“It’s a lifestyle change!”
I cannot tell you how many times I have rolled my eye at that phrase. That and “weight loss journey.” Barf.
I don’t even know why these phrases make me wanna barf. It is probably their over-use. Something about them just seems performative. You know, insta-ready. Look at my adaptogenic rainbow smoothie bowl! I had it for breakfast after my sunrise meditation. Here’s a photo of me meditating with my toes touching my head! Hashtag wellness hashtag fitfam.
Or maybe you’re more the type to be like check out this keto fatbomb hashtag no days off. Just pulled a new PR at the box in my new Nike Metcons.
Look, if one of these are lifestyles you truly aspire to, then great! Go get ’em! Really! But there are a lot of people out there who want to just be better versions of themselves and start to think they have to completely overhaul their entire lives on a “fitness journey” or “change their lifestyle” in order to lose weight to improve their health. In reality, that’s not completely necessary.
If you would like to lose weight or improve your fitness, the number one question you need to ask yourself is “What do I want my life to look like when I reach my goal?”
So many people will begin a “weight loss journey” thinking they need to lose X number of pounds, so they have to give up all soda and alcohol and pizza and ice cream and go to the gym as often as possible. Not only does this set people up for burnout or increase their chances of binging on all those foods they’re avoiding, it’s also probably unrealistic.
We’ve all seen the studies that show people regain the weight they lose, right? They are rampant. It can certainly be argued that it’s because we fall into old habits because we don’t create a lasting “lifestyle change,” but I think it’s because we don’t make our initial adjustments with our end goal or maintenance in mind.
When you are preparing your weight loss plan or lifestyle change, you need to think about the things in your life that you will want to keep and how you will want your life to look. Consider that you might learn new things you like to do or eat, so the idea of how you want your life to be might change! And that’s great! Or it might not, and that’s great, too!
Think about yourself once you’re at your goal, envision the way your body looks and feels, the habits and hobbies you will have, the foods you will eat.
- What role will exercise have in your life when you are at your goal? Some folks believe an exercise regimen is a means to an end, just a way to lose body fat or gain muscle. Truly, regular exercise is an important part of maintaining one’s weight and health, but everyone has a different level of interest in exercise. Some folks wish to exercise regularly while trying to lose weight and then decrease frequency during maintenance. There are many types of exercise–from walking around your neighborhood in the evening to HIIT to yoga to powerlifting. Decide what sort of exercise you will be doing when you are already at your goal and start incorporating that now. You may want to experiment with different types and intensities of exercise as you go to learn what you like, but start to consider this now so you can envision the role fitness will play in your life moving forward.
- What will your diet look like when you’re at your goal? Do you think you’ll go back to eating takeout or putting back a couple six packs every night? Chances are that won’t end well. But then again, if you don’t want to be drinking kale smoothies and snacking on celery sticks dipped in fat-free ranch for the rest of forever, creating a diet plan that focuses solely on these won’t be sustainable. The same goes for trying any number of fad diets, like keto or paleo or juicing. If you don’t want to do it forever and can’t see yourself doing it when you reach your goal, it won’t be worth trying to maintain it in the short-term. You are better off trying to make smaller changes, such as incorporating more lower-calorie and nutritious options and indulging less.
- What will your body look like at your goal? This is important, because even though you might have decided that you don’t really feel like lifting weights and you want your diet to be mostly pizza and beer just less of it, but also you want to get jacked like Arnold Schwarzenegger… well, I hate to break it to you but you’re going to have to check some of these goals. Do you want a body like a ballerina and a sub-3 hour marathon time while eating nothing but ice cream? At some point you will have to determine what is realistic between what you want your lifestyle to be and what you want your body to look like or the fitness level you want to achieve. Consider where sacrifices can be made. Are you willing to give up some of that pizza in order to achieve the physique you want? Are you so averse to intense exercise that you’re OK with never having Michelle Obama arms? Do you actually love kale smoothies and gleefully anticipate enjoying them for breakfast every morning forever?
Deciding to lose weight or improve your fitness is an important decision–and it’s a great, exciting thing! Just remember to be realistic when considering your lifestyle chances in relation to your ultimate goals.