Over the course of the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of working with hundreds of people with one mission in mind: getting into the kitchen to get healthy. Of course, it’s not as clear-cut as just that. My goal is to coach individuals through 30 days of eating real food while technologically holding their hands every step of the way. It begins with what goes on their plates three times a day, but it certainly doesn’t end there. During those 30 days, I pick their brains a little bit. Even if you know exactly what to eat, in what quantities, and hit the gym on the regular, it’s easy to fall off the wagon. We all have something that gets in the way.
The pattern of thought that seems most prominent is the idea of willpower, or lack thereof. It’s being unable to resist temptation when it’s right in front of us, one bite turning into eating the whole thing, or a cheat day obtrusively extending itself into a cheat week. When any one of these things happen, the first thought that pops into people’s heads is willpower. Why can’t you just say no?
It doesn’t end there, though. The overall discouragement of falling off the wagon brings on blame, shame, and guilt. Read those last three words over again and attach them to something you did – it feels pretty bad, doesn’t it? They’re hard feelings to shake off, too. It seems better to indulge them. It’s that, “I already screwed up, why stop now?” mentality.
In the health and fitness industry, we’re pushed to believe that we should feel bad. We’re taught that “no pain, no gain” mentality that may work for some, but perpetuates a whole lot of negative self-talk for others. What can you do to end the cycle? Look inside! Even if you’re eating healthy to look and feel better, your journey has the power to transform your mind as well.
Recognize your victories. Quit letting the scale determine all of your success! For some people, losing weight is a top priority. As someone who has lost 70 pounds, I understand the excitement when the number drops and the sheer panic that can set in when it rises or *gasp* stays the same! Once you see results, it’s hard not to want more where that came from. We often fall into the cycle of only using one term of measurement – in this instance, bodyweight – to gauge our success. Don’t! Are your clothes fitting more comfortably? Do you sleep better at night? Do you feel more energetic during the workday? Is your skin clearing up? Eating healthy and practicing good lifestyle habits benefit the body, mind, and soul in SO many ways. Think of weight loss as an added bonus. If the scale isn’t budging, do a happy dance about something else. As I like to say, there is always a reason to dance.
Stay positive. You know what comes out of positivity? Good things. Flowers grow, water flows, people smile, and things fall into place. As a rule, the opposite is born of a negative mindset. YOU have the ability to change your attitude. You know the nagging voice inside your head telling you that you aren’t good enough? Shut it up! For some, this self-talk can be overwhelming. Your rhyme and reason should be derived from a positive, loving, and nurturing place within. Trying to change your body because you hate it will ultimately lead to disappointment. A smaller waist, bigger muscles, and six-pack abs aren’t going to change your mind – that’s on you. When the little devil on your shoulder peeks his head out, think about what he’s saying to you; would you say that to a child or someone you love? If not, you should probably reconsider telling it to yourself!
Individualize your journey. One of the biggest traps in setting, working towards, and achieving goals is comparison. I find this especially true in the golden age of social media. As soon as we wake up in the morning and start scrolling, we’re exposed to all the people we want to be instead. For some, seeing what we aspire to have is powerful. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a vision of what you want based on someone else’s experience, but keep in mind that you are NOT that person. You are you. I’m going to take a wild guess and say I’m not the first to tell you that you can’t change that fact. Comparison is the thief of joy. Set goals for you. Get to know yourself and make decisions accordingly. It’s easy to listen to someone else telling you what to do and expect the same results, especially regarding health and fitness. The truth is that it’s different for everyone. What works for someone else may not work for you. Don’t let it disappoint you.
Embrace the struggle. If you’re accustomed to living life (are we ever?), you understand that you can’t truly feel the good without the occasional step backwards. Moreover, not-so-great things are inevitably going to happen. Turn your downfalls into success. If anything, recalling hard times will put into perspective how good things are going when they turn around. Remember, you can’t always be in control. People, places, and things are subject to impact your healthy lifestyle in ways that are not ideal. Take ’em in stride. Remember what you are in control of: your attitude, your reaction, and avoiding similar circumstances in the future. You live and you learn. A healthy lifestyle takes YEARS of work. I began my weight loss journey nearly five years ago, and I still struggle. My weaknesses and strengths have changed drastically over the years. I am always a work in progress, and I attribute much of my lasting success to learning from my mistakes. Turn your weakness into strength from the kitchen to the gym.
Eliminate shame. Many individuals feel a sense of shame regarding their troubles with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. From weight to junk food to skipping a workout, we immediately go to that deep, dark place in our heads that tells us, “You’ve been bad and you should FEEL bad, too.” Stop right there. Shame brings on a sense of guilt you simply shouldn’t be feeling. We are all only human. It’s a unique and wonderful experience. When you start blaming yourself and feeling that anxiety set in, keep one thing in mind: you can start over RIGHT now. Forget about it. The past is the past whether that means five minutes ago or five years ago. Don’t let it invade your present moment. The best time to start fresh is at your next meal or your next workout. That’s something you can feel good about.
There are countless factors that make setting goals and getting there easier. The truth is, it’s easy to get caught up in the wrong aspects including the numbers, the aesthetic, and the “all or nothing” mentality. In my experience, many of us face issues that run much deeper than the surface of what it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Focusing on a healthy mindset, a good relationship with food and your body, and working to reform habits are powerful tools for long-term success. Be gentle, be mindful, and keep pushing forward.