Gym memberships seem to be the easy answer to losing weight since money will be withdrawn from our accounts whether we show up or not. It helps us formulate a habit of exercising if we can just stick with it for a few days, and the environment lends itself to success. (Who wants to look like the Michelin Tire Man around all of those hard bodies?) Many of us join, particularly at the beginning of the year, with the best of intentions.
But, as anyone in the health club industry will tell you, membership falls off by the end of March when new members have become discouraged by their failure to meet their weight loss goals. That’s unfortunate since it doesn’t have to be the case. Here are three ways to stick with your gym membership when others are quitting — and reap the benefits of good health for life:
1. Understand the role of your diet in weight loss. Exercise alone is not very effective for weight loss. You need to learn how to eat. The real reason the dreaded scale does not budge with your serious exercise endeavor is the fact that our bodies are homeostatic wonders.
They will find balance no matter what we do to them, to what environment they are exposed, or what stressors they are placed under. With the induction of exercise into a daily regimen, calories are utilized (as we hoped and wished). We have been repeatedly informed that weight loss is a function of calories in to calories out. You are bound to gain weight with more calories being consumed than utilized, and you will lose weight when caloric expenditure exceeds intake — i.e. the purpose of our gym membership.
Unfortunately, our bodies quickly figure this out and subconsciously (or not) start to consume more calories to make up the difference. Homeostasis is one of nature’s durable laws — like taxes, it is unavoidable. Your body’s ability to maintain its current condition is surprisingly powerful. Unless you work on your diet, you’ll lose your motivation to continue your exercise because you won’t get the results that you seek. You need to understand how food impacts you in terms of total caloric intake, the macro-nutrients involved (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) if you really want to reach your weight loss goals.
2. Find an “accountabilabuddy.” A friend, a loved one, your co-worker, a personal trainer may be conscientious for your success. We all know the strength in numbers. This most certainly applies to exercise as well. Long term compliance to exercise protocols has demonstrated that support network and/or group participation are essential for success.
3. Monitor your progress correctly. Trusting the scale as the only measure of your success (or failure) is like asking your doctor to fix your toilet. He or she might be able to do it, but you can certainly be more prudent in your choice. With your new found exercise effort, you need to follow both objective and subjective data. Objective data is information that is impartial or independent of the user’s frame of mind or input. This would include blood pressure, cholesterol levels, cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, how your clothes fit, blood sugar, and most importantly, body composition (lean mass and fat mass).
A lot of us tend to gain weight with an exercise program. Are we getting fatter, or leaner? Is that weight muscle or fat? Tracking your body composition is an excellent way to differentiate the two and allows you to see your progress on a more objective level. Subjective data is information that is biased or inclined by the user’s state of mind or perception.
This set of data includes energy levels, cognitive abilities, moods, hunger, how one is sleeping, sexual vigor and satisfaction, etc. If you monitor your exercise labors by following this information, you are much more likely to stick to your gym membership for the long run.
Once you’ve understood the role of your diet in weight loss, found someone to share your exercise with and correctly track how it is impacting you, you’ll find yourself meeting with successes that you can measure and appreciate. These will come in the form of not only the attainment of the body you desire, but the health you have sought as well. You’ll find that your gym membership becomes a necessary and enjoyable part of taking care of yourself now, and for the future. And you’ll become as committed to that gym membership as you are to every other important relationship and responsibility that are part of your life.
Dr. Warren Willey is the medical director of the nationally recognized, physician directed, Walk In Weight Loss program and author of “What Does Your Doctor Look Like Naked: Your Guide to Optimum Health.” Visit him online at www.walkinweightloss.com, and www.eatright4u.com.