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What I wish I'd known starting out on my fitness journey

This month I celebrate my 12th “Fitiversary.” It’s what I call the anniversary of starting to exercise and what led to a transformation to a healthier me, physically and emotionally.

On that day I first stepped on the treadmill for 15 minutes, I had no idea it was a monumental moment. I had no expectations. After all, I had a long history of starting and stopping exercise and of yo-yo dieting.

And if you had told me that not only would I succeed after decades of failure, I’d go on to become a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Health Coach, helping others in their own journeys – I wouldn’t have believed that was even in the realm of possibility.

People are often surprised when they find out I used to struggle with obesity or that I ever had a hard time sticking with exercise and healthy eating.

There’s a reason I finally succeeded: It’s because I changed my mindset and approached the process entirely differently this time around.

I’d like to share four things I learned on this bumpy road to success.

1. Exercise is about more than just the scale

I realized that I needed to give up being obsessed with the scale. For me, focusing on the number on the scale would often lead to self-sabotage.

This time around, my biggest motivation for exercising was because I wanted to physically feel better. I was stiff and sore, and sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.

Before that, it had never occurred to me to exercise for any reason other than weight loss. By changing my thinking on that – and embracing exercise as a balm for my body and spirit – my entire motivation changed. For the first time in my life, I actually wanted to exercise.

Exercise, focusing on my health, and taking care of myself soon led me to want to eat better, too. Soon I finally started seeing some changes happening in my body.

I learned that progress is about more than just the scale. The scale is one measurement, but it’s not the only one.

If you are exercising regularly and weight loss or firming up is your goal, be sure to also track your body measurements. This way you can see how exercise is changing your body.

Consider other non-scale victories as well. For example: Have you formed a new exercise habit? Clothes feeling a little looser? Are you more energetic than you used to be? Less stiff and sore? Do you feel more in control of your health? Blood pressure or glucose levels improving? Sleeping better? Things like this are major progress and should be celebrated! Be sure to track these successes, too.

Participating in regular physical activity provides numerous health, fitness and wellness benefits. I’m so glad I started exercising. I feel like a completely different person. It’s one of the best decisions of my life.

2. Plateaus and setbacks are a normal part of the process

A fitness and weight loss journey is rarely a linear process, even though we assume it should be.

Our expectation is that if we do all the “right” things we will lose at least two pounds a week, every week. You’ve counted calories and the math says so, right? In reality, it doesn’t always happen like that.

While it can be frustrating when weight loss slows, plateaus aren’t a bad thing. They are just a part of the process. Weight loss can seem painfully slow as you’re going through it. But when you look back over time, you’ll see progress.

In the past, I gave up too quickly. I’d get impatient and frustrated when I didn’t see the big results I thought should be there.

This time, I didn’t put that kind of pressure on myself. It took me over a year to lose 60 pounds. It felt like it was going slowly at the time, but I didn’t give up. I kept on with my healthy habits. Sometimes, the scale might even show a pound or two gained, which could be due to water retention or muscle growth. Small fluctuations are normal – another reason to not obsess over the scale.

Give your body time to adjust. Just because you don’t see results right now doesn’t mean change isn’t happening. Keep exercising and eating healthfully. Keep tracking your non-scale victories.

Also, understand that setbacks can and do happen. That’s real life. When you get off track, simply get right back on again. Leave yesterday behind and move on.

3. There’s power in small changes

Instead of going on a drastic diet and fitness regimen this time, I began making one small change a week in both my eating and exercise. I then built upon that over time. What a difference this made! Finally, something I could actually stick with.

If you aren’t accustomed to exercising, it’s difficult to stay committed to an hour a day if you aren’t yet conditioned for that. This time, I started small, walking for 15 minutes a day.

Start with a little, then gradually work your way up to more. Even five or ten minutes of exercise a day is better than nothing and will benefit you. Focus on making it a daily habit. A great way to start exercising is by following a 4-week walking plan that will help you ease into the routine.

The same idea applies to healthy eating. The key to a lifestyle transformation is to be able to keep up the changes you’re making. When you start small and keep it doable, you can.

What is one small change that you can stick with?

4. It’s about a lifestyle, not a diet

In the past, I thought of diet and exercise as a time-limited program, as in, “For the next six weeks I’m going to exercise an hour a day, eat 1,200 calories, and lose 20 pounds!”

But making healthy eating and exercise truly a lifestyle is different than that. There is no end to a healthy lifestyle. It’s an ongoing process about finding what you like, what works for you, and what you will realistically incorporate into your busy life at this moment. Therefore, pick activities and foods you enjoy.

My Fitiversary marks the day I started, not the day I reached my weight loss goal. I celebrate the beginning of this life-changing journey to better health, and my decision to try “one more time” and sticking with it through all the ups and downs. It’s an ever-evolving path I am still on today, and always will be.

Exercise and healthier eating changed me, from the inside out. I don’t ever want to go back to the way I was, when I felt sick and tired.

Twelve years ago, I wish I could have seen into the future to see that I did it! That there is no secret magic to it. That I’d had what I needed all along.

I believe you do, too.

Could today be the start of your new journey? It can be, if you’re willing to take a first step. And this time, just keep going.

authors photo
Michelle Rogers
Michelle Rogers

Certified Personal Trainer

Michelle Rogers is a certified personal trainer who specializes in healthy living for adults over 40. She leads classes and workshops online at Reachable Fitness, her virtual exercise studio. Find out more at and connect on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @MRhealthyliving.

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