In this season of “banish the bulge” and “trim it up” and “tighten and tone” it’s easy to start to feel like a complete and utter failure. Our society places such an incredible amount of weight on well…WEIGHT. How you look and how your jeans fit. And you know what? It’s a whole lot of never-enough-ness BULLSHIT. And I’m so tired of it.
If you want to improve your fitness. Awesome.
If you want to make different nutrition choices. Fabulous.
If you want to make sleep and well being a priority. Bravo!
But for goodness sakes please, I implore you: do not do it because somebody out there (likely someone you don’t even know) has made you think that you “should.”
The shitty should’s have got to go. As do the crappy comparisons. They do not serve us.
Do you know what does serve us?
Being kind and compassionate (with ourselves and others). Research shows that guilt and shame do not lead to lasting results. Sure, they might get us started (cue shame-filled, guilt-laden plod to the gym to “burn off the Christmas bulge”). But they rarely keep you going.
Research suggests that 50% of people starting an exercise program will drop out within the first 6 months. So those people snapping sweaty selfies when they’ve just started a program? Half of them won’t be doing it in 6 months. And those making changes to their nutrition aren’t having better success. According to research that examined long term results from dieting, while participants typically lose 5-10% of their starting weight in the first six months, at least 1/3-2/3 of those people regain more weight than they lost within 4-5 years.
Why do I share this bleak bit of research just as 90% of the population is about to embark on a “New Year, New You?” Because I want you to hear this:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE. If you’re feeling a sense of dread about “getting back on the wagon” because it feels like a moderately fruitless effort…you are not alone. And….you don’t have to do it.
What if this year you took a different approach?
One that is grounded in care and compassion for yourself and your body. Free of shitty should’s and crappy comparisons. And based on the foundation belief that you are enough. Right where you are. Exactly as you are. Just the way you look. In fact…it’s based in the belief that you’re AMAZING. What if?
Sure Gillian, sounds great. How the heck do I do that? Here are my 5 tips:
TIP 1: You do you.
There is no perfect plan or “right way” to be healthy and fit – just the one that works for you. So ditch the crappy comparisons – don’t compare yourself to your sister, best friend, that chick on the internet. They don’t have your unique genes, values, priorities or life! You aren’t starting in the same spot, you don’t have all the same responsibilities and you aren’t clones or robots! Feeling crappy about yourself is also horribly de-motivating. So don’t do it! You’re awesome! While you’re at it also ditch the shitty should’s – “I should do …..” or …. I hear this ALL THE TIME. You know what you SHOULD do? Whatever lights you up and inspires you! And if that’s not the same thing as your girlfriends then so be it. Connect with them in other ways. Or here’s a RADICAL thought – support one another to embrace whatever inspires you each as individuals! Support doesn’t have to mean doing the same things. It can be being super amazing cheerleaders and champions.
TIP 2: Stay grounded in science, and also common sense.
Fitness & health is a science. An ever-changing and evolving one, but it’s a science. But there is A LOT of psuedo-science out there. Non-valid “research” or claims that have no basis in science. Like a celebrity endorsement. Celebrity endorsement does not equal validity. It equals dollar signs. I know we cognitively “get this” but it does sway is (whether we like it or not). Media is very good at what they do. So stay grounded in science, but also use your common sense. To help you ground your common sense consider these questions as you explore tools & strategies:
- Is this something I can maintain long term? – if the answer is no, the results you gain from this approach won’t last either! So you need to ask the follow up question…why am I doing it then? What am I hoping to gain?
- Does this feel like a good fit to me? Does it bring me joy (on some level)?
- Does it help me achieve my goals?
- Does this WORK for my body, my life & my commitments?
- Do I WANT to do this? What does my gut say? I think we don’t trust our instincts enough. Take a minute. Listen in. What do you really want?
Tip 3: Start where you are and lean in.
This is the time of year when people jump in the deep end before they learn to swim. Don’t do that! Honour where you’re starting from (even if you have feelings of sadness or disappointment about it) and progress from there. We’ve all been “back to ground zero” before – and felt a bit sad about it. Me too! I remember how frustrating it was to re-learn to run after injury or having children. Losing 10, 20, 70 lbs, again after it found me “again.” But wallowing in the self-pity of sorrow doesn’t help you move forward. For more on my attitude towards that see “make friends with failure” below…but for now remember this.
We all have ebbs and flows in our health and fitness. Periods of more and less focus. Where it’s more ore less of a priority. That’s ok. In fact – I think it’s great. But if you’ve had an ebb…recognize you can’t just jump back into flow. Let me clarify with an example. When clients come to me inquiring about run programs they’ll often share that they’re not sure where they belong. They used to run, but have had a little hiatus. But they don’t need to “learn to run” because they know how to. And I would agree – they do KNOW how to run, but there is a difference between knowing and doing. And if your body has had a hiatus it needs to gently and progressively be shown how to do it again. To retrain the joints, ligaments and tendons to withstand the rigours of running. So yes, we re-learn to run. And you know what’s cool? That second or third or fifth time through “Learn to Run” is sometimes the time that makes all the difference! The time they truly find the JOY in running and re-ignite their spark for the sport. So be kind to yourself. Honour where you are and lean in.
