endurance yet.
In my own fitness journey, there have been many of these moments. When I started running, I could not even run for half a minute. After just a few seconds I was completely out of breath and needed a break. I barely could hold a plank for 10 seconds and I was not able to perform a single body-weight squat. In my beginning days, I associated exercising with physical pain and I pretty much hated it. I have given up many times, too. But eventually I’ve hopped back onto the wagon and overcome many limitations I’ve originally had.
Humans are able to adapt to almost anything. Our body is the ultimate adaptation machine. If you show up again and again to train, you’ll notice that the same exercise over time gets easier. Suddenly, you can hold your plank for longer, perform a few more reps or run for a little longer. If you keep track of these small amounts of progress and continue to challenge yourself, you’ll eventually get to a point where things that once were impossible to you become possible. During my first half-marathon, while I was running, I thought back to where I had come from. I got overwhelmed with joy over what I had achieved and crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes. Your body is capable of much more than you might think.
Your environment might not support you
There might be things in your environment that you have little to no control over, but that can affect your journey. Family members and other people around you might react negatively to your plans. They might make hurtful comments or try to sabotage you, either because they don’t want you to change or they want to feel better about themselves, because deep down they know that doing something for their health and fitness wouldn’t harm them either.
Your kids might turn their nose up at the new meals you’re cooking, because they are not familiar with them. If you cook separately for yourself and the rest of your family, you might find it hard to stick to your goals, when your favourite tempting foods are right in front of your eyes.
You might also need to navigate certain social events involving foods, such as office parties, mandatory work dinners or evenings out with friends. Navigating them can be tricky, even if healthy options that support your goals are available – when the other options available are too tempting or you feel the need to give in to peer pressure.
Almost everyone who is on a weight-loss journey is confronted with situations like these in one or another form. You’re not alone. While having an unsupportive environment is difficult, it’s not impossible to manage it.
It can be a huge relief to talk to others who are in a similar situation like you or who have been in your shoes before. They will understand your struggles and be able to relate. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support.
If social situations are an issue, you can come up with a strategy and a plan how to handle them beforehand. Squeeze in a workout before a restaurant dinner and look at menus on the internet to see if and which healthy options are available. Or allow yourself to indulge on purpose, and go back on track the next day.
Your own mind is playing tricks on you
Sometimes, you have a bad day. Sometimes, everything seems to go wrong. You’re sad, angry, or suddenly have to deal with a ton of stress and feel like you’re losing control over your life. Or the opposite happens and you’re bored to death. And then, on top of that, you get cravings. Situations like these are notorious for that, and it is in these situations that it is especially hard not to cave in.
It can also happen that you simply miss your old lifestyle sometimes. The way you used to live provided some benefits to you, otherwise you would have not lived that way in the first place. Maybe the people around you – your family and friends – followed the same lifestyle? Maybe it was convenient and saved you time on things you don’t enjoy, like cooking? Whatever it was – when you replace your old habits by new ones, you might miss those benefits that you used to get out of them.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s okay to have a bad day. It’s okay not to be perfect. If you find yourself giving in to a craving, cut yourself some slack. Become aware of it and think about what you could do differently the next time. Aim for gradual improvement rather than perfection. Maybe you can also try to satisfy the craving with something that is just a little bit better. For example, if you want to eat a chocolate bar, why not share it with someone?
Keep in mind that it’s also okay to indulge sometimes. I’d even say it’s important to allow this to yourself every once in a while, because having the flexibility to indulge every now and then is what makes a diet sustainable. Contrary to what many people in the fitness world claim, food is not just fuel for the body. It’s also a source of enjoyment and an important part of social life. Having a pizza or a burger once in a while doesn’t make a difference in the long run and can very well be part of a healthy diet – as long as your decision to eat it is a conscious one.
Eager to transform your life and turn into the most confident, healthy, best version of yourself? Book your appointment with Walnut Coaching.