How to Stick to a Fitness Program
Want 2006 to be the year when you finally follow through on a New Year's
resolution to get fit? It is possible if you have a plan for regular exercise
and a well-balanced diet. Research shows good nutrition and physical activity
are key ingredients in weight loss, enhanced muscle tone, and overall
This is common knowledge. Yet why is it that in January, motivation is high
to eat right and work out, but by February, resolves are less than robust? Do
people no longer want to get fit? Have they found better ways to reach their
There are several theories explaining why the best of New Year's resolutions
sputter before they're realized.
Pauline Wallin, PhD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Camp
Hill, Penn., blames the "inner brat" in all of us for thwarting
positive change. The inner brat is an internal voice that acts like a toddler.
It doesn't like discomfort or inconvenience. It wants what it wants when it
"Our inner brat convinces us that we don't really have to exercise that
day," explains Wallin. "When it doesn't want to exert itself, it will
make excuses like 'It's too cold,' 'It's too dark,' 'I'm too tired,' or 'It's
When people pay attention to their inner brat, they tend to negotiate with
it. They may promise the little voice they will work out or eat right starting
tomorrow. The next day, they may put off their fitness plan again, until they
figure it's too late to start anything for the week. So they'll decide to begin
their resolution next week, next month, or next year.
This series of putting off important goals can be discouraging. To fight the
inner brat, refuse to work with it. "You don't negotiate with a little
brat," says Wallin, who has authored Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide
for Transforming Self-Defeating Behavior.
It would also help to get to know the inner brat's tactics and to find a way
to regain control. Concentrate on the reason you are making changes in your
life. This will divert your attention from the little voice's ranting.
Dozens of other factors could distract from a New Year's resolution to get
fit, says Michael Gerrish, exercise physiologist, psychotherapist, and author
of The Mind-Body Makeover Project: A 12-Week Plan for Transforming Your
Body and Life.
Gerrish says there are unidentified fitness obstacles (UFOs) to positive
change. These UFOs block the motivation to eat right and exercise. They include
things such as:
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Work addiction
- Hormone imbalances
- Food allergies and intolerance
- Sleep apnea
- Toxic relationships
- Weak boundaries
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
The 52 most common UFOs are listed in Gerrish's book, which has a test
people can take to figure out which obstacles they have. The test is not meant
to be diagnostic, but it could make people aware of barriers to success.