Have you been putting on weight? A study at the University of Washington found that even though Americans, on average, are getting fatter every year, most people will tell you they’re actually slimming down.
That kind of denial can have serious consequences. “We need to be in touch with how our weight is changing, otherwise a person can go from simply overweight to seriously obese in just a few years,” says study author Ali Mokdad, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the University of Washington.
Some of the most common excuses we’ve heard to deny our expanding waistlines:
“I ate out a lot this weekend.” After a couple days of sitting still and stuffing your face (sound like your summer vacation?) it’s possible to notice a little bloating, says Ryan Andrews, R.D., C.S.C.S, a coach at Precision Nutrition. But gaining more than a couple pounds of fat takes a steady regimen of bad habits.
“I’m putting on muscle.” If you’re truly making strength gains, you’ll see it in your arms, shoulders, chest, and legs, not so much around your waist. (Build muscle and blast fat with Speed Shred, the new follow-along 8-DVD series from Men’s Health that you can do in your living room.)
“My clothes keep shrinking in the dryer.” Natural fibers might shrink in the first couple washes, but clothes you bought a year or two ago shouldn’t suddenly look like a sausage casing on you.
“They’re making these clothes smaller.” In fact, clothes are generally getting bigger. It’s called “size inflation,” also known as vanity sizing, where fashion labels have increased the dimensions of what defines certain sizes to accommodate bulging national waistlines and sensitive egos. It’s more common in women’s clothing than in men’s, since most of our sizes are based on actual measurements. If you’re in doubt, go ahead and measure your waistband to see if it’s really 34 inches.
“This scale is wrong.” It’s not.
Ready to face reality? Here’s how the experts say to psyche out your excuses and motivate yourself to get back in shape.
1. Set Long-Term Goals
Attempts to give people short-term reasons to lose weight—such as a cash reward—usually fail at creating lasting changes, according to a recent study at Northwestern University. That’s because big-picture motivators, like wanting to be able to keep up with your kids in the backyard or living longer, are easier to maintain. “There’s not enough reason to stick with a program if you feel like someone is making you lose weight, or even if you’re simply trying to look good,” explains study author Arlen Moller, Ph.D., a research professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern.
2. Find Friends to Push You
Recent research has shown that online forums can help boost your drive to stick with a diet plan. Look for a fitness or weight loss message board with lots of active members. (Our suggestion: The Men’s Health Belly Off! Club.) Instead of expecting a cheering squad, you’ll have better results if you express your support for other struggling dieters, says Moller. “When we give advice, we want to not be a hypocrite and that motivates us to live up to our own suggestions,” he says.
3. Ignore Your Sour Mood . . .
. . . and hit the gym anyway. “Nobody feels motivated all the time to eat right and exercise, but fit people do it anyway,” says Andrews. Plus by powering through a tough workout, your body will adapt and the same routine might feel like a cakewalk tomorrow. Need a kick? Pick one of these 20 Ways to Stick to Your Workout.