4 Things You Have to Give Up to Make Peace with Your Body

4 Things You Have to Give Up to Make Peace with Your Body

If you are a female, chances are you’ve gone through at least a period of your life where you felt at war with your body. I know because I’ve been there.

Most of my 26 years on this earth consisted of disgust, frustration, and resentment towards my body. I thought it was normal because every female around me was doing the same thing. We women literally bond over our self-hatred towards our bodies. Don’t believe me? Then you’ve probably never seen Mean Girls. The scene where every single girl takes her turn pointing out what she hates about her body? Yeah, that’s pretty close to real life.

But just because something is common does not mean it’s normal.

It’s not really our fault. Most of us grow up constantly reminded that we should hate our bodies. These reminders come from those around us and those we look up to (mothers, sisters, cousins, friends, role models, etc). And from magazines always telling us how to improve ourselves (because we are never enough). And from companies built around creating products to fix every part of our bodies they deem a “flaw”.

It’s unfortunate, but it’s the world we live in. The best part about the whole thing, though, is that we can change it. We can stand up to all of it and take our power back.

Is it easy? Hell no. This problem is the product of the BS women have been force fed for centuries. It won’t be fixed quickly.

It takes a ton of effort. It’s a constant practice. But it’s easier when we do it together.

But where the heck do we start? How do we even begin to tackle this global issue?

It starts with us each making peace with our own bodies. Below are 4 things we need to stop doing and steps to take instead. And none of it is advice to just “love yourself”. Because that is utter bullshit.

1. NEGATIVE SELF-TALK

That little voice in your head? She has a TON of power. And right now, that power and energy is probably highly negative. The crazy thing is, those things we are saying about ourselves in our heads, we would never in a million years say them to anyone else we love. So why do we think it’s okay to say it to ourselves?

This is probably one of the hardest things to change, but also arguably one of the most important. The first step in fixing it is awareness. Right now, you probably aren’t even aware how much negativity is living in your head. So your job is to start paying attention. Become non-judgmentally curious. That non-judgement part is key, by the way.

Notice patterns. Really hear the things you are saying about your body. What are they about specifically? Are there particular times this negativity gets worse?

This information is key to changing your current belief system about your body. Understanding what your negativity centers around will help you unpack some of the beliefs you’ve been conditioned to hang on to throughout your life. None of those beliefs are yours to keep.

The second step is to either replace that negative thought with a neutral statement about your body OR to switch the focus on to something positive or something you like about your body.

A neutral statement is a statement without feelings attached. No negativity or positivity. It usually just states a fact.

A positive statement can be anything you like about your body or anything you appreciate about it. Gratitude is super powerful.

Here’s an example:

While trying on shorts, you catch a glimpse of cellulite on your legs and you think, “Gross, cellulite is disgusting. Why do my legs have to look so awful.”

  • Step 1: non-judgemental curiosity. Ask yourself why you think cellulite is gross. Is it really gross, or did you just become conditioned to think that?
  • Step 2: Replace the thought with a neutral or more positive statement.
    • Neutral: Look at your cellulite and think, “I have cellulite.” That’s it.
    • Positive: Focus on something you like about your legs or practice gratitude for what they help you do. “My legs might have cellulite, but I am thankful to have legs that help me squat down to talk to my children.

2. WEARING/BUYING CLOTHES TOO SMALL

Actions speak louder than words. And this says it all.

Whether you are wearing uncomfortable clothes that don’t fit because you’ve gained weight, or you’re buying yourself new clothes in sizes too small for “motivation”, it’s all fueling your hatred towards your body.

By refusing to buy yourself clothes that fit after you’ve gained some weight, you are telling yourself that you are not worthy of feeling comfortable or wearing nice clothes. This is reinforcing the idea that your weight or body is tied to your worth. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

You are a living human being and that makes you worthy. End of story.

Yes, this also applies to buying the new swimsuit or dress 2 sizes too small for “motivation” to lose weight. You deserve to wear the cute dress now. You are worthy of wearing cute clothes no matter your weight.

