By Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. and Rita La Rosa Loud, B.S.
Quincy – If you are like so many Americans who have trouble sticking to an exercise or weight loss program, here six steps incorporate into your program that may make all the difference in the world.
1. Have the right attitude. Ever notice that when you think you are going to succeed, you are more likely to do so? And, when you come in with the attitude that you will never be successful, this will probably be the result? It is possible to counteract those negative thoughts with positive thoughts that can help you attain the outcome you desire. Research reveals that positive self-talk is highly effective for maintaining an exercise commitment and a nutrition plan.
2. Take it one step at a time. When beginning any new program, thinking of the big picture can be overwhelming. We suggest that if you take small, progressive steps, you may be surprised at how much easier it is to reach your goal. Perhaps you would like to start walking for exercise but feel that 30 minutes, 5 days per week is too much to accomplish. Try walking 10 minutes, 2 days a week, then gradually increase to 20 minutes, 3 days a week, and ultimately progress to 30 minutes, 5 days a week. With this step-by-step approach, reasonable exercise goals should be within your reach.
3. Engage in positive support Encouragement from family and friends can help you stick with a program. Having a support system in place provides accountability and reinforcement. Just ask Tom Brady. He had his family, friends, and team members cheering him on throughout his entire football career. However, you may need to communicate the type of support you require in order to help others to understand how to assist you. For example, finding a workout partner who has similar goals, can help you look forward to every training session.
Losing weight can be frustrating for a lot of people, and some people might even consider this a losing battle. How many times do people go on a diet only to give up long before they reach their desired body weight?
4. Track your calories. Our experience clearly indicates that those who track their daily intake are more successful at losing weight and are more likely to keep it off. Today, there are many ways to track your food consumption. If you like to write things down, you can record your meals on a blank daily menu sheet, and if you like to have your calculations done, there are excellent APPs on-line (like myfitnesspal.com), or you can find alternative methods on Google.
5. Understand and overcome plateaus.There may be times in your weight loss journey that you may feel your efforts have come to a standstill. You may even give up trying to lose the weight or discontinue exercising altogether. We call this a plateau, and it is actually quite normal to reach this stage. It generally means that a minor adjustment needs to be made with your training or nutrition program. Reaching out to appropriate resources such as a certified fitness instructor or a registered dietician to better understand the ups and downs that naturally occur throughout the exercise and dieting process will help you to break through the plateau. The main point is to prevent occasional plateaus from sabotaging your goals!
6. Avoid time pressure problems. Time is frequently cited as the main reason that people give to avoid exercising regularly or eating properly. Take breakfast, for example. It is the most important meal of the day and the most often skipped meal due to time factors. The best approach to remedy this problem is to plan ahead! Here is how quickly you can make oatmeal for breakfast. Set a bowl, spoon and napkin on the kitchen counter or table the night before. Next to the bowl place a box of raisins, oatmeal and small packet of nuts, then set a small pan on the stove. Put a banana and an 8-ounce glass of water in the refrigerator. In the morning, pour the water in the pan, add the raisins, nuts and cut-up banana with the oatmeal, then heat the pan for 2 minutes, and breakfast is ready. Planning ahead is the key to success.
As another example, many people run out of the house without their gym attire and athletic shoes. Simply put your exercise clothes and shoes in your gym bag, and place your gym bag by the door before you to go bed. This way, you just grab your already stocked gym bag on your way out the door.
We hope that these suggestions have been helpful. Follow these six steps and you’ll be surprised how successful your exercise and weight loss program can be!
About the Authors
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is professor of Exercise Science at Quincy College, Quincy, MA, and author of 28 books on strength training. Rita La Rosa Loud, B.S., helps direct the Community Health & Fitness Research Center at Quincy College. zx