I just celebrated my 35th bday! A milestone of sorts I suppose. As many of us do on our birthdays, I spent some time reflecting. Reflecting on the year, my life and goals. And unfortunately on the fact that 35 was the last birthday that my dad got to celebrate. When he passed suddenly in 1998, it hit us like a ton of bricks because he was a pretty healthy guy. My dad was in the fitness industry and made exercise and good nutrition a regular part of his life. He was actually awarded the bodybuilding lightweight title of Mr. Michigan in 1989.
Talk about big shoes to fill, right? I mean, don’t get me wrong…I don’t have any significant medical conditions, but I am struggling severely, with my fitness and weight loss goals. This is something that I have a very hard time admitting. I’m the self-proclaimed “PhitMom,” daughter of a former bodybuilder, licensed physical therapist, wellness coach and STILL more than 35 pounds OVER what I believe to be my ideal weight. What’s worse is the number of “before” mirror selfies I’ve taken in an effort to show my “amazing results” when I finally “get it right.” Instead, I’m facing the hard, cold reality that I’ve GAINED several pounds since my last picture. It’s annoying and frustrating at best.
The simple truth is, while I highly value physical activity and good nutrition, I frequently over-indulge in things that are directly counterproductive to my goals. For example, I will order pizza for the family and instead of one or two slices, I’ll have FOUR. My digestive system will pay for it later but like clockwork, I’m doing it all over again the following week. It’s literally the definition of insanity…I know. I’m sure that I’m not alone on this BUT as a health care practitioner and advocate for fitness and wellness, I feel an incredible sense of failure when I allow these things to offset my goals and purpose. I KNOW that I can do better! I HAVE done better! So why is it so hard right now?
That question has been plaguing me for MONTHS. And I FINALLY sat down to figure it out. Initially, I went with the obvious….I’m a wife, mother of three small children (emphasis on the “small” for exaggerated sympathy…lol), a business owner and still an average, normal human being with typical desires, wants and weaknesses. I have to make time for all of my roles and still keep in mind my spiritual, mental, physical and emotional health. Addressing all of that requires alone time, family time, husband time, friend time, prayer time and work time. Where exactly is all this “time” coming from? But other women in my shoes manage, so? Maybe its because of my IUD increasing my appetite and decreasing my ability to burn calories. Is that even possible? 🤔 Or maybe it’s depleted energy from not sleeping as deeply as I should and not taking my supplements right now. There are so many “probable causes” to consider and all “reasonable excuses,” right?
Let’s be clear though…it is LIKELY all of those things in any combination plus additional factors that I’ve failed to identify or mention. But what I’ve learned in my self-reflection is that it doesn’t matter what’s keeping me from being my best self…all that matters is that I act IN SPITE of those things. I have to make a conscious effort to take each and every day as a new and seperate challenge and attack it as such.
I’m a pretty routine based person, so I have to be practical about my fitness and exercise routine. It has to be ON MY CALENDAR. I need to SEE it, set an alarm for it and create the type of accountability that inspires me to get it done. But that alone, isn’t enough. I have to somehow address the wiring in my brain that tells me that exercise is tiring and tedious. It needs to be something that I look forward to again. I know the benefits but it seems as if once I start feeling “out of shape” I no longer take pleasure in exercise. I imagine that this is how many people feel and why it can be so challenging to get back on the bandwagon with exercise once you fall off. But we have to keep moving!
If exercise were the only (or even biggest) issue, We’d probably all be in decent shape, right? But since nutrition likely accounts for more than 70% of weight issues, we simply can’t ignore it (anymore). And when I say we “ignore” I don’t mean that we avoid it because we simply want to eat whatever we choose…but because it can be such a TOUGH undertaking. Just look around…there are sooo many diets, cleanses, shakes, wraps, supplements, teas and the like! How are you to pick what’s best for YOU without spending a ton of money, wasting a lot of time and compromising your health with strenuous nutrition regimes? I am still struggling to answer these questions for myself…but what I DO know this far is that I have to approach my nutrition from a very basic and practical position. Simply put…I need to eat REAL food at least 80% of the time and leave all the boxed/processed foods to a small window that accounts for 20% (or less) of my diet. This “resolution” is far easier said than done but I’m up for the challenge.
