I’ve recently started working with a very dear family friend who had a massive health scare, directly related to the extra weight he’s carrying and a sedentary lifestyle. In an incredibly ballsy move, he reached out to me to coach him through the 60+ kilos he wants (and needs) to drop.
Let’s just stop and think about that for a second. 60 kilos. How many of us have struggled for years with losing five kilograms, or dropping a couple of percent body fat. Ever lifted a 20kg plate at the gym? Imagine lifting three of them and having them strapped to you every day.
I have so much respect and compassion for my friend, let’s call him Nick, for starting on this journey, and for being vulnerable enough to ask for help. It was a big step.
A step that made me wonder: how many people are living with excess weight or tolerating a sedentary lifestyle because they don’t know where to start and are afraid to ask for help?
If you are feeling completely intimidated, hopeless or ashamed of where you are with your health, how do you start moving forwards in a way that’s productive and positive?
Here are some tips for how to get started if you:
Have a large amount of weight to lose
Suffer from depression or issues that have kept you sidelined from your life
Are recovering from an injury or chronic pain
Have been sedentary for many years.
Start getting really really honest with yourself, and someone else (if you’re ready)
In my experience, people who are very overweight are often carrying around a lot of shame and have done so since childhood. They’re used to being stared at, to family members eye balling their food and questioning what they’re doing about their weight.
So it’s natural to become secretive about your habits, perhaps even to yourself.
Before you even start consciously making changes, start by recording what you eat in a food diary, or an app like MyFitnessPal. Record your daily activity using a steps App or with wearable technology like a garmin, fitbit or Apple watch.
I’ve asked Nick to send me his food diary and activity log at the end of each day. This isn’t so I can pick him apart, but so that he can get really accountable about what he’s doing and own his current condition.
If you’re not ready to take the step to get really honest about where you are, you’re probably not ready to tackle a big goal.
Set some small, motivating targets
Nick is lucky enough to live near Balmoral Beach, and we’ve picked a short walking route for him that he’s to increase by a small amount each day. This is much more motivating to him than doing a certain amount of time on the treadmill, as enjoying a walk around the beach is something he’s wanted to do for a long time.
Be grateful for what’s working
People often overhaul their lifestyle when they have a big scare like a heart attack, and not just because they’re under strict doctor’s orders. Surviving a major health event makes you feel incredibly lucky to be alive, grateful for a second chance and motivated to take better care of your body.
This is the positive mental space where change can happen, not from feeling angry at your body for failing you and making life hard, or ashamed at the habits that have got you there.
If feeling grateful and loving towards your body seems difficult, start small.
Automate daily movement
Make a promise to yourself to move your body daily. Take the decision making out of it: just decide that you are going to do some type of exercise every single day.
The key here is to make it doable. A daily hour-long session at the gym every day is just not going to happen if you have been virtually sedentary for 20 years. But a daily 20 minute stroll may just be the best place to start. Make appointments with a trainer to ensure there is an accountability measure in place. You may even enjoy that person’s company and look forward to your sessions.
Don’t restrict, but limit your choices
If you want to lose a lot of weight, it’s my guess that your days are full of tortured decision making and internal negotiation: “should I eat this or that”, “should I skip breakfast”, and “I’m going to eat this now but I’m going to start fresh tomorrow”.
This is a really exhausting way to live. Limit the extreme amount of choice about food you have on a daily basis by planning a few options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that are nutritious, satisfying, easy to make and you know you will actually fancy. If you have no idea what meal options will fit that bill, make an appointment with a dietitian, or visit us at New Image. We have a great basic food guide and have put together lots of healthy meal options. Also think of your healthy friends who are handy in the kitchen and ask them for ideas.
You probably need some help, so ask for it
At the very least you need a cheerleader, or an accountability buddy who is across your goals. Friends, spouses and family members are not always the best people to take up that job.
An experienced trainer, exercise physiologist or your GP can all help. The trick is to find someone you feel is compassionate and that you feel comfortable with.
Speaking with a counselor is always a great option. While it’s great to be chatting about desired outcomes and actions, it also pays to chat about life up to now with someone who has no skin in the game other than to listen to and help you.
If you’re very overweight, recovering from an injury or chronic health condition or have been sedentary for a long time, swinging full steam ahead without any stretching or focus on core strengthening can be dangerous. You DO need to get started, and to take your exercise very seriously, but also look after your body as it adapts to the new load you are placing on it. Learn some basic stretches and perform them religiously.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out the stories of two of our amazing clients Tina and Erinwho have shifted a considerable amount of weight and changed their lives. I know these ladies inspire me!