With the explosion of so many varying lifestyle diseases these days almost everyone is aware of the fact they should be taking part in some form of regular physical exercise and that they should eat a healthy and balanced diet to support all their bodily functions.
Unfortunately, modern day society is one where being healthy is made increasingly more difficult. Stressed out and forever on the go is how most of us feel day in and day out.
People are trying to deal with highly stressful jobs and also have to manage their own family schedules. It doesn’t seem to leave much ME time.
And it also leaves very little time to go to the gym and engage in physical exercise or your favourite sport.
At the same time, a trip to the supermarket immediately confronts us with countless ready-made meals all claiming to be healthy, balanced, nutritious and even low in fat. When faced with the choice of having to cook a meal from scratch or simply popping something in the oven or microwave, unfortunately, most people will go for the faster and easier option (without even thinking about the longer term consequences).
The reality is, living a healthy lifestyle has to be a choice and it involves change. And as most of us know, the only person who likes change is……..a wet baby.
As human beings, we are naturally resistant to change, which is why people come up with so many different excuses as to why a lifestyle change is simply impossible for them.
In fact, did you know CHANGE only comes from one of two different sources?
You are driven to change out of sheer desperation which is the result of months and sometimes even years of accumulated neglect which brings us to a point of urgent necessity to do something. Or we make changes in our lives because of inspiration often through a person who motivates your thoughts or maybe from a book you have read.
1. The first is contemplation, where people are thinking about making changes.
2. The second stage is preparation, where people have decided they will make changes, and are thinking about how to do it.
3. The third stage is action, which is where you actually start making the changes needed for you to move forward.
4. The final stage is maintenance. At this point the changes you have made are now simply part of your lifestyle. New habits are now in place.
It is during the first and second part of the change process that personal trainers and nutritionists have the greatest difficulties, because this is where the mind is resisting change. There are any number of excuses people use to tell those who are trying to help them become healthier.
In an effort to pass on the most benefit all round, I have taken both the client and trainer viewpoints for each of the excuses. So let’s take a look at the seven top excuses I have found people often come up with, how they affect these people and how their personal trainers can help remedy these barriers.
EXCUSE #1 – I Hate Exercise
Client: Many people will tell you they hate exercise. This means they will be unwilling to try anything you suggest to them because they feel it is something they don’t want to do, even without trying it. Someone who has already decided they hate exercise (and in many cases have never done any exercise before) is often very difficult to reach and it can have a devastating effect on their fitness journey. Luckily, it is not impossible to overcome this barrier.
Trainer: As a trainer, it is best to first check if the client has had a bad experience of some kind with exercise in the past. Or is it that they don’t value the benefits of exercise? Counting the cost of not exercising can be an illuminating workout for the mind all by itself.Next, make sure you show your clients that exercise does not have to be boring or something to be hated.
It is all about introducing some fun and variety into the program. It is incredibly important that you listen to your clients’ needs and that you both understand what type of things they do and do not enjoy. You can then design a program that fits in with those needs.
Although it is important to create a routine, as a lifestyle change is all down to routine, you have to make sure there is plenty of variation in it as well. There are numerous activities a person can participate in, and they can rotate these across days, weeks or even months. Also encourage your clients to exercise with someone they know, as they will be able to motivate each other to keep going.
EXCUSE #2 – I Don’t Have Time to Eat Healthy
Client: As I noted earlier, it is incredibly tempting to enter a supermarket and simply purchase a ready-made meal that can go in the oven or the microwave. Most of these products now have labels telling us the calorie, fat, salt and sugar content and we often feel we are eating something reasonably healthy (well it does say fat free on the box).
Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of these meals have far more salt than is necessary. Additionally, many of these meals (and particularly the “healthy” meals) are low in ‘good’ calories because they are low in nutrition. Eating nothing but these types of meals, and takeaways, will cause people to put on weight, become lethargic and generally have deteriorating health. Over time it’s a killer combination!
Trainer: Who is the master here? Either you run your day or the day runs you!
There are ways to overcome this. If it really is a case of not having enough time on a daily basis to prepare meals, then it means your time management has to be improved. Perhaps it is possible to cook various healthy meals during the weekend and freeze them to eat during the week. Conversely it is not hard to throw a heap of meat, vegetables and stock in the slow cooker before you go to work resulting in a perfectly cooked, tasty and nutritious meal by the time you get home.
Additionally, healthy eating is something we have to take the time to learn. I know everybody is busy, yet there are still people out there who are able to eat in a healthy manner. So getting some advice from friends who already have a healthy diet may be very beneficial.
Finally, it is important to show people that they shouldn’t try to turn their lives upside down overnight. Small, gradual changes are generally the best and work well over the long term. Think of changing just 1% a week for a year – now that’s a huge change and is not hard to do. So think small for HUGE results.
EXCUSE #3 – I Can’t Live Without Chocolate
Client: Chocolate, like alcohol, or any other “naughty” food, is something people often struggle with. This is because consuming it makes you feel soooo good, even if it is just for a short period of time. It’s not called comfort food for nothing. And unfortunately, people who use this ‘comfort’ excuse often, also use it to eat as much of their comfort food as they feel they need, and this has a detrimental effect on their overall fitness goals (if they have any) and health.
Trainer: Comfort food is perfectly acceptable, but in moderation. Most of these types of food are very high in sugar, which means they give an almost immediate rush of energy, although this will be followed by a big crash. This is why it is so important not to have too much.
