We make excuses for many reasons, but mostly because we’re not fully committed to what we want to change, so it’s easy for outside influences to distract us from our intended goals. If you always have an answer ready to contradict your common and not-so-common excuses, you’ll have a greater likelihood of reaching and maintaining your weight-loss goal. In order to help you to stay on course, I’ve outlined a few of the more common excuses – and ways to “Excuse Bust.”
EXCUSE: "I'll do it tomorrow ..."
EXCUSE BUSTER: Start right now. Do not put this off. You don’t need to overhaul your entire life. Just put down the doughnut and go for a walk. Seriously, I’m not saying that it’s easy, but at the very least, you canbegin immediately. Saying “I’ll start my diet tomorrow” shows that you have the wrong attitude. Your diet-and-fitness program needs to be something you can live with forever, not something you put off because it doesn’t happen to be convenient for you. You need to come up with ways to make your diet and fitness convenient and automatic.
EXCUSE: "I'm not a morning person."
EXCUSE BUSTER: You don’t have to be up at the crack of dawn to be physically active. All you have to do is increase your physical activity at some point during the day. There’s also lunchtime, after work, evening – plenty of time to work out. Also, keep in mind that even doing an additional10 minutes of physical activity at a time can have health benefits – so move whenever you can.
EXCUSE: "I'm not athletic."
EXCUSE BUSTER: You don’t have to be “athletic” to exercise. All you have to do is walk. In fact, more than 90 percent of successful losers use walking as their primary form of exercise. You can start by walking 10 or 15 minutes per day, and work up to 45 to 60 minutes, depending on your weight-loss goal. You can use mapmywalk.com or maps.google.com to figure out the distance. Walking burns 246 calories per hour. Also, try hiking to spice things up – see: www.backpacker.trimbleoutdoors.com/backpacker/Home.aspx for thousands of day hikes with interactive maps, photos, video and downloadable GPS files. Localhikes.com (www.localhikes.com) lists hiking spots near many metropolitan areas. Trails.com (www.trails.com) offers descriptions and maps of more than 46,000 trails. There’s a charge of $49.95 per year, but there’s also a 14-day free trial. Or try Recreation.gov (www.recreation.gov), the U.S. government’s one-stop shop for everything outdoors.
EXCUSE: "I don't know where to begin."
EXCUSE BUSTER: Again, you can start with walking as your primary exercise. And in terms of eating, try to find two or three Calorie Bargains – foods that are lower in calories than what you typically eat. For instance, if you use mayo every day on your sandwich, replace it with no- or low-fat mayo.
EXCUSE: "I'm too old."
EXCUSE BUSTER: You’re never too old to start exercising. The research is clear: Exercise will help you live longer, with significantly increased mobility and independence. It has also been shown to improve cognitive function and prevent diabetes – even in old age. Overall, exercise will help to improve your quality of life. Try looking for programs that are specifically for your age group. Also, if you can afford it, hire an ACE or ACSM trainer who has experience with older clientele. The focus should be on core training to help with mobility and agility, and cardiovascular activity for the heart.
EXCUSE: "It's useless -- my genetics are working against me."
EXCUSE BUSTER: You can lose weight. It’s very rare that a person can’t lose weight and get in reasonable shape for his or her body type.Yes, genetics do work against you; however, research shows that with the right amount of physical activity and a decent (non-starvation) diet you can lose weight even if you are predisposed to being over-weight.
EXCUSE: "Do I really want to work out? Or is going home to my family more important? I haven't seen them all day -- I really should spend more time with them."
EXCUSE BUSTER: You can have it all; it’s all about time management. We make room for the things that are most important in our life – so make activity important. Why not combine family and activity? Organize activities with the entire family. Go for a bike ride or take a walk. Sign up for tennis lessons or go on a hike.
EXCUSE: Why bother? I’m never going to look like a supermodel.
EXCUSE BUSTER: That’s probably true. There are very few supermodels, but you can still look and feel much better than you do now. Even a 10 percent loss in body weight can significantly reduce your risk of many diseases and improve your quality of life. Also, you should recognize that you can only look as good as you feel.
EXCUSE: Cook dinner? Please! Do you have kids?
EXCUSE BUSTER: Even if you have no time to buy healthy food and cook at home, you can still make convenience and fast foods work for you. For instance, get menus in advance and figure out what healthy offerings you might enjoy at your favorite restaurant. Or go to the supermarket and buy some tasty, low-calorie frozen dinners some of them are delicious. You can also try batch cooking: Pick one day of the week to prepare an entire week’s worth of healthy meals.
EXCUSE: I only live once – so I might as well enjoy myself just this once. It’s not such a big deal.
