This is some “real talk” between a long term client of mine who’s struggling right now with her expectations, overbearing commitments, and finding balance. She relies very heavily on the scale and extrinsic metrics to define her success (and dare I say self-worth). I was a bit hesitant to share this since it’s raw and I’m guessing a few people will actually disagree with the position I take. That said, this gracious client and I agreed that the underlying message might help enough people to justify posting it.
If you have anything to add to the discussion, please do in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you.
Oh Sara (name changed), I feel for you. And I want to help you more than anything. I wish I had just the right words to change your thought patterns in one fell swoop. I’m typically pretty good with words. I pride myself as being a coach that transcends the nuts and bolts of exercise and nutritional programming who can relate to my clients on a human level.
Your success is your responsibility. Own it.
Well… most people likely read that and think something like, “I have to start doing X 100%!”
That’s nonsense. Extreme, all-in, perfectionistic thinking translates into a sense of inadequacy and failure.
Owning your responsibility is partly about accepting the fact that life is a wild ride. There is no 100% all-in. Even the most dedicated have to dial their focus up and down relative to what’s happening in their lives. If you can’t get on board with that expectation, you’re going to be spinning your wheels for a long, long time. And truthfully… I feel sorry for you. It’s a large part of what drives me to write so much about the psychological side of fitness opposed to exercise and nutrition.
Your worth has little to do with one inevitably shitty day, week, or whatever. I believe that. Do you?
What owning your responsibility is really about, though, is building habits and rituals into your daily routines that honor the person you’re striving to become.
Act and therefore be.
But, again, people can get carried away with the notion of building habits and rituals into their daily routines.
For example, if I were someone who drinks 5 sodas per day, with the first one being with lunch, and I want to stop this habit… I can approach this one of two ways:
1) I’m the kind of person who no longer drinks soda. All I drink is water.
Never mind the fact that you’ve drank 5 sodas per day for the last 10 years!!
That’s a large itch to not scratch from here on out!
2) I’m the kind of person who drinks 4 sodas per day. I drink one with lunch, one between lunch and dinner, one with dinner, and one between dinner and bed.
In other words… part of owning your responsibility is meeting yourself where you’re at. Teasing change rather than forcing it. Coaxing rather than punishing.
Stop kidding yourself and start building realistic change into your life! It’s going to look a lot different from person to person so stop thinking in terms of “is this enough?” I’d argue that you’ll milk much more progress from your days once you start framing things with a general curiosity about tiny actions. “If I make this one tiny alteration, what happens? How will I feel? What will I learn?”
“Not enough” is the language of unhappy people. If the tiny change you’re considering is a step in the desired direction and you feel that it meets you where you’re at – physically and emotionally – great job.
As it becomes your new normal – and it will with repetition and consistency – you can add a little more.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
What’s the next tiny change you’re going to start experimenting with right now?
“No man ever steps in same river twice; for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
I love this quote from Heraclitus. It highlights the concept of having a process based mindset. It screams self-experimentation, which is one of the cornerstones of success in my opinion. Just as the water is always flowing, your life is always moving. I encounter many clients who feel as though they must start from scratch each time they make a mistake.
“Messed up breakfast… might as well throw in the towel for the rest of the day and try again tomorrow.”
Mistakes are lessons. Nothing more. And if you open your mind to the opportunity of learning from mistakes, there’s really no such thing as starting from scratch. As the quote insinuates, you’re not the same person. You’ve installed more knowledge. More experience. More perspective.
Thinking of your process as practice is something many clients find helpful. When viewed as practice, it helps to take the weight off of any given moment or decision. Slip-ups don’t seem nearly as critical. In sports, you make mistakes, drop balls, misread opponents, and miss while practicing.
You also get better at the game while practicing.
Here’s a tip for you to mull on…
Sucking at something is the first step of mastery. Between sucking and mastery is a whole lotta practice.
What are you brave enough to suck at right now?
When you answer that question, come up with something obvious. Something you’ve been putting off even though you know, deep down, that it’s something you’d like to change. Now scale it to meet you where you’re at. For example… if it’s to eat a nutritious, satiating breakfast everyday… but you only feel ready to practice this habit on weekdays… so be it.
