Self-Reflection: Trying to figure it all out
It's my birthday...the big 35! A milestone of sorts I suppose. As many of us do on our birthdays, I'm 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, he was six months shy of his 36th bday and it hit us (his family & friends) like a ton of bricks.
Now, I'm not at all superstitious or concerned that this too will be my last year of life. I asked God to give me at least 40 more good, healthy, happy years and since we go way back, I'm hoping He will oblige. What my dad's passing DOES cause me to think about is my state of health at this point in my life. Despite my father's sudden death, he 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 goals and weight loss. This is something that I have a very hard time admitting to. I'm the self-proclaimed "PhitMom," daughter of a former bodybuilder, licensed physical therapist, wellness/lifestyle coach and STILL more than 35 pounds OVER what I believe to be my ideal/goal 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." And facing the hard, cold reality that I've GAINED 8 lbs since the original loss of all the baby weight from my last pregnancy. 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 (not right now because I'm giving dairy a break sort of) 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 what is so hard about it 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 response...lol), a business owner and still an average, normal human being with typical desires, wants and needs. I have to make time for all of my roles and still keep in mind my own health...spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally. Addressing all of that requires alone time, family time, husband time, friends time, prayer time and work time. And where exactly is all this "time" coming from??? That's a lot, right? A very reasonable "excuse" as to why I can't seem to get my own personal fitness figured out, despite the fact that I help other people sort theirs out daily. That takes the cake on frustrating. And frustration will drive a person crazy. So I use all that "crazy" to fuel my exploration of other possibilities as to why I am battling with weight loss! It must be the IUD that I have increasing my appetite and decreasing my ability to burn calories. Or maybe it's my depleted energy from going full steam all day, not sleeping as deeply as I should and not taking my supplements right now.
Let's be clear...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.
I'm a pretty routine based person...I live off of a schedule (for the most part) so I have to be practical about my fitness and exercise routine. Period. It has to be ON MY CALENDAR at least 5x/week. 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, simply 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. So I'm going to do something for myself and others that have so much trouble staying the course. I won't go into the details right now but it will incorporate FUN, different ways to exercise and connect with others to keep the "fun" in it. We will get through this together.
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 our weight issues, we simply can't ignore it (anymore). And when I say "ignore" I don't mean that we avoid it because we simply want to eat whatever we choose...but because it's such a TOUGH undertaking. I mean 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 none of those things are for me right now. 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/sugary foods alone for a small window that accounts for 20% (or less) of my diet. This "resolution" of sorts is not to knock anyone's process. I respect the results I'm seeing from other people who are utilizing products and following programs, but right now I have to address what's inhibiting ME from meeting my goals. Therefore, investing into a program won't cut it for me right now.
I have to attack 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!
The most important thing I have to do is GET OUT OF MY OWN WAY! This idea seems pretty abstract but let me make it plain. Simply put, you paralyze your progress by comparing yourself to other people and failing to acknowledge your own efforts! I know this from personal experience. When you find your emotions surpassing "pride," "awe" 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 "fitness" and "wellness" journey to come from a place of low self-esteem plagued by the incessant internal complaints asking why you don't look like "her" and how much faster "he" runs than you. You (I) should be proud of every little accomplishment and motivated by others and yourself, to keep going but NOT to do or be what they are. This thing has to be personal and I would argue that it has to be much deeper than what size pants you wear. Well, that is assuming 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 truly enjoying every ounce of this life. But those are MY goals. I only recently identified them but doing so has given me a new understanding of this 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 very 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 personal journey...which means it may be different for you, 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 they are the bulk of your 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 from stopping you. For example, you may have to decide that late night TV watching is no longer a priority...so instead you're in bed by 10:30 P.M. and up early to get in a 30-min 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 or 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. As I mentioned earlier, 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 in to these programs...as long as you do your own research and find something that fits your lifestyle and 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 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 everyday to do and be better and that you are fueled by your own personal goals and desires.
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.