As a fitness coach, I get asked lots of questions, most of which start with a cry for help. The topic varies, but usually boils down to one of these…
“Help me! I’ve done everything and still can’t…”
· lose weight
· firm up
· get rid of this belly
Can you relate?
If so, regardless of your goals, in order to make progress in any way you must know this one important thing: your current situation.
The real deal, not the highlight reel you post on Instagram and Facebook.
I call it “getting out of denial.” And yes, it’s as painful as it sounds.
Because here’s the thing:
Denial keeps you in your comfort zone. It’s easy to say “I’m doing everything I can…” without really taking a hard look at reality.
If you’re letting loose on weekends because hey, it’s the weekend and I deserve to splurge a little, right? or your workout is as predictable as the weather in Connecticut (it’s extremely not, I’ve lived there), therein lies the problem.
Staying in denial is as comfy as a down blanket on a cold winter’s night.
Once you make such an announcement you’ve declared to the world that whatever happens is out of your hands. “It’s just the way it is,” you say, reaching into the bag of nacho chips and flopping in front of the TV.
You are off the hook, at least in your mind.
Problem is, this perspective also qualifies you for “victim status.” You’ve literally put your life in the hands of other people and situations.
That’s never good, and in this case, it’s simply not true.
How do I know? If you’re reading this you are not a victim, but someone who really wants to make a change but maybe isn’t sure how to get a handle on this beast.
At that point you have two choices: face the music or continue on your current path of blaming the weather, your significant other, the economy, or political climate (can’t say I blame you there) until you gain so much weight and become so out of shape that your trip to the ER makes the evening news, as film footage of a helicopter lifts off the roof of your house because it’s the only opening large enough to haul your butt out of there.
On the upside, you get your 15 minutes of fame.
On the downside, everything else.
So let’s take a look at a couple of the ways we keep ourselves in denial and how to break free, shall we?
1. You’re eating WAY more than you think
Research shows we underestimate how much we eat by as much as 45%. Holy moly. This amounts to about 540 calories for those who believe they’re eating within the 1,200 calorie range (the minimum amount recommended for women striving for weight loss).
If you eat like this for a year, that amounts to a “mysterious” 56 lbs showing up out of nowhere, like the worst magic trick ever.
Interestingly, the report states: “Underreporting of food — and therefore calorie intake — increases with age and is greater among women, people who are overweight…”
So the older you get the more likely you’re underestimating your food intake.
The solution: Use a calorie recording app like MyFitnessPal. But do NOT rely on your memory which, let’s be honest, likely isn’t what it was 10 years ago. Hence the miscalculation.
Instead, have it with you at the time you eat. Oh, what a pain! You may be thinking, which brings me back to my original question of staying in denial.
2. You’re burning far fewer calories than you believe
Apps that count steps, cardio machines that clock calories burned and watches that do the same make it easy peasy to know how much work and calories you’re actually burning, right?
If they were accurate, yes.
But they’re not.
Here’s the deep dish truth:
The number of calories you believe you’re burning on exercise machines is as optimistic as the “small number” of calories you think you’re consuming.
In short, it’s not.
Depending on the cardio equipment, you’re burning between 7 to 42% fewer calories than the machine readout leads you to believe, according to researchers at UC San Francisco’s Human Performance Center.
Using scientific measuring tactics, scientists found that cardio machines overestimate calorie burn by an average of 19 percent.
Here’s the breakdown by machine:
· stationary bike — overestimated calorie burn by 7 percent
· treadmill — ditto by 13 percent
· stair climber — by 12 percent
· elliptical — overestimates by a huge 42 percent [yikes!]
Machine wear and tear, the user’s metabolism rate, health history and fitness level all factor in to create a calorie burn that’s a rough estimate at best.
In other words, rewarding yourself with a glazed doughnut after your workout likely still leaves you erring on the side of belly fat accumulation.
But wait, there’s more!
3. Your fitness tracker is a big fat liar
You can’t hide behind your fitness tracker, either.
Whether not set properly or simply not all they’re cracked up to be, fitness trackers were largely misleading ranging from 27 percent to 93 percent inaccurate, according to a study by a team of Stanford researchers.
When you can’t trust your FitBit, what’s left?
I have a few suggestions to help you stay on track regardless of what your trackers, cardio machines:
- Track calories consumed without subtracting calories burned through exercise
Unless you’re doing hours of cardio, don’t subtract your calories (allegedly) burned when figuring out your calorie needs. Consider them bonus calorie burning points.
2. Leave wiggle room
Add a couple hundred calories to your overall calorie intake report as a “cushion,” to allow for variations in foods and miscalculating portions.
3. Put trackers in their place
Use trackers and apps as general guides but don’t depend on them for accuracy. Use your mirror and ability to button your pants instead.
Bottom line: Take an honest look at yourself, even if it’s uncomfortable. Realize it’s a simply a starting point — and the only way to make real progress.