Buying and wearing clothes that fit you is how you show yourself that you believe you are worthy. It’s an act of love for yourself.

3. SELF-DEPRECATING COMMENTS

Yes, even if they are jokes. Stop it. There are plenty of people in this world who will try to tear you down. Let them do it.

Plus, there are tons of other funny things to joke about. Be more creative.

These comments are super common after women get compliments, especially. Instead of accepting the compliment, we tend to downplay it by responding with a comment tearing ourselves down. That’s not productive, and it’s once again fueling this war that has been waged against our bodies.

Example:

I love your dress. It looks great on you!”

“Really? I feel like it just accents my muffin-top, but thanks.”

4. COMPARING YOUR BODY TO SOMEONE ELSE’S

You cannot be someone else. Your body will never be anyone else’s. And to covet other people’s bodies is doing your own a disservice.

How would your mom feel if you wished for a different mom constantly? Or what about your significant other? It seems absurd to treat your relationships with loved ones this way, so why would we do this in our relationship with our bodies- the most important relationship we have?

I get it, we are in the social media era. Instagram photos of people’s “perfect” bodies with 8,000 filters on them lend themselves to constant comparison. But we have the option to stop. If there are particular people that trigger you into comparison on social media, unfollow them, de-friend them, or mute them.

Take control of what you can. And every time you find yourself falling into the comparison trap again, stop and remember your body is the only one you have. It is your vehicle for experiencing all the amazing things life has to offer.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Again, making peace with your body does not happen overnight. It’s a constant practice. But it’s time we stopped spending so much energy fighting our bodies. There is something beautiful about letting them be and appreciating them for what they are. Plus, the world needs us to put that energy into something more productive.

My last piece of advice? Remind yourself every single day:

“I have more to offer this world than what my body looks like.”

3 Ways to Overcome Speed Bumps

3 Ways to Overcome Speed Bumps

Life is full of speed bumps. I know, I know, corny analogy about life full speed ahead. But seriously. It’s true. And it’s supposed to be that way. You know how everyone says how fast time flies? Imagine if we had no speed bumps along the way forcing us to slow down. Yikes. So while these speed bumps seem like inconveniences, they are doing you a huge favor. Whether you are aware of it or not.

The truth is, we need to slow down sometimes.

In this current day and age, we are all on the go. ALL. THE. TIME. With screens in front of our faces 24/7, we never get a chance to really be alone. To slow down. To see and experience what’s right in front of us. It’s hard to when we have access to everything else that’s going on all over the world.

Is it convenient? RARELY. Is it necessary? ABSOLUTELY. Is it up to us to make the most of it? BINGO.

Regardless of WHY the unforeseen events and challenges are presented in our paths, it’s up to us to handle them. We have the power to control how we respond. Whether or not we rise up to the challenge and appreciate it for the growth it can provide is up to us. This could look like an unforeseen work event taking over one of the 2 days you are able to workout, or a new injury forcing you to reconsider your entire training approach. Literally anything forcing you out of your usual routine.

Most of us will get frustrated. Cuss. Swear. Take it out on friends and family. Blame everything and everyone else. (I’m definitely guilty of all of those at some point). Everyone deals with these speed bumps and feelings of frustrations on their health journey (whether they share them publicly or not).

It’s those who stop for a moment and remember that there is always an opportunity for growth and those who learn and practice the skill of gratitude daily that will reach their goals. 

Think about all the times you passed a street with what seemed like 20 different speed bumps on it. How angry did you get? How annoyed were you? Did it allow you to stop and see the beautiful neighborhood you’ve driven through every day the past couple years? Or did those speed bumps force you to slow down and prevent a tragedy of hitting a dog that decided right then to chase the squirrel on the opposing side of the street?

When it comes to pursuing health, speed bumps aren’t just a possibility. They are an expectation. There will be things life throws at you and forces you to slow down.

But like a regular speed bump, you have to keep going to finally get over it. If you stop, not only will you get stuck, but you can even roll backwards. No matter what is happening in your life, there is always something you can be doing to make sure you are still taking action. There will always be a way to make do with what you have. There’s always a better choice that can be made somewhere.

