You did it. You ate well (and clean!) and exercised hard. You slipped into those jeans with ease. You made your target date: the wedding, the reunion, the beach vacation or your first-ever fitness competition. Whatever the reason for getting in the best shape of your life, you drew strength and will power from deep within to stick to your plan. Now what?
You deserve to reward yourself. But after a while the self-praise wears off and the bad habits set in again and you feel like a failure. “Fitness has to be like brushing your teeth — it’s something you’re always going to do forever and ever,” says former figure competitor Monica Brant. To get back on track, Brant says to figure out what’s making you unhappy or disappointed in yourself. Here are the mental obstacles that you’ll face and how to attack them.
1. Weight Hasn’t Changed
“Number one: The scale is your enemy,” says Mike Davies, a certified personal trainer and founder of The Fitness Factory. “I believe that’s the one thing that demoralizes women.” Instead, trust your clothes and the mirror. When you work with weights, you build muscle while burning fat. “When it comes to your weight, there’s not that big of a change.” Brant agrees. “I don’t fluctuate that much. I go by how I look in the mirror, how my clothes fit and how my physique is going to look the day of the show.”
2. No Support At Home
Many women find that the people closest to them do nothing to keep them on the healthy wagon. Jen Hendershott, two-time Fitness International Champion, two-time Fitness Olympia winner and Phat Camp founder, and Davies say that many women approach them about their husbands and boyfriends, who try to sabotage their diet and fit lifestyle. “I’m not a marriage counselor, ” says Hendershott. “All I can say is to stand your ground. Tell him, ‘If you love me, you support me.’” And if it’s not your boyfriend or husband helping you slack off, it’s probably someone else, she says, like your mother or friend. “Don’t use it as a source of stress; use it as motivation and prove to them that you can do it,” she says. “You can use that energy to better who you are.”
“The best thing you can do is surround yourself with positive people,” says Hendershott. Davies recommends hiring a certified trainer or registered dietician so you have to answer to someone. And because you’re paying somebody, you’ve made a financial commitment to fitness, too.
3. I’m Bored With The Food
When your target date approaches, your diet gets pretty strict and eating the same foods every day can be unsatisfying. But for maintenance, switch your diet up, says Davies. “You don’t have to change your nutrient composition — meaning the amount of protein, carbs and fats you consume,” he says. “Change the sources from which you get those nutrients.”
4. I’m Just Too Busy
When you were completely dedicated to achieving your goal, you blew off work, family, friends — you name it. But then your real-life schedule kicks in again. Use a daily planner to figure out how to fit in your workouts and meal preparation and cross off the daily activities that suck up your time (such as binge-watching Netflix, reading e-mails or scrolling through social media). Hendershott uses a monthly calendar and makes weekly goals. A good goal example is adding half an hour of cardio each week or weaning yourself off unhealthy foods.
5. The Body I Want
All three fitness experts agree that you need to be realistic. Training against your genes is going to make you feel like a failure. “Have an image of what you want to be,” says Brant. “Being in contest shape all year around is not going to happen. It helps to have someone who is experienced guide you — whether it’s a nutritionist, a trainer or a mentor that can help you.”
For inspiration, collect pictures of yourself. “I would print pictures off when I won a show,” says Hendershott. “It reminds me of what it truly meant to me and how I got there.” She also says to look at your “before” pictures, too. “You’ll know you never want to go back,” she says.
6. The Gym Is Intimidating
This is one thing that you’ll just have to get over: The gym is a great place to look for motivation because of the other women there, says Davies. As little girls, we keep active to be social, according to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. “Women will accept other women, regardless of their weight or level of fitness,” he says. “When a woman starts changing and looking better, she gets praise from other women.”
7. I Feel Terrible
Some sources conclude, the reason you don’t feel so hot is because you’re not exercising or eating well. A study in the Journal of Counseling Psychology found that eating according to your body’s needs may lower your body mass index. Even the incredibly fit Brant admits, “I don’t feel good when I don’t look fit and stay fit.” Thinking about improving your quality of life may get you to the gym, according to a study from Behavioral Medicine, if being unhappy about how you look doesn’t motivate you.
Keep your chin up. A study from the Journal of Sports Sciences found that people who exercise for weight maintenance have more self-determination than those who exercise to prepare for a target date. To stay active on a daily basis, Hendershott keeps a notebook on her writes down everything — motivational quotes, ideas or what she wants to work on in the new year. And don’t wait for Monday or next week for it to happen. “Remember that it’s a lifestyle; there’s never an ending point, says Brant. And just as you achieved your goals before, find it within yourself. Nobody can do it for you. “That decision comes down to you,” says Davies. “I work with athletes, and what makes some of the best athletes in the world is their motivation — and they get that from within.”
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