I haven’t always been fit. With the exception of three years of volleyball in high school, I didn’t grow up playing sports. I was more of a bookworm. I hated gym class in school. Running around the track, and the various sports, it was torture for my uncoordinated, teenage self. The only section of gym class I ever remember really loving was the weight lifting. Those were my favorite few weeks of the semester. After high school I got into weight lifting a little more… however it didn’t last. Much of my twenties were spent in more of a party mode. Going out to eat, parties, barbecues, and more. We were young, and oblivious, and invincible!
After I had my two children I found myself at my heaviest weight, exhausted, and weak. I couldn’t carry my one year old up the stairs without being completely out of breath! This was not how I pictured myself as a mom. I didn’t want to be the mom who was too out of shape to be able to enjoy my children! I wanted to be able to run, to play, and still have energy to get through the rest of my day. I didn’t feel good in my body, and I felt like I had lost my identity. As it often happens with kids, moms fail to make the time to take care of themselves. So I started a popular home workout program, and after 9 months I had lost 20 lbs. I felt amazing! I kept it up and over time I lost 10 more! Fast-forward three years and I was in the best shape of my life. I looked like an infomercial! I had never dreamed I could be this fit! Through my transformation I had developed a passion for health, fitness, exercise, and weight training. At 30, I finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up and I made the decision to become a personal trainer. If I could make this transformation in my own life, I wanted to help others to have the same success.
Soon after I made this decision the proverbial shit hit the fan… Life happened. Being hit with one major life changing event after another, my stress levels went through the roof! It became harder to keep up with my workouts. I found myself stress eating, then feeling guilty, then eating because I felt guilty about eating. It was an ugly, vicious cycle. Slowly a little bit of weight crept back on, I lost the definition and the strength I had gained. While it wasn’t a major weight gain, it was enough that I knew that I no longer looked like my amazing after pictures anymore. I knew that I still looked good, but after all that hard work, reaching a level of fitness and weight loss that I never thought possible, it was hard to accept that I couldn’t maintain that regardless of what was going on in my life.
I felt like a hypocrite. How can I inspire people to stay strong and disciplined through tough times when I couldn’t do it myself? I felt like I had let myself go. I began to beat myself up. It’s just not acceptable to be human. Not for me. I expect nothing but super human feats when it comes to strength, will power, and personal expectations. I wonder how many of us hold ourselves to such outrageous standards. The horrible things that I say to myself in my head are appalling. I would never dream of saying anything so horrible to a friend or client. Why do I talk this way to myself? I know I’m not the only person guilty of such harsh self-talk.
So how do we cope with real life while maintaining a healthy, fit lifestyle? What do you do once you’ve reached your goal and the excitement of working toward an end point is gone? How do you cope with being in a maintenance phase or backsliding due to the fact that life and tough times happen? Here are five tips that have been a help to me through the tough times. Everyone is different, but these work for me.
This too shall pass. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught myself holding my breath. I tense my shoulders, my fists ball, and my breath (if I’m breathing at all) is short and shallow. Take a second to assess how your body feels. Take a deep breath, relax your muscles, focus on what thoughts have you so uptight. Take another deep breath and let it go. It will pass. Things will work out. You are strong enough to make it through and you will come out the other side stronger and wiser.
2. “Do your best and forget the rest.”
If you’ve done P90X you’ve heard Tony Horton say that a million times. It’s a good thing to hear. At the end of the day, can you do any better than your best? No! So stop letting everything you DIDN’T do stress you out. Focus on the positive, and give yourself credit for doing the very best you could with what you have available to you! Acknowledge that every positive action you make is a step in the right direction.
3. Focus on the Positive.
This is my biggest challenge. I’ve spent years being negative, angry, hateful, surrounded by people who were the same way. I’m here to tell you that it’s no way to live. It’s no way to be. It’s also INSANELY difficult to break the habit. It’s hard to turn off that voice in your head that is constantly telling you how ugly, stupid, boring, talent less, or worthless you are. How you will never succeed, you aren’t worthy of love, you will never be good enough. It’s a nasty, mean, evil voice that lives in your head.. or at least the one in mine is. Tell that voice to shut the hell up! Change those thoughts to more positive ones. Tell yourself you are beautiful. You are intelligent. You are AMAZING! Focus on what you are great at! Feel great about the things you have accomplished, and know that the goals you have set for yourself are reachable, because you are badass enough to make them happen! Surround yourself with positive people that believe in you. Get rid of the people that bring you down!
4. Nurture yourself.
Are you the type to take care of everyone except yourself? It happens far to easily! Sometimes you don’t even realize how long it has been since you took some time for yourself. Here’s a little secret…. You can’t take care of other if you don’t take care of yourself. There’s a broad spectrum of ways you can care for yourself, from treating yourself to a pedicure, to deciding to get counseling, or hiring a wellness coach. Take a step back and think about something that you love to do that will help release tension, rejuvenate your spirit, and help you to return to your life and your to do list refreshed and ready to take it head on.
5. Make a plan.
Setting goals, making a to-do list, scheduling a trip, or a night out with friends. Having a plan of attack, or something to look forward to, helps to give me focus. Quite often I’ll have a tornado of thoughts swirling around my head of things that need to be taken care of, things I want to do, ideas and inspiration. Get them out of your head and onto paper. It’s liberating! Checking things off a to-do list feels amazing! Have you hit your exercise goal? THE goal? What now? Find something new to work toward. Maybe it’s not a weight, or pant size. Maybe now your goal will be to set a PR for a specific lift, to train for a race, to finally be able hold a challenging yoga pose. Having something to work toward will keep you from getting bored or losing focus.
What do you do if you’ve slipped and are no longer at that ideal weight? Take a step back and assess your current situation. Is that goal attainable at this moment with your stress levels, your time, your workload? Is that THE best goal for you and your life at this moment? Would it be OK if you weren’t the perfect weight, or the perfect size? Figure out what is important and set goals accordingly. Then let go of all those preconceived notions about being perfect, or being what you once were. Be the best you that you can be today, and that is enough.
The picture on the left is my "After" picture from late 2011 when I was at my lowest weight. The picture on the right is me today 7 lbs heavier and a pant size larger. It's not a major difference, but how many of us work to lose those last 5-10 lbs? This is really eye opening for me. Letting go of that mental hang up about gaining weight is difficult. There is nothing like a side by side to put things into perspective. It's OK to not maintain your "best" progress, and to feel comfortable and amazing in your current body.