Maybe you can’t afford a gym membership at the moment. Instead of giving up, this is a great opportunity to get creative with objects in your house or outside! It’s possible. I’ve been there. And I’m thankful for that time in my life because now I can squeeze in a workout just about anywhere thanks to my creativity I cultivated during that difficult time.

Maybe your schedule changed, leaving you virtually no time for a gym session. Another creativity challenge. Where can you squeeze in a few squats or a walk? Even a 10 minute kettlebell session can suffice. Anything to keep the ball rolling until your schedule frees up again.

Regardless of your situation, there are always ways you can make better choices towards optimizing your health.

Here are 3 things to remember for when you hit the inevitable speed bumps on your health & fitness journey:

1. Keep going no matter what. 

Like I mentioned before, starting requires the most energy. It’s no wonder you feel so drained with all the quitting and having to start all over again. How many times have you missed one workout or one week of workouts to just give up on it all together and get stuck in a rut?

Focus on the 24 hours in front of you. What can you do right now or today that can help you keep the ball rolling? It doesn’t have to be anything drastic. Just something. Put your energy into it. It’s all about momentum, and the act of putting forth effort is all it takes to keep the ball rolling!

2. Gratitude wins. 

Most people respond initially to these setbacks or challenges with frustration. Or blame. Some may even catastrophize them into something much bigger, exasperating the situation and playing the helpless victim. But we are not helpless. Yes, life does throw us some pretty nasty curve balls at times that are beyond our control. But we control how we react. And reacting by finding something to be thankful for? That’s how you win. That’s how you keep from getting defeated by the all-or-nothing mindset.

There is always something to be thankful for. For example, imagine a time you were under a great deal of stress. You didn’t sleep the night before because you had a big work presentation or exam that day. But you head into the gym anyways. As you start your workout, your start to feel lightheaded. Or your warm-up is feeling like your 1-RM. You begin to feel frustrated. This is one of your workout days. How could your body have betrayed you like this? 

Instead of getting wrapped up those feelings of frustration, take a moment to think about your situation. Your body is just letting you know it’s exhausted. Try to cultivate some gratitude and be thankful for the opportunity to celebrate what your body can do. It’s doing a fantastic job at keeping you alive, despite you asking it to perform without giving it the proper rest it needs. Meet your body in the middle. Drop those silly expectations that everything needs to go according to plan. Let your body be a dynamic, changing body. Give it a break. Be thankful that you were able to step foot into the gym that day, even if it means a light mobility session.

Everything doesn’t happen for a reason, unless you decide to look for that reason. It’s up to you.

3. Everything is temporary. 

Go back and read that again. And once more actually. Now screen shot that shit and put it on your phone since you already check that 3,000 times a day. No matter the cards you’ve been dealt, they are temporary. The world is always spinning, and everything is in a stream of chaos, constantly changing. We are all always adapting.

Your situation is not permanent. Unless you succumb to it and become the victim of paralysis. Take action, no matter how small. If you are feeling stuck, it may be time to brainstorm what actions you can take to make a change. If you hurt your shoulder or have family in town interrupting your typical workout schedule, it’s okay. The shoulder will heal (especially if you go get it checked out by someone who understands movement and can help you) and your family will return to their homes. Life will get back to normal. Or you will find a new normal.

Plus, you should be enjoying time with your family if they are visiting. Not stressing about missing a workout or two. Don’t miss out on life because you’re stressed about your routine getting interrupted.

Goals are not met in a day. Or a week. Or even a month. Sometimes you need to slow down and allow life to happen. This is how you create a sustainable healthy life that you love. Embrace it.

Sweating for the Wedding or Training for a Lifetime?

Sweating for the Wedding or Training for a Lifetime?

ATTENTION BRIDES:

If you are feeling sucked towards the social pressure of “sweating for the wedding”, I get it. I was there 4 years ago. It feels suffocating at times.

But I want to remind you that the amount of happiness you will experience on your wedding day will have nothing to do with how much you weigh.