Heck, even if you’re only ready to practice on Mondays… it’s all good.
Scale it and get to practicing.
Building easy wins into your life, while underrated, is so dang powerful. The path looks much more doable once you get in the pattern of putting in the reps and building a sense of competency.
Now say it with me…
“Screw perfection. I’m not here to be perfect. I’m here to improve. I’m building a better me one step at a time and that’s what I feed on. It’s not about the scale or how many abs I can see. It’s about showing up and honoring the person I strive to be as best I can in any given moment. If I fall short… that’s okay. I can still walk away with valuable data that I can put toward improving next time.”
Here’s this week’s wrap up of awesome posts over on the BI Change Community:
- Regarding throwing out junk and needless food in the house and the anxiety that it can stir up about wasting food, Dawn brilliantly said, “But think of getting rid of that stuff like this .. If you overeat, and take in too many calories, your body can’t use it. Thus the food turns to “waste” in the form of body fat… Body fat on you.. It can also lead to clogged arteries, hypertension, diabetes, etc… And what a “waste” if you should fall victim to any of those diseases as most of them are preventable, with proper diet and exercise. Better a waste in the trash than waste on your waist!”
- Steve said in response to a client fretting this upcoming weigh-in and measurements after a couple of trying weeks, “Don’t weigh or measure. Seriously. I won’t mind. And it’ll solidify that it’s only a snapshot in time and doesn’t matter in the grand scheme. Strip it of it’s power by blowing right past it. If you feel as if you’d be better off mentally by skipping out on it, then skip out on it. Remember, it’s a process of up and down. The sooner you get back to making quality decisions that honor you, the smaller of an impact the deviation will have in the grand scheme.
- Dawn said, “One tip I use a lot… I forgot to mention, is when I’m hungry, asking myself what I should eat, not what do I feel like eating. The answer is usually not the same, especially if I’m stressed or super hungry! Food won’t ever satisfy feelings… but food will satisfy hunger.”
- After posting a picture of all her meals neatly organized for the week ahead, Kristen said, “Meal prep Sunday. So easy too! Turkey meat, whole wheat couscous, cubed squash, peas, and green beans- mixed into different combos. Zucchini in the pan and chicken roasting in the oven. Now hopefully I can stick to the good stuff and no junk. Have a great week!” Love seeing members putting the work in to make the quality choices easier across the week!
- Paul highlighted the importance of focusing on the process and tiny steps while he was highlighting her amazing transformation when he said, “I always felt like conditions were never “right” for me to make the decision to get healthier. I would always get overwhelmed with the big picture of needing to lose 60 pounds, and all the setbacks and challenges that I would face to make it happen. To overcome this mindset I decided to do what I’ve learned in my professional career when tackling large complex projects, and that is to answer the question “what is the very next step that needs to be taken”. So I decided that my very next step would be to find an app to track what I ate and start tracking.”
- Steve said in response to a member who was struggling to pay attention to what his body was telling him about level of satisfaction while eating, “Food is engineered to be hyper-palatable nowadays. It tends to override our natural senses of hunger regulation. The more removed from natural, whole foods we get, the more of an impact this has for us. Take me, for example. Nowadays I can regulate a typical fitness meal – like chicken, yams, and broccoli, without much thought. I start the meal after I’m sure that I’m hungry and I stop it once I’m satisfied. But throw something in front of me like waffles and hell… I could eat the whole damn batch if I wasn’t mindful. I think practicing the skills of mindfulness, chewing slowly, savoring every bite, putting utensils down between bites, and checking in with yourself after as many bites as possible to see how your’e feeling are key to making progress with this. And let’s face it. It’s a skill. A fuzzy one. Like any other skill, it takes practice – lots of it – in order to get better. And getting better at it you are!
- Dawn said the following when mentioning how she’s gone about changing some bad habits, “Changing my environment helped. There were certain environmental things that triggered my habit, and I worked to change these. For example, the simple act of coming home from work triggered me, so for a while I stopped coming directly home; I actually ended up in the gym more often than not. By the time I got home, the danger time had passed. Another thing, I tried to come up with healthy replacements for the unhealthy habit. I now drink a crap ton of tea. Finally, my old habit really helped me relax, so I found new ways to relax. In fact, I ended up spending a ton of money on a fish tank because I find fish relaxing.”
