By: Taylor Empey, Nationally Certified Fitness Trainer and Nutrition Specialist
ISSA – CFT, SFN, SET, SSN, and Elite Trainer Level I
With Thanksgiving behind us, and the holidays and New Year’s right around the corner, countless individuals are undoubtedly starting to look towards their waistlines and those ruthless numbers that seem to creep higher and higher on the scale. The holidays always bring about great fun, family time, unforgettable memories, and…about 10-15 pounds.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve set New Year’s Resolutions in the past, shown initial dedication, but then found yourself frustrated, burned out, tired, or uncommitted to them shortly thereafter, causing you to give up or slack off on those goals until next year. Trust me, I know how it goes. I have worked with hundreds of people, predominantly on weight loss goals, year round for the last several years. I know how you feel, and I know how frustrating and disappointing it can be, but it doesn’t have to be that way this year.
I felt compelled to write this article this year because I have found myself curious as to why so many individuals struggle with weight loss in general, but especially around this time of year.
Below are The Top 8 Reasons Why People Fail To Reach Their New Year’s Weight Loss Goals. It could be one or any combination of these reasons why you haven’t reached your goals in the past. I believe by bringing these limiting factors to the surface you can make a more informed decision this coming holiday about how you will go about your new fitness goals.
1) You Have Too Many Goals, They’re Unreasonable, or They’re Too Vague
Many people who set New Year’s resolutions want to conquer the world immediately. They often set too many goals and end up stretching themselves thin, committing only a small amount of time to a laundry list of goals. This is the quickest way to get nothing accomplished. Recent research has shown humans cannot effectively multitask. We can shift our focus from one task to another quickly, but that is just it; our focus can only be placed on one thing at a time, thus meaning we will neglect the other things we were focusing on in order to place our attention on what is in front of us at the moment. Don’t get caught up making a laundry list of goals this year. Don’t make a list of goals, period. Focus on one goal, commit to it religiously, accomplish it, maintain it, and then move on to another. That’s it.
Many people also set unreasonable goals. They want to look like a professional fitness model or trainer in 3 months or less. You have to realize that, though you do need to dream big, you need to do it in the confines of what is reasonable for you, your lifestyle, your health, your work, etc. You’ll need to make sacrifices in these areas to reach your goals, but you need to make sure you are trying to be the best YOU and not the best somebody-else.
Many people also struggle with reaching their goals because, though they have an idea of what they want to do, they are far too vague in what their goal actually is. Most people when asked will say,
“I want to lose weight.”
“I want to get back into shape.”
Or, my personal favorite, “I want to look good naked.”
These are great ways to start describing your goal, but they are much too vague to make specific progress towards. Here’s an example of a specific goal:
The Who: (You)
“I. Me. Myself.”
The What: (The Goal)
“I am going to burn 24 lbs of body fat and keep the weight off.”
The When: (The Timeframe)
“I will start working on this goal immediately, right now, today, this moment. I will not stop or waiver until my goal is reached. I will aim to reach this goal in a reasonable 12-24 weeks.”
The Where: (The Location)
“I will commit to my plan to reach my goal everywhere I go. If I’m home, if I’m at the gym, if I’m at work, out with friends or family, if I’m on vacation, if it’s the weekend. I commit to my goal wherever I am. No exceptions.”
The How: (The Method/Your Plan)
“I will do this by committing to scheduling my workouts into my daily routine, planning my meals ahead of time, making sure my health comes first, attending the gym at least 3-4 x per week for 30-60 minutes, working on all essential components of fitness including nutrition, cardio, weight training, flexibility, and recovery. I will do this in a manner that is reasonable for me and my body to ensure that I don’t get burned out.”
The Why: (The Why Power/Your Reason)
“I’m going to reach this goal because I’m sick and tired of looking at myself in the mirror and feeling unhappy with myself. I am doing this to better my mindset, my quality of life, my self-confidence, my health, and to be an example to my friends, family, and children that being healthy is one of the most important things in life and to me.”
2) You Don’t Want It Bad Enough
To be honest, I’ve trained many clients who initially stated they wanted it, they needed it, they were a 10 out of 10, they were willing to do “whatever it takes” to get to their goals, but in the end they weren’t.
In order to want it bad enough to actually reach your goal, you have to establish what I just mentioned in the last section above. Why Power. You have to learn to understand and develop your Why Power. As cheesy as this sounds, it’s true. You can refer to this as your “motivating factor” behind why you are striving toward this goal. If you don’t have a reason you’re doing all this hard work towards your goals, you will never reach them. Any I don’t just mean any old reason like, “I want to feel better.” I am talking about getting down to the core of it. The best way to do this is keep asking yourself “why” until you can no longer come up with a more specific answer.