The pressure you are feeling to begin a crazy regimen of restrictive eating and cardio binges or starting out on a new fitness program is beyond common. When I was preparing for my wedding, I constantly felt torn between wanting to enjoy the time with my then fiance planning the wedding together and feeling the need to start an intensive workout program to lose some weight. No matter what we were doing, I felt that I couldn’t enjoy it fully because I should have been working out. And I felt guilty for every alcoholic beverage I indulged in for celebration.

For some reason, there is this understood myth that we should all look our fittest and best at our weddings. Probably because they are supposed to be the happiest days of our lives. As if looking a particular way will define the amount of happiness we experience. Sigh.

But this reminder is everywhere for brides! Every bridal magazine. In the stores. On bridal t-shirts. All over Pinterest and social media with hashtags like #sweatingforthewedding and bride-themed workouts (whatever that really means!). It was all constant reinforcement that for some reason, if you are a bride, you need to be working your butt off- quite literally- to look your “best” at your wedding.

No wonder we feel so damn miserable leading up to our wedding days! 

The good news, however, is that you can very well have a wonderful wedding day without making any changes to your body :). Once I had a long conversation with my husband-then fiance, I realized that I needed to focus on enjoying this time with him and our family, since it’s not something that happens too often. I gave up the pressure I was putting on myself to lose weight. I felt freed. Like an enormous pressure was lifted off my chest.

And guess what? My wedding day ended up being phenomenal. I wore a huge smile on my face the entire day, and felt every ounce of happiness I had imagined I would.

Exercise will not make your wedding the happiest day of your life.

Losing that extra weight you think needs to disappear will not actually provide the glow that you see in the pictures and videos of brides on Facebook.

Slaving away at the gym to burn off any extra snacks you consumed thanks to your new severely restricted diet of chicken and broccoli is certainly not the answer.

It’s tempting, I get it. For some people, this pressure will lead to a host of erratic, destructive behaviors to achieve some image they have in their heads of what their ideal body would look like. For others, like myself, it will just make you miserable because you feel that you should be pursuing this notion of looking your fittest or slimmest for your wedding.

No matter which category you might fall into, both can make you completely miss out on one of the most amazing parts of the wedding, the excitement and months prior. Instead of basking in the love you and your significant other have for each other, you’ll feel preoccupied with exercising and restricted eating or with thoughts that you should be exercising and eating more “clean” to lose weight. Either way, it can become an obsession causing you to miss out on so much of an amazing part of your life. Can it really be that worth it? 

BUT, what if you approached it differently with an entirely different mindset?

What if, instead of training for your “perfect wedding body”, you decided to train because you want to take care of yourself and feel your best on your wedding day? 

Let’s take a moment to think about all the work you would be putting forth in this pursuit for A SINGLE DAY. All the time, effort, commitment, and sacrifices. Wouldn’t you want those to provide effects that last far beyond one single day/event in your entire life?

What if you could just commit to goal of exercising a couple times a week, to start a habit of regular exercise? It’s totally possible, but requires a healthy mindset FIRST AND FOREMOST.

Below are 5 things to think about as you approach exercise during the months leading up to your wedding.

5 reasons beside what your body looks like, that you may benefit from exercising in these coming months.

1. Start of a Healthy Habit

There are no arguments that we all should be partaking in some form of exercise a few times a week for the rest of our lives if we want to live life to its fullest extent. Why not use this as an excuse to start a healthy, sustainable form of exercising?

It can be the start of a lifelong committment- in more ways than one!

2. Stress Relief

Let’s be honest. While planning a wedding with the love of your life is amazing, it can be stressful at times. You may begin to feel overwhelmed, understandably so with all the details that are involved. One of the best things you can do to take out some stress is through an intense cardio session or taking it out on the iron.

3. Confidence Booster

No, this confidence isn’t stemming from changing your body. It’s deeper. It’s coming from pushing outside of your comfort zone. From setting weight-lifting goals and crushing them. From feeling empowered that you are taking care of your body.

A well-structured exercise program is one of the best ways to get out of your comfort zone. And pushing outside your comfort zone is the path towards improved confidence. Gaining strength and watching your progressions and accomplishments is rewarding and confidence-boosting. This confidence will radiate positive vibes all over, from your wedding day and beyond!

