After decades of crash dieting and little strenuous exercise (coupled with constant complaining about how "fat" she is), my mom has finally started going to the gym three days/week with a trainer. She seems really excited about it all, but after 3 weeks she is already complaining that she hasn't lost any weight. Somehow in her mind getting healthy=losing weight fast. What can I do or say to help her see the benefits of exercise and help her stop watching the scale?
Some women of our mothers’ generation grew up in times of fad diets, fitness infomercials, thigh masters, and low calorie foods. When they were young it was about being skinny, not strong or healthy and unlike how we are surrounded with accessible education on feeding our bodies with nutrient rich foods and exercising, they were perfecting their best cabbage soup recipe so they could lose 10 pounds by the weekend. I work constantly with my clients on this exact issue, day after day after day, and it can become overwhelming and frustrating.
I don’t blame your mom for wanting to see results fast and for not caring about the fact that she is getting stronger and healthier. We all know this, but ultimately, deep down, when we are working out, many of us are hoping to see the numbers on the scale drop. Right? So yes it is important to understand all of the other benefits of exercise and eating healthy but you also can’t deny that her mom’s ultimate goal is to lose weight.
Three weeks ago she decided to start climbing the mountain to her weight loss goal, and rather than opt for a quick ride up she is taking it step by step. It is at this three week mark where frustrations begin and people fail. Everything has seemed so hard up until this point and for what? Some sore muscles, achy bones and a starving appetite.
For those who only need to lose 5-10 pounds, this can be done in 3 or 4 weeks with some serious sacrifices and hard work. Anyone who’s experienced losing a few pounds over a few weeks knows what it is to hate every second of it. It’s the same for those who want to lose more only instead of a few weeks, it might be a few months. Or a year. So it’s understandable to feel discouraged and unmotivated.
Talk to your mom about accomplishing what she is trying to accomplish slowly so that she is still living a life that she loves while continuing to climb up the mountain. Coach her in making one change a week, and encourage her to lose one pound a week. Teach her about balance, about being able to have what she wants, but not all the time. Help her understand how to push herself in her workouts and how to enjoy eating healthy. Eating and being healthy does not mean starving yourself and exercising hours upon hours each day. Health means eating real foods that are delicious and filling and finding ways to exercise that you enjoy.
Help her learn what the wrong choices are and show her when it is ok to make them. Sit down with her and help her set small goals, goals which don’t directly focus on weight loss but in the end will result in it. For example, maybe next month she perfects a new vegetarian recipe each week. This is going to get her cooking healthy, nutrient rich foods which will provide her with the energy she needs to exercise, resulting in weight loss. Then for the month after that she tries one new activity each week, with you or a friend. This will open her eyes to new ways of exercising as well as continue to challenge both physically and mentally. Maybe she tries hiking, then water aerobics, then a spin class and a yoga class. Hold her accountable to her goals as well as support her in the process.
Help her understand that health isn’t a three week process. What she is creating for herself is a new way of living. She is creating a space where she is going to be happy and confident. Time is going to pass, it always does, so if she takes one step each day and loses one pound each week, next year at this time she will be 52 pounds lighter. And then when all of her friends start to ask her what she did to lose all of her weight so fast, she can educate them on how to become healthy the same way you did to her.
Good luck to you both.
Attached - Reese Witherspoon out in LA after a workout yesterday.