A new year is approaching and it’s all too predictable. Television, radio and social media are chock full of ads for diet and fitness plans and products that promise the sun, moon and stars. And with it comes my frustration with witnessing people – both loved ones and our society as whole – making attempts to take control of their health in all the wrong ways. Eventually, when their efforts don’t produce the lasting results they want, they give up, feeling like failures.
My frustration is with the mindset. The false belief that making drastic changes in diet and exercise will produce quick results, reaching her goals in a matter of a few weeks, and that these results will last a lifetime. This is where elimination and deprivation diets are born. It’s also where the deconditioned believe that the only workout worth doing is one that resembles that of a professional athlete. It’s a strategy that has proven again and again to fail.
I’m also frustrated with many who claim to be in the fitness industry who feed this mindset because that’s the easiest way to make a buck. It’s why the mindset won’t die – people are making millions off it and the pool of people willing to pay doesn’t get any smaller.
This warped mentality puts the focus on body image – a number on the scale, a waist measurement, a dress size – rather than well-being. It encourages a strategy of quick, extreme fixes for the goal of temporary weight loss rather than a gradual adoption of fit habits for the goal of a healthy life. The focus, strategy and goals are wrong-headed.
And here are the sobering facts that prove my points:
- 50 million Americans diet each year, only 5% keep the weight off… (CO State Univ)
- the rest regain 2/3 of lost weight within a year and all or more within 5 years. (NIH)
- Over half of the diet industry’s claims are false. (American Dietetic Association & FTC)
- 50% of new gym members quit within 6 months… (International Health Club Assoc)
- of those, 90% quit within the first 90 days. (International Health Club Assoc)
- 67% of gym memberships are rarely, if ever, used. (statisticbrain.com)
- 70% of a typical gym membership cost is wasted through underutilization. (statisticbrain.com)
What these statistics have in common is those attempting to achieve weight-loss and general fitness usually do so by making huge, drastic lifestyle changes. This is where the mistake lies. Our society’s thirst for instant results may work in the tech world but is an abject failure when it comes to health and fitness. It’s not that weight-loss and fitness are unachievable, it’s that most go about trying to achieve them in the absolute wrong way.
My Small Steps Philosophy
A fit life is attained by making small, realistic and sustainable changes in food consumption and exercise over time. This allows a person time to create and hone new, fit habits that then become adopted and integrated into her everyday life. The result is a person who is living a fit lifestyle each and every day, making her healthy and strong for a lifetime.
I have used this philosophy to create my Small Steps blog series. The series promotes an incremental strategy to exercise with the focus on finding a variety of workouts and movement one enjoys. Eating for fitness also means adopting an incremental strategy to diet with the focus on consuming a balance of all three macronutrients sourced from a wide variety of minimally processed plant and animal foods in the correct portions. In both cases the goal is overall health.
The first post of each month, I provide one healthy change to work on for that entire month. Sometimes it’s a diet change, sometimes an exercise change and sometimes one of each. The idea is to concentrate only on that one change for a month so that it becomes ingrained into your daily meals or weekly exercise routines, making you able to take on another small change at the beginning of the next month.
If you are in need of a fitness reboot, steer clear of the extreme strategies that can only lead to frustration. Check out 2017’s first Small Steps post next Monday and join in. Leave the world of fitness failures behind and begin anew to a fit and happier you.
Michelle L Collins, American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer & Fitness Nutrition Specialist