4. Feel Better

Your sleep quality will improve. You’ll have more energy. You’ll feel happier and more pleasant.

What more could you want?

5. Relationship Builder

Maybe this is something you and your significant other can enjoy together. What better way to begin a lifelong committment to each other, than beginning a lifelong committment to yourselves? You can keep each other motivated and accountable and use the time to enjoy each other’s presence. Sometimes, there is nothing better than watching your significant other crush some goals! Learning how to support each other in the gym will extend far beyond it in your relationship. 

Closing Thoughts

Notice how none of those benefits have anything to do with how you look! There are many benefits of exercise. When we detach from our thinking that exercise is only a tool to lose weight or work off a cookie we ate, we become free. Free to really tap into the other benefits of exercise, and reap those rewards. Free to enjoy life to its fullest. 

Ditch The Scale: 6 Better Ways to Track Progress

Ditch The Scale: 6 Better Ways to Track Progress

The scale has become the primary measure behind success when transforming our lives towards optimal health.

Why? I don’t have a clue. Maybe because we think weight loss equates to optimal health (which is rarely true), or because it’s a cheap, quick, and easy measurement, or because it has become a learned, defining factor for most women.

Whatever the reason, it’s bullshit. The scale can be part of a collection of markers of health but it is by no means all-encompassing. Yet for most women, it becomes the single most important number we use to track our progress. No matter our actual goals, we assume the scale is the way to track how we are doing. And if that number doesn’t move or changes in a way we don’t like, we feel we’ve made no progress and often times give it all up.

This number also becomes a measure of our self-worth. We think that if we could just achieve a particular number on the scale, we’d be happy and successful and radiate positive vibes like magical fairy dust wherever we go.

Yet, for many females, the number doesn’t budge. Or we hit a plateau. Or it doesn’t move as much as we want it to. Or we hit the number we’d been pursuing and are still unhappy because it’s never enough. And it becomes a source of frustration and self-doubt, resulting in giving up the entire healthy lifestyle journey all together.

When we focus on our weight or the number on a scale, we completely forget that this isn’t just about weight loss. It’s not about numbers. It’s about something much more important.

It’s about taking care of the one body we have been gifted with to experience the beautiful world we live in.

Not to mention the scale doesn’t measure anything other than your relationship to gravity. It doesn’t measure the amount of muscle you may have been building. Or the passion and zest for life you probably have. And it definitely doesn’t encompass the love and caring nature that I know is in every one of you. Yet these things are entirely more important than how much you weigh!

If you are feeling frustrated with the scale, or feel that every time you step onto the scale it sends you into a downward spiral resulting in a binge on Oreos or readiness to give up on your hard work and effort towards a healthy lifestyle all together,  it may be time to get rid of the scale for awhile. You need to mend your mindset first. Focus on other aspects of creating a healthy lifestyle, find other markers or ways to track progress.

Then, introduce the scale back into the picture when you’re ready. That may be months from now or years, but it’s worth it. Refraining from stepping foot onto a scale and letting that single number determine your worthiness or happiness for the day or your success or progress from all your hard work will help you build a healthy lifestyle that will last a lifetime.

So what can you use to measure your progress instead?

There are tons of better options depending on your goals! Here are a few of my favorite recommendations:

Sleep Quality

Whether this is hours of sleep or the actual quality of sleep, it can be helpful to track. Consistent quality sleep is one of the biggest components of a healthy lifestyle.

Keep a simple notebook or track on your calendar how you feel when you wake up or how many hours of sleep you achieved the previous night. If you’re feeling fancy, there are even sleep tracking apps that you can use, but these are definitely not necessary.

Resting Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate decreases when you’re performing regular exercise, one of the numerous adaptations your body makes when exposed to consistent bouts of exercise. It represents the state of your cardiovascular system and the the efficiency of your heart, which is definitely a big component in a healthy lifestyle! 

