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You are not too fat to start exercising

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Healthy living isn’t easy. For some, it comes naturally, but for those folks who are already overweight, large enough that it’s difficult or even painful to do what thinner people can do, it’s even tougher to get started. Here are some tips to help.

When you’re already overweight, a lot of the activities that other people just pick up without trying are either impossible or feel like death. High Intensity Interval Training? Hot yoga? Insanity? Crossfit? Even jogging? You’ve got to be kidding. It’s not that those workouts don’t work. It’s just that doing them when you’re a beginner, or large enough that they do more harm than good is a ticket to hating and giving up early, and feeling ashamed for ever having bothered to try.

Keep in mind, we’re not just talking about someone who’s a tad overweight, where you can push past the discomfort. We’re talking about those of us who have enough extra weight on our bodies that jumping into a running regiment or crossfit workout isn’t just unpleasant, it’s painful, and can be harmful to your health.

Before You Begin: Cut Yourself Some Slack
This may perhaps be the single most important tip to ensure your success: Approach everything you do from a place of self-compassion. It may sound silly, but there’s hard science to back up the idea.

Popular weight loss stories on TV almost always start with someone “fed up” with their looks or health problems. While those things can be triggers, they’re never motivators that stand the test of time. Dismiss the people who’ll tell you to “just go to the gym,” or “just put down the fork,” or that it all boils down to “eat less and move more.” Sound bites don’t keep you motivated. Research shows that self-compassion, however, allows you to think of exercise with a growth mindset, as a skill, something that you can improve.

Healthy Living Is a Skill You Improve At, Not a Thing You Just “Do”
The next thing you have to remember is that a healthy lifestyle is a skill you work and get better at, not a thing you just get up and start doing one day. If you expect to just hop on a stationary bike, start lifting, or turn your diet upside down without challenges or setbacks, you’re setting yourself up for trouble. Approach your health and fitness goals like you would any other skill that you’re learning.

If you fell and scraped your knee the first time you attempted to ride a bike, you wouldn’t beat yourself up and say “something is horribly wrong with me…I just don’t have the willpower and discipline required to ride this bike,” would you? Nope, you’d realize that you just don’t have that skill yet. You just need to get better at it and learn how to control the bike when you hit different terrain…a bumpy road or a patch of grass, for example.

Find Something You Enjoy Doing, and Start From There
Getting into the right mindset is only half the battle. The rest, obviously, is actually putting your plans into motion. If you’re already struggling with your weight, or if you have no idea where to start, this can be one of the biggest hurdles to get over. What kind of exercise should you do, and how much? How can you tell if it’s working? How can you get the biggest bang for your diet and exercise buck, as it were?

Focus On What You can Do right now, Not On the Finish Line
Once you’ve figured out what you want to do, whether it’s a karate class, a half-hour of Zumba after work every day, or dumbbells while you watch TV, you have to get started. Start slow, and focus on what you’re physically capable of. If you’re heavyset or sedentary, don’t expect an explosive start. Start where you are with what you have. Initially, this may be limited to a few modified bodyweight exercises such as push ups from counter tops (or other elevated surfaces) and bodyweight squats.

Think of Healthy Habits Like a Video Game: Keep Your Life Bar Full
Once you’ve started, listen to your body. You’ll get immediate feedback that will help you adjust and adapt. Imagine that your motivation to lose weight is represented by a life bar in a video game. You know, the ones that decrease when your character gets hit and takes damage. This life bar starts sky high and decreases over time. If it dwindles down to 0, you lose motivation to get in shape. This bar has a few attributes:

Things that are painful/unenjoyable OR require the use of limited resources like time and willpower decrease this life bar.
-Conversely, seeing tangible results increases this life bar. Tangible results are: Weight lost, inches lost, seeing results in the mirror, etc. Beware for false results like “steps taken.” They may increase your life bar in the short run but once you realize it doesn’t mean anything, they can backfire.

-Things that are done based on “habit” neither decrease nor increase this life bar.
Don’t Do It Alone: Track Your Progress, and Get Others to Help
Finally, whatever you do, don’t do it on your own. You’ll have much greater success if you work out with the help or support of friends or loved ones. There’s something to be said for keeping your goals private so you don’t feel bad when you have setbacks (and don’t have to announce your setbacks publicly), but having a support network around you is extremely beneficial. Enroll a personal cheerleading squad, whether it’s online or in person, and start tracking your activities. Don’t use tracking as a way to obsess over results though.


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