Overcoming Challenges

No matter how experienced you are, no matter how many accomplishments, and no matter how many battles you have won, you will still face challenges. And that is exactly what we will discuss today- challenges related to long-term weight management and how to overcome them! Challenges can be intrinsic or extrinsic, but no matter where they come from, those who successfully maintain a healthy weight and workout routine find ways to overcome the challenge! 

Intrinsic challenges include things like stress, lack of time, emotional eating, and major life events that affect us emotionally. Intrinsic challenges arise internally- they come from our emotions, perceptions, and ability to manage priorities. On the other hand, we experience extrinsic challenges due to external influences, like staying on track during holidays or parties, our home environments, relationship changes, and unsupportive peers. We might deal with either one or both at the same time. These things are barriers to success, but they can be overcome! And the more often we overcome challenges, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, the easier it becomes- you’ll find new confidence and resolve each time you each time you make the healthier choice!

So, how do we overcome intrinsic challenges? This can be a little tricky, and different coping techniques might be used in different scenarios. You might have to handle daily stressors differently than a major life event, but there are various ways to cope with the stress and emotions that may lead you astray. Turning to food for comfort is something that has happened to most of us at some point in our lives. “Eating our feelings” is a universally recognized problem, and when faced with the urge to eat as a coping mechanism, remember that the comfort you might feel from eating is a short-term solution with potential long-term problems. 

If you are experiencing bouts of depression or anxiety that are impacting your daily life, the best solution is always to reach out to a mental health professional who can teach you ways to cope with difficult emotions. If you don’t have that option, a few things you can try to help you process stress, anxiety, and depression are journaling, breathing exercises, mindful moments, and taking a walk when you feel the urge to eat your feelings, among other things. Exercise has been well documented to lessen symptoms of depression and anxiety (as well as other mental issues) both immediately following a workout and long-term, so if you are not already on a workout plan, starting one will help as well! At the end of the day, there are many options other than turning to food, and other options will serve you better in the future. 

Of course, if you can identify a specific stressor or trigger that causes you to overeat if you can eliminate that stressor, that is always best! We sometimes do things or sacrifice our time instead of caring for ourselves. Remember, self-care is important! If you can’t, it is always ok to reach out to a friend or family member if you need to talk to someone! If it’s boredom you are affected by, because sometimes we eat because we are just plain bored, get up and move or reinvest time into a hobby or socialize instead! As always, it is almost always productive to combat negative emotion or stress with physical activity, and it kills two birds with one stone- not only does it help you overcome intrinsic challenges related to diet, but it also keeps you on track with your fitness goals!

Extrinsic challenges are easier to overcome for many people but can still be challenging. Participants in various studies consistently noted that having clear, personalized activity and eating goals that they prioritized and continually reassessed based on life situations and projected outcomes (like we discussed in our segment about goals!) helped them stay motivated to stay on track. This was particularly useful in situations such as holidays or celebrations where they were confronted with unhealthy food and alcohol. Next time you attend an event, remember to arrive prepared! It’s ok to indulge sometimes, but if you know it will send you veering off course, make a plan. Know what you will and will not allow yourself to eat or drink that day, and do your best to ignore any unsupportive peers or family members because, at the end of the day, people who are successful find motivation from within! 

Everyone who starts out (or continues) a fitness journey will face challenges, sometimes foreseen and sometimes unforeseen, along the way. It can be hard when faced with obstacles- you have to find the resolve to stick to a diet and workout plan, but the more often you overcome challenges, the easier it becomes! You gain confidence in overcoming intrinsic or extrinsic challenges and know you can do it no matter what life throws you!