It’s crazy to believe, but this week marks the 5 YEAR anniversary of my health and fitness journey.
Five years ago I went to put on my scrub pants for work and was totally disgusted with myself when they wouldn’t go past my thunder thighs. When scrub pants no longer fit it’s a good sign that it’s time to make a change!
Since that time I’ve learned so much about myself and what it takes to not only lose weight and “get in shape” but more importantly how to turn those efforts into something that results in a permanent lifestyle change.
Yes, I still (and always will) have thunder thighs, but they are smaller (and stronger) now. 🙂
The lessons I’ve learned have little to do with following a specific meal plan or exercise routine so if that’s what you were looking for…SORRY! you won’t find that advice here.
Instead, what I learned has more to do about how to THINK and REACT and be your own best cheerleader when it comes to reaching your goals. Weight loss is more of a MENTAL challenge than anything else. So if that sounds interesting to you then GREAT…get cozy in your chair and grab a hot beverage because I have some good stuff to share with you!
1. A number on the scale only means what you make it mean.
Don’t base your success and self-worth entirely by the number you see on the scale. Pounds lost does not always mean progress and pounds gained does not always mean you’re doing something wrong.
The most obvious reason is that your body is largely made of water (50% give or take) and your weight is ALWAYS going to fluctuate day-by-day just based on water weight alone. Sometimes it can fluctuate as much as several pounds during the day. So please don’t go freaking out on yourself if you weigh yourself one day and the next day you’re two pounds heavier. YOU MUST KEEP THE BIG PICTURE IN MIND AT ALL TIMES. What matters more than your weight is your body composition: the ratio of fat to muscle. Less fat is good. More muscle is even better.
Obviously, if you have a higher percentage of body fat you will probably be more motivated to keep going when the number on the scale goes down. However, once you get closer to your “ideal weight” (not sure I’m crazy about that term) the scale becomes much less useful as a tool to measure your progress. Instead, use measurements, photos, how your clothes fit, and most importantly…how you FEEL.
Whether or not you choose to weigh yourself every day is a personal decision. Just remember that the number you see is simple math and nothing else. It’s a simple representation of your bones, fat, muscle, blood, brain, waste products (eew) and whatever else is floating around in there. It’s not a reflection of your self-worth. It’s data and nothing else.
If you can learn how to stand on the scale and only be curious to know the outcome and nothing else, you’ve established a good relationship with yourself. However, if you’re playing games with yourself and going pee and taking all your clothes off and doing all these other weird tricks before you step on the scale you probably need to explore the reasons why you do that a little bit more.
2. The closer you monitor your nutrition the better your results.
It’s pretty simple: if you don’t know what you’re eating you won’t know how to make adjustments to get the results you want. You don’t have to get obsessive about it, but you need to be using some type of system to track your nutrition. At first you can use something simple like a written or photo food journal, but eventually you’ll need to get more specific with a tool like MyFitnessPal.
There’s no exact science or a one-size-fits all approach that works for everyone, but the major things I like to pay attention to are calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and fiber. Over the years I’ve learned how my body responds to certain amounts of calories and macronutrients just by tracking everything and paying attention to the results. Again, it’s just like weighing yourself on the scale. This isn’t a time to be judgmental. You’re simply conducting a experiment and then interpreting the results.
I’ll be honest, tracking your nutrition is going to be a huge pain in the butt at first. But it will be one of the most valuable things that you ever do. Besides learning about nutrition you’ll also learn about some of the emotional patterns you have when it comes to food. And sometimes that can be even more important than the nutritional part.
I think there’s two different stages of food journaling. The first is when you’re just starting out on your journey and you really have no idea what you’re putting into your body on a daily basis. And the second stage is when you decide to set some goals and start your experiment. In the future I’m going to write a separate blog post which explains some of the methods you can use for each one and when I do that I’ll add the links here!
3. Sorry, calories really do matter.
I always cringe a little bit whenever I hear people say that all you have to do is eat “clean” or “healthy” foods to lose weight. They kind of poo-poo calorie counting as if it’s not the cool thing to do anymore. Well, that’s not necessarily the case. You can eat too much of any food and still gain weight. Again, there’s no need to get obsessive. Just be mindful of your serving sizes and when you start tracking your nutrition you’ll learn about this a whole lot more. You’ll also notice that certain calories will give you more bang for the buck. For example, your body is going to utilize 100 calories from spinach way differently compared to 100 calories of soda.
4. Food is not good or bad.
OK so what do I mean by that? Well, how many times have you said to yourself, “I was bad today…I ate some cookies.” Or “I can’t eat that…it’s totally off limits!” Or my favorite…when I’m at some type of social function or gathering and someone tells me “You don’t want any soda or wine or dessert or ANYTHING? You’re so good!” However, the one that seems to be most popular is when I do choose to eat something “bad” and people treat it like some circus act: “Hey everyone…LOOK! Amanda is eating WENDYS! You gotta come check this out!!”
Here’s the thing: we all make choices about the food we eat based on what we think is most important to us AT THAT MOMENT. You may not even realize you’re doing it, but THE CHOICE is the most important thing. And sometimes other priorities in your life (like the memory of Grandma’s cooking or having fun at a social gathering) trumps nutrition.