Resting heart rate can be a great example of your body making healthy adaptations to the stimulus you’re providing regularly, not to mention it’s a quick and easy measurement. Most phones can take your pulse, but you can also take your own pulse by feeling for your radial artery near the thumb side of your wrist or your carotid artery on either side of your neck. A perfect way to track how your body is changing as a result of your hard work in the gym!

Consistency

One of my favorite principles that is so simple and important for achieving success yet often overlooked is consistency. No matter your current location in your healthy lifestyle journey, consistency trumps everything. It is also one of the biggest challenges for most people. We can’t expect to achieve goals or see any results without consistency, yet many of us forget to track it!

Tracking can be as simple as printing out a checklist of 1 or 2 goals for yourself for each day, and checking the box if you achieved the daily goal. What you track can be up to you, depending on your specific goal.

These should be mini-goals for the day, week, or month that will help you achieve your big goal, such as vegetables with every meal for the day for optimal health, eating less than 50 grams of carbs for the day for improving blood sugar, 3 workouts per week for improving strength or fat loss, 5 minutes of meditation each day for overall stress management, etc.

When tracking, it’s important to also spend time reviewing the day, week, or month. Celebrate the accomplishments you made and assess where you struggled. Use that information as a lesson for the next day, week, or month on how to do better. Observe for patterns that you may notice when achieving your goal was particularly easy or difficult.

Any time you feel frustrated, you can always go back and look at how consistent you’ve been towards creating a healthy lifestyle. That is a win in and of itself because you are making strides towards taking care of yourself. Each decision that leads you towards health is a celebration!

Bowel Movements

Yup, we’re really going there. Bowel movements are one of the simplest yet often overlooked representations of our overall health. If you are not paying attention to your bowel movements, you are missing one of the easiest and simplest ways to determine the state of your current health. Your gut contains more bacteria cells than your entire body is created of. That means you are more bacteria than anything else. Don’t you think it’s important to pay attention to it?!

Plus, this is yet another thing that can be tracked simply. Paying attention to the consistency, color, and regularity of your bowel movements will help give you an idea of how the food you’re eating is affecting you and how your overall GI health is doing. This can also be marked on a calendar or in a notebook or even on your phone and will provide you with insight based on patterns you may see.

Clothing Fit

While this is still along the lines of fat loss, it can be a better indicator of how your fat loss journey is going when compared to using a scale. If you are strength training and building muscle while trying to lose fat, the scale may not show your progress as well.

But, if your clothes begin to feel a little looser in the waist, it’s a good indicator that you’ve made some progress towards a fat loss goal. Or if your clothes feel tighter in the legs or arms, you may be gaining the muscles you’ve been working towards. Being in tune with the overall feel and fit of your clothes will help you get an understanding of patterns of bloating or fat loss that your body is going through.

Energy

One of the first things my patients and clients notice when making consistent healthier choices is the increased energy they feel. This is yet another example of something simple to track regularly. One way to track this is to print some sort of calendar (as I explained above with tracking) and writing down your energy level that you’re feeling each day, maybe on a scale of 1-10 or a brief description of how you’re feeling. Over time, you’ll see that number increase or the descriptions improve. Having more energy is a great indicator of your health.

So there you have it. 6 simple ways to track your health progress when the scale isn’t budging or when it has become a trigger. In fact, these 6 things can be used in conjunction with a scale to give you a better overall indicator of your health! These do not require any fancy equipment or a doctor’s visit. They all just require your effort and consistency with tracking.

No matter where you are in your journey, you should perform some sort of tracking. We often forget how far we’ve come until we look back, and without anything written down, it’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking we have made no progress. Many of us don’t realize how consistent or inconsistent we’ve been with our healthy/unhealthy behaviors until we track them down. We are not the best at celebrating our progress and achievements during our journeys. Instead, we tend to beat ourselves up for not showing visible progress or when the scale number doesn’t budge. We are often blind to the progress that our bodies have shown because we have neglected to track them.

So do yourself a favor, and start tracking your progress. You might be surprised at how you are actually doing. It is important to celebrate and be proud of the progress you have achieved!

Quit Fooling Yourself

Quit Fooling Yourself

This isn’t going to be an easy read.

