‘I can’t lose weight or get fit because…’

02 Dec 2022

Don’t let negative thinking stand in your way – here’s how to push past those excuses and get motivated Is your kitchen full of forgotten diet gadgets, or your wardrobe hiding your fitness kit? You’re not alone – people who crash diet can regain up to 65% of lost weight within a year,1 while nearly 25% of us who join a gym will quit within six months.2

It’s time to give up giving up. Here are the most common excuses for ditching a healthy eating or exercise regime – with some simple solutions.

‘I’m always hungry’

Cutting down on calories or missing meals can leave you hungry, irritable and obsessing about food.3 Before long, your good intentions will only go one way.

Dietitian and nutritionist Azmina Govindji says quick-fix diets can make us feel hungry if they don’t include enough filling, high-fibre foods. She says, ‘The trick is to eat slow-release carbs or low-GI foods, like porridge, beans and lentils.’

These foods can help you stay feeling fuller for longer, so you're less likely to get hungry between meals4 despite eating less.

‘I can’t afford the gym’

You don’t need to join a gym to get fit. Here are some ways to work out for free:

  • join your local parkrun– free 5k runs in parks across the UK
  • try a home workout – search online for free workouts, or check your library for fitness DVDs
  • get a free day pass from your local gym – enjoy a range of new classes and facilities
  • download the NHS’ Active10 app– a brisk 10-minute walk still counts as exercise

‘I always put the weight back on’

You could be yo-yo dieting, otherwise known as weight cycling, which is when you repeatedly lose weight, then gain it back.

‘Instead of the next quick fix, make just one change at a time to your eating so it fits in with your normal routine,’ says Govindji. Start by filling half your plate with veggies, a quarter with protein, such as tofu or chicken, and a quarter with healthy carbs, like wholemeal pasta or bulgur wheat.

These foods are digested slowly, and filling up on veg, salad and wholegrains also helps you cut calories, so you’ll feel satisfied but can still lose weight.6

‘I’m far too busy’

A workout doesn’t need to mean spending hours on a treadmill: a study in PLOS One reported that a 10-minute workout, including just one minute of sprinting, had the same heart-boosting effects as 45 minutes of cycling.7 No time to exercise during the week? Become a ‘weekend warrior’. A 2017 study found that cramming all your weekly workouts into one or two sessions over the weekend could still improve your health and fitness.8 If you’re really pressed for time, high intensity interval training (HIIT) is your friend. You could even get fit in just 4 minutes9 – that’s only an ad break!

Handpicked article: At home HIIT workout

‘I have a slow metabolism’

‘The number of people actually diagnosed with a slow metabolism is very low,’ says Govindji. ‘Larger people actually have a faster metabolism, because they need more energy to function.’10 There are some things that can slow your metabolism, including not getting enough sleep, too few calories, or a condition called hypothyroidism in which your body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones.11

‘You can get your thyroid hormone levels checked, but blaming a slow metabolism is often a self-limiting belief that can hold you back,’ warns Govindji.

In reality, you may be underestimating how many calories you eat. Try keeping a diary for four or five days, writing down everything you eat and drink. Once you spot any pitfalls, you can start to make positive changes.

Handpicked article: Metabolism myths busted

‘I’m always too tired’

It sounds counter-intuitive, but hitting the gym can stop you feeling so tired. US researchers found that moderate-intensity exercise, such as cycling for as little as 20 minutes, can increase your energy levels.12 However, avoid exercising if you’re genuinely exhausted, as this can lead to injury. Extreme tiredness could be caused by conditions like anaemia, coeliac disease or chronic fatigue syndrome.13 If you feel tired all the time, see your GP for a check-up. Shop Weight Management Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies. Written by Nick Hopkirk on November 14, 2018 Reviewed by dietitian and nutritionist Azmina Govindji on November 29, 2018

1. Dulloo AG, Montani JP. Pathways from dieting to weight regain, to obesity and to the metabolic syndrome: an overview. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25614198
2. Amy Iggulden. The Telegraph. So How Long Before You Give Up The Gym? Available from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1538419/So-how-long-before-you-give-up-the-gym.html
3. EurekAlert! Hate to diet? It's how we're wired. Available from: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/hhmi-htd042215.php
4. Jo Lewin. BBC Good Food. Spotlight on… low-GI. Available from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/spotlight-low-gi
5. Kim MK, et al. Associations of Variability in Blood Pressure, Glucose and Cholesterol Concentrations, and Body Mass Index with Mortality and Cardiovascular Outcomes in the General Population. Available from: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.034978
6. As Source 4
7. Gillen JB, et al. Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment. Available from: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075
8. O’Donovan G, et al. Association of “Weekend Warrior” and Other Leisure Time Physical Activity Patterns With Risks for All-Cause, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer Mortality. Available from: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2596007
9. Men’s Health. The unbelievable 4-minute cardio workout. Available from: https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a19516799/the-unbelievable-4-minute-cardio-workout/
10. NHS. How can I speed up my metabolism? Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/metabolism-and-weight-loss/
11. Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome. Six reasons for a slow metabolism. Available from: https://www.wilsonssyndrome.com/slow-metabolism/
12. Loy BD, O’Connor PJ, Dishman RK. The effect of a single bout of exercise on energy and fatigue states: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/21641846.2013.843266

13. NHS. 10 medical reasons for feeling tired. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/10-medical-reasons-for-feeling-tired/