“Why do I want to get into shape?”
“I want to feel better.”
“I want to have more confidence.”
“Because I don’t have any.”
“Because I don’t / my spouse doesn’t/ think I’m sexy anymore.”
Boom! That’s the real reason. Dig deeper and deeper into yourself, keep asking yourself “why?” and you’ll eventually find the true answer behind why you want to get into the best shape possible. Only once you find your true Why Power will you be able to want it more than any temptation that can come along and screw you up. You have to find your Why Power in order to be able to overcome temptations of food, going out for drinks, not sleeping enough, working too hard or too long, not wanting to go to the gym, feeling sore, etc.
Find your Why Power and you will find results.
3) You Aren’t Committed To A Permanent Lifestyle Change
Many individuals “want” to be fit, but aren’t willing to change anything about themselves, their habits, or their lifestyle in order to do so. It’s like they just want to order a magic pill off of an infomercial and immediately drop 15 lbs, or sprinkle some magic powder on their meals and think that they will be able to lose weight and keep it off.
This is not how it works. Fad diets, crash diets, magic pills, excessive supplementation, or miracle programs for the masses will not work. You may seem some initial results, but it is not going to transform you or make a permanent change in your life until YOU change.
“Once you change, everything will change for you.” That’s from the late Jim Rohn.
If you want to have the best body possible, you have to look at every decision you’ve made up to this point. That’s how you got where you are. It wasn’t that you were suddenly overweight. You made every decision that got you to this point, which means that your current lifestyle has to change or you will never change.
You have to change your sleeping habits, your eating habits, what you eat, when you eat, how much you eat. You have to say “no” to a lot of things. You have to make going to the gym the majority of the week part of your daily routine, you have to schedule it in, you can’t miss it, and you have to miss other things in order to do it. You have to commit to cleansing your house of the temptations, all the bad foods, all the processed foods, all the snacks, crackers, unhealthy cereals, sugary foods, candy, treats, etc. If you really want to be an example to yourself and your children, you’ll also have to get rid of all of those foods that you’ve been feeding your kids.
You’ll have to change the way you think and look at exercise, activities, fitness, and lifestyle. You have to be willing to say, “This change is not temporary. How I start living today is how I am going to live the rest of my life.” If you can’t do that, you won’t see results.
4) You Have The Wrong Approach, Mindset, or Mentality About Your Goals
Many people set goals and fail even before they start. They shoot themselves in the foot because they have the wrong approach mindset, or mentality.
Many people don’t believe they can even reach their goals so they don’t even try. Many people approach weight loss as “I don’t want to be fat anymore,” instead of saying, “I’m so excited to start living a healthy lifestyle!” Many others think it is a temporary commitment. Once they can buckle down, commit, and then reach their goal, they think, “Yay! I can do whatever I want now that I am fit!” Then they slowly but surely regress back to living the way they used to live.
To reach your goals and stay there permanently, you have to reset your fitness and mindset “thermostat.” You need to demonstrate that you now think positively about yourself, you believe in yourself, and you must commit to doing whatever it takes to get to and maintain your goals – no matter what.
5) You Aren’t Thinking Long Term
Much of the time, people don’t reach their goals because they aren’t thinking long term. They think that reaching fitness goals is a sprint instead of realizing it’s about consistency and endurance.
Too many people think they can transform in 12 weeks like all of the TV programs and media state you can. While some exceptional individuals may be able to do that, you may not be under the same circumstances they are.
In my experience, in order for an average individual to go from where they are, to where they want to be and beyond, in order for them to get to their goals and learn enough and implement enough to maintain it on their own, it usually takes at least 12 months. Again, you didn’t get the way you are overnight. It took years and years compounded on top of themselves in order to get you to where you are. You aren’t going to reverse your lifestyle in just a few days, weeks, or months.
Plan on at least one year of unwavering effort, commitment, and consistency. Only then will you truly be able to transform yourself. Think long term, not short term.
6) You Haven’t Set Up A System of Accountability
Many people start their fitness journey alone, without any accountability system. One of the easiest systems of accountability that works for you without effort is your social network. Utilize your friends, family, spouse, co-workers, neighbors, therapist, coach, trainer, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media to tell everyone you know about what you are doing.
Tell them you’ve “had it”, that you’re ready to become the best you ever. Tell them the specifics of your goals as described earlier. Tell them how you plan to do it. Then the best part – ask them to hold you accountable. Ask them to regularly check in with you and ask how your fitness goals are coming. Ask them to push you. Ask them to call you out when you’re wandering away from your new healthy lifestyle. Trust me, people love this. True friends love to see others succeed, it inspires them to do so themselves.
