We may have (sort of) managed to avoid falling off the fiscal cliff this year, but there's another cliff just ahead: the fitness one! With the start of the New Year, millions of Americans resolved to get—and stay—fit and healthy, but as February creeps along, that resolve wavers, little by little, until finally, many people throw in the towel altogether.
In fact, a study done by Gold's Gym shows that today, February 7, is the "Fitness Cliff." Although there's a steady decline in gym check-ins beginning on January 30, the biggest drop in gym sign-ins occur today, 38 days out from the New Year.
"A lot of people have a mindset where they think, 'Well, I just went through this 30-day ordeal, and now it's not working,'" says Belisa Vranich, Psy.D., an author and clinical psychologist. "The psychological reasoning behind it is two-fold: Every year our world moves faster, so we assume that everything, including weight loss, will happen faster and faster. But with lifestyle changes, that's not how it works. In fact, because we're so surrounded by temptation, such as high-calorie foods, permanent changes often go really slowly."
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Although it can be frustrating when you're dieting and exercising to see the scale stubbornly refuse to budge, studies suggest that if you want to lose weight in the long term, slow, gradual weight loss is better than fast weight loss, Vranich says. "People often think they're going to have this motivation and see an incredible makeover. The fact is, if you're doing it right, the changes you see will be much more subtle."
If you feel you're about to fall off the weight-loss resolution bandwagon (or already have), first remember that you're not the only one! Then try these simple tips from Vranich to get back on track.
1. Make yourself your No. 1 priority. "Women are often caregivers who put others' needs ahead of their own," Vranich says. "I had a client once who told me she spent a lot of time in the kitchen making sandwiches for her son and husband to take for lunch at work or school. I told her, 'They can make their own sandwiches. Take care of yourself.'"
2. Find exercise you like. This is one of our favorite pieces of advice at SHAPE. If you hate spin class, don't go, but if you love salsa dancing, go as many times as you want, Vranich recommends. "Don't think you have to be crawling across the gym in pain to get in shape."
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3. Give yourself a pep talk. Think about it in terms of love: "You love your body, so you want to fuel it right and treat it really well," Vranich says. "Take care of your body the way you'd take care of your kids. You need it to last a long time."