Maybe you are a beginner... you are beginning to strive… and you have quit multiple times before this? I know I sure have. Looking back, I remember the first time I kept an exercise commitment. I wasn’t excited about it. I was dreading it and was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to complete it. I had been having a chronic hip pain that I doubted I could overcome… but… even though it was no phenomenal athletic performance, I didn’t die. My “lack of death" caused me to think maybe there was SOMETHING I COULD do.
I started riding my bike. I went one mile. I drank a protein shake upon my return and took a nap. It was what my physical ability allowed. I have a patient who is a fall risk. She walks from her kitchen to her bedroom - again and again - to get 7,000 steps a day. She is a superstar, but started at 400 steps a day. How about getting up off the floor? If you are over 65, it’s a worthwhile goal. Fitness can look different for different people.
Sometimes more exercise and more dieting just doesn’t work. We believe working harder and eating less - or in other words, doing more - is the only way to get amazing results.
Let’s begin with reasonable “I am not a professional athlete” goals. My personal goals are to participate in a fitness routine, have some enjoyment doing it, and NOT HURTING myself. At times, my goals have been as low as putting on the workout clothes and showing up to exercise (either physically sit on my bike or stepping out in the street to run). I strongly recommend that when you make your goals, do not use the words “FAT LOSS.” Focus health goals on building and balancing, not achieving body weight/ fat loss. It is a hollow, never-achieved goal.
Balance your calories. It’s a sweet spot. Too many calories will counteract against your exercise. Too few calories will leave you weak and cause muscle wasting, thus counteracting your exercise. Clinically, I sometimes see overeating as an issue, but not often. Usually, I see rigid calorie restrictions, wasting muscle, followed by times of overcompensating with caloric intake. When this pattern is established, the concept and feel of “enough” is lost completely.
This energy deficit can seriously weaken you and making further progress unattainable. What’s more, when you don’t eat enough, your body:
- Reduces active thyroid hormone.
- Decreases female hormone production.
- Raises adrenal stress hormones like cortisol.
When your cortisol is chronically elevated, you can wind up with both leptin and insulin resistance, an unhealthy hormonal state that promotes body fat and water retention (and causes long-term health issues that go way beyond weight-loss resistance).
So basically, over-exercising coupled with under-eating can lead to hormonal imbalances, and hormonal imbalances often prevent weight loss.
Notice a need? Balance effort with rest. Yes, rest is part of exercise. Hydration, something as simple as drinking enough water, can make a huge health difference. It is needed to detoxify your body.
We also need to replenish our nutrition with proper food. Food is one of those pickles. We can struggle with our concepts of it and relationship to it, but we need it, so it’s something we have to address. Learning to see food correctly is not optional.
Set the bar low. Find what is the least amount of exercise you can consistently complete. If time and health allow, do more, but make the bar something you can actually consistently complete. Set basic dietary goals that are simple to complete. Small frequent meals are good, and my personal soapbox is sugar: make it something you don’t do. Get a big ol’ jug that you pour your water from each day (not coffee, tea, or soda). Makes it easy to see; if the day is half over and your water level is at the top, get to it.
Choose the biggest most troubling health issue to target or address with supplements. I have mine divided into what I NEED to take and what I am playing with (even though there is a ton of research on mitochondrial repair, cell health. I never miss my magnesium... that is not optional for me). And above all, GO TO SLEEP. Rest is part of health and healing. My personal motto is toddler care does us all a world of good: a little snack and a little nap make us all less fussy.
All these goals can be expanded when season of life change, but small, consistent actions toward being healthy add up over time and exponentially repay dividends. Not every day will be a mountain-top day, so make some choices you can keep in the valleys. It’s really not being lazy; it’s planning realistically for your multifaceted stages of life.
Take your health seriously. Build your health so you don’t become a slave to your sickness.