After watching the SyFy channel the other night (tagline: yes, we know how to spell, but this looks way cooler), I experienced a eureka moment: We live in a parallel universe.
One is called Facebook and the other is real life. Okay, this wasn’t exactly news to me. But it became extra clear as I found myself deleting yet another “friend” who I never actually met, so why did I care that she ate sushi for lunch?
In FacebookLand everyone’s happy and smiling and waving from a beach chair on the tropical island of #BetterThanYou.
Real life is a whole different story.
Reality consists of arguing over why no one empties the garbage until it smells so bad the neighbors call the police to complain of a dead body, wondering if the cat peed on your pillow because he hates you or to show affection – and how is it possible to gain five pounds from eating a single Jelly Belly?
And, re: the latter, why do we eat something that spells out the way we’ll look if we consume enough of them?
Ironically, both lives can exist simultaneously and include the same people. But only one – the fun, smiling, waving at the camera – side makes its way to public forums.
Therein lies the problem.
I am not on Facebook much, aside from running my Ageless After 50 Women group, for primarily that reason. I grew tired of hearing about Jane and Joe’s latest trip to a tropical island with turquoise water and dancing dolphins when, in fact, they are total jerks in Real Life.
So there’s that.
Truth is, if you live on this planet (Earth, for those of you who are just visiting), you have challenges. We all do, even if you never post about them.
But if you live your life vicariously through social networks as many of us do, it can seem as if you’re the only one who’s home with your cats, eating Chinese takeout on a Friday night.
You’re not, because that’s usually what I’m doing most weeks. So there’s at least two of us.
Just as no one’s life is ever as it seems on Facebook, same goes for people who strive to lose weight, get in shape or both.
It takes a lot of false starts, falling off the wagon, getting frustrated, vowing to never measure another ounce of food again or do a single crunch because it’s “just not worth it and never works anyways” before you uncover what really works.
Trust me, I’ve been there and know many others who’ve also walked that very crowded path.
Truth is, the only way to make real progress is by learning what doesn’t work. Saying, “I guess I won’t do that again!” and putting away the bungee cord allows you to look at your other options before you sail off another cliff.
Ditto for dietary and exercise.
Falling short of your dietary or exercise goals simply means that particular approach did not meet your needs at the time.
It’s not a sign to give up. Unless, of course, you’d like to make it one. But since you’re reading this, I’ll assume not.
Losing weight, especially after 50, takes a lot of trial and error. The path to fitness enlightenment is fraught with potholes, landslides and Spandex that makes you bulge out in all the wrong places.
So I thought I’d offer a few alternative ways to view your perceived failures and ways to tweak them into positives.
Fail: You stop working out because you’re bored, lack motivation or just hate exercise
How to turn it around:
Look, if exercise always felt as good or as easy as finding a half price bargain on your favorite designer shoes no one would need motivation to do it. You have to create your own reason to start and keep at it.
One way may be “gym/exercise hopping,” where you visit local workout facilities and try different classes (I have several friends who do this). Maybe it’s yoga one week and biking the next. Find a workout partner who’s willing to try new things with you if you can’t find motivation to do it on your own. If you work out at home you can do the same with a variety of DVDs or YouTube videos.
Second, look for or create a fun aspect of the workout that keeps you interested. For example, if you exercise at home, only “allow” yourself to view certain TV programs when you’re on the treadmill. Or upload new music and only listen to it while working out. Etc.
Lastly, focus on the big picture and remember why you’re doing this… being around for your grandkids, having the strength and energy to do the things you enjoy, etc.
And keep in mind not everything is a thrill a minute. Imagine giving up showering or brushing your teeth because it’s no longer fun. And if you do, please send me your address so I’m sure to stand downwind.
Fail: You don’t see results so you go back to your old habits because what’s the point?
How to turn it around:
The most common reasons why you don’t see results from an exercise program (by “results” I mean weight loss, muscle tone or both) is likely one of these:
– Are you really doing the work? It’s easier to say, “This just doesn’t work for me,” and blame the environment/your job/your SO, etc. than it is to figure out what went wrong and fixing it. What do you need that you’re not getting? Then figure out what you can do to work around or change it.
– Take an honest look at your diet. As the saying goes, you can’t outrun your fork. You can’t exercise and eat a crappy diet and expect to see a huge change. It’s easier to cut out 200 calories than it is to walk for an hour to burn it off.
– Add strength training. Many women get into the cardio trap because it’s easy to go for a walk. And that’s great, but it’s only part of a complete workout. You gotta strength train, no if ands or buts, if you want to see real progress. It’s the ONLY way to reverse the loss of muscle that occurs naturally with age, and is the only way to build and “tone” muscle.
– Give yourself enough time. Know why my Ageless Body program is 90 days and not 30 days? Because a month is not long enough to see changes. You need to eat clean and work out consistently for at least 90 days before you can truly assess your efforts.
When you do the right things progress will happen. Patience, grasshopper.
Fail: You went back to your old eating habits because you got too hungry/craved chocolate/missed alcohol
How to turn it around:
Remember, this is about a lifestyle change. So if you cut out everything enjoyable in your life, guess what? Spoiler alert: You’ll be miserable. Unless the goal of your lifestyle change is misery, it’s missing the point.
Tracking your food, a proven method for weight loss I use myself, doesn’t mean you can never stray. It’s simply a way for you to become aware of what and when you’re eating. You don’t have to cut anything completely out unless it’s a food (I’m looking at you, chocolate) over which you have no personal power to resist.
If you’re “starving all the time” either you’re not eating enough (you should not go below 1,200 calories daily), are low in protein (protein helps keep you full and boosts your metabolism), are low in fiber, waiting too long between meals, or eating too many refined carbs and simple sugars.
The last example is a vicious circle and often goes hand-in-hand with waiting too long (e.g. more than three hours) between meals: You crave sugar because you’re hungry and reaching for a donut is easier than making an egg white omelet. But the sugar spikes your blood sugar and sends it crashing down, making you hungry all over again.
The cycle ends when you land bloated and lethargic and in a sugar coma, vowing to never do that again. Until next time when you fail to plan healthy snacks at work.
NOW YOU… What stops YOU from sticking with a workout or nutrition program? Let me know in the comments section below… and please share it with your Ageless friends. I’ll be 4-ever grateful. ♥
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Got questions? Fire ’em to me at email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you!
Your Ageless Body Coach,
Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.