I began my weight loss and fitness journey several years ago, and I still consider myself on that journey even now. I learn new things about fitness and myself every single day.
I’ve had help from books, friends, movies, my husband, and my own research along the way, but my best lessons were through trial and error. If only I could go back in time and give myself my own advice, this is what I would say:
Your Brain is Going to Try to Convince You That You Can’t. You Can.
Everything from “I can’t eat that” to “I can’t lift that” to “I can’t try that”, I have told myself at some point. Now I recognize when my brain is scared of something and will do anything to talk me out of change. I’ve learned to drown that voice out and try everything, from pushups to cauliflower. Some of my favorites are things that I was once scared to try or averse to.
You are So Much More Than a Number On a Scale. Don’t Attach Emotions to It.
120 pounds was my magic number. It’s what I weighed in high school and so it made sense to my head that I would someday, when I was “skinny”, weigh that number again.
I didn’t care about body composition or jean sizes, that was all “blah blah blah” to me. But the problem with my focus on the scale was that I was never going to reach it as an adult, and that made me feel like a failure all the time.
I weighed myself constantly and my entire day could be ruined by that number, even if it was just up a pound. It was a measure of my self-worth as much as it measured my weight.
My perspective changed when I started to measure my success by more than just the scale – body fat calipers, my clothes size, the way I looked in the mirror, and most importantly, how great I felt. Now I try to think of my weight in a scientific manner rather than attaching emotions and my self-worth to it. It doesn’t define me…it’s merely the sum of the weight of my bones, fat tissue, muscle, water, and organs. Nothing more, nothing less.
You Truly are What You Eat, Right Now.
Your body is constantly overturning cells and regenerating muscle, skin, and every single part of you. The fuel that you put into your body today will determine the health of your body tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if you ate like crap for years and years up til now, you have the chance to turn it all around and even undo much damage just by eating nutritious food.
Likewise, you can be a healthy eater and feel great, then have a bad meal and feel like crap afterwards. Therefore, health is a never-ending journey and you must make it a lifestyle to reap the rewards. Once you wrap your mind around that, it makes it easier to be practical about your choices.
You ARE Addicted to Sugar and You WILL go Through Withdrawals.
I’m a sugar addict, and was in denial about it for a good long while. I substituted with artificial sweetener for the longest time but that was making me feel even worse than the sugar. Once I really recognized that I was a sugar addict, I could address the problem.
I know now that if I go off the deep end with sugar that I will mentally and physically have a hard time giving it up again. I’ll try to convince myself that I need it, I’ll feel grumpy without it, but within two weeks I won’t even remember what the big deal was and I’ll feel better than ever.
It’s Not About Perfection. It’s About Balance.
I was all about beating myself up for failures in the beginning, and also stressing out over social situations where GOD FORBID I might eat a white carb. I now try to live by a 90/10 rule – I eat my nutritious healthy food and get my daily exercise about 90% of the time, and the other 10% I let go.
There are some weeks when I just give myself a break from both my diet and exercise. It doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen. Once I’ve had enough of a break I start right back over.
I know what to eat and I know how to exercise to feel and look my best already, so it’s just a matter of doing it. I also let myself have a once-a-week “fun” meal of sushi and I take two days off a week from intense exercise.
I know now that beating myself up for mistakes is just pointless and insane. It doesn’t help the situation and in fact can make it worse. Instead, I learn from every situation as if it were an experiment, and I hypothesize over how to handle it better the next time.
There’s More To Health Than Just Diet and Exercise.
A recent epiphany of mine has been that I haven’t been focused enough on my mental health. Focusing on mental health really brings the diet and exercise parts together into the perfect trifecta that all enhance the others.
I’ve been focused on gratitude, which keeps me motivated to eat right and exercise. As a matter of fact, I have made it a part of my daily routine to record 5 gratitude statements. I’ve also begun to study meditating and deep breathing techniques that I practice daily. It has really brought it all together for me.
I used to have very rigid beliefs about what exercise looked like. At first, it had to be done in the gym and for hours and hours. Then it had to be done in the weight room. Then, it had to be HIIT training, and so on and so on. My diet and exercise beliefs were like my religion. As you can imagine, that gets old quickly.
As I began to expand my mind I realized that you just need to somehow move your body every day, and push your muscles a few times a week. This really hit home when I started wearing my Body Media band and saw that I burn as many calories on my active recovery days (just walking and hiking) as my intense cardio days.
You need to build muscle and you need to stay active, and you need to eat less than you burn. It really is that simple once you figure out what you enjoy and will stick with.
What would you tell yourself at the beginning of your health and fitness journey?