June 16, 2014 at 2:09 PM ET
Getting in shape may be all in your head—literally. Negative self-talk makes it difficult to follow through any exercise plan. Try these tips to turn a Debbie Downer mindset upside down.
Instead of: “A few extra pounds aren't a big deal.”
Think: “I should probably get rid of this weight before it gets out of hand.”
Most people don’t see a little tightening of the jeans as a really big deal. However, additional pounds can start adding up quickly and then affect your health, says Jessica Matthews, assistant professor of health and exercise science at Miramar College, San Diego, Calif. “The real danger lies in a lack of regular exercise.” It’s not just about the calories you burn at the gym. Lack of exercise also leads to muscle loss, and the amount of muscle you have determines the calories you burn at rest. See how this can snowball? Keep body weight under control when you have just a few pounds to lose instead of waiting until it’s a bigger challenge.
Instead of: “Ugh! I hate gyms.”
Think: “What can I try that’s fun and good for me?”
Fitness doesn't just happen at the gym. “From practicing yoga in the park or tai chi in your backyard to standup paddleboarding, hiking, running stairs outdoors and strength training at home, there is no shortage of ways to be physically active,” says Matthews. Experiment and discover forms of exercise you enjoy. Liking what you do is the ultimate way to make a positive, lasting behavioral change.
Instead of: “Nothing I can do—I just have a slow metabolism!”
Think: “How can I burn more calories throughout the day?”
Unless you have an underactive thyroid, you can largely control your metabolism. “Metabolic rate tells us how many calories our body uses on a daily basis,” says Cristina Rivera, New York-based sports nutritionist. And while some of it is genetically determined, no one is doomed to have a slow metabolism forever.
An easy way to boost metabolism is to think about all the calories we burn while going about our daily activities. Walking, typing, performing yard work—even fidgeting—burns calories and increases metabolism. So get moving!
Instead of: “I will never lose this belly.”
Think: “Time for some life changes!”
In order to lose belly fat you need to focus on overall weight loss. “Losing weight in any specific area of the body simply isn’t possible,” says Rivera. “You need to move more and eat less to lose weight from all over your body—including your belly.” Keeping stress in check also helps. You can prevent those dreaded “love handles” by focusing on not "gaining extra weight and by practicing stress management (like yoga and meditation),” says Rivera.
Instead of: “I know exactly what to do…when I actually find time do it.”
Think: “I am making this plan now and following it!”
Chances are if you really know what to do, you’d do it, says Tom Holland, Connecticut-based exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym. “Your goals must be specific to you in order to accomplish them. Most people have a vague idea that they ‘want to get in shape’ or ‘eat better,’ but it’s not enough.” Holland recommends writing down your goals in exact terms to establish a plan of action. You’re more likely to follow through if you make SMART goals: make them specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.
Instead of: “I just suck at [XYZ]!”
Think: “What are my weak areas and how can I fix them?”
If you shy away from running because you don’t feel you’re built for it, it’s likely because running reveals areas that need work, says Holland. “Injuries and aches and pains give you clues on areas of your body that are either weak or out of balance and indicate where you need to work harder.” For example, knee pain may be a sign of weak quadriceps. If a particular exercise really hurts, don’t do it. “There are plenty of other alternatives,” says Holland. But make sure you acknowledge and work on your problem areas.
Instead of: “I really just hate working out!”
Think: “I’ll get into it once I see the rewards.”
Working out may not be fun in the beginning, but many people go too easy and don’t work out hard enough to get the endorphin, “feel good” rush, says Holland. “It gets easier as you do it. Running three miles is horrible for just about everyone, but when you push through the initial discomfort it becomes fun. You need to challenge yourself to feel and see the benefits.” Work hard to feel good and you’ll quickly change your exercise outlook.
Instead of: “It’s too hot/cold to exercise.”
Think: “Time to switch it up! What can I do instead?”
By dressing properly for conditions you can safely exercise in nearly any weather, says Matthews. Make sure you stay hydrated when it’s hot out and make sure you don’t leave skin exposed when it’s cold. Also, make adjustments. It is significantly cooler in the early morning or after the sun sets—plan your workout accordingly. If conditions are really just too brutal, simply skip the outdoor scene and take your workout indoors: Pop in a fun DVD or take Zumba, yoga or another indoor class. Weather should absolutely never be an excuse.
Instead of: “My body will never be the same after kids.”
Think: “I’ll get back in shape as soon as my doc gives the go-ahead.”
There’s no denying the bodily changes that occur with pregnancy, but you absolutely can get back in shape, says Matthews. “When starting or restarting a fitness routine it’s important to start out slowly and to increase duration and intensity gradually. Focus on strengthening the core muscles, especially using Kegels to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.” It can happen. Don’t blame the kids!