I guess you won’t be surprised if I tell you that January is the peak month for buying gym memberships and starting diets. Maybe we have all over-indulged at Christmas, and come January we are feeling the full effects of our lack of self-control. However 50 per cent of people joining gyms quit within the first six months and the average diet only lasts five weeks and two days. So how can we stick to our good intentions?
Be realistic about the challenges
I think you need to be realistic about the challenges you will face from the beginning. Do you diet or go on healthy food campaigns, a type of diet, every year? According to a British study, the average woman goes on 2.7 diets a year. Friends who diet, tell me it gets tough when they go to dinner or parties and face temptation. And once they fall off the diet bandwagon and eat lots of treats, they find it harder to get back on and re-start their diet.
It’s easy to have good intentions. I guess it’s harder to stick to programs. In January, our motivation is at its peak – we’ve made New Year’s resolutions! But when it comes to actually exercising or saying no to treats, we’ve moved into a different mindset. Maybe we’ve had a bad day at work or a squabble with our spouse. We’re not so motivated now, are we?! That’s why you have to plan for challenges when beginning any new diet or exercise plan. You need to remember that you will face mindset challenges and external challenges such as extra busy or stressful days. And these are really going to impact on whether you stick to your diet or exercise plan.
Plan for diet or exercise obstacles
While your motivation is still strong, I suggest writing down what could get in the way of sticking to your diet or exercise plan. Will your self-belief falter? Maybe you will one day doubt yourself and say, “I will never lose this weight, I’ll always be fat, why am I bothering? Why not just eat the donut?” or “I will never be fit, why don’t I just chuck it in and forget the gym?”. Tell me now, how will you stay strong? Will other people undermine you? Will friends offer you unhealthy food? Will there be cakes and chocolates at work? Will your family make fun of your gym visits? Again, how will you stay strong?
What will you do if your life gets too busy? What happens if you have to meet a deadline at work or look after a sick child? How will you stick to your diet or exercise plan, if you have no time to exercise or prepare healthy food? This is when many people resort to ‘fast food’ and no exercise.
Come up with solutions to obstacles
Right now, list all the barriers to achieving your health goals, then come up with solutions and also write those down, so you will be ready. For example, if you don’t have time to cook, look now at low-fat options you can buy at your local supermarket. Find a gym that is open 24 hours a day, if you need to work long hours. Look for solutions to obstacles NOW before they occur. Think about putting some money aside for a personal trainer for the time when your motivation wanes. Trust me, it will happen. Consider exercising with a friend who will encourage you! Working out with others and feeling part of a community is more likely to help you stick with it.
Think strategically about your health
I know a woman in her fifties who joined a gym. She started with the early 6am classes. She did not ‘enjoy’ theses classes. The gym owner suggested she give the senior exercise classes a go. She thought she was a bit young for them, as some people in the class were over 70 but what she found was that the group laughed a lot and the classes were at 8am so she didn’t need to get out of bed so early. Guess what? She no longer goes to the 6am classes, but is still a regular at the seniors’ group. It is usually easier to stick with something fun.
I say think strategically about your exercise and diet goals and plan how you will stick with them long term, because the statistics show that most people fail in the first months, if not weeks.
Is cardio or weights better?
Finally, people often wonder if it’s better to do cardio (aerobic) exercise or weights. A new study has found doing at least one strength training session a week improves mental health. Ideally you should combine cardio and weight training, according to this study.
The new Southern Queensland University research found that combining strength training with aerobic exercise like jogging and cycling is best for mental health. The study found that regardless of how much aerobic training you do, it is always good to also do some weight training.
Finally, the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend:
- Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
- Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
- Do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.
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ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.