Building the Habit of Exercise & Why is it difficult to lose weight?

Eating, Food In. Why is it so difficult for anyone to lose weight?

Let’s look at my past eating habits as an example. I have kept a food journal on and off for the past 10 years. I’m not as fanatic about tracking my food as I am about weighing myself everyday. It shows in my waistline. I’m not what you would call obese person at all. I don’t even think I’m fat which just may be my positive thinking kicking in. At the same time, I’m not lean or ripped at all either. Why is that? Why has it been that I have tracked my weight for 10 years, and I am not lean or ripped.

Two reasons: Exercise and Eating.

1) In the past, I have not made exercise a priority. I did it when I had time. Now, if you are like me, who has time for exercise? Exercise has not really been fun for me. In the past, I have rationalized my exercise as something I have to do rather than something I want to do. I am working on changing that rational right now. So, my Food Out has not been steady. Even when I do add 30 minutes to 60 minutes of exercise a day. I’m really only adding 300 to 500 calories to my normal expenditure.

2) Eating. I love food. Seriously, I love to eat out. I love to taste food. I love the sensation, the feeling of being full is not a bad thing for me. The excitement and the social aspect of eating is super fun. When you are going to meet a friend you haven’t seen in a while, what do you do? do you go hiking? Do you say, let’s go for a bike ride? Or, maybe we should go build snowmen outside? No, you usually say lets meet for lunch or for drinks. Then you have a wonderful leisurely lunch full of fantastic conversation which makes the meal even more enjoyable. Mmm… food. Now, while tracking my food, I have realized that I can eat roughly 2200 to 2600 calories and pretty much maintain my weight. However, I often eat more like 3000 to 3600 calories. So. Obviously, I’m going to gain weight.

So, Why is it difficult for you or me to lose weight?

If you are like the typical person who eats more than they should, then not only do you have to cut your eating habits to get down to your maintaining metabolism burn. You have to cut your eating habits below it. So, for me. If I eat 3600 calories on norm (I don’t anymore, but still happens every now and again), I have to stop eating 1000 calories just to get to 2600 calories I mentioned that I would not gain weight. Now, I want to lose weight, I have to cut that even further. So, I basically have to go from 3600 calories to 1800 calories. Wow, I’m cutting my typical diet in half. That’s a thought process that I’m just not mentally prepared for. I often thought I could do some other way. I could overcome it by exercising, or I just didn’t really think about it at all.

This wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t enjoy food so much, but as I said I love food. Its not like I eat terrible. I generally eat whole grains. I eat mostly poultry. I do love my fast-food mexican, and I will eat unhealthy at regional fast food joints. Yet, I don’t know when the last time I went to McDonalod’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, or Wendy’s. I do know the last time I had a Coca Cola was in 1999. I drink maybe two cans of pop (sprite, 7up, or Root Beer) a year. I have cut most frutcose corn syrup from my diet. I eat whole grains, brown rice, mufa, and all the other super foods you can find. I could use more vegetables and fish in my diet, but I do make sure I eat a vegetable at every dinner and almost every lunch. So, how can I eat 3600 calories? My empty calories come from too many servings and not managing my cravings.

So, for me to lose weight, I have to cut my Eating Habits. I’ve been regretting that a ton. I know it has to happen, and I’ve tried to do it with some success. In fact, knowing that cutting my food intake will have a big impact in my waistline, I have tried many times to only cut down my quantity of eating. I do lose weight that way. However, I begin to notice that I also start to feel sluggish. I start to crave more sugar to jump start my brain. I start to want more, and when I do get a special dinner, I just gorge myself (I love thanksgiving dinners). I don’t last that long, and I eventually gain most of the weight back.

So, I have also tried just exercising to lose weight. That did work as long as I was conscious enough not to increase my eating habits. It was slow going. Yet, I found that as I increased my exercising, I became hungrier. We all will. We are burning more calories, so your body says to itself that its time to get more calories. Its easy to give into.