If these sorts of topics interest you, you’re more than welcomed to join us over at the Change Community.
Here’s something I’ve never done before. I’m posted a guest contribution. I simply couldn’t resist. It was originally posted on the Facebook wall of one of my one-on-one web coaching clients. He then felt it’d likely help out people in the BI Change Community, so he shared it there. The moment I caught wind of it, I thought to myself, “This has to go on the main site.”
It’s just so telling of the BI philosophy. It’s what makes BIers different. We aren’t out to adhere to some diet or some program. We’re out to get better. Incrementally better over time. One tiny step at a time. And while we’re doing it, we do so with self-compassion and self-love.
Without further ado, here’s Paul.
I posted this on my Facebook page and it seemed to be an encouragement to a lot of folks so I thought I would post it here as well. Also with everything happening during the holidays I’ve been pretty MIA since this community got kicked off. I look forward to getting involved as we kick off 2016.
I don’t really like New Year’s resolutions. They’ve always seemed to me like dares to out yourself as a failure who isn’t capable of keeping commitments. However this year I did make a 2016 New Year’s Day resolution, except I made it back in May of 2015. This is a long post so bear with me.
I’m 45 years old, married for 22 years to an amazing woman and have three teenage boys. I started gaining weight after we had our first son. Over the years it kept creeping up until this past year when I found myself 60 pounds overweight. I had other health issues starting to creep up as well. I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes 1 ½ years ago. I was on medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This May I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea, waking up 60-70 times every hour according to the test.
Every New Year’s day I would think about how I wanted to be healthier, but refused to make the resolution because I didn’t want to have it fade away as the year moved forward and feel like I’d failed. This meant that I never made any changes. However, this May I was truly concerned for my long term health and decided I’d had enough and that I would get to New Year’s Day of 2016 with some sort of progress.
I always felt like conditions were never “right” for me to make the decision to get healthier. I would always get overwhelmed with the big picture of needing to lose 60 pounds, and all the setbacks and challenges that I would face to make it happen. To overcome this mindset I decided to do what I’ve learned in my professional career when tackling large complex projects, and that is to answer the question “what is the very next step that needs to be taken”. So I decided that my very next step would be to find an app to track what I ate and start tracking.
I found the website and app myfitnesspal and started to track everything I ate. I set a target to lose 1 ½ pounds per week with a daily calorie target to make that happen. Approaching it this way was a game changer for me because it gave me the tools to make good decisions throughout the day. I didn’t make a huge change in the type of food I ate, but making decisions about what to eat based on how many calories I was “spending” helped me make better choices. I also started working out in July to improve my cardiovascular health.
It wasn’t a linear process, but I was always committed to moving forward no matter what kind of setbacks I had. It also wasn’t a diet. I find diets to be too depriving. If I really wanted to eat something I ate it, I just made sure to track it and adjust my day accordingly. This Christmas I ate cookies, fudge, and all sorts of goodies and gained 7 pounds. However, I didn’t feel guilty about it like I’d failed at my “diet”. I knew after Christmas I would continue the process that’s worked for me and I’ve lost 4 of those pounds already.
So up to this point I’ve lost 50 pounds (the picture attached is from May and from Christmas), my Hemoglobin A1C is now no longer in the diabetic range, my cholesterol is now in the normal range and I’m off my blood pressure medication. I now weigh what I weighed when I first got married and I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time.
I only post this hoping to be an encouragement to you if you’ve struggled with resolutions regarding health in the past. I encourage you to not put it off to tomorrow or next week. Decide what your very next step is and take it now. Then keep taking the very next step toward your goals.
Also, I want to thank Steve Troutman who’s worked with me for the last several months and really helped me get over my tendency for compensatory behavior, with trying to make up for when I had a setback during this process. He’s helped me get rid of the guilt and trust the process. I also want to thank Eric W. who’s a member of the BI Change Community and also friends with me on myfitnesspal. He’s been an inspiration to me and an encouragement along the way.
Happy New Year, and I wish you well as we begin 2016.