There is no shortage of excuses for not eating right and exercising. In my many years as a dietitian, I think I've heard them all, from "not enough hours in the day" to "I'm physically exhausted after work and have no energy."
In our busy world, there is precious little time to eat healthfully and squeeze in daily fitness while meeting the demands of jobs and family. The idea of doing it all can be daunting -- unless you decide to adopt a "can-do" attitude and make healthy eating and exercise a priority.
You've heard it before: eat less, get more exercise, and you will lose weight. It's a very simple formula, yet so difficult to put into practice. Just about every day, most of us can find a reason why we "can't" follow this weight-loss mantra. But when having nutritious foods available, eating healthy meals, and getting physical activity truly become priorities in your life, you find the time to get the groceries, prepare the meals, and fit in fitness.
Do you really want to lose weight once and for all and improve your health? Then stop making excuses and just do it! Granted, that's easier said than done. But it's essential to have the right frame of mind if you're going to succeed.
Attitude Is Everything
Research published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise shows how well a "just do it" attitude works when it comes to getting physical. Researchers found that thinking too much about exercise conjured up all kinds of excuses. Study participants who said they simply laced up their sneakers and got going were much more successful about fitting in fitness than those who contemplated exercise. The active people made exercise a non-negotiable part of their day.
Many of the exercisers in the study had issues similar to those our members face: too much to do, too little time, job stress, family pressures, and advancing age. Regardless of the excuses, when physical activity becomes a routine part of your life, it rarely gets squeezed out.
Good Intentions, Bad Habits
Most people really want to do the right thing. Yet faced with the demands of everyday life, they find themselves slipping right back into old, unhealthy habits. Ask anyone on the street about his eating or exercise habits and chances are, he'll tell you he knows he should eat better and get more exercise, but ... and here comes the litany of excuses.
The truth of the matter is that old habits die hard. Even with the best intentions, it can be hard to break them. Over time, bad habits become automatic and increasingly more difficult to break, especially during stressful times. If you want to improve your health and lose weight, you need to slowly change those old habits so that new, healthier habits become second nature.
10 Tips for a No-Excuses, Healthier Lifestyle
Say goodbye to all the excuses and break the cycle of bad habits with these 10 tips that will set you on course toward a successful weight loss journey:
1. Find a buddy to join you in regular physical activity. It's always more fun to walk or work out with a friend. And when you know your buddy is counting on you, it strengthens your commitment.
2. Make a commitment to yourself. Acknowledge that making an investment in your physical and emotional well-being is important both to you and your family. Give yourself permission to spend time on you. The "to-do" list can wait.
3. Learn to enjoy healthier foods. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. These foods are the foundation of a healthy diet because they are low in fat and high in nutritional value. They also provide great satisfaction, allowing you to feel full on fewer calories.
4. Discover an activity you enjoy. It could be riding a bike, walking in the mall, playing tennis, swimming, or Pilates. Consider signing up for an exercise class where you can meet new friends. When your physical activity is fun, it becomes a part of your day that you look forward to.
5. Establish a time of day for activity that works in your schedule. Many folks get up a little earlier to exercise; otherwise, it gets squeezed out of their day. Early-morning routines energize you for the rest of the day and leave little room for excuses.
6. Be realistic with your physical activity and healthy eating goals. Start slowly, and gradually increase the duration and/or intensity of your workouts so you don't burn out quickly. If you're not a vegetable fan, try some new recipes, experiment with unfamiliar tastes, and you may well begin to appreciate the delicious and versatile nature of low-calorie and nutritious veggies.
7. Track your progress in a journal, or keep it separately in a notebook. Writing it down is a testimony to your commitment, and it's rewarding to see your accomplishments in writing.
8. Words of wisdom can help when you need a boost. Jot down inspiring words you see on message boards, read in articles, or get from friends. Keep them with you, and turn to them in time of need.
9. Reward yourself when you meet your goals for a week or longer. Give yourself something special (preferably not food). Go to the movies, get a manicure, or get your car washed.
10. Change your lifestyle once and for all. Eating more healthfully and getting active for a few weeks is great, but it's not the answer. Adapt your lifestyle by incorporating healthier behaviors and keeping at them until they become automatic. Take a hard look at the way you're eating and exercising, and commit to making small changes that you can live with over time. Small changes add up to big results if you keep them up.
Setbacks Are Normal
No matter how-well prepared you are, there will be times when you overindulge in decadent food and/or skip your fitness routine. Don't let a setback derail your efforts. Simply acknowledge it and move on. Nobody's perfect, so just try to keep the diversions to a minimum and don't let falling off the wagon lead to giving up.
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a lifelong commitment. It is hard work but over time, when old habits are replaced with new, healthier habits, it no longer feels like hard work. There is light at the end of the tunnel; just ask some of our members who have been so successful on their weight loss journeys. Just do it!
Reviewed May 14, 2008.