It took me a long time to truly find balance when it came to living a healthy lifestyle. I have always wanted to have a fit look about me, and I spent a long time counting calories and spending hours working out. I also spent time attempting “body acceptance” where I just ate whatever I wanted and accepted that I would just never be fit again. Neither of those extremes worked for me. What did work for me was accepting where I was in my journey, while working toward a stronger, healthier self.
This will sound so basic, but the first thing I did to accept myself and move forward in my journey, was to buy clothes that fit me. For pretty much all of my life, I would hang on to clothes that used to fit, in the hopes that they would fit again someday. There’s nothing terribly wrong with doing this, but I was hanging on to clothes for 5 years at a time that still did not fit comfortably. I was shaming myself for not fitting into my old clothes. Once I let go of that expectation and bought clothes that fit me comfortably, I stopped feeling so uncomfortable. This is so basic, and yet such a difficult step! Nobody wants to buy bigger clothes. Sometimes though, getting clothes that fit and help you feel more confident, help you to have the courage to take control of your situation.
The next thing I did was take responsibility for my actions. I am responsible for what I put in my mouth. I am responsible for the excuses I make or for pushing myself beyond reason. I am responsible for my rest. Nobody else. These are my responsibilities for taking care of myself. I am not responsible for the insecurities others may feel when I take care of myself. This was the biggest phenomenon for me. I worked at a gym where I was constantly criticized for bringing in my own meals and nourishing myself. It made me feel really small and like I had to change my habits. Then I realized I should not be apologizing for taking care of myself. I should not feel bad for eating healthy food, for eating a lot of food, and for moving my body. This was so so hard for me to learn, but I did eventually realize that I deserve to take care of myself. I should not make myself smaller because taking responsibility of my life made other people uncomfortable.
Next, I got real with myself about what I wanted and buckled down. There seems to be this trend where wanting to look a certain way or wearing make-up or taking care of yourself is shameful. I think it’s OK to want to look pretty. I think it is OK to take 45 minutes to do your hair if you enjoy that. I do not thinkthat taking care of yourself to feel your best should cause shame. I may not wear make-up or do my hair often, because that is not where my priorities lay; however, meal prepping and working out are priorities for me. I decided that I wanted to have a strong look, and that I wanted to see what kind of limits I could take my body to. I like to run, but I decided to run a marathon because it just seemed crazy. I still have so many things I want to try because I am unsure if I can do them, and I just want to continue to push my comfort zones. Also, I just want to look good (my version of that for me). I want to feel strong and have an outer shell that reflects that strength. Again, for a long time I was not real with myself about this.
Be intentional. My number one priority is always to feel my best. I cannot be a good mom if I feel lethargic most of the time. I cannot be a good wife if I am consistently in a bad mood. There have been times where I tell Pat “I think I will cut back on this part of my workout, but I will probably still run a few days per week” to which he usually responds “please do.” Running genuinely affects my mood that much. Not because I feel like I have to run or I will get fat, or any of that. It just really does give me those endorphins that help me to be a more patient person (I need all the help I can get when it comes to patience). Back to the point though: be intentional. It is all well and good to decide you want to be healthy, but you cannot just wing it. You cannot decide that some days you will eat well and other days you will eat an entire pizza in one sitting. The first few months you have to be really intentional. Write out your meals. Prepare your meals. Write out your workout schedule. Don’t skip it. Get all of your workout gear ready the night prior. Get your post workout meal ready the night prior. Actually sit down and eat your meals instead of eating on-the-go. I know that sounds like a lot, and at first it can be overwhelming. Be intentional about your goals though. If you want to be healthy, take the time each day to being a healthier person. If you have 30 minutes to watch TV or 10 minutes to be on Facebook/Instagram, you have 10 minutes to sit down and be intentional about what you are putting into your mouth.
Crowd out less nutritious food. I have watched a ton of food documentaries and one of the best bits of knowledge I took away from these was to crowd out your less nutritious food. First of all, I don’t like to label food “good” and “bad”. That gives food too much power and it’s just not that serious. If I want to have some nachos, I will make the choice of whether or not I will eat them, then I will stop when they are no longer satisfying. It does not have to be all or nothing, and food does not have to be so black and white. Certain foods nourish me more and give me more energy, so I prefer to eat those most of the time. What I did for food crowding was I began filling my plate with nutritious food first. I always start with my veggies, piling them on. Next, I add my protein source. Next I add my carb and fat sources (generally my fats come from the generous amounts of oil in which I cook my vegetables). Now I have vitamins, as well as all of my macronutrients. From here, I will add in anything extra I may want. Say some chips, or an after dinner dessert. I listen to my body first though. Am I full? If so, I will hold off on dessert. I won’t die without the dessert, and it will be there tomorrow. If it isn’t there tomorrow, I am sure I can find it or something similar.
Overall, being honest with myself and listening to my body is what helped me the most. I would always read people saying they just lived this lifestyle and they did not want a quick fix and I thought they were smug. Truly, I hated reading stuff like that because I just really could not relate. I wanted to lose weight first THEN work on the lifestyle. Once I was finally able to change that mentality, it really helped me to reach my goals and become a much healthier person. One of the questions that I often ask myself is: is this a life or death situation. I know that seems extreme, but putting things into perspective like that really helps. Eating Doritos on the couch all day everyday, that is life or death, because it will not help you live a nourishing life. Missing dessert once in a while isn’t life or death. Gaining 5lbs over two months isn’t life or death. Your jeans fitting a little snugger over a long period isn’t life or death. Missing one workout isn’t life or death. Consistently engaging in some of these behaviors can definitely take away from your health, but giving it perspective may help you not get the “F its”. You know what I’m talking about. “Oh, I already had a piece of pizza. F it, I might as well eat a whole cake too.” One piece of pizza won’t make you fat. Having this mentality everyday, will. This takes away from your health and your energy.
Have you tried any of these in the past or are you currently trying any of them now? Let me know what has worked for you!