I was having a conversation with my friend Elizabeth about all the ridiculous diet and exercise programs we’ve wasted our time and money on over the years and it got me thinking about just how far I’ve come from my all-or-nothing mindset I was trapped in for so long, and also all of the repeated mistakes I’ve made along the way.
In an effort to save someone else who is stuck in that same mindset some time, energy, and money, I’m going to share with you the biggest mistakes I made when trying to get leaner, smaller, skinnier etc…
1. Not spending enough time working on my mindset.
I don’t know when health and fitness turned into a mental obsession for me, but I’ve learned that more than likely it came from a place of not feeling good enough. Not skinny enough, fit enough, pretty enough, smart enough, successful enough – whatever. I started to place my self worth on what size jeans I wore, how well I placed in a show, how much I exercised and how clean I could eat.
I totally understand the desire to lose a little body fat, but for me that turned into a game I could never win. I would get down to whatever weight or size I told myself I would be happy at, and would still pick myself apart and compare myself to everyone who was smaller, leaner, taller, prettier. Always comparing. Still telling myself, in one way or another that I wasn’t good enough.
I never gave the mindset piece much thought. Because it took work. I wasn’t ready for that. I didn’t want to face the reasons why I was feeling these feelings – I just wanted someone to tell me what to eat and how to exercise, put my head down and follow directions. I thought it was as simple as that, but of course it wasn’t.
Becoming aware of the way I would talk to myself and the constant negative things I was saying and thinking has really helped me to adjust my mindset. Positive self talk and affirmations have been game changers for me. Game. Changers. And therapy. That helps too 🙂
If you had asked me 6 years ago what the first thing I did in the morning was, I would tell you it was to step on the scale, and let that number dictate my mood for the day.
Now, every morning I shut my alarm off and open up my notes app on my phone and read over my affirmations and goals. I choose (because it is a choice) to focus my energy on positive thoughts. Telling myself that my legs were too big or my stomach wasn’t flat enough or whatever it was, was a choice, and one that kept me unhappy for a really long time.
And trust me, I read all about vision boards and affirmations and positive self-talk for years…and I just didn’t buy into it. AT ALL….but again, sometimes it takes hearing it, reading it, listening people talk about it for years until it sticks….It certainly takes practice, but for me this has been what has made the most difference.
2. Thinking that running 5 miles a day (or hour long cardio sessions – sometimes twice a day because the classes I taught “didn’t count”) was necessary for fat loss.
Even though I studied Applied Exercise Science in undergrad and graduate school, and knew that pretty much every single study ever done shows that strength training and interval training coupled with a good nutrition program are the keys to fat loss, I still had a really hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that doing cardio for 45 minutes wasn’t necessarily helping me reach my goals.
That whole “more-is-better” thing. Why not lift, sprint and THEN do cardio on top of that? How can that be bad?
The problem for me was that all of that cardio raised my cortisol levels (stress hormones) through the roof (and yes, I had it tested). High cortisol is no bueno for a lot of things, one of them being fat loss. Not only that, but all that cardio would increase my hunger and cravings making it a million times harder for me to stay on track with my new “plan”.
It’s one thing if you love to run, or you enjoy spending an hour on an elliptical – but I didn’t. I felt like it was something I *had* to do, or else I would turn into a Beluga whale. It wasn’t until I saw a naturopathic doctor who recommended that I take out all of my longer cardio for slow walking did I start making some changes. I gave up teaching all of my group ex classes and started walking (slowly).
Like I said above, sometimes you just have to hear it from someone else or in a different way and it’ll stick. For some reason when she explained why I wasn’t reaching my goals even though I felt like I was doing everything I should be doing, it stuck.
Thats not to say I’ll never run a road race or hit the step mill for a session here and there, I just won’t look at it as something I *have* to do to maintain my weight and I certainly won’t do it 6 or 7 days a week for months on end. Strength training a couple times per week using challenging weights plus walking slowly everyday are things I know I can continue to do for the rest of my life. I enjoy them, they give me great results and they keep me happy.
3. Following instead of listening.
I wanted to follow a plan. I wanted someone to list out my meals for the day. I would say “just tell me what to eat and exactly how much to eat and I’ll eat it”. I wanted rules. I didn’t want to “try” and see if it worked, that would take too much time. I wanted what was going to get me results and I’d worry about the rest later….but in the long-run it just kept me in that cycle of being “on” or “off”.
As Elizabeth says, I was either in strict pursuit of reaching my goals by trying to follow these plans perfectly, or complete avoidance when I felt like a failure because I couldn’t keep them up.
There is not one plan out there that works for everyone. Sure there are commonalities, but we all have different preferences, schedules, metabolisms etc…Sometimes I wish someone could tell me “here just follow this”, because that does seem a bit easier, but I know it doesn’t end well. I know I’ve come a long way when I don’t feel the need to start a new plan every weekend or beat myself up for having wine or frozen yogurt or I find myself elbow deep in the animal crackers…that, for me, is major progress.
I’m so happy I made the choice to enjoy the process and listen to my body. No deadlines, no rush, no crazy expectations. I’ve taken the time to really pay attention to how certain foods and exercises affect me, and because of that I’ve been able to design a program that works for ME. My preferences, my schedule, the results *I* want.
I know that my schedule will change, my hormones will change, my social life will change as the years go by, but I know exactly what plan I need to be on to get through all of those changes. The one I design for myself.
But it all came down to wanting to change. Wanting to do the work to change the way I looked at myself, talked to myself, thought about myself etc… Realizing that being a certain number on the scale has nothing to do with how good of a mom, wife, daughter, friend, or coach I am. NOTHING.
I’m choosing to look at things differently and I’ve never been happier in my own skin.
PS – If any of this resonates with you, check out the webinar I hosted with Elizabeth all about how diets don’t work and why they are actually keeping you from getting results! Click here 🙂