7 reasons why you can’t lose the weight

One great fitness tip? Find a physical activity you love.
(Bret Hartman/For The Times)

Remember those New Year's resolutions you made with such optimism just a few months ago?

If you’re like most people, you’ve abandoned your vows to lose weight and get in shape. (Which explains the barely used NordicTrack treadmills on Craigslist, fitness DVDs still in their original packaging and all the low-carb diets dumped by Day 4.)

We asked Michelle Segar, a motivation scientist and the author of “No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness,” to help us get on track while there’s still time to crush our goals before 2017 rolls around.

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The inability to sustain motivation leads to some 67% of gym memberships going unused, said Segar, director of the Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan.

That’s because goals need to be made “thoughtfully and not out of a reaction based on an immediate discomfort we are feeling with ourselves and our bodies. Be mindful that life is busy, and so whatever you decide you want to change has to be in real ways that you will notice every day."

Here, are seven of the most common reasons why your health and fitness goals fall short – and Segar’s advice for helping you turn it around:

You’re a perfectionist

People who aim to work out “every day” after they buy a gym membership are more inclined to eventually stop going, Segar’s research shows. "It's the ones who come in just one or two days a week to start who keep their memberships active.” 

The fix: “Starting small is much more effective than jumping in with these huge goals," she says.

You’re afraid to experiment

"It's OK to say, 'I didn't like that high-intensity class.'  We're taught to approach exercise like dating, as if we're trying to find a life partner. But there's nothing wrong with seeing this as a series of experiments. It's the negative experiences from exercise choices that demotivate us."

The fix: Accept the idea of trying new things. 

You see it as a chore

The biggest impediment to success is to subscribe to the “no pain, no gain” ethos. But Segar says you’re more likely to stick with moderate, pleasant exercise -- something you don't dread the thought of -- and that will ultimately improve overall health and increase energy levels.

The fix: Find a physical activity you love.

You read too many magazines

Instead of aiming for a body like the models in GQ or the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Segar suggests focusing on immediate gratification. Saying, “I feel so energized after that dance class,” is more constructive than setting a goal to completely reshape your body. 

The fix: Forget the ridiculous goals. Make “health” and “wellness” your goals.

You made it all about ‘exercise’

Replace the word “exercise” in your vocabulary with the word “move.” "Walking counts as exercise. Something that doesn't make you sweat, where you don't have to change your clothes, counts as exercise.” 

The fix: Find ways to keep moving, every day. Examples: Break up your workday with a stroll around the office. Or, instead of meeting someone for coffee, get your drinks to go and walk while you chat. 

You’re glued to your gadgets

Yes, Segar’s talking about your pedometer. Believe it or not, her research shows that just the act of counting steps reduces the enjoyment of the walk.

The fix: "What will get you to stay active is your relationship with the activity, with how good it makes you feel.”

The scale rules your life

When trying to eat more healthfully, stop looking at the scale and focus on feeling better.

The fix: "Instead of thinking, 'I've got to lose these 50 pounds,’ think that you want to have more energy, and let your food choices be influenced by that. The more mindful we become, the more hardwired our choices can be. That way, you will choose the salad because it makes you feel good, rather than eating it because it's on your diet plan."


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