Have you ever started an exercise or diet plan because you were unhappy with your appearance, or were worried about your health? Perhaps you wanted to move away from something negative, such as low energy levels or self-confidence, and embark on a journey to change. Unfortunately, all too often, we carry on this focus on the negative, even as we make positive changes.
Quite often, when people self-report (to others or themselves) on their eating or exercise habits, they are quick to highlight the ‘less healthy’ parts. “I had three glasses of wine this weekend,” or “I didn’t do well; I didn’t lose any weight this week.” We are our own worst critics, and for some reason when we start to make healthier choices, we sometimes criticize ourselves even more.
The negative talk can spiral into negative thoughts and negative beliefs. You may think that you failed, or you determine your self-worth based on whether or not you had dessert, or if you lost any weight one week. You feel guilty when you indulge, and try to make up for it by running a few extra miles, or skipping your next meal. The goal of eating becomes to consume fewer calories, and exercise becomes a punishment for poor eating.
How do we abolish the negative beliefs and make the journey to health and fitness a positive one?
It’s simple. You need to re-evaluate your focus and goals, redefine success, and celebrate success.
Change your focus and your goals
First, stop focusing on the number on the scale or the measuring tape. When we focus on weight loss, the goal of eating becomes to restrict calories, and the goal of exercise becomes to burn calories. Instead, shift your focus to feeling good and taking care of your body. Choose healthy foods to nourish your body. See exercise as an opportunity to energize yourself, and to be able to do more things in life, such as outdoor adventures, or playing with your kids. The thought process in the journey should be a positive experience. Focus on the action steps, and the results will follow.
You’re going to have days when you struggle a little, days when you eat foods that are not on your plan, or you miss a workout. That’s life. Success is not a number on the scale, being 100 per cent compliant to your eating plan, or making every workout. Improvement is success. Recognize when you make any healthy choice, and give yourself credit. Let’s say, for example, you ate well all day, kept up with your food journals and went for a long walk. That evening, your neighbours stop by with a sampling of fresh baked cookies. You ate dinner, and aren’t hungry, and a cookie was not on your plan for the day. But the cookies smell so good; and you have two. You can either look at the day as a failure (and perhaps fall into the ‘I messed up so I may as well eat all the cookies’ mentality) or as a success. I choose to see it as a success. You ate well all day. You went for a walk. Be proud!
Give yourself credit
Once you see you progress as success, it’s time to celebrate. Out loud, give yourself credit. Say, “I did really well today, I made some great decisions.” Put your arms up and say, “I am awesome!” (I am serious; do it!) How do you feel? Likely you feel a heck of a lot better than when you say ‘I really shouldn’t have had that cookie!’ Positive thoughts beget positive behaviours. Keep spiraling in this direction.
Tanja Shaw is the owner of Ascend Fitness Inc., a private training studio. Tanja and her team of expert fitness professionals work to inspire and educate Chilliwack residents to make positive and power changes in their lives through physical fitness and sound nutrition. For more fitness tips go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.