There is a fundamental truth that we should keep in mind when we start down the path of any wellness journey. We are all absolutely capable and worthy of making meaningful changes to our lives through health and fitness. No matter what excuses we have been making, what limitations we have, and what challenges we face; there are always steps that we can take to feel better and take care of ourselves more completely.
The most difficult part is almost always the seemingly simple act of getting started. That decision to make a significant change and then rallying behind that decision is not easy. There is often an uphill battle against self-doubt, past failures, and a negative mindset.
Once you make that brave decision to start you then have to be ready to put in the work. You have to acknowledge that it will be hard and that there will be days when you feel like giving up. You need to anticipate those days and be ready to attack them head on. You have to go in with a plan so you are ready to push past the point where most people throw in the towel. You need support and you need to hold yourself accountable.
I firmly believe that one of the keys to success is a willingness to keep an open mind and to try things that you have not tried before. The science of fitness and nutrition is constantly evolving and there are so many options and such a wealth of information available at our fingertips. If you have ebbed and flowed and yo-yo’d in the past then now is the time to admit that you may not have all of the answers. The preconceived notions you’ve been working with probably aren’t serving you well. I see so many people who go on a low carb diet or do Whole 30 once a year and start going to the gym and hitting the elliptical for 30 minutes a day. They might lose 10 pounds only to gain it back a few months later. If you follow the same formula and keep failing at month 3, you are ALWAYS going to fail at month 3. What’s that definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
One of the best things we can do is to educate ourselves to debunk some of the very common fitness and nutrition myths that might keep us from exploring a different path. Many of us get hung up on these myths and have a hard time moving past them.
My absolute favorite fitness myth to break down is that weight lifting will bulk us up. Women should use very light weights and do lots of reps, or else we will look like the hulk – right? We need CARDIO CARDIO CARDIO to burn fat and lose weight! WRONG!! Magazines and other media helped spread this notion for a long time. Heavy weights = Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lifting is for men. I used to believe this myself, and my husband used to try to convince me otherwise. He still laughs at me now when he sees me throwing around 50-pound weights and loving it, while being the leanest I have ever been.
The fact is that it is very difficult to bulk up, especially for women. Muscle building is a complex process. Hormones, genetics, protein intake, style of workouts, and other factors all play a role. You really have to work hard and take specific steps to truly get “big”. Most of us will not have to worry about that.
Lifting weights, and constantly working to improve strength and increase those weights, can have enormous benefits for women. It tones, strengthens, revs our metabolism, helps our bones, and burns more total calories than steady-state cardio through something called EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) – how long your body burns excess calories after a workout is complete.
Aside from all of those more scientific benefits the fact is that weight lifting can tighten, tone, and change the shape of your body in ways that cardio alone just can’t do.
It’s another myth that you need to go to a fancy gym and face major intimidation in order to lift weights. You don’t need big machines and special equipment. Starting with 3lb, 5lb, 8lb dumbbells from Walmart or Target and finding some YouTube videos is a great way to start. The key is starting with light weights to master form and then gradually increasing as you get stronger. Don’t stop increasing because you are afraid that you’ll start getting big past the 10lb mark. It’s not going to happen. Push yourself and you will not be sorry!
A major nutrition myth that sets a trap for lots of people is the old notion of low fat OR low carb diets being the only way to lose weight. Hopefully most of us left the low-fat craze back in the 90’s where it belongs, but sometimes it’s hard to get it out of our heads. I won’t go into the science, but here is the gist of – – fat is not the enemy! Fat is an important macronutrient and should not be eliminated, although we should aim for healthy fats. Avoid processed foods, choose lean meat most of the time, and you’re already on the right track.
Carbohydrates (carbs) have gotten a bad rap over the years too. I’m sure we all know someone who has lost a significant amount of weight from a low carb diet. In my opinion, healthy carbs in moderation are in important part of our diet. Any plan that requires the elimination of an entire food group is likely not sustainable for most people.
The best thing you can do is to eat a well-rounded diet that is loaded with vegetables, fruit, lean meats, healthy fats and carbohydrates. Stick to whole, fresh foods as much as possible and try to avoid added sugar and processed foods. A moderate and common-sense approach to nutrition, combined with a moderate and varied exercise regimen is a perfect recipe for long term success.
Be open to trying new approaches and educate yourself on all of the options. Sticking to what you already know ensures that you will get the same results. Take deliberate and gradual steps and over time you will be on your way to feeling like the very best version of yourself!
Hadley Sorensen is a health and fitness coach who lives in Virginia with her husband and 3 boys. She is an avid reader, runner and fitness instructor who has a passion for helping others learn to enjoy exercise. Hadley uses one-on-one coaching as well as virtual accountability groups to provide support and motivation to her clients. Her guiding philosophy is that it’s never too late to take charge of your health and improve your level of fitness. Find her on Facebook @HadleySorensenFitness