If you have people in your life who are negative, that’s okay too. We call these people HATERS (Having Anger Towards Everyone Reaching Success). These people will make sure to tell you when you aren’t following your plan. They’ll call you out, they’ll taunt you, and they’ll be cynical when they see you going off of your plan. They’ll try to tear you down. They will tell you you can’t do it. They will try to tempt you to go off of your plan.
When you see this happening, don’t get down on yourself. Use this as a gauge; a system of accountability and inspiration to slingshot you back into focus. Say, “thanks for sharing!” And then jump back on the horse and keep riding.
Another system of accountability you can use is to find a motivational goal picture of a person the same height and general build as you, but who is in the ideal health you feel you can reach. Search Google Images; trust me, you’ll find one for yourself that will work.
Once you found the right picture, put it everywhere. Put it on your mirror so it is the first thing you see when you get up. Put it on the fridge and the pantry door so you’re reminded of your goals every time you go to eat. Put it on your desk at work and in your wallet or purse so, when you go to pay for some unhealthy food at lunch, you think twice before buying it.
Another great thing to do to complement putting your goal picture everywhere is to accompany the picture with your detailed and specific goal as described earlier. That way, you’re reviewing your goal every day. Recite it to yourself out loud. Trust me, it will resonate and stay in the forefront of your conscious mind, thus making it easier to stay committed and motivated.
7) You Aren’t Tracking Your Progress or Reviewing Your Goals Regularly
Another great example of accountability is tracking and reviewing your goals regularly. The best way to do this is to have a fitness journal; this is a notebook you track everything in. This can be one of your greatest tools to accomplishing your goals.
You know when you are in the gym and you see the weirdo with the clipboard or the notepad who goes to the gym day in and day out, who does his or her reps and sets, and after every set they right down exactly what weight they used, how many reps they did, how fast or slow they did them, and then they reach up and check their pulse on their neck or their heart rate monitor while watching the clock? Yeah, those people. I want you to be one of those people. Why? Because they’re the ones who are going to see results, and if you don’t implement most of what they’re doing, you won’t be the one seeing results.
Use your fitness journal to write down every workout, every rep, every set, every exercise, every day, every week, and month that you work out. Use it to track all of your meals, when you ate them, every serving size, every bite, every calorie, and every fluid ounce you drink. Use it to track how many hours you slept the night before. If you just carry a pocket size journal around and each time one of these activities comes up, I guarantee you’ll see far better results than if you don’t use a fitness journal.
Though it sounds like a lot, it really only takes a few seconds to jot down each of these things at the time you do it. By doing this it brings awareness to your health and fitness and any potential habits that could slow you down. If you take a second to write something down, you will have that second to decide to make the healthier choice. It forces you out of autopilot and into a more aware and healthy lifestyle.
Another thing to add to your fitness journal is to track all of your weigh-ins, measurements, body fat percentage, and body mass index (BMI). Before you even start your program, go on Amazon.com and order a digital scale, a hand held body fat tester, and a tape measure. You can get all three of these items together for less than $100, maybe even cheaper. Use these items once every two weeks to track your progress. Write it all down in your journal. This way, even though you may not feel like you are visually changing, you can see if your body fat is going down, if your lean muscle mass is going up, if your weight is going down, and if you’re closer to your ideal height to weight ratio (BMI). Again, track all of this in your fitness journal. You will be far more likely to reach your goals.
Be the fitness nerd. Be the meat head. Be the gym rat. Trust me, it is far more rewarding in the end.
8) You Simply Don’t Know What Exactly To Do or Where To Start
The last, and probably one of the most frustrating limiting factors people run into when trying to reach their New Year’s fitness goals, is that they have the motivation, they have specific goals, they are committed to a lifestyle change, they want it bad enough, they have the tracking and accountability systems, they are thinking long term, and they are ready to take all the other steps necessary, but they simply don’t know what to do or where to start. Maybe they’ve never worked out before, maybe they don’t know where to look online for reputable sources of fitness information.
This is when you reach out for help. This is when you need to work with a professional and experienced trainer. You wouldn’t go into court without a lawyer, right? You wouldn’t go skydiving without an instructor, right? You wouldn’t buy a house without a realtor, right?
The same principle applies with fitness. You shouldn’t try to workout and diet on your own without a good trainer if you have no idea where to start or what to do. The best option for you is to seek out the best trainer for you. Shop around and find the best option for you and your goals. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your health and fitness goals and education is to find the right trainer for you and stick with them until you feel comfortable to continue producing results on your own.