I was 50 when life gave me a kick in the pants and motivated me to get healthy. But where was I going to start? Most people will go for a run or join a gym, or try a new diet. My option was a bit more radical – I became a personal trainer. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the answer. However it did put me in the zone and gave me a chance to figure it all out. And after helping a lot of people get started it has become clear what the most common challenges are.
The very first thing: work out what you want!
It is actually uncommon for people starting out to really know what they want. Goals like ‘get healthy’ or ‘lose weight’ are far too non-specific to predetermine a meaningful result. Understanding why you want to get healthy or lose weight is critical. For example a conversation with a new client will typically go from ‘I want to lose weight’ to ‘I want more energy’ to ‘I want to be a better parent’. Their real issue is that they are tired and cranky and this is affecting their relationship with their children. So we go from ‘lose weight’ to ‘improve my metabolism so that I can have more energy and engage successfully with my kids’.
Establish value: the importance of motivation.
One of the most vital elements of motivation is the importance you place on your goals. Start with a question: how important is this to me? Is weight loss important? ‘Well, it would be nice.’ ‘Nice’ is not enough. Is a great relationship with your partner, or your kids, or your colleagues more important? Yes. You need to drill down until you have established the issue that has real importance to you. This is your ‘why’ and once you have established it you will stay motivated whatever the obstacles that come in your way.
Confidence is king.
Have you ever been trying to find a place you haven’t been to before but you are unsure if you are going the right way? It seems to take forever and it can be quite frustrating. Going home the same journey seems to take a tenth of the time because you are confident you know the way. Getting results with nutrition and exercise is no different – having your goal is one thing, having confidence in how to get there is another. So you need two things to stay committed to your goals: a crystal clear strategy and confidence in that strategy.
Know your challenges.
There are more than a few reasons for not getting started or stopping even after you do. Time, commitments, expectations of others (including family), peer pressure, existing health status – the list is pretty long. The question is: what are your choices? You have the option of doing nothing, but what will be the final outcome of that? Change is going to take place, one way or another, and that is inevitable. Are you prepared to leave that to chance, or are you going to get a handle on it? Challenges are challenges, not insurmountable peaks. You can overcome them, don’t think for one second that you can’t. Truthfully, you must.
Time: the first big obstacle to exercising.
We all have lives to live, time is precious, and there will never be a shortage of unexpected interruptions. I think the best approach in the early stages is to just do what you can, when you can. Find the cracks in your schedule and exploit them. Every bit helps and the benefits will accumulate. Five minutes once a week will eventually become a full program if you stay committed. Importantly, you don’t have to be a gym junkie to get great results. Exercising at home is a real time saver – you really don’t need to spend time travelling to and from a gym if you don’t want to.
Nutrition – understand food.
Humans have been successfully eating food for millions of years but in just the last few decades we seem to have become chronically confused about what food is. How bizarre! There is a precise correlation between this evolving confusion, the rise of obesity and chronic disease, and the growth of dietary science. It seems the more we know the less we know. The solution to this is to refer back to one of the oldest and most successful dietary patterns of all time – the Mediterranean Diet. This is a diet that we can trace back thousands of years – it was the diet of the ancient Greeks including Homer and Aristotle. A diet that was well researched before it went into decline in the last few decades too. For more about this diet you can follow this link: Mediterranean Diet
Exercise – what for?
Exercise is the replication of the work we would have done historically in order to survive. As homo-sapiens we have survived by using our bodies to hunt and gather food, build shelter, love, fight, and celebrate. Survival has shaped the human body into its natural state – to be functional, strong, lean, efficient, stable, balanced, quick and agile.
However we have now rendered our bodies largely irrelevant to the process of survival with technology. This goes against the purpose and design of the body with the result that it gets lame and sick. Exercise is the way we stimulate the body to recover its natural state of health. For more about exercise you can follow this link: exercise
And in the final analysis:
Clear goals and a good strategy are the basis of success, but the importance you give your goals and the confidence you have in your strategy will provide the momentum. Motivation is everything.
The idea that exercise requires an all or nothing commitment is misleading and I’m sure it stops a lot of people from participating. Do what you can when you can and build on that.
Nutrition has only become confusing in the last few decades. A close look at the very successful historic Mediterranean Diet will provide all the clues you need for a healthy diet.