Let me guess. You started off the year brimming with hope that this time would be different. This would be the year that you would meet your weight loss goal and discover that you actually really love to run…but it’s not going as planned. I have some ideas on why your resolutions are harder to stick to than you thought they’d be.
Hi and welcome to Nutritionally Speaking! I’m your host, Michaela Ballmann.
This year is already off to a quick start, and people are holding tight to their resolutions for 2012. Well, at least they’re trying too.
A poll, recently conducted by Thomson Reuters and NPR, found that 51% of respondents are promising to exercise more and 35% have committed to losing weight. No surprise there, but how many of these survey respondents will be successful? How many are already struggling with their die-hard pledge?
Here are some of my ideas on why you’re not losing weight or becoming a gym rat yet.
In a recent New York Times magazine article entitled “The Fat Trap”, author Tara Parker-Pope talked about the different aspects of weight loss, and how there is a biological factor that seems to outweigh any amount of willpower that dieters may have. What’s more, the yo-yo dieting cycle provoked by the incredibly influential diet industry alters our metabolism and levels of hormones affecting appetite and satiation, chiefly lowering our resting metabolic rate so that we require fewer Calories and therefore need to eat less and exercise more to maintain that lower weight let alone lose more. On top of that, the “hunger hormone” Ghrelin gets revved up to try to get the body back to its “set” weight point, concurrent with a drop in hormones (Leptin and Peptide YY) that usually suppress hunger and increase metabolism levels.
The brain is largely involved in this whole process as well, specifically the dopamine center of rewards and reinforcement. Too much of what the brain senses as deprivation and you may start feeling less inhibition in your eating, less motivation to do things that cause you pain (i.e. eating foods you don’t enjoy, exercising for hours a day), and more impulses or cravings for foods your brain has associated with positive feelings. Furthermore, there is the role of genetics that cannot be ignored. Variation in the FTO gene can increase the risk of obesity from 30-60% depending on whether you have only one or two copies.
So if you’ve been beating yourself up mentally for not having enough willpower, stop it! There’s way more involved in your simple resolution than you think!
You have visions, fantasies of what is going to happen when you reach a certain number on the scale, dress size, or level of fitness. You are going to arrive. You will be happy and worthy of all good things in life. You will finally buy the clothes you want, walk with your head held high, and have more self-confidence and self-respect than you ever imagined. That’s what I thought, you’re betting too much on this resolution. You think that life is going to really “begin” once you’ve overcome this so-called vice. I hate to burst your bubble, but that isn’t going to happen. Sure, you will probably feel proud of your accomplishment and giddy that you fit in those pants, but that is not what life is about. Your life has meaning today. You are valuable now. Your feelings shouldn’t fluctuate with the tag hidden inside your clothes. I’m not sure why we have this fear of contentment, of satisfaction with our lives and ourselves. I certainly don’t think that if you chose to be happy right now that you would cease to improve or challenge yourself or achieve great things. What do you think?
When “Perfect” is the only acceptable option, there is no option. You will be depressed, frustrated, and likely disgusted with yourself for failing over and over again. But, the only reason you’re failing is because you have set a standard that no one can meet. I bet you don’t even hold other people (especially people you love and respect) to that standard. You don’t condemn them for eating a piece of cake, foregoing exercise for well-needed rest, or for having un-toned arms. So, why do you condemn yourself? You see the problem, don’t you? When you require perfection and you don’t get it, the day is ruined and you think you might as well eat more, move less, and wallow in a pity party. Instead, why don’t you give yourself grace, aim for good instead (i.e. making a healthier food choice at the market or restaurant, going out for a walk with a friend, trying a new vegetable), and pat yourself on the back for EVERY effort and baby step forward? It couldn’t hurt.
Why do you want to lose weight or go to the gym so much? Is it really for your health or is it to try to fit some ideal created by people that don’t care about you at all? If you have good motives, you will likely find motivation and fulfillment in what you do. If there is a worthwhile goal, like having energy to play with your grandkids, being able to renovate your home yourself, or anything that you think would improve in your life as a result of engaging in a weight routine or following a healthier lifestyle, go for it! Your eyes are on a good prize. If, however, you are going on a fad diet because you won’t be happy until you have a six-pack or a photoshopped stomach, your efforts will be foiled.
I wish I could tell you that you are worthy of good things and know that you’d believe me. Often, weight-loss goals that are made with good intentions still go unmet because deep down you don’t think you can do it, or you don’t think you’re worthy of, for example, having pretty clothes, feeling good about yourself, taking care of your needs, or whatever. If you keep playing negative self-talk in your head, it will become increasingly difficult to lose the weight you want to, or to even do daily tasks as things seem more overwhelming. Negativity and self-contempt are enemies of a joyful, fruitful life. Don’t let yourself take away your joy.
This last point ties into all the rest. When you take care of your needs for rest, movement, nourishing food, healthy relationships, edifying conversation, challenging work, etc., you are feeding your self-confidence, your self-efficacy, and your innate desire to treat yourself as a precious gem, a prized treasure. Don’t hesitate to be your best friend.
I hope that this episode has given you insight into why sticking to resolutions isn’t always easy or sustainable. If you have any comments or questions, you can post them on my website http://www.wholify.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at @NutriSpeaking. I’d love to hear from you! Thanks again for listening, and I’ll see you next time!