But it’s an important one. A necessary one.

If you’re reading this, you want the same thing we all do: to feel good. Optimal health is a big part of feeling good. But of course that’s not news to you.

We know most of what it takes to achieve optimal health. Eat healthy, exercise regularly (enough, but not too much), get at least 7 hours of QUALITY sleep at night, and manage mental stress. The main pillars of optimal health.

Seems simple enough, right?

So where do we go wrong?

Often times we think we’re doing a great job with these pillars of health. Even though most of us are simply…not.

I know this because I’m human. I have spent countless amounts of energy convincing myself that I am, in fact, taking control of my health and doing a great job of it. Even when I was clearly not.

Example: throughout DPT school, I was exercising, cooking or packing a lunch each day, and doing my best with sleep and stress. But for some reason, my clothes started feeling tighter, I had to buy new bras, and I felt cranky and bloated a lot, not to mention the slew of other warning signs and symptoms my body was shouting at me with.

The real problem? I wasn’t being honest with myself. I spent more time convincing myself that I was healthy and taking great care of myself than actually assessing and evaluating the current status of these aforementioned pillars in my life. While I was doing better than average, I was severely overestimating the status of my health.

Looking back, I realized I was bingeing on pizza and beer too often (because school was stressful and I deserved it, dammit!), had zero idea how to manage my stress, was never getting quality sleep (emphasis on quality– sleep with alcohol or any other sleeping aid does not count as quality), was overeating, and was not exercising at the correct dosage for my body at the time.

My point? We are not the best at being honest with ourselves.

We spend entirely too much time convincing ourselves that we are doing a great job, even when we’re not. A large part of my job as a coach is to bring my clients this awareness.

We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and asking ourselves the hard questions. We need to look at our current habits and ask ourselves if we really our doing our best. Or find someone who can look at our habits and provide honest feedback on how we can improve. And most importantly, we need to humble ourselves to be prepared to recieve the honest feedback. Whether it be from ourselves or a coach. We must be open.

Because in the end, you may be “getting away” with many of your bad habits. For now. But what’s it going to take before you finally make a change?

In an effort to help you reflect honestly, I’ve created the short, guided exercise below.

Before proceeding, I want to remind you to remain open and also to dig deep. Don’t go with your first gut instinct (because for most people that is the reasoning voice trying to convince you that you are indeed fine- even when you can do better). Write it all down. Yes, seriously. I don’t care how embarrassing it is. This is how you commit. 100%, all in. It’s the only way to actually improve and make sustainable changes. Honesty is empowering. It’s one of the first steps in reclaiming your power and you have nothing to lose but your health.

1. How would you rate your current health on a scale of 1-10 (1= poorest state of health, 10= most optimal state of health)? {DO THIS BEFORE PROCEEDING BELOW- SERIOUSLY.}

2. Begin with the number 10 and follow steps 3-4.

3. For each question below that you agree with, subtract 1 point.

  • I’m tired most days.
  • I feel stressed on a regular basis.
  • I have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or any autoimmune disorder.
  • I sit >8 hours each day- watching TV at night counts.
  • I experience brain fog. Examples: difficulty remembering words, walking into rooms and forgetting why, etc.
  • I rely on coffee to wake me up in the morning.
  • I feel bloated often.
  • I get “hangry”.
  • I smoke cigarettes (Any. Even 1/day.).
  • I drink alcoholic beverages most nights.
  • I take ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medications at least 1x/week.
  • I eat refined sugar/flour (doughnuts, cake, brownies, cookies, pasta, bread, etc.).

4. For each statement below that you agree with, add 1 point:

  • I exercise at least 3x/week.
  • I get 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Examples: walking, vacuuming, yard work, etc.
  • I regularly (6-7 nights/week) get 7-8 hours of sleep.
  • I feel rested when I wake up most mornings.
  • I always have an abundance of energy.
  • I partake in meditation, prayer, or other forms of stress relief daily.
  • I eat vegetables with almost every meal.
  • I refrain from refined sugar (doughnuts, cake, brownies, cookies, pasta, bread, etc.).