AND THAT’S COMPLETELY OK!!!
Everyone carries their own ideas of what food is:
- fuel (gotta run that marathon tomorrow!)
- reward (I just ran a marathon so now I can eat a dozen donuts!)
- punishment (yesterday I ate way too many cookies so now I gotta eat these celery sticks)
- escape (maybe if I bury my face in this gallon of ice cream I’ll forget about my stupid ex-boyfriend)
- shame (the only thing that loves me is this bag of Doritos)
- freedom (ever since I started eating more plant-based foods I feel like I can conquer the world!)
And many more…
To me food is information and it can tell a story about your daily life, your health, and how you function on a daily basis. To me food is NOT good or bad.
Every choice you make is a simple calculation of what really matters to you in that moment and the more closely you pay attention to why you make certain choices the better off you’ll be.
There is no GOOD or BAD, there is simply the decision to choose what it is that you want the most RIGHT NOW:
Is it…Feeling energized? Connecting with loved ones? Truly nourishing your body? Feeding your soul? Remembering your heritage or family traditions? Or getting one step closer to six-pack abs?
There should be no judgement here and the beauty is that you are ALWAYS in control of your choices.
5. When it comes to exercise be a GIVER not a TAKER.
What if I told you not to use exercise as a way to lose weight? You would think I was TOTALLY off my rocker right?
Well, before you leave my website in search of the latest and greatest fat burning exercise please just hear me out! 🙂
Use exercise as a way to GIVE to yourself.
Think of your body and it’s relationship to exercise as a precious loved one. You know…something similar to a spouse, parent, child, best friend, etc. In order to nurture these relationships and make them strong you need to be a GIVER not a TAKER. What kind of relationship do you have when all you’re doing is taking all the time? Chances are it’s not a good one.
Most of the time people exercise based on what it will give them. A thinner waistline, a more attractive bum-bum, or whatever. They “take” from exercise what they can get and this usually leads to a bitter relationship and doing activities that are not enjoyable. Instead, use exercise as a way to give to yourself because you ARE a precious loved one. It should feel as if you are making a contribution to your life. And as the giver, it will make you feel so good to give.
Also, be careful how you talk to yourself when it comes to exercise. When you say, “I have to workout today” it sounds like such a drag. You know, along the lines of “I have to clean the bathroom today.” Instead, tell yourself “Today I’m making the choice to make myself better.” Or whatever it is that sounds good to YOU!
I love this quote from the book If I’m So Smart Why Can’t I Lose Weight? by Brooke Castillo:
People who exercise regularly are communicating to themselves and the world how they should be treated. They are making a statement that they are willing to give to themselves for the sake of giving health and care without so much regard of what they will “get out of it” in terms of losing weight or looking good. Give yourself emotional strength, the ability to overcome excuses, motivation, pride, and the emotional commitment to state that you matter.
If you can embrace this approach it will totally change your world!
6. Your mindset is your important muscle.
It doesn’t really matter what other goodies you have in your bag of tricks. The most important tool in your toolbox is ALWAYS going to be a positive attitude. You can have the most amazing meal plan and workout program designed by the world’s leading nutritionist and personal trainer, but it’s not going to do you any good if you don’t have a positive mindset and a positive attitude.
I used to think that personal development was just a bunch of hocus-pocus, but during the past few years I’ve learned how valuable it can be. Just starting/ending your day with 15 minutes of reading, video, audio, or whatever else you like can do wonders for your mental health and overall well-being.
You’ll often hear people who are so desperate to lose weight say things like, “Please I’ll do anything…just tell me…what do I need to DO??”
But I better question is, “Who do I need to BE?”
7. Focus on behavior-based goals, not outcome-based goals.
When most people embark on their fitness goals they focus on outcome-based goals. Things like: “I want to lose 20 pounds in 12 weeks.” A key characteristic of an outcome-based goal is the fact that you can’t directly control the accomplishment of the goal. An outcome-based goal is the end result of a series of other things you have to do. As a result, if you get to the end of 12 weeks and you haven’t lost 20 pounds you’ll likely be frustrated and look at the past 12 weeks as a complete waste of time.
On the other hand, when you make behavior-based goals you are always in control of what happens. Behavior goals are the steps you need to take in order to accomplish your desired outcome.
For example, let say your desired outcome is “lose 20 pounds in 12 weeks.” Some related behavior goals may include “I will exercise five days a week for the next 12 weeks” or “I will track my nutrition every day for the next 12 weeks.” A key characteristic of a behavior goal is that you can directly control the goal and it’s action you can choose to do (or not to do) every day.
I notice that every time I focus on my behavior I almost always end up with the result I want!
You definitely want to set outcome-based goals, but you need to take it one step further and determine what specific actions will lead you to the outcome that you want.
Also, just saying “I want to lose 20 pounds” isn’t very motivating. In fact, it’s a little self-defeating. It reminds me of a quote: The more you dwell on what you don’t want, the more of it you create.
