‘Why self-doubt is normal’: Alex Neilan reveals his secrets to a healthier life

Alex Neilan is not interested in fads or magic potions. As the architects behind one of the largest healthy living support groups, Neilan and his team are helping a new wave of women achieve long-lasting change.
Image: Getty

Women over 50 are among the most left-behind groups in the fitness world. Countless supplements, trends, and programs vie for their money but care little about the outcome, let alone how long it lasts.

Enter Alex Neilan. Dubbed ‘The Sport Dietitian,’ his Sustainable Change Programme is a force of empowerment for thousands. At its core are some vital choices that can transform how women achieve healthier weights in their 50s and beyond.

“Our role is to help ladies believe in themselves and for once put themselves first,” Neilan proclaims. “We believe it’s not about what you achieve temporarily but what you can sustain.”

With health and mobility as his focus, Neilan aims to help one million people live longer and happier lives. His core values—sustainability, overdelivering, instilling belief, and care—form the basis of a revolutionary approach to a healthier life.

Meanwhile, Neilan’s unique methodology enables sustainability to thrive within his 68,000-strong online support group and 3,000-plus client base. Dynamic and personalized nutrition, progressive overload and resistance training, one-to-one accountability and support, and mindset change strategies are the tools in his locker. He answers age-old questions like ‘how to fix a slow metabolism?’ with informed precision.

It might sound daunting, but Neilan believes that recognizing the challenge and tackling it head-on is the only way to succeed in the long term. Here are some of the important concepts to grasp when starting your journey toward healthy, sustainable changes:

Put off procrastination

We’re all guilty of leaving things to the last minute sometimes. But procrastination, ‘waiting for the right time,’ or ‘waiting until you’re in the right mindset’ are some of the most crippling self-limiting beliefs that lead to a long-term struggle.

Neilan believes we need to learn how to achieve and, most importantly, sustain results amongst everyday life stress and obstacles, not outside of them. During these times of adversity, self-care needs to be made a priority. Applying a more holistic view encourages women to prioritize things that will help them and leave behind those that won’t.

Alex Neilan. Image: Supplied

“Continuing to put yourself at the bottom of the list reduces your self-worth, decreasing the likelihood of taking action in the future,” he explains. “Procrastination is the same as saying ‘I quit.’”

Neilan’s solution? Compartmentalize. Grouping tasks into those that will progress your well-being and others that contribute to a better lifestyle is the key to making your goals more attainable.

Reset after setbacks

“You only fail if you stop trying,” the qualified dietitian states. “We show people that they have not failed in the past—the methodology they were given was just unsustainable.”

If you’re facing an overwhelming conundrum like maintaining a healthy weight during menopause, it’s natural to fear failure. Instead of viewing past experiences through a negative lens, find a regimen targeted toward your goals that you’ll feel encouraged, not scared, to work on.

You will have slips, but how can you use them to serve your purpose? How can you make the lessons greater than the experience? What are your wins? What new habits are now part of your week?

How can I make my learning greater than my experience? What is this teaching me? What have I done well today? Neilan encourages asking yourself a few behavior-change questions to change your perception of your current situation—because 90% of life is how you react to it.

Normalize naysaying

People around you may make negative or discouraging comments about your lifestyle changes.

While they may mean to help, the reason for their doubts is usually that they are justifying their own inaction or because their perception of a healthy weight is skewed. With more than 66% of people struggling with their weight, is it any wonder that we now often perceive a healthy weight as too thin?

“Self-doubt is normal,” Neilan affirms. “The beautiful thing is that if you have self-doubt, it means you are taking it seriously. You’re trying to do something outside of your comfort zone. You’re not sitting still; you’re not shying away from a better life—instead, you are fighting for a better one.”

Waiting until you have no self-doubt is like not having your first driving lesson until you already know how to drive.

You learn that on the way. And if Neilan and his team have helped over 3,000 people move toward a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, is there any real reason you can’t have that either?

Prioritize your progress

If you’re a woman over 50, you’re probably used to putting others’ needs before yours. It’s time to change how you look at self-care.

The best form of selflessness is becoming your best self. Neilan and his team of dietitians, psychologists, physiotherapists, personal trainers, and behavior change coaches have crucial strategies to help women reclaim their lives.

“We’ve been brought up to believe that putting ourselves first is selfish,” The Sports Dietitian says. “But if you keep coming last, your health deteriorates, your mobility deteriorates, your family takes care of you, you become more isolated, and you miss out on doing things with the people who matter. That is why self-care is the most selfless thing you can do.”

Also, you have to be careful how you speak to yourself. When you say, “I’ve maintained a great look before—I know what I need to do,” “It’s not rocket science,” and “Just eat less and move more,” you could be trivializing the problem. And when you trivialize the problem, you reduce the urgency to change.

Neilan’s self-determining approach doesn’t mean going it alone. His brainchild, a sustainable healthy weight support group, provides weekly dietary and psychology clinics, helping thousands of women find answers to their struggles.

This group specializes in simplifying sustainable life change because making it easy is essential to sustaining a new lifestyle.

Neilan and his team also pride themselves on their sense of community, having raised well over six figures for charity and helped women with crippling anxiety, depression, arthritis, heart disease, and even cancer.

“It has to happen together,” Alex Neilan declares. “If you keep getting results, enjoy what you’re doing, and never have to do anything you don’t want to, why wouldn’t you keep that up?”

For The Sports Dietitian himself, it’s the little lady in his life who keeps him on track to his goal of helping one million people live longer and happier lives: “I want to teach my 11-month-old daughter the importance of self-care and helping other people in this world.”

What you do now dictates what the next 20 years of your life will look like. What if it doesn’t work? What if it does?