Here they are, the 5 things I no longer believe about diet and exercise:

  1. Relying on willpower is the only way to diet.

White knuckle your way into those skinny jeans…nope, nope, nope. First of all, willpower is an exhaustible resource. There are many of us that think if we do not have the willpower to overcome cravings or temptations, we must be weak. Willpower is highest in the morning. It re-rests itself, if you will, overnight. This is why you make great choices for breakfast (provided you have them in front of you.) and struggle to follow-through the rest of the day. I now know this and forgive myself when I feel like my willpower is waning-because it probably is. From that point forward, I make the best choices I can. Any step forward, no matter how small, is a step forward.

Bottom line, if you have to white knuckle your way through something, chances are it isn’t going to stick. I suggest picking a smaller goal, breaking the habit down into phases or ditching the dreaded habit and turning your energy toward something else. This will make it easier to move forward. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You are in control, not the “plan.”

  1. If you can’t stick to a plan, you must not want it enough.

Really?!? This one ties into #1 and is false by a landslide. If you are continuously failing your plan, it usually means your plan is:

(a) not realistic to your lifestyle,

(b) not providing your body with the nutrients you need on a daily basis. You will have intense cravings and lack of energy. IT IS HARD to follow a lifestyle like this, not to mention, very unhealthy and damaging for your body,

(c) you were never prepared for bumps along the way. You expected perfection and when you failed (because let’s face it-NOBODY is perfect and we ALL fail sometimes) you felt guilt and shame. SO, rather than accepting that bumps are normal, you decided it was impossible and you would never achieve the goals because you ‘must not be cut out for this.’ The lesson I learned from my own experience is Expect Imperfections. I expect to have a change in restaurant plans and have a piece of pizza instead of a salad. This doesn’t mean I don’t want it bad enough. This means I am human, things happen, and I will be fine.

Make choices you can see yourself committing to long-term, not just for 7, 10, 14 or 21 days. Long-term goals improve your health. Instant gratification from short-term plans are tied to vanity and are never completely satisfying.

Again, plan long term and anticipate setbacks. This way, you are able to see past the “failure” and know it isn’t a deal breaker.

  1. Having a cookie, cupcake or piece of candy will completely wreck my diet!

Doubtful. Enjoying sweets in moderation is something that actually keeps me on track. Now, having a box of cookies, 6 cupcakes and an entire bag of M&Ms at one sitting…. that just might throw me off a bit. So, I have a cookie or whatever I like to indulge in. I just do it in moderation.

My weight has never changed overnight simply because I had a cookie. I doubt yours will either. It is the consistency of our choices that produces results-not the moments. Put your effort into making consistent healthy choices and those moments when you indulge will not impact your results.

  1. A woman that lifts heavy weights will look like a man.

This makes me laugh. There is nothing further from the truth than this. If it were true it would need to sound more like this:

A women who is intentionally gaining muscle will:

lift heavy weights +

eat a TON of food +

train specifically for gaining muscle mass +

train harder than the average gym goer +

train longer than the average gym goer, which will result in:

A women that has more muscle than the average women…

…but still doesn’t “look like a man.”

I lift heavy weights. I love lifting heavy weights. It is empowering, and gives me energy, strength and confidence. Weight lifting has instilled in me the courage to attempt things I may have never dreamed of and the belief that I can rely on myself when needed.

I can and have had lifts of over twice my own body weight. I have never thought of myself as a manly looking woman. I train by lifting heavy weights. Some exercises I am only able to do a few reps due to the heavy weights, but I have never put on the type of muscle it takes to look like a man.

This brings me to one of my favorite points to make: Muscle is intentional. I have never heard of anyone lifting heavy weights once or twice and waking up the next morning finding huge muscles had popped up overnight. Muscles (especially big manly muscles) take time, planning and intentional actions. It will never happen overnight. In fact, you will have plenty of time to halt your progression because you WILL see it coming.

Now, strictly for entertainment purposes, I give you a completely sarcastic example of how these conversations go. By the way, I am one of the women who used to think heavy weights = man body. This could have been ME talking to a trainer several years ago…

Imagine if you will, I am training a new client. A women who has lifted before, usually sticking to those cute little pink weights made specifically for us ladies who want to “tone” only and avoid entirely that dreaded manly look. So, she comes to me, wanting to get that tight, firm body that has been eluding her for so long.

The following is an imaginary conversation between my tone seeking client and myself:

Me: Okay, today we will be graduating from those pretty pink paperweights and stepping it up a bit.

Her: Um, I’ve never lifted that heavy of weight before. I don’t want to look like a man remember?

Me: Yep, I remember, no manly muscles. Let me ask you this; have you ever picked up a full gallon of milk without using both arms? Or picked up your 50 lb child before? Can you do a few push-ups?

Her: Yes, I can do all of those things. I can also carry all my groceries in the house in one trip!!

Me: Wow, ALL your groceries in one trip? That can be some heavy lifting. Okay, I am confident you can lift this heavy weight. Let’s try it.

Her: Wow! I am lifting this heavy weight all on my own!! (after completing 3 bicep curls)

Me: Whoa, whoa, whoa… slow down there tiger. Let’s not get too crazy. After all, you don’t want to wake up with man muscles tomorrow morning, right? Put it down.

Okay, so you get my point, right?! Lifting weights can give the gift of instant gratification; confidence and we learn we are stronger than we think. However the one thing it will NOT do is install overnight man muscles. Like I mentioned, as far as I am aware, I have never heard of anyone doing 3 reps of heavy bicep curls and waking up 3 times the size they were when they went to bed. Have you? Exactly.

Again, just so we are clear, muscle gain is slower than you think. You WILL have the opportunity to see it coming and if by chance don’t like the tight, firm, feminine body those muscles are giving you, you will have plenty of time to slow your roll.

  1. Diet and exercise plans are a ‘one size fits all’ deal.

There is a reason there are so many diets out there…. they do not all work for everyone. The truth is we are all different. We have different tastes, satisfaction levels, workout preferences, schedules and lifestyles. Our plans should naturally be as unique and as individual as we are. This is what I loved learning the most. It allowed me to focus on how to attain my goals according to MY life, not some black and white piece of paper. Don’t allow someone else tell you what works for you. Know you can be in control of what you eat and how you reach your goals.

Now, this doesn’t mean go crazy and proceed “planless”. I touched on this in #2 a bit. Do what works for you. Pick small attainable goals and strive for them by adapting healthy habits that don’t cause you to white knuckle it.

What plan fits into your lifestyle? What plan do you see yourself being able to maintain throughout the years? Think outside the diet box, find something you can see yourself doing

Then “BAM” that is how you see results!

- Rachel Plumage

Ridge Fitness