Ah, January, it starts off with so much hope and promises so many good intentions. We’re reaching the end of the month though, and already people’s resolutions are fading. I have a lot of experience for this in both the good and bad, so I wanted to talk about one that is relevant for me like the goal of weight loss. If you find you’ve already dropped your weightloss resolution, I’m going to give you a few facts that might get you back on track without the guilt. You still have TONS of time to make this your year, so let’s get started (again).
I promise I’m not going to guilt you here. The truth is, each of the reasons below, I’ve used when people asked why I’ve stopped my weight loss goal. I’ve also found ways around these excuses though, and hopefully this will give you some encouragement to either try again or reassess your goals.
I wanted to make this point first because guilt is an awful feeling to have, and if you’re an emotional eater, it can even make you gain pounds that you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t set the resolution in the first place! I found this excellent article by CityLab which, is packed with statistics and numbers if you’re into that thing. The shortened excerpt is this:
“In a survey conducted by NPR and The Marist Poll in November and December, 44 percent of 1,075 American adults said they were likely to make a New Year’s resolution. Among them, 13 percent set out to exercise more, making it the most common resolution. Related ambitions to lose weight and eat better, ranked third and fourth, respectively. Together, they’re goals for almost a third of all resolution makers.”
HOWEVER, while this is a nice number, it doesn’t stay. When I was at peek shape, I didn’t go to the gym during January because I knew it was going to be packed, and I’d work out at home or I’d go during unpopular hours. I knew by the end of the month those numbers would probably drop by half, and I was right. If you read the article above, you’ll see that most people quietly pack away their new year’s resolution with their Christmas ornaments never to think of them till next Christmas.
I’m telling you this because feeling like you’re the only one ignoring your gym shoes and opting to stay indoors is a guilt-inducing feeling to have, and if you’re an emotional eater like me, that can spell disaster.
SOLUTION: Have some self-compassion. Realizing you’re not alone relieves those guilt feelings, which might prevent you from making it worse. Also, self-compassion is a good thing to cultivate anyway.
On the note of eating out of guilt, let’s talk about how much our emotions play a roll in this. I have A LOT of experience with this. It’s the main reason I throw my weight loss resolution out the window. In the past, I’ve dealt very poorly with negativity. For me, I didn’t eat just when I was stressed. I ate when I was angry, sad, depressed, lonely, guilty, and even boredom would send me looking for something to snack on.
I started seeing a therapist a couple of years ago. She explained the significance that eating has for us as humans, mainly when it is driven by negative feelings. First, it’s an aggressive act. Biting is related to aggression (even if it’s biting food and even if that food is vegetables!). Animals use biting not just to eat their food but as a form of defense or aggression as well. I can also say that having had a lot of experience with children, the terrible two’s are a great age to observe how biting is linked to aggression!
The other thing eating does for us is comfort. One of the first things that happens to us once we are born is we are given a meal either from a bottle or directly from our mother. So we naturally feel comforted when we’re eating. For me, when I’d eat, especially if I was upset, I’d get a place to release aggression as well as be comforted through food.
SOLUTION: Start to think about how much your emotions influence your eating patterns. Try to start a journal, not to record just your food necessarily, but your moods as well. If there’s a particularly stressful event you’re going through, notice when it peeks and what you do about it. You may want to consider seeing a therapist to explore your feelings further, or other ways of either expressing your anger safely and actively (like working out) or comforting yourself through passive activities like coloring, meditating or going on a walk.
Not everyone enjoys going to the gym, especially if you’re struggling with losing a large amount of weight. I’ve found as someone who has to lose more than a few pounds that going to the gym can feel isolating. I also know that living in Massachusetts means that snowstorms can frequently derail my workout plans as well.
Be sure that this isn’t an excuse for you just not knowing what you’re doing at the gym. For example, I got a personal trainer when I was 180lbs. I lost weight, and I was amazing at the gym, but those workouts were too extreme when I became 240, so that meant I needed to hire a trainer, to understand how to help myself at this new weight. It had nothing to do with me not liking the gym; I was just frustrated that I had no idea how to lose the weight I had gained.
SOLUTION: I think it’s important to understand that weightlifting isn’t the only way you’re going to lose weight. Nor is running for hours on a treadmill. It’s essential to find what makes you feel happy at the weight you are. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box. Instead of running on a treadmill, try Zumba. Instead of lifting weights, try yoga (which focuses on using your body weight), If the weather is nice in your area, consider running outside, hiking, or even canoeing. Working any form of activity into your day, no matter what it is, is better than sitting on the couch doing nothing. If you cut yourself some slack on what “working out” means to you, you’re more likely able to find something you enjoy, which means you’ll stick with it for longer!
If this is you currently, I would like to thank you for being honest with your feelings. Admitting that you’re just not motivated allows you to get curious about why that is and start exploring ways to think differently. Also, please know that last year (2019), this is where I was. I didn’t feel motivated to get in shape. I wasn’t happy with my weight. I wasn’t pleased that I continued to gain, but the idea of watching what I ate and forcing myself to be active just seemed like too much, OR WORSE, it seemed like a punishment.
I don’t believe anyone becomes fat because they woke up one day and decided to sit around and eat crappy food. I like to watch “My 600lb Life”, and I’ve found that most often (even in childhood) weight gain starts because of an emotional injury, whether from abuse, parents breaking up, death of a loved one, or even bullying. It’s EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to address that pain so that it heals regardless of the weight. You might find that as your emotional wounds heal, you’re more willing to take care of yourself not just mentally but physically.
