Ladies, we've all been there. On Sunday night, as you look in that infernal bedroom mirror, you solemnly vow that next week your life will change. You will begin a jogging regimen, start eating salads, and manage a new, active lifestyle on top of the other million things you have going on. At best, your efforts last until Wednesday, until you realize that you hate salads, become evil when hungry, and hate the sight, smell, and feel of gyms.
As you bite into that greasy slice of pizza on Thursday, frustrated with regret and guilt, you start to reprimand yourself with failure to accomplish that weight loss goal. Whether you have five or fifty pounds to lose, or if you just want to be healthier, weight loss for women is never a walk in the park, or so most people, including the guilt factory inside of you, would have you think.
Our minds are rigid structures. They build a framework into which they incorporate knowledge, and which prevents many of us from seeing outside of this structure. The structure of physical fitness, weight loss, and general health, seems to be deeply rooted in the concepts of treadmills, counting calories, and deprivation. The first step to succeeding in weight loss is to break free of these ideas. Here are some things you should stop letting yourself believe:
1. "I must count every calorie and burn all the excess ones". Unless you're a biochemist or a food scientist or have too much free time, counting calories is an imperfect, flawed, and useless science. While it is true that the best way to weight loss is "eat less, work more", counting every calorie will not get you there. Instead, ball-park your meals and watch out for the bad guys like sugar, sodium, and fats. The internet is riddled with calorie calculators that would allow you to approximate how many calories you should be eating each day. Does this mean that if you eat one calorie more, that you will balloon into an unrecognizable blimp? No. It just means that if you have a nice carby bagel for breakfast, skip the croutons at lunch, or the pasta at dinner.
2. "I must work out every day." Working out daily will accomplish one thing; making you dry heave at the idea of working out. Muscles need time to rebuild and process that lactic acid that makes them achy and sore. Working out on tired muscles is therefore neither here nor there. Instead, organize your work outs to be 3-4 times a week and focusing on different muscle groups. Do legs and back one day, shoulders and chest the next, and abs and butt the third. Notice, that nowhere here did I mention that this must be done at the gym. Parks and trails make for excellent cardio and leg exercises, tennis is great for upper arms and shoulders, and hula-hooping is a fantastic ab work out. The more variety, the less you will hate the idea of doing it, and the less you will be aware of the fact that you are working out.
3. "I must deprive myself of things I love." All work out and no chocolate makes Jenny a horrible person to be around. The reason weight loss for women is so difficult, is because they assume that a radical, all or none transformation must take place. This means no deserts, no fun, and no life until they look like Giselle. No woman has gotten overweight or unhealthy from eating a slice of cheese cake. The caveat here is to indulge once in a while. If you prefer desert after dinner, help yourself to a small chocolate, but don't eat the entire bag. I prefer to have a cheat day once a week, to indulge myself in the slice (notice singular) of pizza I hanker for and resist all week. Letting yourself eat these forbidden treats once in a while and in small amounts allows you to fight the urge to devour an tub of ice cream covered in the salty taste of defeat.
4. "I should see results immediately." People like to have immediate gratification. In weight loss, this is a two way street. If we are not reaching our fitness goals we are frustrated and think it's not working, if we do see results, we think we can slack off a little. In reality, what you do now, your body will show in about 2 weeks (don't start counting down to the hour to two weeks from now). That is the time it takes for muscles to rebuild and for various biochemical and metabolic processes to take place. There's a reason patience is a virtue. Be patient with your goals and be wary of the later-on consequences of your habits. There is no reason to scrutinize yourself in the mirror 30 minutes after a work out or to weigh yourself daily, let alone weekly. Either way, you will be setting yourself up for failure.
Once you break free from these mental traps, you will notice that the journey to weight loss will be a much less emotionally taxing one. Do watch what you eat, exercise regularly, and change bad habits but do so in a way that does not make you miserable. Vary your workouts to include fun things, enjoy the foods you love, and be realistic with yourself. The toughest critic is the one in the mirror.