Instead of always thinking about what you need to LOSE, think of all the things you want to GAIN. Something like, “I want to be in a size 8 dress at my class reunion this fall where I will see friends and former boyfriends I haven’t seen in 20 years.” Or “I want to be able to complete a 5K with my son.”
Those types of goals are going to be a lot more motivating.
Which leads me to…
8. Motivation comes from within, and sometimes habit is more important than motivation.
I’ve learned that I’m always responsible for my own motivation…not someone or something else. And what motivates ME is probably going to be different than what motivates YOU. And what motivated me yesterday or last year is probably going to be different than what motivates me TODAY.
Motivation is a tricksy-tricksy beast!!
I can look to external sources for INSPIRATION and ideas but at the end of the day I’m the one who is 100% responsible for getting my butt off the couch!
Honestly though, sometimes I think motivation is a little bit overrated. Motivation is more like an EMOTION, and how many of us experience the same emotion 100% of the time??
This is where your HABITS come into play. When your motivation is weak, your habits are going to pick up the slack. If you’ve established good, simple habits for yourself, you’re just going to go through your daily routine without even really thinking about it or trying to muster up too much energy.
If you find yourself lacking motivation maybe it’s because you’re expecting too much from yourself. Cut yourself some slack and start making SMALL changes to your daily routine (even if it’s just exercising for 5 minutes everyday, drinking more water, or improving one meal) and then work your way up from there.
9. Accountability and support is often the missing piece of the puzzle.
I tend to be more self-motivated when it comes to my health and fitness, but for many people having a strong support system can greatly increase their odds of success. And as a Beachbody coach and blogger, just sharing my journey and supporting people during my own journey keeps me WAY more accountable to my own actions and goals!
In fact, you might have all your ducks lined up in a row, but the one thing you’re still missing is simply being held accountable (to someone or something) for your daily workouts and nutrition.
Accountability keeps you consistent with your habits because you have to report back on what you’re doing (or not doing) in regards to your workout or nutrition. In fact, for many people accountability trumps personal motivation hands down.
If we have someone who’s checking up on us to see how things are going, we’ll get our butt in gear. Even if we don’t feel motivated in the moment.
Because I think daily support and accountability is so important, I offer it as a free service for anyone who selects me to be their Team Beachbody Coach.
10. Love them and let them go.
There are going to be many times during your journey where you encounter people, things, or thoughts that you just have to love for who/what they are and then you let them go.
Maybe you have a friend who is intimidated by the change in your behavior and your new habits and instead of being supportive chooses to criticize you or poke fun. Or maybe you keep remembering past mistakes and failed attempts at losing weight and that’s preventing you from moving forward. But you can’t let those things de-rail you and stand in your way. Love your friends for who they are, lead by example, and pray that eventually they’ll come around to your way of thinking. Love your mistakes and failures because they taught you valuable lessons.
Either way, love ’em and keep moving on.
11. The journey never ends.
It’s funny, when I first started on this crazy journey all I really wanted to do was one real pull-up. I figured anyone who could a pull-up is probably in pretty good shape.
Near the end of my first round of P90X I was finally able to do my first real pull-up and then I realized there was so many other things that I wanted to do! It was like a whole new world opened up for me.
After that I started training for a half-marathon and since then I’ve done two full marathons. Now I’m working on running faster (my ultimate goal is running a half-marathon in less than two hours) and eventually I want to complete a race in all 50 states.
Who knows, maybe running isn’t your thing and that’s totally cool. The possibilities are endless when it comes to health and fitness. If you stick with it you’ll find that one simple goal eventually snowballs into something enormous that you never would have imagined doing before!
12. You’ve already arrived at your destination.
OK, so this probably seems a little counter-intuitive based on what I just told you, but let me explain. 🙂
We live in a society where everything we see, read, and hear states that once we finally achieve ABC or obtain XYZ we’ll finally experience this feeling of utopia where all we see is rainbows and we can dance with unicorns all day long.
Sorry…NOT the case!
People think that once they reach a goal or see a certain number on the scale THAT is the moment when their life is going to change.
Nope. It’s actually the complete opposite.
Try to imagine how you’ll feel once you reach that goal. You have to feel that way NOW and then use THOSE feelings to get the results you want! I know it probably sounds totally crazy at first, but trust me…it WORKS!!
Most people write goals because they think once they achieve that goal they’re going to feel differently. That’s not going to work at all. You have to feel the way you want to feel when you’re achieved that goal NOW and from that feeling is how you create the result. How you feel about a goal is EVERYTHING.
If thinking about your goal brings up a ton of negative emotions then you might want to spend some time thinking about why. Don’t worry, this is NORMAL but you still have work to do to get in the right frame of mind. This is a big reason why so many people end up “falling off the wagon” because they haven’t gotten in the right frame of mind and have too many negative thoughts surrounding their goal.
On the other hand, if you write down a goal and it makes you feel GREAT to think about it, then it’s definitely time to take action!!
WHEW!! So there you have it…the 12 most valuable lessons I’ve learned about health and fitness during the past 5 years. I’m sure there will be many more to come and I look forward to sharing this crazy journey with you!
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