This is not the typical Lose Weight Fast! or Finally Get in the Best Shape of Your Life! how-to New Year’s resolutions article.
Haven’t you done something similar, perhaps numerous times before, for a New Year’s resolution? If you’ve tried the usual resolutions — lose weight, get “bikini ready” by summer, get in the best shape ever, stick to a new diet — then, maybe, it’s time to try something different.
Why? Because if recycled lose-weight-fast resolutions were effective, they would’ve worked by now, and you wouldn’t be embarking on the same unfulfilled journey yet again.
As your social media feed and electronic screens are inundated with the Make this the year you finally get fit and lose that weight! messages, keep the following unpopular truths and tips in mind. You just may achieve great results this year, albeit by following the opposite approach than what’s promoted and advertised.
Let’s begin with perhaps the most unpopular revelation of them all.
1) Fat Loss Is Not the Only Option
Did you know it’s possible to have a New Year’s resolution that has absolutely positively nothing to do with fat loss or achieving a smaller number on the scale? Shocking, I know.
Even if you want to lose weight to increase your confidence and improve your health, you don’t have to focus on fat loss. More on this below, but know you can have other goals instead. Empowering goals. Goals that make you feel great about yourself rather than a goal that leaves you feeling not quite good enough or that your happiness is contingent on reaching a lower bodyweight. Goals that get you excited to work out instead of workouts being a must-complete chore.
Want some ideas?
If you enjoy cardio-based activities, like biking or jogging, the goal can be to improve your conditioning and performance. Set a goal, like running or biking a certain distance in a set amount of time, for example, then follow a plan to make it happen. Or simply strive to do a little better over time, running the same distance in less time or gradually increasing the distance.
Interested in learning how to strength train, or ready to get back to working out after a break? Focus on steadily improving your performance over time and get stronger. Set some goals that would be fun to achieve, like deadlift your bodyweight for several reps or progressing to pressing, pulling, and training with heavier dumbbells.
Take a break from obsessing over fat loss and altering how your body looks. Focus on empowering, measurable actions and goals that will improve your health, make you stronger and improve your conditioning.
There are loads of reasons, other than fat loss, to regularly move your body in ways you enjoy. Start discovering those reasons.
2) Adherence: It Matters Most.
Have you ever gone on a diet, determined to lose weight and achieve jaw-dropping results, but shortly after starting find yourself struggling to stick to it? You crave many of the off-limit foods or find yourself “cheating” on the diet here and there. Eventually, you give up entirely.
Going on a new diet to kickstart the fresh beginning of a new year may be motivating, but failure is imminent if you’re unable to adhere to the diet. Maybe you know this truth all too well.
Recommended reading: Why That Diet Didn’t Work for You
If you’re ready to improve your eating habits and health, the question is not What is the best diet? but What diet will I be able to adhere to long term? No single diet is best for all. What works best for your coworkers may not work best for you. The most popular diet may not be best for you either. Don’t be afraid to take time to find what you would enjoy most, because that’s a worthy effort.
Adherence is critical when it comes to achieving, and maintaining, results. There will be a learning curve and consistent effort required to forge new habits, regardless of the approach you choose, but look at the changes you’re planning to make with a long-term perspective. One year from now, will you be able to practice that new diet you’re planning on trying today? The answer to that question is important.
The same thing applies to exercise: Don’t vow to go to the gym five times per week if you know anything over three is unrealistic. Don’t try to follow a workout program that has one-hour workouts when you would do better with time-saving workouts that have you do what must be done, and nothing else, so you can get on with the rest of your life while still achieving results.
When it comes to food and fitness, adherence matters most. Set yourself up for success by tailoring them to your lifestyle and preferences.
Speaking of food …
3) Fear Shouldn’t Influence Food Choices
“I shouldn’t eat this because it’ll make me gain weight.” Have you said something similar?
The infinite information and discussions about dieting has caused many to fear food. Everything they eat is scrutinized through a lens of fear: Will this help me lose weight? Will this make me gain weight? That food is “bad” and that food is “good.”
Fear should not influence your food choices.
Stop labeling certain foods good and others bad. That language only exacerbates a fear of food and can lead to disordered eating habits. (Need help adopting healthier eating habits? Read the article The Simple Guide That Shows You How to Eat Healthy.)
Certainly there are foods we should eat more often (high-fiber foods, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, dairy) and others less often in reasonable amounts (fried foods, cookies, chips, sugary beverages). An apple is rich in fiber and nutrient dense, but it’s not good. A homemade chocolate chip cookie may be loaded with fat and sugar and nutrient sparse, but it’s not bad.
Why is this important? Because if you say a chocolate chip cookie is a “bad food,” then the implication is that you are bad for eating one. And that’s not true. Regardless of the eating style you choose to adopt — low carb, low fat, vegan, etc. — don’t apply binary labels like good/bad to food.
Recommended reading: How to Not Feel Guilty for Eating Your Favorite Foods
4) Don’t Compete with Others (or Your Former Self)
There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by others, but resist the temptation to compare your body or performance to anyone else’s. In the same vein, don’t compare who you are and what you can do now to what you were capable of or how you looked in the past (before starting a family or career, before an injury or illness).
Unfair comparisons are a shortcut to frustration and dissatisfaction.
What other women can do or what you were once capable of doing is irrelevant, because you’re here now. This is what you have to work with. Work with it and make the most of it. It’s the only option anyway.
5) Actions > A New Diet or Vague Goal
Instead of chasing a specific outcome (“I want to lose 15 pounds in three months”) or vague goal (“This year I’ll get in the best shape of my life”), focus on performing the actions that produce results.
For example: strength train three times per week, eat 20 grams of fiber daily and gradually increase to 30 grams, move your body in some way for 20-30 minutes on days you don’t strength train, eat at least eight servings of fruits and veggies daily.
Getting in better shape and improving your health is great. Wanting it and obsessing about it won’t get you there, however. Only regularly performing the necessary actions. Come up with a few mandatory actions to implement, like the ones above, and check them off the must-do list each day and week.
6) Health and Fitness Isn’t Glamorous
Working out, eating well, and doing these things consistently, despite what’s on social media, are not glamorous. They are, in fact, often boring. They are tedious.
This reality may come as a surprise to many, especially in comparison to social media icons. Why don’t my workouts go like that? you may wonder as you see people posting pics and videos of their personal records and grueling workouts.
Social media is a highlight reel. You see what the poster wants you to see; nothing more, and nothing less.
But building a sustainable fitness- and health-focused lifestyle is not terribly exciting. It’s a journey filled with lackluster workouts, setbacks, sweat, and lots and lots of repetitive work. There are no rounds of applause when you complete a workout. Every workout won’t be fun. Motivation will not always be pulsing through your veins.
It’s like anything else in life: career, relationships, hobbies. Some days are incredible and memorable, others when it feels like anything that can go wrong does, but most days are rather uneventful. There are highs, lows, but most of the time is average.
You will certainly have workouts you enjoy and you’ll achieve numerous personal records you should be proud of along the way. More often than not, however, there’s no glitz or glamour in this journey. Be okay with that and don’t expect your training regimen to mirror the (often) staged and captivating performances on social media.
Strip away the hype and animation of what you see and look closely at what is really there. We are all just working out. And that is a privilege we should enjoy.
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