We’ve all been there. We make a resolution to get healthy and fit back into our old jeans again with images of us looking like Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman floating through our head (yeah, we could rock that outfit if we really wanted to, but it looks awfully drafty…). This is followed by purchasing a gym membership or making a plan for an at-home exercise regimen. We re-stock our fridge and pantry with healthy food and our resolution to stick with “the plan” is high.
Two weeks into “the plan” every muscle in our body hurts. Rolling out of bed in the morning is akin to a turtle being stuck on it’s back. The scale hasn’t budged. And if you have to eat another vegetable you may scream. You just want a stinking french fry for goodness sake. Maybe living in sweat pants the rest of your life really isn’t all that bad. Elastic is what dreams are made of. Or where goals go to die. I can’t decide.
This is the fork in the road for most people. When change gets hard and you haven’t seen any results yet, it’s easy to let the thoughts of “is this even worth it?” and “I can skip today” linger in our heads and it slowly chips away at our resolve. Before we know it, we are back in the Runza drive through and one cheat meal has turned into a cheat month, leaving you further from your goals than when you started.
How do we avoid getting to this point? How do we power through our weaker moments (because we are human after all)? I believe that just like you exercise your body, you also must exercise your mind. Our bodies will only go as far as our minds will allow them to go. When given the opportunity our bodies can do amazing things.
1) Set short term and long term goals.
When I make a plan of care for my patients, I always write up short term and long term goals. This gives a direction for our progress and mile markers along the way that we want to hit before the ultimate long term goals. Having short term goals will give you something to reach for within distance and once achieved, will give you the encouragement and motivation to continue. Each goal reached will make your resolve that much stronger.
2) Celebrate victories (but not with food)
Once you hit those smaller milestones you’ve set, celebrate them! Lose your first 5 pounds? Stuck with your nutrition plan without cheating for a week? Did you work out 5 days a week for a month? Celebrate that! But don’t feed into your old habits by turning to food. Get a pedicure. Take a long, hot soak in the tub (those muscles will thank you). Go shopping for some new workout shoes. Even getting new exercise clothes to make you feel good while working out can be a celebration! While you’re at it, share your successes with others. You never know who you are encouraging.
3) Make a plan for food you can stick with
I love me some food. All kinds of food. But it is also an area of weakness for me. Once I start eating sweets and junk food, it’s like my STOP button completely disappears. Add that along with being a member of a church where no get-together can happen sans food, and living in a family where we just enjoy being together over a table of food, and I can easily feed into my weaknesses. Since I know this is a trigger for me, I make a point to not even start (or if I do, there needs to be a finite amount of that food available).
My personality thrives off of structure and limits. So for me, creating a strict food plan worked very well. When I completed my first round of 80 Day Obsession, I followed their strict nutrition plan to a near T for 93 days, allowing myself no cheat meals or days because I knew if I did, it would lead to even more. This meant taking my pre-prepped food with us when we went out with friends. When we went to visit family, I toted along my freezer bag of meals. When I went to work, all the meals I’d need for the day came with me. I left no room to allow myself to get hungry without an on-plan meal available to eat. I realize this doesn’t fit everyone’s personality. Some people would loathe eating with such structure and their plan would crumble before they even started. The point is, whatever your personality, make a plan that is do-able for you and then stick with it.
4) When the going gets tough, stay out of your head
Our mind can be our greatest enemy and the weakest link in our armor of resolve. It will convince us we don’t need to finish those last 5 reps. It will tell us we can end our workout early because our bodies are tired and your to-do list is a mile long. It will crave that bag of potato chips and incessantly remind you of their location above the refrigerator. The only advice I can give when this happens is to flex your muscles of self-control and resolve. The more you flex it, the more you practice it, the easier it gets. Just like our bodies get stronger with exercise, our minds can also get stronger. Allow yourself to get stronger. The more effort you put into something, eventually the more effortless it becomes.
5) Kick your excuses to the curb (because you’re worth more)
I’m a busy mom of two little humans. I get it. There are to-do lists, mountains of stinky laundry waiting, crying babies and fighting siblings, bills to be paid, plumbing to fix, work schedules and spouses and community activities and sleepless nights. You’re just so tired. I can go on, but you know the list, too. We find it too easy to reach for the quick and unhealthy meal. We push our workout to the bottom of our to-do list for the day because other things seem much more pressing. You just have nothing left to give.
If you don’t take care of yourself now, when will you start? When you have your first health scare? When you’ve reached X weight? Next Monday (this is a personal favorite to use)? If you’re tired of where you are now and how you feel now, what are you willing to do to change it? Big changes yield big results. No changes yield no results.
You’ll have so much more to give when your own cup is full, when you’re strong and rested, when your body is fueled with healthy foods. Invest time into you and being healthy. Don’t let your excuses limit you. Your body will only go as far as your mind will allow it to go.