Did you know that eating healthier, exercising, and losing weight are the most common New Year’s resolutions? Now that it is August, naturally everyone who resolved to accomplish these things have probably seen wild success, right? Unfortunately, most of us struggle to ever make real progress towards losing weight and leading healthier lives. According to the CDC report in 2015-2016, 71.6% of Americans over 20 years old are overweight or obese. And there are no signs this issue is getting any better. So why is it that the vast majority of Americans struggle to lose weight, even though we know the serious health consequences associated with being overweight or obese? Here are a few reasons why we procrastinate in our weight loss and some ideas on what we can do to take charge of our health today.
1. Previous Failures: Most people who are overweight have tried at some point or another to lose weight. You may have even succeeded in shedding 5, 10, even 20 pounds. But ultimately, you plateaued and fell back into bad habits. Your hard work was erased. The time and effort you had committed seemed like it was all for nothing. And now, any time you think about trying to lose weight, you just think about your most recent failure and lose all motivation. Why bother trying at something you have already failed at before?
2. Losing Weight is Hard Work: You hate feeling hungry. You despise the gym. The thought of choosing a salad for lunch instead of a hamburger makes you physically ill. Just thinking about being on a “diet” for weeks or months is enough for you to give up and go eat some junk food. Losing weight through diet, exercise, or both is not something most people consider fun or easy. So even if you don’t want to admit it, it’s just plain easier to not try. And many of us prefer the path of least resistance.
3. Information Overload: It seems like every month, you are hearing about a new diet program from your family, friends, or coworkers. Social media bombards you with articles making dubious claims about what is healthy for you today. Should you be worried about macronutrients? Count calories? Are fats good for me today? There are so many health claims out there, who knows what is right and what is wrong? Just thinking about it all makes it impossible for you to know where to starts, so it is easier to not start at all.
4. Social Pressures: In American culture, food is always at the forefront of most of our social interactions. And unfortunately, most of those foods tend to be calorie-dense and unhealthy. When you are going to cookouts or potlucks, you are meeting with friends or family at restaurants. Birthday parties are constant with cake and ice cream. Your office always seems to have donuts or bagels. Everyone around you seems to constantly be encouraging you to eat more and more. And this is all before you have to worry about your normal day to day meals with your family. Your spouse or kids want all the unhealthy dinners, so it is easier to just eat what they want. It’s too hard to eat well with everyone else around.
5. Too Busy: You have so much going on already. You work hard, take of your kids, volunteer for organizations, and never have a quiet moment to yourself. With everything you have going on, you don’t have time to go to the grocery store, cook regular meals, and clean up all the dishes. Not to mention, the thought of taking care of your own needs is so far down on your priority list, that it will be 20 years before you even think about it. In our fast-paced, do-everything culture, it can be hard to find time to even think about how to make your life healthier, let alone actually do something about it. Maybe someday when life slows down, you will have time to think about losing weight and getting healthy. But today is not that day.
I’m guessing that you identified with at least one of those reasons. Most of us probably identify with all of them to some degree or another. There are very clearly a lot of factors that play into our decision to procrastinate and put off getting healthy. So, what can we do to overcome these obstacles and start focusing on our health today?
1. Reflect: you need to be honest with yourself about why you are putting this off. Don’t let yourself get away with an easy excuse. Really sit down and think about what is keeping you from achieving your weight loss goals. Until you identify the real reasons you are procrastinating, you won’t be able to create a plan on how to deal with the problem. If you keep thinking that you are just too busy to focus on your health, but the truth is you are just scared to fail, then you will keep failing because you are blaming your problem on the wrong thing. Taking time to recognize your true issues is necessary to properly deal with them and achieve your goals.
2. Let Go of the Past: you need to forgive yourself for procrastinating on this issue before now so that you can start fresh. Procrastination is tied into negative emotions, so it becomes a vicious cycle. You have negative emotions about accomplishing a task, so to feel better in the moment, you ignore it. Then you feel guilty about procrastinating, which ultimately leads you to ignore it even more. Maybe you have been wanting to lose weight for years, but you keep putting it off, which makes you feel guilty, which just keeps leading you to put it off. Let go of past mistakes, forgive yourself, and know that today is a new day, and you can make it whatever you want it to be.
3. Focus on the Positives: Too many times, we build up our problems to be greater than they really are. When we just worry about the hard parts of losing weight, we become depressed and upset, which will probably just lead to us giving up. Instead of worrying about what you are giving up, focus on what you are gaining. Imagine how you are going to look and feel once you have reached your goal weight. Think about how great it will be to fit into old clothes, or to have more energy every day. Constantly remind yourself of the reasons why you want to lose weight and keep those positive thoughts with you throughout the day.
4. Seek Accountability: In the same way that the people around you can influence you negatively, they can also influence you positively. Find someone else who is looking to lose weight and become accountability partners. Set goals for your success, and then give them to someone who will check in with you to see how you are progressing. Hold yourself accountable by taking steps to remove temptations and encouraging positive habits. While having someone to watch you helps, having a partner to work along side you is even better!
5. Take Action: Often times we wait on motivation to take action. We think we will accomplish something once we feel up to the challenge. Unfortunately, that’s not how motivation works. While you may have moments where you feel a surge of motivation (like when you can’t fit into your biggest pair of pants), this motivation won’t last long. It isn’t sustainable. The reality is that motivation follows action. It’s Newton’s First Law of Motion: Objects at rest stay at rest. Objects in motion stay in motion. I never feel more motivated to accomplish a new task than when I just finished accomplishing a different one. The hardest step to change is often the first. One of the best things you can do to fight procrastination is to simply start doing something. You might be surprised how quickly that first step turns into your second, third, and so on.
Being overweight or obese is a problem that doesn’t fix itself. And the longer you go without fixing it, the more suffering you will put yourself through, and the more you will risk serious health issues that can’t always be reversed. The sooner you tackle this problem, the sooner you will be reaping the benefits of a healthy life! I have helped many clients who say they wish they had made this change years ago. But it is better late than never! So if you need help on your weight loss journey, Physicians Weight Loss Centers is here to help you take your first step to achieving your weight loss goals once and for all!