I talked it over with my therapist, and the truth is, there are several factors that could be playing a part in my weight gain and lack of motivation. One thing to consider is are you experiencing depression. Depression isn’t always crying. Sometimes it can be very subtle and feel just like lethargy. Depression can also make you eat more too. It’s good to take a moment and ask yourself if anything has happened recently to start these feelings. For me, I was stalked and harassed by my town’s USPS, which you can read about HERE. Being afraid to leave my home, or even at times be in my home, contributed significantly to feeling depressed and unsafe. It took a lot of therapy sessions for me to feel better about where I live despite the continued acts of stalking.
I had to understand and have compassion for where I was and how I got there to have the strength to move forward. Sometimes I saw weightloss as punishment. As if my upbringing, and being stalked weren’t enough, now I had to starve myself to get healthy. This thought is pretty negative. Having compassion for my past allows me to see that I ate as a way to cope with my pain. I can have some pity for myself that, however unhealthy my choices where this was the safest way I could think of at the time to deal with my issues. HOWEVER, I’ve learned more since then. I’ve now learned how to deal with my problems in a more healthy manner, which gives me room to cook more healthily. Not because I’m punishing myself, but because I understand that I have grown and deserved better.
SOLUTION: Ask yourself, why you aren’t motivated and go a little deeper than the reasons why. What are your thoughts behind being healthier? Do you see it as a punishment? Do you not feel worthy of being healthy? Is being unhealthy a way you’re trying to punish yourself? See if you can have compassion and forgive yourself. Try to think of how your life would be if you did feel motivated. Also, consider seeking out a therapist that you work well with because they will be able to help you understand this part of yourself better.
I grew up in Florida, which meant I had easy access to the very best of Carribean, and Latino food. I know what good food tastes like. My mother was also a really good cook. So when I started trying to lose weight a few years ago, I started in the frozen food section of my grocery store. I bought microwavable’s that had the calories printed right on them, and guess what? THEY TASTED GROSS! I remember getting these sad little enchiladas, and they tasted like cardboard. It made me sad.
The truth is, you don’t have to eat like that.
Also, please understand that if you’ve grown up eating an unhealthy diet, eating a salad might not be the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you, but that also doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. As you continue on your journey to good health your tastes will change, so please be patient with yourself (and your food).
SOLUTION: Write down a list of all your favorite foods and try to think of ways you can lower the calorie counts. For me, I’m a carb girl. Specifically pasta, so I’m always on the lookout for how I can “have my pasta, and eat it too”. For example, I LOVE my mother’s pasta sauce (which is a future post so, be sure to SIGN UP HERE to be notified when it comes out). To make it healthier, she stopped using red meat and swapped it with ground turkey. Not only did I not notice a difference, but it shaved unneeded calories. Pinterest is also a great place to find healthier substitute ideas for the food you’re craving.
I completely get how expensive a gym membership can be. Even the $10 a month can be costly if you’re barely making ends meet. I dealt with extreme poverty when my husband and I first got married, and we could scarcely afford ramen. I remember him giving me $40 for food for the week (three meals for both of us) and asked me to do my best to get what I can to eat. At times like that $10, to go to the gym is just not going to happen.
SOLUTION: You do not need a gym membership to get healthy. With things like Netflix and even YouTube, you can find yoga programs, Zumba, and even weight-training to work along with. Also, don’t underestimate the power of a brisk walk. Walking instead of driving or taking the stairs instead of the escalator can add up over time!
This can be a hard one. I know what’s like to get home after a long day and want to sit down and watch TV. I GET THAT COMPLETELY. However, I also know that we make time for our goals and the things we love. We make time to shower. We make time to do our laundry. We make time to meet up with our friends. If your goal to get healthy is strong enough, you’ll find time to do that too. Maybe it might mean getting up a half an hour earlier, or instead of watching that hour of TV at night, you watch it while you’re on your treadmill (something I do). I’ve even heard of people sleeping in their gym clothes (or at least setting them out the night before), so they can get up and go first thing.
If it’s hard to hear this, it might also be related to what I’ve already talked about with being depressed or not feeling like you deserve even to be healthy. So please take some time to go over your schedule. You don’t need to spend hours at the gym; just half an hour would do your body good!
All else fails, remember this: Exercise is great for your body, and you should do it if you can, but ultimately, it’s what you eat that matters. If you burn 700 calories at the gym but come home only to eat two massive hamburgers with cheese and mayo and a double order of fries with a large beer, soda, or chocolate shake, you’re probably not going to lose any weight. You can lose weight without doing any exercise, but you need to pay attention to what you’re eating.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with all this stuff, just stop and start small. I replaced my sugar with Stevia, which is a natural zero-calorie sweetener. I drink skim milk. I drink diet soda (though soda isn’t a big thing for me to begin with). Drink a glass of water before meals, have a large salad with a side of spaghetti instead of the other way around. These are small tricks, but they add up!
This also goes for your exercise too! If you don’t have the desire to do a half an hour workout, try doing a five-minute walk around your neighborhood. You might find that the hardest part of your workout is getting your shoes on and getting out the door. If you have any other tips, please let me know in the comments below! I’m always interested in learning more. If you would like to share your progress, be sure to tag me on any of my social media accounts. If you want to be kept up to date with my weight loss journey or be notified for future posts, please be sure to SIGN UP HERE. As always, I want to leave you with this: Have some compassion for yourself. You above anyone deserve your own love and that’s regardless of how you look or where you are currently with your goals. Have a beautiful day, okay? -Heather Astaneh