Every year, a new wave of aspiring fitness students set a New Year’s resolution to finally get healthy – but the vast majority of them never reach their fitness goals. In 2020, 75 percent of people listed weight loss as a goal for the upcoming year, yet only 7 percent of people stick fully to their resolutions.
We can also see the effects of this by looking at obesity patterns in the United States. Currently, 73.6 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, and that number is consistently increasing.
Why is it that so few people ever reach their fitness goals? What’s stopping them from living a healthier lifespan?
Inadequate Mental Preparation
Arguably, the biggest issue is inadequate mental preparation. It's easy to say to yourself that you want to lose weight, but it's much harder to put forth the habits and practices that will actually lead you there. If you want a better chance at losing weight, you need to look at the situation rationally and reasonably.
Many people are guilty of at least one of the following when setting a new fitness goal:
· Underestimating the challenge. Let's say you live a sedentary lifestyle and you haven't exercised consistently in the past 2 years. You've gained 50 pounds in those 2 years and you get out of breath walking up the stairs. You set a goal to run a mile a day, every day until you lose the weight. Day 1, you'll be motivated to complete the mile, but day 2, you're going to be sore. You might not feel better until day 4, at which point, your motivation may be broken. If you want to be successful, you need to understand that most fitness goals are very challenging, and they may not go according to your plan.
· Optimizing for the short term. Some people fail because they only optimize for the short term. They have a weight loss goal, but their only real objective is to get to a target weight – not to stay at that weight indefinitely. With this short-term mindset, it’s easy to lose focus and allow your eating and exercise habits to slip.
· Failing to prepare for hard moments. In planning mode, people are optimists. They think about how much fun they're going to have working out and how proud of their choices they'll be when getting a salad for lunch – but they fail to prepare for the hard moments. They don't think about dessert temptations, sore muscles, embarrassing gym moments, and setbacks, so when negative experiences inevitably arise, they feel devastating.
If you've failed to achieve your fitness goal in the past, it might have been due to declining motivation. After a few weeks at the gym, you might start stalling out, unable to add much weight to your lifts. After a few weeks of clean eating, you might start having tough cravings for the old junk foods you used to love. After a stressful day at work, you might want to watch TV on the couch after your shift, rather than hitting the gym.
Hiring a personal trainer could be a great way to keep yourself motivated. You’ll have a coach and mentor who can help you identify your biggest demotivators – and defeat them.
Some people fail to reach their fitness goals because they set bad goals in the first place. It's good to set a challenging goal that forces you to break out of your comfort zone, but if your goal is literally unreachable, you're only going to set yourself up for disaster. For example, if you want to lose 100 pounds in 3 weeks and you only lose 8 pounds in week 1, you’ll feel incredibly disheartened – even though 8 pounds lost in a week is quite respectable.
Use SMART goal criteria to create better, more manageable goals for yourself. And make sure you set smaller “milestone” goals to achieve along the way.
Plateaus and Uncertainty
It’s common for even avid fitness enthusiasts to hit occasional plateaus. You might be unable to progress past a certain lifting weight, or you might fail to lose weight for a couple of weeks in a row. When this happens, some people take it as a sign that their hard work is for nothing – but plateaus are a natural part of the path to fitness. You have to keep working to get past them (and remember all the progress you’ve made so far).
It’s true that most people don’t reach their fitness goals, and that fact will likely remain true for the foreseeable future. But that’s not a death sentence for your fitness journey. As long as you understand the hardships that stand before you and you’re willing to remain adaptable, you can find a way forward.