To progress from using exercise as punishment for overindulging or skipping workouts, to it being a form of self-care and empowerment.
The transition from diet hopping, fearing entire food groups, or simply feeling overwhelmed by nutrition, to no longer feeling guilty for eating any food, not spending more time than necessary thinking about nutrition, and being free from food obsession.
I talk frequently about those things, and many people say that all sounds wonderful, but how do they actually make the transition, particularly if they have a lot of diet and exercise “baggage” that’s accumulated over the years?
I went through periods where I thought my effort to get rid of diet and exercise “baggage” was in vain. “When will this get better!” I’d think in frustration. I’d spent years hating my body, feeling suffocated by worsening disordered and binge eating habits and relentlessly punishing myself with grueling workouts. I just wanted some relief. To go from the theoretical (“that sounds nice”) to the concrete (“I’ve made noticeable improvements”), there are three must-have ingredients.
Practice. Have action-oriented steps to take, and take them often. Perhaps you need to:
- Simplify your nutrition
- Stop chasing a smaller number on the scale
- Make workouts solely about discovering what your body can do
- Stop being so hard on yourself
If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, choose one or two big things, and focus exclusively on them. Do the necessary things, consistently.
Patience. Just like you can’t drastically change the appearance of your body in four weeks, neither can you completely makeover your mindset in such a short time either. Know this will take time. And be okay with that.
Persistence. Don’t stop striving for improvement. Even when you have setbacks, commit to forging forward. You must keep showing up and doing the work. The only way to screw up is to give up.
Hard things take time. Want to deadlift twice your bodyweight for reps? Want to run a sub seven-minute mile? Those are noble goals, and for most people they will demand consistent training. It’s not something someone can suddenly decide they want to do, have zero training experience, and then reach those goals in a short period of time.
As another example, you don’t wake up one day and say, “I’d love to play the piano” and instantly play beautiful music the first time your fingers touch the keys.
Changing your mindset and shedding the unnecessary baggage is no different. We don’t have the luxury of instantaneous results. We have to show up and put in the effort, consistently.
When it feels like progress is painfully slow, or stagnant, that is when you must keep going. Focus on the things that will help you move forward — practice, patience, persistence — and keep grinding away.
It can get better. It does get better. It will get better. It just may take some time.
When was the last time you weren’t trying to lose fat or reach a smaller number on the scale? If you need a refreshing change of pace, try an empowering approach that actually makes you feel good about yourself.