Why Are We So Wishy-Washy About Weight Loss?

Most of us are opinionated and somewhat set in our ways when it comes to our daily routine, our fundamental values, and our general outlook on life. We discuss and debate our opinions and beliefs around the dinner table, with our colleagues, and even with strangers we meet when stopping for coffee. I’m sure you have opinions on the current political climate, the status of the environment, the latest/greatest Netflix series, and the best place to get a good bagel and cream cheese (especially if you live in New York City). Opinions, we all have them, and most of us aren’t afraid to share them. So why is it that when it comes to our health (especially losing weight), we get very wishy-washy?

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Wishy-Washy Questions About Health & Fitness

We’re hard to pin down; we can’t quite settle on where we stand on this or that diet, whether we’ll start biking or rowing; we often lack a firm agenda and live in a place of questioning and doubt. The questions go something like this:

Q: Which diet should I try—Keto, Paleo, Weight Watchers, Atkins, 21 Day Fix?

Q: Should I join a gym or buy a Peloton bike and work out at home?

Q: How’s my budget going to handle the cost of eating healthier foods?

Q: What’s the best way to lose weight after age 40?

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Questions Answered

We go on and on with these questions when many of us know the answers. We aren’t articulating those answers or sharing them with our friends and family, but we aren’t nearly as confused as we let on. Just in case there’s still some dispute about how to answer the above questions, here are some reasonable (and workable) answers:

A: Use the diet/food plan that’s most in line with your eating style but keeps you in a calorie deficit. Studies show that most diets do that, so pick one and move on.

A: Go to the gym if you like working out with people and want a variety of exercise options; buy the Peloton bike if you want to work in solitude, like the motion of cycling, and can afford it. You can always work out at home with minimal equipment or by doing body-weight exercises.

A: Shop at Trader Joe’s, Costco or Aldi to buy budget-friendly healthy foods in bulk; buy produce that’s in season for extra savings.

A: See question #1: you will lose weight if you are in a calorie deficit; add a bit more strength training to preserve muscle and boost metabolism after 40, but the fundamentals of weight loss and fitness still apply as we age.

None of these answers are revolutionary, so we can stop asking them. We can stop feeling so wishy-washy about all this. It’s time to get a little more opinionated about our health goals.

Intentionality + Action Gets It Done

Intentionality—the idea that you have set your sights on a goal that you will take purposeful action to achieve—seems to be in short supply these days when losing weight and getting fit. We’d rather ask questions and be tentative about where our motivation will come from, how long it will take to develop a new healthy habit and how to sift through choices. Having intentionality (followed closely by taking action) separates the people who are successful at achieving a goal (by working on it incrementally and imperfectly) from those who just want to talk about a goal. If you’re the former, here are some actionable steps I offer up to reinforce your intentionality.

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Write It Down

I track my weight and body measurements in a special notebook each week. Along with jotting down feelings, challenges, and other rants, this journal serves as a living record of my health and fitness journey. I used it to lose 60 pounds in my 50s, so I know the power of writing and documenting personal stats in supporting intentionality.

I’ve used an assortment of journals, weekly meal planners and health and fitness trackers over the years to build intentionality and commitment toward my health goals. The benefits of journaling are substantial, but first and foremost, they are essential for getting you to articulate, write down and clarify your goals. Having a space to write down data about where you started and where you’re headed in your health journey is vital to success.

Stop Searching for Magic

Be certain in the fact that there’s no secret to losing weight and getting fit. It’s about hard work! Once you have a diet that puts you in a calorie deficit, and you add heart-healthy cardio and fat-burning strength-training workouts at least three times per week, you have discovered the “secret.” The real issue is taking action to support your meal plan and exercise routine consistently. Success becomes more about planning and consistency than the particulars of any given food plan or workout method.

Deal with Push-Back

Expect, plan and deal with push-back. Push-back is all the obstacles, setbacks, and challenges you will face while changing your health habits. Expect them, prepare options for how to deal with them, and work through your emotions when the push-back has you in its grip.

My most significant push-back is when the scale doesn’t spit out a number I think it should. My weight loss doesn’t always reflect my effort, so I’ve had to create alternative measures of success (body measurements, tracking increased endurance, stamina and strength during workouts, clothing sizes/fit). When the scale pushes back (and I know I did the work), I focus on another metric for a week or two to keep me sane.

Don’t Overthink It

You should not have to spend too much time thinking about your food plan and workout routine. A better use of your time would be to get the foods you need in the house and develop weekly meal planning/prepping time into your schedule. As long as you are eating healthy foods and moving your body, you are progressing in the right direction.

Sometimes we can suck the joy out of our healthy lifestyle by pushing too hard. Also, are we trying to improve our health through consistent, daily action? If the answer is “yes,” we know that we are in it for the long haul (and will reach success). There’s always tomorrow to build on the progress of today. You don’t and shouldn’t expect to change overnight.

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Prepare for the Long Haul

It’s time to get real and accept the fact that losing weight and getting fit takes time. If there is no magic (which as we know there isn’t), it’s time to accept that we will be eating healthy foods and exercising for a very long time to come. We will accept this new lifestyle with the expectation that we will still follow this plan (with slight tweaks as progress appears, and we need to adjust our actions and goals). The most important variable to success is consistency over a long period of time.

Please don’t start asking yourself questions that divert your intentionality away from your stated goals. Don’t get caught up in the loop of thinking your plan isn’t successful because you haven’t lost __ pounds this month or have trouble lifting a heavier weight. Remind yourself that you should be assessing performance about every three months to allow yourself to achieve (and see) progress. Those 3-month intervals of progress will stoke your motivation and keep you going.  

Once you have written down your goals, organized your health data in a tracker/journal, created a workable schedule for workouts, and planned for push-back, you can be confident that you are on the path to better health and fitness. You can set it and forget it, perhaps re-assessing your goals and progress every three months. You are no longer in a perpetual state of wishy-washiness. You know what you want, and you know how to get it. Your opinions are now working for you, and the full weight of your intentionality will lead you to success!

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