As you can see, my tracking my eating and exercise patterns helps me to identify my trends, to learn from my own habits, and allows me to experiment to find the best possible way to maintain my own healthy body.

What do we do? If we exercise, we eat more, if we cut our calories, we crave sugar. We have to do both of them together. However, changing long ingrained habits at the same time is a sure fire way to not change any habits at all.

Knowing that changing your food consumption would have the greatest impact on your weight loss, I used to always recommend to myself and to others to start with the changing your eating habits first. After much self-experimentation combined with researching the subject, I have decided that changing my eating habits first is not the best way to go. Building the exercise habit must come first. You must build the necessary pscychological muscles to generate the increase in energy you’ll need to overcome the sluggishness that will inevitably set in when you cut your eating. Now, I know some dieticians and fitness gurus will preach if you eat the right and correct food, you shouldn’t feel sluggishness, and I agree with them to a point. But, now you are talking about changing your daily life to include exercise, changing your daily life by eating less food, and changing your daily life by eating the right kind of food. Now, we need to make three habits happen all at the same time.

You are just setting yourself up for failure. In addition, that tumbling in the tummy is still there. The psychological cues you have built up to eat are still there. The temptations will still be there to eat. So, we’ll have to build some fortitude to overcome these challenges by demonstrating and committing to ourselves the building of the exercise habit. Exercise must be something you schedule your day around.

So, here’s what I recommend you do.

  1. Print a two week or monthly calendar from calendar.google.com
  2. Put Circles around the days you plan to exercise right now. I suggest you circle every day. A habit is much easier to build if it is consistent and if it is every day.
  3. Now, you don’t want to overdue it. So, if you have not exercised in a while just commit to walking 5 minutes the first week everyday. then walk 10 minutes every day for the second week, then walk 20 minutes every day for the third week, then walk 30 minutes every day for the fourth week.
  4. When you exercise, put an X through the circled day.
  5. Build momentum!  Soon, you will not want to break the chain of days that you’ve built up.  It’s a snowball.  As you continue going, you’ll want to keep doing it.

Now, if you are like me, and walking or running is not that difficult to do. Don’t overdue it. Mix it up. Do Weight Training 4 of the days, and Walk/Run 3 of the days. or some mixture. Just be ACTIVE everyday. ACTION!

As I said before, I don’t want you to over do it. So, If that’s too much for you, then add in some rest days. Yet, I still want you to pretend like you are exercising. So, let’s say you are planning on weight training Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You also plan on cardio training on Tuesday and Thursday. You want to rest on Saturday and Sunday. I have no problem with that plan. Here’s what you do on Saturday and Sunday. You set aside the time as if you were going to exercise. Then, I want you to do mental exercises, stretching, yoga, or meditation exercise. You just need to do something to keep that exercise habit from weakening. They don’t call the weekend for nothing.

We’ll talk about building the endurance for changing your eating habits in a future post.

So, Take note. February is almost here.  If your New Year’s Resolution was to stay fit. There is no time to stop and no time to rest. We must continue the year with ACTION.

What can we do to help you ACT on your weight loss goals?

One thought on “Building the Habit of Exercise & Why is it difficult to lose weight?”

  1. Scott: Great post here! My wife is currently training for a big race and is using a huge wall calendar for her training plan–the line of X’s is growing every day. She calls it the Seinfeld Calendar, though I’ve never seen the episode.

    Also, just wanted to comment on the nutrition plan and feeling hungry: Up until the last two weeks when I’ve been working with my trainer on weight lifting AND nutrition, every single time I have tried to cut calories by more than 500 per day I was starving and feeling those cravings you’ve described. But now, even on days when I’m exercising a lot (2 hours yesterday) I’m not hungry at all. I really think it is because I have increased my protein to 30% of my diet and decreased my carbs to 40% of my diet. I think it’s the magic ratio of satiety for myself. Maybe it would work for you too?

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