Why People Fail at a Healthy Lifestyle Change
It is around this time every year that people have already given up on those New Year’s resolutions that they have made to exercise, lose weight, and eat better. Sure, maybe they have hit the gym hard every single day in January but come February all effort has gone out the window. There are many reasons why people give up, and as trainers we recognize what some of these reasons are and try to help our clients avoid doing the same thing. Here are top reasons why people give up on their goals of a healthy lifestyle change.
One major reason people give up on their healthy lifestyle change is having UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. They’ll spend a week or so exercising and eating better and then magically expect to fit into a smaller size. You can’t expect to lose 10 or more pounds right away. A safe and reasonable weight loss is about 1-2 pounds per week. Many people will step on the scale after only a few days and give up because they didn’t lose any weight yet. Weight loss takes time!! Be patient and diligent and don’t give up.
Another issue that tends to make people want to quit right away is CHANGING TO MUCH AT ONCE. Some people can get away with a complete overhaul, however, for most, it will make things more difficult. If you’re used to being a couch potato that snacks all day and never exercises and then try to do a 180 the next day, it can cause you to get overwhelmed and give up. Baby steps. Start with substituting one unhealthy choice with a healthy one and build from there. Never exercised before, try 20 minutes every other day and go from there. With small steps, you’ll be more likely to succeed in the long run.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when converting to a healthy lifestyle is MAKING TEMPORARY CHANGES. That’s why DIET is a bad term to use. Diet equals temporary. It means what type of food you put in your body, whether it be chips or salads. Your “diet” needs to be a permanent lifestyle change, not a fad. Otherwise you will find yourself snacking on unhealthy foods more often, or even gain back the weight you lost and then some. All that hard work for nothing.
USING FOR AS A REWARD is another big problem that can cause people to revert back to bad choices quickly, especially if they have negative relationship with food to begin with. Some people will say after they lose a certain amount of weight they will reward themselves with fast food or sweets. Once they consume the unhealthy food, however, they might have a hard time going back to healthy eating. You’re not an animal, don’t reward yourself with food. Try rewarding yourself with something positive and stay on track, like a new pair of pants, shoes, or getting a makeover.
Sadly, another significant reason why people can’t stick to their lifestyle change is NOT HAVING MORAL SUPPORT. If your significant other is stuffing their face with junk food, it’s difficult to not want to grab a small plate and sharing. No support also causes you to have no one to check in with and hold you accountable. You don’t feel like your letting anyone else down but yourself, which can be easier than letting someone else down. Even if it isn’t in person, find someone who will partake in your journey.
To some people, SLIP-UPS ARE THE END-ALL. They catch themselves eating something they know they probably shouldn’t, like a cookie, and then think well might as well keep going since I already screwed up. They tell themselves that they don’t have any willpower and throw in the towel and lose all motivation. You had a cookie, so what. If you want a cookie than spend a little extra time on your workout. Don’t let that cookie dictate your future. Enjoy it, move on, and go back to your healthy lifestyle change. By deciding to never have a small cheat meal on occasion it will only make you go crazy and want to snack more.
SKIPPING MEALS is NOT the quickest way to lose weight. Some people think they can just eat once a day and let their body work off all the stored fat. Wrong. That’s not how it works. When you skip a meal, your body goes into starvation mode. You’re not getting the nutrients you need, and your body begins to panic because it doesn’t know when it will receive the necessary nourishment again. This panic causes your body to store all its fat, making it more difficult to burn off. Your metabolism begins to slow down to keep it from burning and you stop losing weight. Meaning, when you don’t eat enough (under eat) you can gain weight because your body is turning into a vault and keeping the fat stored safely inside. Food is fuel. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop eating when you are no longer hungry, not full.
EMOTIONAL EATING is a touchy subject and a serious issue with many people. Now, this doesn’t mean that if you don’t eat sweets when you’re sad that you are not an emotional eater. If you grab a bag of chips because you’re bored or just feel like eating something salty, or grab ice cream because you’re stressed, you are eating with your emotions. Comfort food is a term that panders to emotional eating, which tends to peak around the holidays. Thus, making it even more difficult for those new year’s resolutions. About 75% of those who overeat do so because they are emotional eaters. The only reason that you should eat is because you are hungry.
There are many reasons why people fail at achieving a healthy lifestyle. Every single person is different. One thing might work for one person but not the next. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you treat yourself to an unhealthy snack. Eat it, enjoy it, and then get right back on the wagon.
Laurie is a graduate of the University of Delaware holding a Bachelor's in Health, Behavior, and Exercise Sciences with a concentration in Fitness Management and Strength and Conditioning. She developed her passion in fitness and health from a love of sports, most notably soccer, having played in high school varsity, elite club teams, as well as the collegiate level. She's since turned that passion into her career and is now an expert in the fields of sports conditioning, functional training, weight management and nutrition.