Tip 4: Focus on the process not the outcomes.
I’m going to repeat that one for effect – focus on the PROCESS not the outcome. Because nothing magical happens when you get “there.” Especially when it’s aesthetically based goals (trust me, I’ve tested this one personally – many times). I am the same human at a size 8 that I was as a size 18. Because being happy – truly happy, content, confident and joyful, that’s an inside job. We are a culture obsessed with outcomes. With achieving goals. But have you ever achieved a goal and felt a little…FLAT? Yeah! Me too. t’s so easy to get focused on the outcomes – where we want to be. but when we put all our energy and focus on “there,” sometimes “there” because not only elusive but completely underwhelming to achieve.
And even more importantly…the outcome isn’t the point. The process is. I often relate this one to people who complete races without the training. Hey, I’m not knocking it – kudos to them for being able to. But I think they missed the point. All the lessons that come from completing a race of any sort (5k to marathon, triathlon and beyond) comes from the work you put in to get there. To prepare your body, mind and soul. Sure, crossing the line is an accomplishment no matter what…but the feeling you get when you cross that line when you’ve put in the time, effort and work – that’s extraordinary. And – even better is all things you learned along the way about your determination, dedication and GRIT (passion and perseverance in the pursuit of goals).
Also – there is some COOL research I’ve read that talks about how process goals (focusing on the HOW and not the WHAT) is actually more effective than outcome goals. Cool right?!
Tip 5: Find your tribe, love them hard.
This is not a plug for the SupeCrew Tribe, but instead a reminder that for most of us community and companionship is tremendously helpful. Sure, there will always be the few lone wolfs out there who go it alone and are happy and successful that way. Good for them. But what I’ve found in my nearly 20 years of working with clients is that most of us are better off with some type of support. Whether that’s a gym buddy or a running partner, a crew you Zumba with or an online fit family – find them! And engage with them. Contribution to the community is not only a great way to feel good – by contributing and adding value to others lives you make invaluable connection. And connection can really help when you struggle.
Bonus: Make (best) friends with failure.
You’re going to fall. A lot. When a child learns to walk they fall all the time! But we don’t make that mean they’ll never walk, we help them up, encourage them, give them a hug and off they go again. Do the same for yourself. Be gentle, kind and compassionate with yourself. Changing habits and doing new things is HARD. Really hard. Instead of expecting it to be easy, expect it to be HARD. Look to the work.
I recently listened to a podcast talking about being more mindful about our attachment to our technology. Like the incessant way we heck our social feeds or email (um, guilty). it reminded me of a family trip I took where I went phone free for 5 days. For the first 2 days it was like I had a tick. I kept reaching for my phone in the “idle” moments. Instead of being really present with my kids or the experiences I was having. And it struck me how habitual it had come to eat up every quiet moment with my phone in hand. Since then I’ve become somewhat more mindful with my phone practices (still a work in progress, but hey, progress is perfection right?!). But what’s interesting about this anecdote is this. True habits are hard-wired. They’re established ways of being. And while re-wiring our brain is 100% possible, it’s not without work.
When you’re forming a new habit you’re creating new neural pathways. Consider it this way, your old habits are like a super highway. Your new ones? Grown over country roads or completely new roads. Traveling the super highway is fast, efficient & effective. But it’s the same old road. And it goes to the same stops. The new road is way slower going. It’s going to take work to bushwhack, clear the road and then the travel will be bumpy and slower. But the route? STUNNING. It will take you to fabulous NEW destinations – possibly ones you’ve never seen before and didn’t even know were there.
Some final thoughts…
As you embark on 2018 believe in you. Believe in your capability to do amazing things. To reach great heights and to accomplish whatever you set your mind to. Don’t forget to find a good quality map to guide your process, but also remember that there are many ways to travel to each destination – and the one you take is totally up to you! Others might take a different, seemingly faster route, but hey, they might miss out on the extraordinary view you get to see on your route – the one you found absolutely life changing.
Remember to enjoy each minute of the journey and remember that it’s an ongoing one. That even once you get to your “destination” that it’s only really just a pit stop. The journey doesn’t really have a beginning or end. There will be peaks and valleys and likely (ok definitely) a few detours. But it’s yours to take. And make sure you bring some awesome people along for the ride. No road trip is complete without a few awesome friends to join you. To keep you awake when you start feeling sleepy, to laugh as we hit the detours or get a flat tire and to make incredible memories with along the way. So don’t rush the journey, be patient and enjoy every beautiful minute.