If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you know that I’ve just come out of one of the hardest times in my life. This fall was the extreme low point, and I confess that I was anything but healthy during those dark months.
I’ll always be real about my struggles with binge eating and trying to lose weight. The fact is, I still work on a lot of these things I’m writing about — but that’s the whole point. The reason I’m doing this is to share what I’ve been through and what I’m still learning in the hopes that it will help someone else.
So, that being said, these last few months I’ve been trying to clean up my act. Drinking too much, overeating, not exercising enough — yes, I did all that. But one of the most important things I’ve learned on my journey is that I can’t beat myself up. I have to give myself a break, let it go, and keep on going.
Since I’ve been deficient in almost every area, I realized that I had to come up with a serious plan. I couldn’t just wing it, especially since my life circumstances right now are so crazy. So, I sat down a few weeks ago with my planner and started writing.
First I thought about a time in my life (last year as it turns out) when I felt really strong and healthy, and I wrote down all the things I was doing that made me feel that way.
I was running a lot, I was doing a barre class at least two times a week, and I was eating mostly raw and juicing a lot. I also wasn’t drinking very much — mainly on the weekends and hardly ever during the week, which meant that I was also sleeping really well.
I had been trying sporadically and haphazardly this fall to replicate this pattern, not very successfully. The more I thought about it, I realized that there were specific thoughts that ran through my mind every time I decided not to follow through with these habits.
When I had planned to get up and go for a run, I told myself I didn’t have enough time or that I was too tired. When I had planned to go to barre class, I told myself that I felt gross and out of shape and didn’t particularly want to stand next to a bunch of 20-somethings who looked amazing. When I had planned to have a big salad for lunch, instead I threw leftovers in the microwave.
For each category — running, barre class, eating — I wrote these thoughts down. Then I backtracked to determine where each one of them was really coming from and listed a fix for them.
So for running, I realized that when I said I didn’t have enough time or didn’t feel like it, it was because I hadn’t slept well and woke up late. These were usually the result of having a few glasses of wine the night before. So my solution for that was to have only one glass and substitute sparkling water with lime for the other.
For barre class, my main barrier was feeling like I didn’t look good. (I realize that by telling you that, I undermine my credibility . . . since I preach that it doesn’t matter how you look, it’s how you feel. But it’s the truth.) So my solution to that barrier was to get some new workout clothes.
For eating better, my barrier was not feeling like making the effort to prepare a salad, so my solution was to do some simple prep work that would make eating a salad a no-brainer.
Then I made myself a to-do list for each of these. I put sparkling water and limes on my grocery list, I got on Lululemon and bought some new workout gear, I signed up for a barre class, and I actually blocked off time in my calendar to chop up some kale and wash my tomatoes and broccoli.
Then, once I had my plan in place, I got started. And because of the specific way I went about it, I made immediate progress — and I’ll almost certainly be more successful than I was this past fall.
Ok, so let’s break down exactly what I did so you can do it, too.
First of all, there are barriers to your success, but you’re not identifying them correctly. The barrier isn’t that you’re too tired or you don’t have time. The real barriers are what are causing you to feel that way.
The thoughts “I’m too tired” and “I don’t have time” flash so quickly across your mind that you don’t give yourself the chance to examine where they’re coming from. But that’s where your solutions lie.
When you identify those thoughts and figure out why you’re thinking them, then you’ll see what the real barriers are. Then you can make your plan to cancel them out.
Here’s the step-by-step process:
- Think of a time when you were on top of your health and felt your best.
Write down everything you were doing then that made you feel that way (eg, biking, doing yoga, eating less meat, drinking more water).
Cross off anything that’s not relevant to your life today or that you don’t want to do anymore.
Sit quietly and think about each activity. Write down every single thought that comes up when you stop yourself from doing it — no matter how small, insignificant, or embarrassing you think it is (like feeling insecure about exercising next to extremely fit college students who have beautiful, glowing skin, even though they were probably hammered the night before).
For each thought, figure out what’s making you feel that way. If you’re too tired, why is that? If you don’t have time, how come? Write those down — those are your real barriers.
For each barrier, write down 2 or 3 action steps you can take to eliminate the barrier. For example, if you’re too tired to work out (the thought) because you’re trying to exercise at the end of a long day (the barrier), your steps could be to lay out your workout clothes at night or set your alarm 30 minutes early for a morning work out. Make these steps tiny and easily achievable to give yourself small wins.
Schedule these action items in your calendar — then do them! Make at least one of your items something you can do at the end of this exercise to take immediate action and get motivated.
So here’s where the breaks part comes in. You must give yourself breaks. If you go all or nothing, you’ll fail, give up, and quit. Going balls to the wall never works, and that’s exactly the mentality you take on when you diet. That’s the main reason they never work.
In my case, I decided to give myself two days a week off from working out. I usually only take Sunday off, but by giving myself another optional day — on whatever day of the week I want — I gave myself some leeway. I know that there will be at least one morning where things will go off the rails, and I don’t want to sabotage everything by giving up because of one missed workout.
I also didn’t say “no drinking” for my barrier of having more than one glass of wine at night. I allowed myself one and then replaced the other one with something healthier.
And instead of making a plan to prep for three ultra-healthy meals each day, I gave myself the option to reheat something for dinner, since that’s usually a hectic time for me. In fact, I added Amy’s burritos to my grocery list — because y’all know I love me some Amy’s. 😉
Remember, trying to eliminate things or forcing yourself to do something doesn’t ever work because of the resistance it creates. You always want to set yourself up for success by feeling good. Actively planning breaks for yourself — before you feel desperate to take them — is a great way to do this.
One of the biggest reasons we fail at losing weight is that we never get to the root of them problem. We focus on what we eat when the real problem is the way that we eat. What I’m talking about here is no different: we assume our barriers are that we’re lazy or that we just can’t get it together, when the real barriers are what cause us to feel that way — and they’re really easy to fix.
Don’t ever forget that this a lifetime journey you’re on. You’ll stumble and fall along the way, but there’s no such thing as failure. You have to just get back up and keep on going — and I’ll do it with you.