Behind every success story, is someone who made one last attempt at starting over.
You’ve decided to get in shape. This is it, you say. Time to start over, time to get it done. You’ve set a goal for yourself, tossed out all your unhealthy food, set your alarm to go to the gym. Two weeks later, you are sore, tired, frustrated and you really just want that cupcake. For all your good intentions, it feels like you’ve failed all over again.
Scroll through Instagram, and you’ll find plenty of fitness success stories with their before and after photos It’s important to remember, though, that these pictures only share a fragment of the story. Yes, between those pictures is a lot of effort and dedication. I’m not knocking anyone for posting them; I share mine too! #transformationtuesday, folks!
Recommended Reading: 10 Things My Before Picture Will Never Show You
The in-between is not the only part missing from the before-and-after picture. The biggest part that is missing? The most important part!
Everything in life before the Before.
Getting Started and Starting Over
This is a commonly quoted statistic, but a flawed one.
It comes from a clinical study from 1959 of 100 subjects seeking treatment for obesity. They were prescribed a strict diet and sent on their way without any extra support. Not exactly the best way to look at fat loss in the general population.
But if you are starting over and over and over and over, that 95% definitely has a ring of truthiness to it.
I finally had my most recent successful starting point in September, 2016. I was 27, about to turn 28. The first time I tried to lose weight, I was 16 years old. I failed for 11 years.
For 11 years, I failed 100% of my diets.
Before the before, everyone fails 100% of time.
Why Are We Failing?
I lost count of the times I tried to lose weight.
I did Atkins, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig. If you can name it, I probably tried it.
Every single time I lost five pounds, got excited, decided to treat myself and then the treats kept coming.
Even after I lost 40 lbs and thought I’d mastered the “lifestyle change,” old habits caught up to me.
When people struggle to get started, they usually fall into three main traps. Which of these has been tripping you up?
Recommended Reading: Get SMARTer About Goal Setting
If you’re looking ahead to your goal and can’t wait until it’s over, you’re setting yourself up for a losing battle.
First of all, our bodies are reflections of our habits and patterns. Whether it’s developing pain from postural issues or the redistribution of fat mass that happens when someone begins hormone replacement therapy, the body adapts to what we do to it . No one accidentally Arnolds, after all.
Starting to make changes intending to go back to old habits is like writing a novel and setting it on fire when you’re done
Take a look at the road ahead of you.
Where do you want to be next year? Are you going to get there by sprinting to your goal and then turning around and going back? Or do you want to see what amazing things are waiting for you on this road?
This food is bad. This food is good. I’m only going to eat x, y, z, and cut out food groups a, b, and c entirely.
I will exercise every single day and if I eat too much I’m going to exercise more. I will push myself no matter how tired or sore I am.
And if I mess up once, I have ruined everything.
Wow. I feel exhausted just typing that.
Yes, food is fuel. Some of it has more nutrients than others; some of it is more filling than others; some will make you feel energized and some will leave you hungry for more. Physical activity is important and good for you. But no single exercise program is perfect for everyone and rest should always be part of the program.
Setting up strict boundaries around food and exercise will make you feel trapped. Rather than trying to learn new healthy habits, you’re punishing yourself for past mistakes. Guilt and shame are shitty motivators. Fighting yourself up every step of the way is going to be a losing battle.
Eating well is a form of self-respect. At the end of the day, though, it all comes down to calories in vs. calories out. You can do that eating pretty much anything you want to. Just ask that professor who lost 27 lbs eating Twinkies.
Please don’t try to lose weight only eating Twinkies. You will be hungry and tired and I do not want that for my Super Squad. That being said there’s no need to cut out everything you love.
Aim to get 80% of your food from nutritious sources, and 20% from fun ones. This doesn’t have to be a daily balance either. It could be weekly, or even monthly. It’s not what we do a few times that gets us in shape – it is the things we learn to do consistently.
Absolute perfection a couple of times a month will never beat trying to do a little better every day.
Ignoring the Rest of the Iceberg
Losing fat is as much a mental process as it is a physical one. No, I’m not talking about willpower. I’m talking about our relationship with food.
Earlier, I said food is fuel. But it is so much more – it is compassion, it is tradition, it is culture, it is love. It can be other things, too. Food could be a shield, a drug, an addiction.
I self-medicated with food. Food helped me overcome anxiety at social events or bring a boost when I was wallowing in depression. Eating was also a form of self-harm, feeding my own feelings of worthlessness, of being unlovable
Not everyone’s food demons are this extreme. People who have struggled for most of their lives with weight, have more to unpack than others. Some people might ignore the empty calories in their liquor, or snack mindlessly throughout the day a bad breakup? Maybe you’re a little less motivated to go to the gym. These are the little bad habits that leave us wondering where the weight is coming from.
Weight fluctuations have a trigger, and you have to work to identify it and deal with it. That’s the mental part of the game.
How to Stop Failing
Looking back at all my false starts, I tried to pinpoint the exact reason I couldn’t follow through. I knew the science behind fat loss, had done it before. But, I couldn’t start or stay started.
Because I was not ready.
I was not ready to make taking care of myself a priority.
Every time I tried to take control of my body, I felt I need to fix something gross and shameful. In the beginning, I still had a lot of negative feelings about my body. And then one day, working on dumbbell rows, I noticed that my shoulders looked really nice.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had a positive thought about my body. That is why this was different. This became an exercise in learning to take care of the only body I have.
That’s when it clicks. That is when you stop tormenting yourself because you hate your body. You begin to learn to love it in a whole new way. Feeling out a diet that works for you, a fitness routine that works for you is kind of like starting a new relationship. It’s a relationship between you and your future.
It is a future where you feel good in your skin, have the energy to chase your passions relentlessly. You know how to eat and move well, but you make time for special moments in life. Because you know now there are ups and there are downs.
When we stop thinking of our mistakes as ruining everything, and use them as opportunities to learn how to do better next time .
When we stop thinking that we’ve ruined everything, we stop failing.
What has been keeping you from reaching your fitness goals? What have you found that has helped you succeed? Let me know in the comments.
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