When embarking on a mission to greater health, it can be easy to get caught up in the process, obsessive about the “rules” and a little too concerned about the results. When we become burdened by expectations and self-induced demands, it can be difficult to stay positive. When we become consumed with reaching a goal, loving ourselves for the women we are now, can become a struggle.
It saddens me when others confess that they are overwhelmed by change and burdened by expectations. Cultivating your best self and manifesting your desired life is a journey that should be filled with excitement, joy and gratitude. Certainly, there will be hardships and trials along the way, but the overwhelming sentiment should be exuberance. You are discovering your authentic self! Do you realize how incredible that is? The fact that you are making an effort to live according to your desires and your values is amazing! You have recognized a need for change and are taking action and that, my darling, takes a lot of nerve!
There is a fine balance between loving yourself for who you are now and enjoying where you are currently in your journey, and becoming who you want to be and getting where you want to go. Focusing too much on the discrepancy between the two can have disastrous effect to our morale. The thing is, everyone has to start somewhere and we are all beginning at different stages. Some have been less conditioned by society than others and are therefore at a point in their life where they are more content and vivacious. Others have been so indoctrinated they are ruled by expectations and it will be more difficult to break free and live by your own guidelines. Everyone has their own journey to make, lessons to learn and experiences to live. What matters is staying the course and enjoying the journey as much as possible. I think it is time we do away with expectations, forget the” shoulds” and the “supposed to’s” and focus on positivity and desire.
I’ve got 7 tips for you to help you infuse fun and joy back into your [health and wellness] journey:
1. Know what you are trying to accomplish for yourself and what you are trying to accomplish for someone else/because you think you have to. Granted, there are some cases, (obesity, Type 2 diabetics, etc) where you really do have to buckle down and take control of your health, but generally speaking, we have a choice. If you love your body how it is, really and truly, then don’t worry your pretty self with societal demands and go about loving your body. If you just aren’t ready to make a change just yet, then quit berating yourself and know that you will do what needs to be done when you are good and ready. Trying to tackle any goal before you are truly ready will result in less commitment and difficulty staying the course when the course gets rough. If you are going vegan because your best friend said you have to, but you really enjoy steak, then look into conscientious omnivore avenues and keep eating your steak. If you are doing yoga because you want to, then namaste, but if you are attending class every Sunday morning to appease your mom, stop going. The thing is, at the end of the day, this is your life and your body and as long as you are happy and healthy, it is your choice to look, eat and get in your exercise any way you want. (Notice how I didn’t give an option for complete laziness? Our bodies need to move!)
2. Be as kind to yourself as you would a friend. If you had a friend who looked exactly like you, ate what you did, exercised how you exercised (or didn’t), would you say to her what you say to yourself? I’m going to put my money down on HELL NO! It is crazy to me that we are so much nicer to other people than we are to ourselves. You are the most important person in your life and you deserve self-love! I challenge you to start treating yourself as you would your closest friend and witness your self-esteem rise as you begin treating yourself with a little love, kindness and respect.
3. Do away with expectations! The thing is, progress takes time. You can’t start eating well today and expect to have your dream body by the end of the month. Nor can you start taking painting lessons today and be the next great Canadian painter by the end of the month. Depending on the size of hole you have figuratively dug yourself into, the longer it is going to take to get out of it. Have patience.
When we place expectations on ourselves, we close ourselves off to opportunity. Even though we have goals in mind, we are unable to know just how life will unfold and what path we may end up winding down. Be open to new experiences and opportunities, even if, maybe even especially if, they aren’t quite what you had in mind, but strike you as intriguing. You may have thought you wanted to be a lawyer all your life, only to pass your bar exam and realize your true passion is for baking. It is so much better to simply put in your best efforts and live according to your truth and desires and see where the journey takes you. You may be surprised at the end result.
4. Practice Forgiveness. This goes hand-in-hand with being kind to ourselves. You see, sometimes Life happens and we get a little off track. Maybe you had a celebration and chose to eat a cupcake that didn’t exactly align with your nutrition plan. Perhaps you landed a dream client, but had to stay late at work to close the deal and missed your workout. When you get a little derailed, straighten yourself back out, forgive yourself for any transgressions and get back on track. Mistakes made in the past are no longer in your control and shouldn’t affect how you perform today. To truly move forward, you need to forgive yourself and not lord that mistake over your own head. You wouldn’t do it to anyone else, so don’t do it to you.
If you find you don’t recognize yourself anymore - emotionally, personality, or physically - and know you need to make a change to improve your life, the best first step is forgiveness. Forgive yourself for any actions or inactions that got you to where you are today. You do not need to carry the heavy burden of your perceived failures. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone does things they may not be the most proud of, but not everyone forgives themselves, which is why not everyone is able to rediscover their authentic selves. Forgiveness is a powerful thing.
5. Do your best and accept the rest. Tying into forgiveness, is acceptance. Despite putting in our best efforts, sometimes life has a different plan for us and we don’t accomplish what we had set out to achieve. Take comfort in knowing you have put in your best effort and trust that better things are ahead.
Note that your best effort isn’t necessarily the same as your co-worker’s/gym buddy’s/ friend’s/sister’s/you get the idea’s best effort. It is personal to you. You are going to have off days, just like you are going to have days where you feel unstoppable. Consider the journey as a whole, while focusing on doing your best in the moment (because that is all you can control).
6. Forget the Diet. There are so many different fad diets, nutritional systems and nutritional lifestyles circulating the internet that it can be very confusing to discern what’s “right” and what’s a load of crap. Okay, some of it is obviously (I hope) a load of crap (cabbage soup diet anyone?!). Here’s what it comes down to: Eat food that nourishes your body and soul. A predominantly plant based diet, with ethically raised meats is advisable, with some nuts, legumes and whole grains. But, if you don’t like meat, that’s fine, just make certain you are getting adequate protein intake. Prefer not to eat grains? Then don’t, just ensure your carbohydrate intake is suffice. Absolutely love cupcakes? Then eat them! Just make sure your sugar consumption is moderate and within a healthy level. Let’s face it, a lot of processed food is crap for your body, but it tastes great! At the end of the day, it isn’t going to kill you if you have a serving of KD every once in a blue moon; so don’t beat yourself up for it. Be sure to get enough physical activity to negate any excess calories consumed and if you don’t want to exercise so much, then eat a little less. Body composition is about balance. As is most of life. You gain weight by eating more than your body needs and you lose weight by eating a little less than it would like. Focus on eating foods that make your tummy feel good, your skin look great, gives you energy and an overall sense of well being. After that, a little indulgence here and there is as good for the soul as much as a big bowl of fruit.
7. Do what makes you feel good and a little of what you know you should. Our bodies were made to move and physical activity is a necessity. How you choose to do it though, is up to you. For the average person with no particular fitness goal (aside from looking great and being healthy), I advise a mix of weight training and cardio exercise, in addition to mobility training to keep all your parts moving properly. If you love to run, but hate to lift weights, then focus on running, but include 2-3 full body weight routines. If the opposite is true and you hate doing cardio, you don’t have to do a lot, just do enough. Do enough that you can carry your groceries home, pick up the box of goodness-knows-what you found in storage and chase your kid around the park. Do enough so that your body is able to do everything you want it to do. Find a way to make your body strong, quick and capable of going the distance, doing activity you enjoy and a little of what you don’t if you know it will do your body good.