I once had a client who could not get through a workout without stopping several times to look in the mirror, evaluate her own image, and then generate a harsh critique on any flaws she perceived. “Oh!” she would moan, shaking her head. “Look at the fat on those thighs! Look at all the jiggle on that belly! I will NEVER be toned or thin, it’s just not going to happen.” I discouraged this practice vehemently, making sure she knew that her continual barrages of self-criticism were not doing her any favors. Negativity has no place in an effort to lose weight and get healthy and fit; it’s a tough enough transition for most people without adding a self-destructive, and some might even say abusive attitude. While it’s important to have an accurate self-image and be realistic about setting your goals and following a timeline, concentrating only those facets of your body that you dislike will actually sabotage your goals and derail your progress. There are a number of action steps you can take to make sure you adhere to your strategy and keep making healthy fitness progress!
First, I encourage my clients NOT to talk while they’re in the middle of a set. Talking while performing a strength training exercise, especially in a negative or critical way, will distract you from using the proper form and break your concentration, which may cause you to give up on the set before it has been performed to muscle failure. Additionally, I encourage clients not to allow others from interrupt them with attempts at conversation while they are working out. Proper form is important not just for effective muscle-strengthening and building, but also for injury prevention. Discourage those who are trying to get your attention with a polite, “Hey, could we talk when I’m done here? I really need to focus.” Most people will understand and accommodate you willingly.
Second, be sure to note those areas of your body that are responding to your fitness efforts. I always try to point out to clients the beautiful muscle definition that happens when they have been consistent about showing up for training sessions and really making an effort to fuel their bodies with lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables. Muscle will respond very quickly to a proper diet and a demanding workout. Many people are surprised to see that their bodies are not exempt from this process! It has been a real pleasure for me to share the joy of a client as she sees a healthy new curve to her calf muscle, or that first slight ripple of a burgeoning six-pack. Focusing on the positive is very motivating! It is also reassuring to know that your hard work is paying off.
Third, DON’T give up! Even if you don’t see the results you want in a few weeks, keep at it and it will happen over time. If you have a significant amount of weight to lose, set incremental goals of about 10 pounds, and give yourself about a month to reach each goal. You might lose more quickly, or more slowly, but the important thing is your commitment to an overall healthy lifestyle. Treat your body well every single day and sooner than you think, your body WILL change, even those areas that are not your favorites!
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, be GRATEFUL. The fact that you have a body healthy enough to work out should be a huge source of gratitude to you. I am always grateful for fitness—that I belong to a wonderful gym, and that I have a number of fitness “buddies” to share my workouts and classes. I am also grateful to have colleagues in the fitness industry for whom I have enormous respect, and from whom I learn every day. The truth is, the body I have is the only one I am ever going to have, and I need to treat it very well. I encourage my clients to take the same attitude. I know a number of people who are not so fortunate—who have an illness, condition or injury that prevents them from being as active as they would like to be. If you have the ability and the opportunity to do something about your health, take advantage of it every day. How much luckier could you be?