Additionally, I have to combat another mindset that I have fostered over the years…and that is that food provides SIGNIFICANT pleasure. So much pleasure that it is actually WORTH my health. Sounds ridiculous when I say it (or type it) out loud but that’s EXACTLY what my actions are saying when I CONSISTENTLY choose 4 slices of pizza or I eat 6 cookies or I skip the salad and order a large platter of fries instead. It doesn’t matter what my mouth is saying…only what my actions are showing. Food is good, don’t get me wrong but there is definitely something to the idea of eating to live versus living to eat!
By far, the most important thing I have to do is GET OUT OF MY OWN WAY! This idea seems pretty abstract so let me make it plain. Simply put, we often paralyze our progress by comparing ourselves to other people and failing to acknowledge our own efforts! I know this from experience. When you find your emotions surpassing “pride” and going beyond “inspiration” while you’re watching someone else’s fitness journey, be careful. Because what comes next can be envy, jealousy, anger, self-loathing, embarrassment, disappointment and other not-so-happy emotions. You never want your wellness/fitness experience to come from a place of low self-esteem plagued by incessant internal complaints asking why you don’t look like “her” or how much better “he” is than you. We should all be proud of every little accomplishment and motivated by others and ourselves, to keep going but NOT to do or be like someone else. This thing has to be personal and I would argue that it has to be much deeper than what size pants you wear. That, of course, is assuming that you want this for the long term…to inspire your children and others around you to live better, to honor God by taking care of and using your temple for His glory and for the purpose of enjoying every second of life. But those are MY goals. I only recently identified them but doing so has given me a new understanding of my journey and because of it, I believe that I can and will truly see some tangible changes in the way I feel, look and perform in the near future.
I hope that you too, will see the changes and progress that you are seeking. As you go along YOUR journey, let me leave you with a few points that I believe will help you. Remember, this is based on my own reflection of my journey…but hopefully it can serve as a guide for you to begin (or continue) your own process.
- 1. Identify your goals…not just weight and size…but your “WHY.” The reason you want to lose weight, gain muscle, improve energy or endurance…what is in it for you, for others and how will you use your new found health in a positive way?
- 2A. Identify your hurdles or barriers…the things standing between you and your goals. This can be mindsets (usually, the bulk of our hurdles), people, habits, schedules, hair styling options (my fellow naturalnistas know what I mean😉) and MANY other things. Figure out what’s standing in your way and come up with a feasible plan to eliminate and/or avoid them. For example, you may have to decide that late night TV watching is no longer a priority…so instead you’re in bed early and up early to workout before work. Whatever it is, decide on a strategy to overcome it and JUST DO IT. ***WARNING: This process may take MANY trials and errors. As with any strategic process, you may not figure it out the first, third or seventh time…but DON’T GIVE UP.***
- 2B. While you’re doing all this identifying, take this opportunity to also consider some outside sources that may aide you in your journey. This might be trainers, therapists, nutrition programs, coaches, fitness apps on your phone/tablet, accountability partners, etc. I’ve seen some jaw dropping results from people who have joined a fitness movement and stuck with their program. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with buying into these programs…as long as you do your own research and find something that is sustainable for you.
- 3. Lastly, stick to the plan that best works for YOU (remember you spent a lot of time figuring it out in steps 2 a and b). And avoid comparing your process to anyone else’s. It doesn’t matter that you are losing weight faster or slower than your friend or that your cousin is gaining muscle faster than you or that your spouse is losing inches more quickly than you. What matters is that you are making a conscious decision every day to do and be better and that you are fueled by your own personal goals.
Maintain your laser focus, but stop along the way to be inspired by others and also to encourage someone else in their process. Appreciate where you are (whether you’ve come a long way or not) and acknowledge that things could be far worse than they are. Let your journey be positive and full of light. But most importantly, let it be YOUR journey.