71.4 % of all adult Americans are overweight. 42.4 % are obese. The prevalence of severe obesity has increased from 4.7% to 9.2% in the last two decades, and the prevalence of obesity was only 30.5 % in 2000. [Ref] [Ref 2]
These are scary statistics and an even scarier trend. Why is this happening and how can we reverse it? The vast majority of people know that EATING LESS, EXERCISING MORE = WEIGHT LOSS. You don’t need a college degree to get that. You don’t even need a high school diploma, it’s such an obvious truth. So, the big problem isn’t lack of education. Nor is it genetics like some like to suggest. Yes, it IS easier for some people to get in shape than it is for others depending on your body type and/or medical conditions. But the difference isn’t so vast it makes it impossible for people to slim down and get healthier. Having PCOS, Cushing’s disease, or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) do make it harder for the average adult to lose weight, and so does aging. PCOS is short for Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome and only affects women. According to the CDC, 6-12 % of all US women have it. 4.6 % of US adults have hypothyroidism, however most cases are mild. Cushing’s disease is rarer, affecting 10 to 15 people per million each year. It does get slightly harder to lose weight the older you get after age 30 because you start to lose muscle mass then, but you can fix that by maintaining and/or adding to your muscle mass through regular exercise. Exercising frequently also helps combat depression and fatigue, common symptoms of the above mentioned medical conditions.
It’s easy to find excuses why you can’t get fit and lose weight. Personally, I don’t believe in excuses. If I can write dozens of novels that people buy in a second language—Swedish is my first—then you can lose weight even if you have PCOS or turned 62 last May. Just because it will be harder for you, does that mean you won’t do it? Ridiculous! You should never let such details stop you from reaching your goals in life.
The one thing that is crucial for anyone wanting to get in shape, however, is motivation. A specific reason why you are doing this. If you don’t have a motivating factor, you will eventually fail unless you’ve reached the point where your actions to get fit have become a habit. No one ever said it was easy to lose weight and get in shape. If it were, most people would be slim and fit, wouldn’t they? The stats in the beginning of this article show that it’s a struggle for the majority. That’s why you must first accept that your weight loss journey will almost guaranteed suck at times. When that happens, you MUST have a reason, a WHY that will pull you back in line. The more compelling this reason is to you, the more effective it will be. Below I will outline some macro motivations. After you have figured out your main motivation–your macro motivation–you can move on and make it a more specific goal–your micro motivation–if the macro isn’t enough for you to envision it when the going gets tough.
MACRO MOTIVATIONS TO GET IN SHAPE:
- Fear of getting old and sick. I hear that fear is the greatest motivator of all. It’s definitely mine:) The older I get, the more motivated I am to stay fit. The older you are, the more important it becomes to take care of your health. We all get older, but getting older shouldn’t equal accepting getting weaker, stiffer and unhealthier. I don’t know about you, but when I turn 80–if I’m lucky enough to get there–I want my body to feel as good as it can at that age. If I take great care of myself, chances are I’ll enjoy my golden years way more. Remember, healthy, fit people live much longer. Why shouldn’t you be one of them?
- Looking for love. Searching for love or being in love/infatuated is another powerful motivator. While looks obviously isn’t everything, it sure helps to look your very best when you’re single and ready to mingle. It may be unfair, but the truth is being in tiptop shape will lead to more romantic options. It was never so easy for me to get in shape as when, back in the day, I was infatuated with this guy. I worked as a waitress then and had packed on over 10 pounds. (The restaurant had great food and I ate everything in sight. Yes, I’m a total glutton.) I actually lost 14 pounds in 10 weeks, but it wasn’t painful because all I could think about was this guy and looking my best for him.
- You’re really vain. Some people consider being vain as something negative. To me, being vain means your looks are very important to you. There’s nothing wrong with that unless your looks is the only thing that matters to you. Actually, it’s your life, so it may be all that matters to you. It’s after all your choice. I don’t recommend being that obsessed, though. Not only is it unhealthy, but it also makes you a very uninteresting person:) But if it makes you happy when you see your naked body in the mirror and you look awesome, that’s great! Remember, to love others, you must first love yourself, so go for it. Don’t worry about other people who judge you for caring a lot about your health and appearance. At some point in your fitness journey, you’re likely to encounter some jealous, depressed person who’ll try to shame you for caring so much. Ignore these people and focus on the ones who are happy about you trying your hardest to look and feel good.
- You want to win. A lot of people perform better when they participate in a competition or a bet when a lot is at stakes. Or after receiving a dare. One of my clients weighed 300 pounds and his doctor told him he couldn’t lose that weight. Just to prove his doctor wrong, he lost 100 pounds in a year. Now, two years later, he has kept the weight off and lost ten more pounds. Maybe making a bet with someone for a lot of money would help you stay motivated? Or a competition among your peers? Participating in something more structured such as a fitness competition, a Triathlon, or a Tough Mudder race? The preparation for a serious race or competition will keep you motivated. Just make sure it requires you to push yourself for a few months.
- You’re driven by logic. Not everyone needs an emotion to do the right thing. Some people are highly logical and make decisions about costs and benefits, and long-term consequences. If you’re one of those people, it doesn’t take much logic to determine that you’ll save LOTS of money on medical bills and just feel so much better, which will lead to success in other areas of life, if you get in your best shape ever, and then stay there. If you have people depending on you such as children, being fit will make your life so much easier. Not only will you be able to play with them, but you’ll also simply be around for them a lot longer. Who doesn’t want to be there when the grandkids come?
So the macro is your starting point. Now you can be more specific in your goal, as the more specific it is, the easier it is for you to visualize when you feel like giving up, as mentioned above. Below are some great micro motivations. (Some could double as macros, but they are very specific macros):
- Preparing for your wedding.
- Preparing for a beach vacation.
- Preparing for a reunion.
- Signing up for a 5 K.
- Getting into your skinny jeans from college.
- Celebrating a milestone birthday. Instead of getting depressed about turning 40, 50 or whatever, get in the best shape of your life.
- Walking 10,000 steps every day for a month.
- Hire a trainer or get a workout partner to ensure you stay on track.
When you have reached one micro goal, set another, and then another until your fitness journey has become a lifestyle. I’m sure I left out some obvious micro goal. What did I miss? Can you think of a good micro and macro goal that would motivate you? Let me know in the comments!