You’ve started and stopped exercise and diets before. You’ve landed in the same spot again and again. It can be going poorly, or going well, and still you can’t seem to stick with it. Here are six obstacles that regularly get in the way of women over 50 who eventually find me because they can’t stick to it, and what we do about them.
Most diets begin by you cutting out the things that you enjoy. As soon as you say “I can’t have _____, it’s not on my diet,” it’s all you think about. We get so all or nothing that as soon as you do have a spoonful of peanut butter, a slice of pizza, or whatever you’ve deemed off limits, a switch in our minds says, what the heck, I’ve blown it I may as well eat the whole thing…and then some.
The fix: Know what those trigger foods are for you and include them. That’s right: invite them to the party. If you really like chocolate, then plan on having some every day. Don’t wait a week and then risk a stressful situation sending you to the store for an entire bar. Have a small piece after dinner every day. Do it mindfully. Savor it. Just knowing it’s coming and you can have it removes some of the power that food has over you.
Too often calorie cutting diets actually leave you good reason to blow it: you’re hungry! Slashing calories so much you’re weak, can’t focus, or have to endure embarrassing stomach growling requires a lot of willpower to overcome. Most of us have a limited supply of willpower and the time of day we tend to blow it is late afternoon when hormones are low, willpower is low and you just reach your limit. No one can stick to it if they’re constantly hungry. Your body signals you in every way possible that this is not the way to health.
The fix: Swap your calorie slashing for nutrient-dense high protein, high-fiber foods. Fill your plate and bowls with lean protein or fatty fishes, plenty of non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats. Combine these ingredients into filling, satisfying meals bursting with flavor so you’ll never go hungry while you’re losing weight.
Too often a diet or exercise program is punishment. We even joke about how awful a drill sergeant trainer is, or the rabbit food you have to have for lunch. Magazine covers still hint at “killer” exercises that “burn” fat. The reality is you don’t have to burn to be smoking hot.
The fix: When you choose something because you love it, and not just the results promised from it you will stick with it. You’ve had sex by now, I’m guessing. When that’s fun you want more. The same it true of exercise. There are hundreds of exercise options for every component, whether you’re talking cardio, resistance training, or flexibility. If you haven’t found one you love, keep looking!
If you are changing your habits, one of two things is happening. 1.) You’re changing and surrounded by people who have your old habits and aren’t choosing your new lifestyle yet. 2.) You’re changing after finally giving in to what someone else wants for you. Neither one of these is going to work. You’re old crowd is going to make it hard to stay on track. You only have so much willpower and if they by accident or on purpose sabotage you with temptations sooner or later you’ll run out. If you don’t want this for reasons of your own you don’t have enough skin in the game. Let’s face it: you have to do the work.
The fix: You’ve got to be motivated enough to do it when it isn’t convenient. Before you start anything related to changing a habit you have to know you’re why. Why is it important to you? The closer to tears that answer brings you the better. Find a reason that’s strong, that’s going to persist for a long time, but also be immediate. Then, surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to be doing and who want to do what you want to do. Sometimes that means spending less time with people who are not going to actively support you.
No Sign of Progress
Weight loss that’s steady and permanent can be slow. You may lose some water weight early but the real tissue change is going to take some time. So while you’re watching the scale stay stuck on the number you don’t like it is discouraging. Who can stick with something like that? It’s especially discouraging the more aforementioned reasons you’ve bailed in the past are true. There’s no sign of progress and you’re supposed to continue doing exercise you don’t like, saying no when your friends ask you to go out, or passing on that birthday cake when your stomach is growling? Most of us would be done.
The fix: Weigh in with more than the scale. Measure yourself. Get your body fat tested. Take pictures. Try on your tight clothes. Test your endurance and strength. Before you start right down a few thoughts about how well you’re sleeping, and how hard it is to go up and down stairs. When the scale that we obsess with so much isn’t telling the truth about your effort, you’ll have these other numbers to give you evidence that there is good stuff going on under the hood.
If you’ve started and stopped before you have a lingering mentality that this is a short term fix and that you’ll go right back to doing what you were doing, in which case you’ll probably also go back to the weight or the fitness level you had before.
The fix: Truly buying into the fact that if you change your habits for good you will look and feel the way you want to is the mindset that wins. It may be hard. Your mindset right now may tell you that genetics have determined your destiny. Your mindset may be that your metabolism is broken and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Becoming aware of your mindset can be a turning point. Listen to how you talk to others and to yourself. Do you use language that suggests what’s true now is going to be true forever? Or do you use language that suggests you’re in control of your choices and they affect your future? Even if you said the former, you can change your mind. Thinking differently is a skill and like anything else it can be learned. It just takes practice.
Been there? Tell me what derailed you. What was the hardest thing about sticking to it?