When I was younger and struggling with weight loss, I would always tell myself that I would “start on Monday”. When Monday rolled around, I would formulate a new excuse and rationalize my delay in taking action. “I didn’t take my gym clothes to work today. There’s no time to get them, so I’ll just go to the gym tomorrow.” Or “I already cheated and had pizza this afternoon. I might as well do the same for dinner.” If this pattern sounds vaguely familiar to you, do not despair.
Losing weight and getting back in shape can be one of the most difficult projects for a man to undertake. It is a major lifestyle change that depends upon the choices we make. It is impossible to make the correct choice 100% of the time, and we shouldn’t put that kind of pressure on ourselves anyway. But if we find ourselves consistently making bad choices and abandoning our health goals, then we must start being honest with ourselves.
Determine Your “Why”
The most honest assessment you can make in your journey to lose weight and get back in shape is to understand why you want to do it in the first place. This “why” may not be in your conscious awareness, but it is certainly driving your behavior. If you want to start living a healthier lifestyle, take a few minutes now to consider the following questions:
Why do I want to change my health behaviors?
What am I hoping to gain from this?
There are no wrong answers here, but the key is to be honest with yourself. It doesn’t matter what your “why” is, as long as it comes from within you. In my case, “why” is to simply avoid the physical and mental suffering that comes with being overweight, out of shape, and sick. That’s it. I have seen to many people suffer as a result of their choices and I do not want that to happen to me. This “why” has been emotionally compelling enough to carry me through a decade of positive health choices, research, education, and becoming a Health Coach and Personal Trainer.
If your “why” is to live to see your kids graduate from college, look good with your shirt off, or to make your ex-wife jealous, then it doesn’t really matter. These are all emotionally compelling to you and you would be more likely to stick to a program and experience success. However, if your “why” is coming from external source it is less likely to produce success. If you are dragging yourself to the gym because your girlfriend said you were too fat or your buddy shamed you into joining Crossfit, then you are going about it the wrong way. You would quit if not for that external factor. Would a chain gang keep working if the guard walked away? Probably not.
An internally developed and emotionally compelling “why” will lead to success.
Manage Your Expectations
Are you expecting to look like Wolverine after three days in the gym? Cut that out. Unrealistic goals and expectations will often set you up for failure. Unless you are taking banned substances (cut that out too), then your body has certain limitations. The average person can safely lose 1-2 pounds per week, which would be a maximum of 8-10 pounds per month. Re-examine the goals you have set for yourself. Are you expecting to lose 30 pounds in a month? Do you really think this a realistic expectation? It is likely that you will become discouraged by a lack of progress and give up, when losing 30 pounds is a perfectly attainable target if spread out over a longer period of time. It is important to be honest with yourself about what is possible to achieve.
When it comes to goal setting, I’m sure by now you have heard the acronym S.M.A.R.T. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. A well set goal should be all of these things. The beauty of setting goals that have these characteristics is that you will achieve them. And when you acheive the health goals you have set for yourself, it will add to your confidence and help you strive for that next goal.
Change Your Self-Talk
Self-talk is the inner monologue happening inside of your mind at all times. These appraisals, judgments, and statements to yourself (positive or negative) happen so quickly and automatically that you scarcely even notice them. Any great spiritual teacher will tell you that it is only when you step back and observe the mind that you start to take control over it.
Take a moment right now to identify how you feel. Again, the key is to be honest with yourself. If you are feeling any strong negative emotions like fear, anger, or sadness, that is okay. Start to explore what you’ve been saying to yourself. It is most likely negative as well. It is our mental interpretation of ourselves, events, and situations that mainly determine our feelings and behaviors.
How does this impact your efforts to lose weight and get back in shape?
You may often sabatoge your efforts by not examining your self-talk. “I’m too tired to go the gym today” may seem like an innocuous statement, but it will result in the sedentary behavior that you are trying to avoid. Again, be honest with yourself and test this appraisal to see if you are making an excuse. When you examine your original appraisals you may find that they were unrealistic. “Is it really true that I am so tired I can’t go to the gym?” You could answer yourself with something like “Maybe not. Maybe I’m making an excuse because I don’t want to go. I guess I do have some energy. I could at least go to the gym and do a 30 minute version of my workout. If I still feel really tired I will go home, but at least I gave it a shot.” These types of self-statments are more realistic and will make you more likely to adhere to a diet or workout program.
“Man, it’s too cold out to go for a run. I’m not going out there.” “Is it really too cold? I guess not. I do have some thermal gear I can use that will keep me warm when I run. Besides, the cold air might feel good in my lungs.” Do you see how quickly you would have turned around your motivation?
Being honest with yourself can be difficult, but it can give us great clarity on why we want to change, help us set attainable goals, and avoid the excuses we make that keep us bogged down in inactivity.
Are you being honest with yourself? Please share your thoughts below.