EXCUSE BUSTER: Really? The truth is that you’re right: You do only live once, so why not make it the best life you can? And those “one-time” events add up. I once took the time to add up my own “special occasions,” and they came out to more than 60 per year. That’s a lot of “one times.” If you look at it in terms of calories, if those one times cost me 500 calories each, multiplied by 60 that’s 30,000 calories, or about 8.5 pounds per year. Also, keep in mind, the most important reason to eat right and move more is to improve your quality of life. The more you do for your body, the more your body can do for you.
EXCUSE: It's raining, so I can't go for my morning walk.
EXCUSE BUSTER: First of all, you’re not made of sugar, so you will not melt. If you can afford a gym membership, you can go there and exercise. Or you can develop a fitness DVD library and/or join Netflix.com and rent. Find the best workout DVDs at www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/gear/dvds/best-workout-dvds/. You can also consider purchasing a treadmill for your home; there are many good ones out there – and they’re a lot less expensive than you think. See Consumer Reports for a buyer’s guide: www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/sports-exercise-equipment/treadmills/treadmill-buying-advice/where-to-shop/where-to-shop.htm . Last, you can scope out local indoor malls -- just watch out for the food court and your wallet.
EXCUSE: I travel all the time.
EXCUSE BUSTER: OK. So you need a few tips – that’s all. If you travel often, you need to weave healthy eating and physical activity into your lifestyle. First of all, try the following:
o Find healthy restaurants. Try calling the concierge or hotel manager at a few local hotels (even if you’re not staying there) to get recommendations. Find out if the menus are available online so you can make decisions before you get there.
o Get moving. Ask if there are nearby hiking or walking trails, local fitness facilities or other interesting activities that require you to move.
o Get a kitchen. Ask if your hotel has rooms with kitchens, or ask for a fridge and microwave in your room even if you have to pay a small fee.
o Hire a personal trainer or take a lesson when on the road. Once you make an appointment there is a high likelihood that you’ll show up (especially if you’re committed to pay). Look for trainers certified by the American College of Sports Medicine (www.acsm.org) or The American Council on Exercise (www.acefitness.org).
For more information see the Diet Detective’s Travel Diet Cheat Sheet ( www.dietdetective.com/columns/diet-cheat-sheet.aspx)
EXCUSE: I just had a baby.
EXCUSE BUSTER: For the first few months, if not years, the challenges of parenting can seem overwhelming, and eating healthfully may feel impossible. Not to mention that new moms frequently struggle with losing the extra pounds they gained during pregnancy and many fathers eat right along with their spouses. Don’t let your waistline grow every time the family grows. Instead of takeout and fast food, try preparing healthful foods over the weekend and freezing them to reheat later in the week. Big pots of soup or casseroles often make enough for more than one meal -- and they’re great for packing in school or work lunches. You can also keep a supply of quick-and-easy low-calorie frozen dinners (e.g., Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, Smart Ones) on hand for when there’s just no time to cook. Look for the ones with lower sodium content.
Take the baby out for long walks in a stroller or try a parent-and-child activity class at a fitness center. Also, you might want to invest in a membership to Netflix (netflix.com) and check out various exercise DVDs, or start your own collection by purchasing them online at collagevideo.com.
EXCUSE: I'm too tired.
EXCUSE BUSTER: That may be true. If you’re like most people, you’re not getting enough sleep. And guess what? Research shows that lack of sleep can cause weight gain by increasing appetite. And also, when you’re tired you’re less likely to be able to make the healthiest food choices. Set up your environment for sleep success. Go to bed earlier and aim for seven or eight hours of sleep. Make sure the temperature is correct and that you have the proper bedding. Get a good, high-quality mattress. Have a regular bedtime. Get rid of the TV in the bedroom. And make your sleep environment quiet, both aesthetically and in terms of actual noise.
Also, you may feel lethargic before your workout, but you will feel refreshed and energized afterward. By working out regularly, you will have more energy and feel less lethargic in the long run.
EXCUSE: I can't make it to the gym because I have to work late to finish this project tonight.
EXCUSE BUSTER: You need to get your priorities straight and pay closer attention to your work schedule. Make sure you’re not slacking off just to avoid exercising. Also, try to take a break form your work to work out. You will probably end up doing a better job. Or what about working out in the morning? Or bring a workout DVD to work (use during lunch hour) – most computers have DVD players.
CHARLES PLATKIN, Ph.D., M.P.H., THE DIET DETECTIVE is one of the country's leading nutrition and public health advocates, whose syndicated health, nutrition and fitness column, the Diet Detective appears in more than 100 daily newspapers nationally. Dr. Platkin is also the founder of DietDetective.com, which offers nutrition, food, and fitness information. Platkin is a health expert and blogger featured on Everydayhealth.com, Active.com and Fitnessmagazine.com. Additionally, Platkin is a Distinguished Lecturer at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College in New York City.
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