Getting Caught Up in the Comparison Trap

Comments (0) Fitness Over 40, October 2017 KW Magazine


Each day we watch the highlight reels on social media.  Perfect bodies, perfect families, perfect houses – the list goes on and on.  If we believed everything we saw on Facebook it would seem as though we were the only people on earth with any troubles.  It is incredibly difficult to keep from getting caught in this comparison trap.  Intellectually, we know not to compare ourselves to other people’s photoshopped happiness and perfection. Our emotions are a different story though. Our emotions are sneaky and very susceptible to comparison.

The same holds true in the world of fitness.  We are bombarded with images of 6-pack abs and hard bodies, tanned and toned to perfection.  We think, “Why don’t I look like that?” or “What am I doing wrong?”.  In reality, the bodies in these images are not what we should be striving for.  Success looks different on everyone.  Healthy does not mean that we are a size 6 or weigh 140 pounds or have abs of steel.  Very few people will achieve that without eating broiled cod and broccoli all day long, and that’s not living!  Being healthy and fit is about how you FEEL on the inside. It is about your body, but it is also a state of mind. Getting healthy may involve losing a significant amount of weight to get to where you need to be but please don’t make yourself a slave to the scale. The scale never tells the full story and is often given too much power.

As you start your fitness journey turn your attention inward.  Be mindful of non-scale victories and celebrate them along the way.  Are you clothes fitting better or getting loose? Do you have more energy and find that you are sleeping better?  Are you noticing an increase in confidence, general happiness and a bounce in your step that has been missing for some time? All of these things should be just as exciting as seeing that number on the scale drop.

 happy healthy black grandmaPeople will often start a new exercise regimen and after a week or two when they don’t notice any dramatic results they throw up their hands in defeat and fall right back into bad habits. I call this the danger zone.  It is often the difference between permanently shifting to a healthy lifestyle the RIGHT way or repeatedly trying quick fixes that that will make a short-term impact. If you resort to a fad diet or extreme exercise program you will undoubtedly lose weight quickly, but it probably won’t be sustainable and you will end up right back where you started.

When you truly make healthy nutrition and realistic exercise habits a long-term goal, the results aren’t always immediate but they will come with time if you trust the process.  As crazy as it sounds I also believe that you have to work on the inside at the same time you are working on the outside.  Really think about WHY you want to get fit and what led you to this point. Start a habit of self-reflection, analyze your setbacks, visualize your success, and find a personal development book that speaks to your weaknesses or your typical roadblocks.

When starting any exercise program, I encourage people to take careful measurements in addition to weighing themselves at the start. Measurements can tell a vastly different story than the scale.  As you begin to build muscle you will often discover that things are tightening and toning before the weight even starts to budge. This is very common, and you might be tempted to throw in the towel without even realizing that you have lost several inches around the waist or hips.

athletic mature woman resting after joggingThis phenomenon is especially true if you are incorporating weights or strength training into your new routine. Cardiovascular exercise is critically important and often the easiest to fit in and start out with so we often make the mistake of just stopping there. Walking, jogging, or hitting the elliptical for 30 minutes are all simple ways to start exercising and they are fantastic.  I strongly encourage you to look beyond that and find a way to start adding in some strength training – either with light weights or by using body weight resistance exercises like modified push-ups, planks, squats, lunges, etc.

There is a common misperception among women that using weights will cause us to get big or bulky and for most of us this simply isn’t true.  Frankly, it is very difficult to “bulk up” unless you are specifically trying to. Strength training will most likely have the opposite effect.  The benefits of weight bearing exercises are far reaching.  Building lean muscle and toning, improving strength and definition, boosting metabolism and helping with bone health.  The list goes on and on.  My advice?  Find a good combination of cardio and strength training so that you can reap the benefits of both. You don’t need fancy equipment or gyms. You honestly don’t even need weights.  Just start lifting things! Soup cans and wine bottles are a great place to start as you build strength and get used to new exercises. Have young kids or grandbabies??  They are excellent lifting and squatting tools!  Get creative and look for videos online to make sure you use proper form.  There are tons of great free resources out there.    Get your body moving and mix things up each day.  That is the recipe for success!

Remember while you are on this path to fitness –  take what you see on social media with a grain of salt.  Don’t let other people’s highlights distract you from your own goals.  Find a workout strategy that works for you and go for it.  We are all on our own journey, have our own issues and our own insecurities.  Put your blinders on and just keep doing YOU!

© copyright 2017 Hadley Sorensen all rights reserved.

Hadley SorensenHadley 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


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