Ask an Expert
Here's where you can post your burning questions and find answers to common questions that we hope will help you on your journey to better health and fitness.
Q. I want to start dieting and eating better, do I need to write down a specific goal or can I just go for it?
A. Just the idea of losing some weight or exercising more is tricky. It’s easy to get sidetracked when that coworker comes in with pastries for everyone and you can’t remember what you are working towards. So set a goal weight for the future. We’re not all on a reality television show and exercising eight hours a day, but we can lose weight too. Start with a safe and realistic goal such as our Health and Fitness Challenge of losing 7.5% of your body weight in 90 days. Then figure out how much you need to be losing every week to get to that goal. Then, put that big goal into the back of your mind and focus on your weekly successes and challenges. If you don’t make it one week, don’t give up, just know you have to make it up in the coming weeks and change your expectations accordingly.
Research shows that for men goal setting is vital to success. Focus on long-term and short-term goals instead of a vague idea of improved fitness. Research found that 22% more men had success in losing weight when they set goals. Also for the men, it is important to remember why you are exercising and think about it often. What rewards do you get by getting to your goal? Do you want to be more attractive? Spice up your marriage? Be able to play with your kids? Get a better job? Focus on your goals and what they are going to get you.
For women the research shows that establishing a community of supportive friends and family members is important. Telling people that will hold you accountable has high levels of success. Also, seek out encouragement and find help being resilient. Women that were able to treat something like a chocolate binge as a temporary set back were 10% more likely to reach their weight loss goals. So tell your friends and family, get some support, and don’t let setbacks get you down.
Q. I've set an unrealistic goal and then stopped when you couldn't reach it. What should I do now?
A. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Aim for the long term. Don’t set a goal that you can’t reach, that is detrimental to your mental and physical health. Consult with physicians and health professionals, so you can set safe and effective goals. Set small goals along the way. If you want to run a marathon, then set a goal for a 5K, then a 10K, then a half marathon, then the marathon. If you are trying to lose weight, try for 1 pound, or 2 pounds or 5 pounds a week, or 10 pounds a month. That way you can celebrate each week and month as opposed to waiting and stressing for months.
Q. I've always felt alone when you facing exercise challenges. Is there anything I can do to change this?
A. It is easy to start exercising and dieting and not tell anyone. Then no one has to know you are unhappy with your body and no one knows if you fail, but it is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. When you isolate yourself, you have no one to answer too, but you also have no one to help you. Friends and family can help encourage you and motivate you. If you don’t have friends and family that are exercising, you can do lots of other things. Get a personal trainer to talk to and help push you to work out. Or talk to friends that you know will be excited to support you, and will notice when you are getting off track.
You can find a motivating television show to watch, or picture you can hang up around the house, or quote you can read that makes you want to get up and exercise. There are so many options to link up to a supportive community, no matter where you are or who you are, so definitely take advantage of the support and watch the positive effect it has on your mental wellness and your weight loss.
Q. I've been too tired, stressed, and pressed for time to exercise. Is there anything I can do to change this daily dilemma?
A. If you think you are just going to squeeze in some time in the morning, or at the end of the day, or whenever to exercise and you’ll figure it out then, you’re wrong. At the end of the long day, if you haven’t planned for it, you aren’t going to be motivated to get up and go exercise. You need to build it into your schedule. If you have a planner, calendar on your wall, iCal, or Google calendar, schedule in your exercise. Write what you are going to do, where, and how long. It is like a hair appointment, doctors appointment, or class, it is something that you must do at a certain time. There is no forgetting, no running out of time, and you don’t have to take time deciding what to do when you are tired. Get someone to exercise with you or at the same time, so you have someone counting on you and motivating you.
Q. Help!! I'm a bit discouraged and confused by all the conflicting health and fitness information?
A. The internet and the self-help section of the bookstore are both a friend and a curse. There is so much information out there, which is great. But there is also so much information out there, it is overwhelming. Mostly, you need to find one that is going to work with your lifestyle. Are you going to be eating frozen diet food for the rest of your life? If you love breads and pastas can you really live with no carbs? Do you like to eat every couple hours or just three times a day? Are you at home or in an office? If you pick something that doesn’t mesh well with your life, you aren’t going to sustain it. This is that dreaded yo-yo effect, in three months when you can’t stand cottage cheese four times a day, you’ll wish you picked a different diet and give up. Also, you don’t have to sort through it all by yourself. Make an appointment with a nutritionist and personal trainer if you don’t have the time to research diet and fitness plans. You can tell them your needs and limitations and they can customize a plan for you. Now you still can’t sit on the couch and you won’t be eating those doughnuts, but you can still have food you like and a lifestyle you can enjoy.