I was recently speaking to one of my clients about his fantastic progress since taking up exercise. During our chat, the point that struck me most was him saying he has never been concerned with losing weight or improving his appearance. He started improving his lifestyle purely because he was fed up of feeling fed up! He wanted more energy, better moods, less stress, less health concerns and generally a more positive outlook on life.
Since childhood exercise had never appealed to him, so until his early 50’s he did whatever he could to avoid it. However, he began to realise that if he didn’t do something about it he was likely to have serious problems going into later life. Therefore, about 3 years ago he took up bootcamp classes with Infiniti Fitness and has never looked back.
He quickly became hooked on the exercise and positive feelings it gave him. Instead of focusing on weight loss he looked to improve his performance and technique with specific exercises and set fitness related targets. He also sought ways to improve his general lifestyle such as taking more time to prepare meals, learning relaxing breathing techniques and working on his mobility.
He never set any specific weight loss targets but as a consequence of his lifestyle improvements he has lost a significant amount of weight. His health, movement and appearance have completely transformed over the last couple of years. He now receives regular positive comments from friends and family about how different he looks. All this despite appearance and weight never being his focus.
Think about this for a moment…..
How many of you set out on a health kick with the focus on just feeling better? How many of you consider this when your plan isn’t going as hoped and you are struggling to avoid unhealthy habits?
Let’s face it, most people start a health regime because they want to lose a few pounds or tone up their wobbly bits. Usually this follows a period of indulgence or precedes an event such as a holiday or wedding.
The individual then starts an exercise programme and/or diet plan and regularly checks their weight and measurements. If measurements are going in the right direction all is well, but as soon as the readings don’t match our expectations we start to panic.
“I’ve cut out drinking for a month but haven’t lost a pound, what’s the point?!”
“I lost 5 pounds in the first week but since then I’ve hardly lost anything – I’ll never reach my goals so might as well give up”
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of goal setting as it provides focus, direction and accountability. However, I feel that the health and fitness industry is placing too much focus on fat loss and body composition. We are bombarded with images of lean, toned bodies and told that they are the holy grail – if we follow the right programme we too can have that body and all will be well in the world!
If your goal is to lose weight and get leaner, take a moment to think about why that is your goal.
I would guess that most answers will revolve around improved confidence, feeling healthier and having more energy. Generally, we want to get leaner because we believe it will make us be happier people.
So how about we flip this on the head and have health and happiness as the main focus of our exercise and nutrition??
Learn to enjoy and gain pleasure from the processes rather than just constantly thinking of the end goal. Each little lifestyle improvement should bring satisfaction. Cutting out alcohol for a month didn’t result in weight loss? So what? It will have improved your health in many ways and it shows you have the mental determination to stick with a challenge. Take the positives from your achievements rather than worrying about why physical changes aren’t happening the way you expect.
I have taken this approach for many years and it helps most when I am struggling to make the right choices. Healthy living is quite easy when things are going well, but as soon as we are tired, stressed or emotional the detrimental options become far more appealing. This is when we start to focus on our lack of progress with weight loss or body measurements and make excuses about the effort not being worth it.
If we place more emphasis on experiencing general good health and happiness our arguments for the right choices become stronger.
I regularly get the urge to make poor food choices. However, before reaching for the unhealthy option I think through the consequences. How will that choice make me feel afterwards? Do I really need that food or am I succumbing to temporary urges? What alternative options do I have?
Sometimes I will still give in to the poor option, but thinking things through from a health and happiness perspective means that more often than not I will change my mind.
The same applies to exercise. There are many times when I feel tired or grumpy and could easily cancel my planned training and go home to have a beer and watch television. However, instead of focusing on the chore of completing the exercise I think about how I will feel afterwards. From experience I know that if I head straight home in a grumpy mood I will continue feeling grumpy. However, if I give myself a kick up the arse and get the workout done then 99.9% of the time I will feel much better for doing so.
Exercise will almost always make you feel more positive. Eating healthy meals will almost always make you feel more positive. Instead of seeing healthy living as being boring and punitive, learn to enjoy the process.
McDonalds Big Mac and fries vs homemade steak and sweet potato wedges
Two hours browsing social media vs two hours walking in the hills
For me the latter options are far more appealing, they just take more effort.
Place more emphasis on these points, take a longer term approach to improving your lifestyle and you will have more success in achieving happiness. I guarantee that as a consequence you will also have more success in reaching those weight loss or body composition targets.
Be healthy, be happy