It’s a fact of life: if you’re on a path, you’re bound to hit an obstacle or two. This is true whether the path is a literal one dotted with construction zones and stoplights, or a philosophical path strewn with setbacks and unexpected events. Your path to living a healthier lifestyle is, unfortunately, not immune to this fact. And to make things even harder, many of the barriers you’ll likely face as you try to get fit and/or lose weight are often hidden; disguised as benign or even helpful.
Curious about how to identify what might be holding you back, and what to do about it? Below we’ve listed some of the most common, and most surprising, health setbacks you might be falling victim to right now.
The “free” trap
Fat-free and sugar-free packaged snacks line grocery store shelves with promises of happy, guiltless snacking. Except they’re not. The price you pay for the absence of fat and sugar is often ingesting a myriad of unnatural, unpronounceable ingredients that are a far cry from the food’s natural, original state. For example, did you know that food manufacturers must add in all kinds of artificial chemicals and flavors to make that fat-free food taste as good as it did with its natural fats? And these artificial ingredients, including modified food starch, high fructose corn syrup, diglycerides, and hydrolyzed vegetable protein, can affect your hormones, making it much harder to lose weight.
And if you’ve gotten yourself into a diet soda habit, you might want to think again. Sugar-free is far from trouble-free. Researchers at Purdue University found that artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and surculose can cause obesity, heart problems, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. There’s some bitter irony for you. Part of the reason for this is that when you consume these sweeteners your body expects a surge in glucose. Then, when it doesn’t get it, your cravings redouble their efforts, often causing you to reach for even more sweets than you originally would have. Plus, other research shows that those who partake of artificial sweeteners end up having lower tolerance for more complex tastes, like fruits and vegetables. Also, the innocent-sounding caramel color that gives your diet soda its trademark dark brown hue has been linked to cancer, a compromised immune system, and the activation of allergies.
The “good enough” trap
So you’ve had your session with your trainer, and you’re good to go, right? Not so fast, gym rat. You won’t actually know if you worked out to your potential until the next day or two when you see how your muscles feel. Your goal is to feel mildly sore in the muscles you worked. This way you know that you stressed your muscles enough for them to develop micro-tears, and the fibers will heal stronger and larger than before. It can be easy to get in a workout rut, just doing your same-old, same-old, and never truly challenge your muscles and endurance. Your trainer can make sure that you get appropriately challenged and pushed, each and every session.
The “too busy” trap
Yes, you are indeed busy, with many demands on your time, and can’t imagine how you’d fit workouts into your weekly grind. But making time for sessions with your trainer? They’re every bit as important as your standing coffee date or happy hour. Start by making one appointment with your trainer every week. Then slowly incorporate one or two more weekly sessions. If you just simply can’t see how it’s possible, ask others how they manage to find time to exercise, and use them as inspirations for your own journey. Also, find ways to exercise throughout your daily schedule. Have a long conference call? Work in some squats or power walking while your team members drone on. Better yet, try to incorporate “walking meetings” with your co-workers, where everyone sets out for some sunshine and cardio while you work through the latest customer requests.
Barriers are a reality on your path to fitness, but they don’t have to be a dead end. Learning to identify what’s holding you back will help you to overcome, push forward, and stay strong.