5. Compare the number from question 1 to the number you’re left with in question 4. Are they similar? Is this suprising? Why is this surpising?

6. Last but not least, what can you do to improve? What action steps can you take RIGHT NOW to create a better health status for your body?

Let me know if you learned something new about yourself with this exercise. I’d love to hear from you :).

Exercise is Not Punishment

Exercise is Not Punishment

Training and exercise are amazing tools. They can be used to create whatever adaptations we want to pursue. Whether that means bigger delts, a stronger grip, the ability to perform pull-ups, or a thicker booty, these goals can all be accomplished through training.

This is part of why I absolutely love training! However, this love has not always been part of the equation. In fact, I actually hated exercise growing up. Unless I was playing a game or sports, I was not interested in any sort of training or exercise.

This mindset continued into college. I began lifting and exercising regularly in part become healthier, but mostly because I was extremely dissatisfied with my body and wanted to lose fat. Thanks to some oversimplification, I thought that an energy deficit was all that mattered for fat loss. In my mind, this meant I just needed to eat less and exercise more. And if I overindulged in treats or ate a little extra, I could just exercise even more.

Wishful thinking, right? This mindset let me think I could “get away with” any extra treats I may indulge in.

It was like an insurance policy: if I ran out of willpower with food, I could just rely on exercise as a backup plan.

Not only was I not seeing the results I was pursuing, but I was also making myself miserable. In the end, it turned out I needed to confront my mindset about exercise and food.

I see this same cycle in my clients and friends/family. Over-indulging in restricted treats or food, then feeling guilty, followed by extra time running or climbing stairs. This is a vicious, unhealthy cycle that can even lead to health issues- the very things we are trying to avoid with exercise!

We are logical creatures, which means we love reasoning. And we can reason ourselves into or out of almost anything. Using exercise as a punishment or a way to earn our food is one way that we reason the allowance of treats or indulgences. The fitness world loves encouraging this mindset. We see it after every holiday. The signs come out about how many burpees you need to do to “work off” your Halloween candy or Christmas cookies. In reality the body doesn’t work this simply, and these signs or pictures are detrimental to our mindset on exercise and food.

So where do we even begin with a mindset change? How do we change from thinking of exercise as a punishment instead of a privilege? As with most things, it all starts with identifying the struggle within yourself,being aware of your thoughts regarding food and exercise.

Below are a few statements around exercise and food that I hear or used to think in my early exercise days. If any of these sound familiar to you, your mindset needs some work.

  • I can “let go” or indulge this weekend because I worked hard all week.
  • I ate too many treats this weekend- I need to train extra hard on Monday.
  • I feel guilty after eating those cookies or drinking that glass of wine.
  • It takes everything I have to drag myself to the gym.
  • I hate working out/training.
  • I can eat doughnuts and pizza today because I worked out this week/today and I earned it.

“I think these things all the time- help! What do I do now?”

Here are a few tips to help you get started shifting to a more healthy mindset regarding exercise:

1. Choose forms of exercise that you actually enjoy.

If you are forcing yourself to do forms of exercise you do not enjoy, you will definitely feel like you are being punished every time you go. If you would rather go to a Zumba class than spend another minute on a treadmill- do it! It is important for your mindset and mental health to do things you actually enjoy. Not all exercise needs to suck!

2. Re-evaluate your nutrition plan.

Are you eating foods you actually enjoy or are you restricting yourself too much? If you are restricting yourself too much all week you are much more likely to over-indulge when a chance presents itself. And this typically leads to using exercise as a way out.

3. Set a goal unrelated to what your body looks like.

A goal focused on something your body can do rather than what it looks like is key. This changes the focus of your training to help you view exercise as a tool, rather than a punishment or backup plan that often leads to the ‘exercise is punishment’ mindset. Examples: get your first pull-up, set a deadlift PR, run a 5K, or improve your blood chemistry (cholesterol levels, blood sugar, triglycerides, etc.)

These are just beginning steps to shift your mindset on exercise and food. Mindset shifts are journeys, not switches that can be flipped. This will require active work on your part, but it will be worth it!

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