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A Doctors Guide To The Toxic Habits Harming Your Fitness Journey

fit man looking fatigued

With January behind us, you might be wondering where all your motivation to exercise has gone. 

Maybe you’ve lost steam after making some new year’s resolutions – or are you struggling to get outside now that it’s darker and colder? You could be harming your motivation without even knowing too, according to Bupa’s Associate Clinical Director – Dr. Elizabeth Rogers.

From constant comparison to crash dieting, here we reveal the toxic habits ruining your fitness motivation.

Comparing yourself to others

Remember – everyone’s fitness journey is unique. Comparing yourself to others can lower your self-esteem and cause you to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. The only person you should compare yourself to is who you were yesterday.

Focus on your own success – after your workout, why not write down a few achievements? It can boost your self-esteem and keep you motivated to achieve your fitness goals. It is human nature to compare yourself to others. However, it can leave you feeling anxious, stressed and lower your self-esteem.

Research has found that the more time people spend comparing themselves to others on social media, the more depressed they can feel.

Make sure you follow the right health and fitness accounts that leave you feeling positive and unfollow or delete any that cause you anxiety.

Viral fitness challenges

Online fitness challenges are everywhere, especially around this time of year. No matter what heart-raising activity you do, it’s so important that you’re exercising correctly.

Incorrect advice can leave you with strains, niggles, and even serious injury. Our previous research found 7.2 million eager exercisers have potentially been hurt or injured during lockdown from exercise, with men twice as likely to injure themselves.

Whilst it’s great to try something new in your fitness journey, not using the correct form can reduce the impact of your workout and increase your risk of injury. If you’re keen on trying something new, why not see what local classes are on offer in your local area?

Crash dieting

A worrying trend has emerged over the last few months, with more people turning to Google for extreme weight loss ideas.

A comparison of our searching habits over the last two years has shown a rise in people searching for crash diets in 2021 to help ditch the lockdown weight, including 387% more people searching for ‘extreme weight loss methods in 2021.

Changing your eating habits every now and again is natural, and so is committing to a healthier, balanced diet to kickstart the new year. However, some extreme diets can have serious health consequences, and it’s worrying to see such an increase in people searching for these dangerous forms of weight loss.

Often, fad diets seem attractive because they promise fast results, however, extreme diets can pose a risk to your health and can leave you fatigued, unmotivated and your immune system may be weakened.

Skipping meals, cutting out certain food groups and overexercising aren’t the right solution for healthy and sustainable weight loss.

If you’re looking to lose weight, you must do it gradually and adopt healthy habits, along with a health professional’s guidance.”

You’re training too much

Our muscles need time to recover after exercise, and when you push yourself too far during a workout you compromise your body’s ability to bounce back from recovery quickly – leaving you feeling achy and sore.

When pushing yourself too hard, you may not enjoy your workout, and this can harm your motivation. Exercise is great for boosting your mood and releasing endorphins, but once you start to lack motivation to go to the gym or begin to dread a workout, chances are you’ve trained too hard.

If you feel as though your form is off and you’re struggling to complete a training session, it’s time to let your body rest.

Three steps for a healthier relationship with fitness, according to Bupa’s Dr. Elizabeth Rogers:

  1. Think positively about your body

Gradually and safely losing excess weight can be beneficial for your health, but it’s important to consider where your desire to lose weight is coming from.

Pressures from social media, magazines, and TV to look a certain way may be a negative influence on the way you feel about how you look.

Having a positive body image generally means you feel comfortable with your appearance. Take note of your attitude towards your body and your weight. 

For example, if you always filter and edit photos of yourself before posting them on social media, take a second to stop and reflect on why you feel the need to do that.

Thinking honestly about your attitude in this way may help you to challenge negative thoughts and adjust them.

  1. Don’t pressure yourself

It can be tempting to beat ourselves up when we steer off-track or things don’t go to plan, but it’s important to give yourself a break.

Research shows that people who are self-compassionate are more likely to keep going and achieve their goals in the long term.

Self-compassion is extending kindness towards yourself in the face of failure, making sure your inner voice is gentle and encouraging.

If you’re less self-critical, you’re more likely to pick yourself up and carry on after a slip up. So, if you skip a workout, don’t be too hard on yourself.

  1. Distract your mind

When you feel an urge to exercise for the wrong reasons, find a way to distract your mind. For example, reading your favourite book or practicing relaxing techniques – like mindfulness. 

Also, if you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you’re not exercising (including anxiety, restlessness, and guilt), it’s important to speak to a health professional