We’ve come far in a short time frame, covering the power of our perspectives, the strength that lies in reframing our thoughts, the concept of fear as a natural reaction of the brain in response to uncertainty, and the command we naturally hold as empowered women and men acting in service to our higher selves.
Last week, we dove in to a discussion about boldly showing up as our authentic selves in our relationships. This solidifies our move closer to the stronger and more evolved version of who we are today.
Next week, we’ll be moving into some fat loss and conditioning science with some summer workouts- in short, moving on to physical strength, now that we’ve built this foundation. But first, this week, I’d like to wrap up our mindset series by learning to apply the very same principles we’ve used to strengthen our relationships with others to ourselves.
Strength begins and ends in the mind.
That’s why I wanted us to spend a couple of weeks laying the groundwork in our thought lives- it’s that important!
Body change is always deeper than aesthetics. As a coach, when someone tells me that they’d like to lose 20 pounds, I always ask why. It’s not that aesthetics aren’t an admirable goal- we’ve all used that as the basis for our goal setting! But I firmly believe that for body change to truly last- to truly be permanent body change- our reasons need to be deeper than how we look.
On average, it takes me three to five “why”s to get to the real reason. It looks something like this:
“I want to lose 20 pounds.”
“Okay, great! Why?”
“Well, I was thinner before I had a baby/when I was in high school/before I decided I should try this crazy diet.”
“I understand. And why are we chasing your pre-baby/high school/pre-food aware self?”
“Back then, I moved with a lot more energy and had a lot more fun. Now I feel tired all the time, and I drink 8 cups of coffee and a 5-hour energy, and nothing works. Plus, I just feel uncomfortable in my clothes.”
“I see. So, what we’re *really* after is feeling better, having more energy, having our clothes fit better and having a handle on our food intake so that it serves us, would that be fair to say?”
“Yes, sure, that sounds right.”
“Alright, so what’s the difference between what you’re doing now and what you did then? Why did you change?”
“I had a baby and have no time or sleep/I had more time in high school when I thought I had responsibilities but really didn’t/I have no mental energy to invest in working out when people are throwing diet rules at me all the time. And I got exhausted from trying. All I want is to *want* to go on a walk with my dogs/hike with my husband/play basketball with my daughter without feeling so terrible about myself and letting my puppy/husband/9 year old outrun me. So here I am.”
Can you see that it’s hardly ever actually about the 20 pounds at all?
I’d encourage you to stop and take a moment to evaluate your goals. Perform this exercise with yourself- investigate the reasons behind your goals, because it’s rarely just vanity, in my experience. There is almost always something deeper at play, so why do we focus on an arbitrary number when there is SO MUCH MORE to focus on?
Fortunately, we have a new skillset we’ve spent 3 weeks developing to be better equipped to address our deeper needs!
We all know that “you can’t hate yourself lean.” It’s been plastered all over the place in recent years (usually over pictures of some shredded girl with 72 kids under 5 and a huge, vascular, Arnold-looking guy), but we all know it’s true, or else all the standing-in-front-of-the-mirror-pinching-your-fat-and-twisting-so-your-biceps-look-bigger would’ve inspired us to real change by now.
Remember the second week, when we went through the *exact same* day with completely different thoughts?
Here’s where that kicks in to your body, and it’s a radical thought, so buckle up:
You CAN actively accept- and even love!- your body while still wanting it to change.
Bear with me here. The difference between a) hating your body and using fitness to make it better, and b) accepting your body and loving it for what it can do while working toward improving its performance is HUGE. And it’s all in our heads!
It shows up in what we see, say, think, and do. How do you talk to yourself? Would you say those thoughts out loud to your best friend? (Spoiler: you should be your own best friend. The next time you have a negative body thought, look in the mirror and say it out loud. You’ll probably cringe. This internal dialogue serves no one, I hope we’ve realized.) Are you honest about where you are, but compassionate about it as well? How do you move: as punishment for what you ate last night, or for the joy of exercise and to see what your body can do today?
That framing makes all the difference in the world between yo-yo dieting and effortlessly eating to serve your goals, and between a 21-day “banish xyz flaw” plan and training to be more mobile, energetic, and powerful.
We are strong and worthy. Our goals should always be plans to improve and upgrade ourselves into elevation, not fix what’s “wrong” with what we see.
It’s hard to make this shift! It takes effort. It’s a constant process of recognizing the place we are in closer and closer to instantly with each thought. It’s a lot of mental editing. But, I stand here in the shadow of grace to tell you, it’s worth every second you’ll invest.
Since I’m really into lists, I’d like to leave you with some of my favorite strategies that have helped me along the way:
1. Don’t seek perfection. This is, most likely, given our culture, a complete overhaul of your mental process. It won’t happen overnight. Don’t dwell on the times you mess up in your mindset (if you’re anything like me, there will be quite a few of them. Not just in my thought life, either.); be gentle with yourself. Respect the long game: your goals are tough, but they are also attainable. Any forward progress is progress!
2. Focus on the big picture, not the minutiae. Remember your limbic system we covered a couple weeks ago? Quiet it down. Not every detail deserves to send you reeling into freakout mode. White potatoes v sweet? Lunges v split squats? Treadmill v stairmaster? In the long run, the details are less important than the process. Move in ways you enjoy, as much as your joints and recovery tolerate. Eat in ways that bring you joy, but still leave you energetic (rather than sluggish) and satisfied (rather than starving or stuffed). Let good enough be good enough, and keep it moving.
3. Give yourself the little wins. We talked about this too, but it merits rehashing. Every step on the way to the big victory is a victory.
4. Breathe, and understand that progress in these areas is not linear. In so much of fitness marketing, we are led to believe that following in a plan will yield predictable results (“lose 2 pounds a week!” “Add 5lbs to the bar every lift!” etc. etc.). In many ways this is true- adding weight will get you stronger; eating according to any diet will allow you to shed pounds at least for a while, because you’re in a caloric deficit- but it’s not always as advertised. As humans, we expect progress to be linear, and it rarely is. That’s okay! Take a deep breath, focus on the mental awareness and calm that comes from a deep exhale, and realize that not all PRs are weights. Did your squat feel better coming up, even if it was the same weight as last week? Did you choose grilled chicken and balsamic vinaigrette on a salad instead of bacon and Ranch this week? These are wins; celebrate yourself (see #3)!
5. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Life is much easier when we are thankful. You get to dive into the process of knowing yourself intimately- your ticks, your struggles, your strengths, your insecurities- and turn that into a fine-tuned, mighty version of you. Not many people get to do that!
6. GO. Yes, go!! Just do it. Don’t worry about how you’ll mess up- you will, and you’ll recover. Every time. Be #ballgnorant (there it is again… it’s like “fetch” except better. If you somehow haven’t seen Mean Girls and therefore didn’t catch that reference, I’m sorry.).
Keep those 6 things in mind the next time you experience a challenge in your path, and you’ll bounce back more quickly and with less recoil. It will become much easier to see yourself not as a body to “fix” but as a whole person worthy of love and acceptance, capable of upgrading to a stronger, more audacious you.
And thus concludes our little crash course on mindset! I’ve enjoyed all of our conversations so much, and watch out: we’ll build on these in the future.