But for someone who eats a healthy meal, you don’t have to give up chocolate altogether. It is simply choosing to have a (small) chocolate bar once a week instead of once a day, or taking a smaller slice of cake. The trick with chocolate is to wean yourself off the milk variety onto healthier 85% dark chocolate. It is high in antioxidants so is actually very good for you – one or two squares after dinner at night are fine.
EXCUSE #4 – I Don’t/Can’t Cook
Client: Don’t and can’t are two different things. An unwillingness to cook is generally along the same lines as saying ‘I don’t have time to cook’. The excuse of being unable to cook is often a bit harder to overcome. If someone has been told regularly that their meals are not tasty, or if they frequently burn their food or put in too much spice, they may indeed feel as if they are unable to cook. This can lead to seriously unhealthy eating habits that will sabotage your efforts to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Trainer: Luckily, there is plenty that can be done for someone who can’t cook. Simply attending some cookery classes, for instance, is one easy option. There are plenty of classes available in community centres and all sorts of other venues that are enjoyable and fun and have been designed with the home cook and healthy living in mind.
Another option is to purchase ‘easy recipe’ cookbooks (like the 4 ingredients to make a meal series). Cooking is an enjoyable activity and with a bit of practice most people end up being really surprised at their own abilities. Getting your kids to cook with you is also a great thing to do.
EXCUSE #5 – Stressed out – I Don’t Have the Support of Family and Friends
Client: This can be one of the hardest excuses to deal with, and one which may actually be real. Unfortunately, implementing change in a family unit is one of the most difficult things to do. Everyone is resistant to change, and every individual will be at a different stage of their change process as well. Some people worry that their family and friends will actually turn against them and make fun of them if they start to live a healthy lifestyle, which further undermines any attempts they make.
Trainer: Breaking through this excuse takes tremendous strength and willpower. Is it real or is it only perceived is the question?
It may mean that only one person in the family unit makes the necessary changes, while the others lag behind. It is very important, however, that people are given information so they know the lifestyle choices they make are not something to be ridiculed or made fun of, but rather that they are actually improvements.
If they are able to communicate this to the others, in a way that doesn’t make them sound sanctimonious, they will have a far greater chance of not only being successful themselves, but also of getting others on board. A strong support network is very important and this can also be gained from other gym members, people you meet in cooking classes and so on.
EXCUSE #6 – I Eat Out All the Time
Client: Most of us like to dine out every once in a while but generally it is rare for someone to dine out every night of the week and to buy lunch and breakfast every day as well although I do know it does happen.
When people use this excuse, they generally mean they dine out regularly and that they are aware of the fact that restaurant meals (especially takeaways which a lot of people put in this category) have a tendency to be packed with bad fats and empty calories, but, they don’t want to change this habit. After all, eating out is as much about social relationships as it is about eating and grabbing a Pizza on the way home is so much easier than cooking a meal.
Trainer: What people often do not realize is that living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean you can never go out to a restaurant again. Nor does it mean you have to go to some sort of health restaurant where everything is mixed with tofu and wheat-grass either.
When you order a meal in the restaurant, there is nothing wrong with changing the side orders of your favourite meal. Why not have a salad, some brown rice or steamed vegetables instead of French fries, for instance? Additionally, it is very important to always have a glass of water by the side of a meal. Water helps to fill you up which means you will eat less. Also, explaining that there is no need to eat everything on the plate just because it is there is also very important (and very French).
Also remember, “It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.” – Michael Pollan
EXCUSE #7 – I Have to Cook Meals for My Family
Client: Some people believe because they have to cook for their entire family, they cannot make it healthy. This is a particular problem when there are children involved, because they are often difficult eaters. As a result, you choose to cook heavily processed products which are something most kids will eat and enjoy. This can have terrible long term effects on fitness and the onset of lifestyle diseases which you don’t think about at the time.
Trainer: The reality is that those who have to cook for the entire family are in a very privileged position. After all, if they cook, then they control the ingredients as well. It is quite possible that some in the family will be less than impressed with what is being served, but then they always have the option of cooking for themselves. This also takes us back to excuse number 5.
This is just a token selection of the 32 well-worn excuses I came up with and have repeatedly heard over the past few years of hanging around gyms.
I could address them all and end up with a tome that would bore you to tears but that is not my aim. My aim is to help you understand that you can either have results or you can have excuses, but you can’t have both.
From talking to so many different people about this plethora of excuses, the one thing I have gotten out of this small project is just how difficult it is for so many folk to come to grips with the fact that their health is a huge personal responsibility…..not only to themselves but to their families and the community as a whole.
You have to respect the body you were given and not treat it like a rental car from Hertz.
Lastly, here are some new stats I hope will help shock you into action and demonstrate why it is so important to take responsibility for your health and fitness and to keep your weight (waist measurements) under control: A recent study done in the US found that women with a waist measuring in excess of 94cm actually reduce their life expectancy by 5 years. And for men with a waist of 109cm or more the reduction is 3 years. And on top of the loss of life expectancy there are also a number of other lifestyle diseases that start affecting your health once you get above these waist measurements.
The good thing is it can all be reversed with some regular exercise and lifestyle changes.
In the end, I firmly believe it’s not that some people have the willpower to exercise and some don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change and some are not.
Good luck with your journey and never be afraid to ask for some help along the way.