When I started my own journey to a healthier life, I went in quite blindly. I spent years with low back pain that led to quite an inactive life. I had so many issues getting around and living my life. When I finally had surgery and was able to get moving, I jumped into fitness with a blindfold on, and definitely went overboard! It’s so common to go overboard when starting a fitness or nutrition journey and that can often lead to burnout. Fortunately, I didn’t burnout and now my approach is balanced and fits my lifestyle. Below are some of the things I wish I had known prior to starting and hopefully they can guide you into a healthy and sustainable path!
1) Health and Wellness is not and all-or-nothing lifestyle
If I had a dollar for every time I beat myself up for missing a workout or cheating on my diet in the beginning of my journey, I WOULD BE RICH! When we start anything new whether it's related to health or just a hobby, we can often just jump in and set some really unrealistic goals for ourselves. We have to work out every day, we have to eat perfectly every day. This is just not realistic. No one has a perfectly predictable life where emergencies and general life events don’t take place. Life will get in the way of this “perfect” plan you’ve established. Going into a lifestyle change knowing that when it comes to a lifelong goal, a few days here and there don’t matter, is key.
Be prepared to have days and maybe even weeks when things are out of your control. Also, know how important it is to take days off of training and to not hyper focus on your diet. While incorporating health is important, it should never become an obsession, but remain only an aspect of your life.
2) Balance is essential
Along with realizing that being healthy does not equal an all-or-nothing mindset, I also had to learn balance! Finding balance can be incredibly difficult with social media and if you follow other fitness enthusiasts, you can have a warped perspective on finding balance. It may look like everyone out there is working out 6-7 days a week and only ever eats the healthiest of meals, but it’s only a snapshot into their life.
Also, you have to remember that what is working for someone else may not work for you. You may have different goals and challenges that you face. Balance is about what works for your own life and can lead to long term adherence!
3) Comparison is the thief of joy!
This may actually be the most important thing I’ve not only learned but have taken into consideration over the years. Comparing yourself to others is something we all do. We all strive to be like someone else and want what other people have, but we can not trade places with others. We are living in our own life and have to appreciate our progress without comparing it to others. We all have personal challenges that impact our goals. It’s also important to remember that if you have aesthetic goals, some people lose weight faster than others and gain muscle easier. That’s just genetics and the last thing we need to do is look down on ourselves for things out of our control!
Take the time to appreciate your journey and when looking at others, they should serve to inspire you not demean your progress!
4) Physical health should not damage your mental health
Something that happens so often in the fitness world is that people fall down the rabbit hole and become obsessed with their goals and miss out on how their journey is impacting their mental health. Whether it’s beating yourself up over not reaching goals as quickly as you want or missing a workout or diet plan, health includes both PHYSICAL and MENTAL. Neither should cause the other to suffer. If you are training so much you notice your mental health struggling, you need to work on your balance!
5) Fitness goals should highlight and enhance your life
As much as fitness and nutrition can be seen as “difficult” “challenging” and “complicated,” they don’t actually have to be. It’s unfortunate that so much of what we see online or on tv and movies make exercising and eating healthy this intense and almost impossible task. The reality is that exercise and nutrition should fit into your life and highlight it. That means choosing styles of exercise you enjoy. For some that is weight lifting, and others it's yoga or a nice walk. There are way too many ways to get in exercise to be doing something you don’t enjoy.
When it comes to nutrition this means avoiding restrictive diets that require you to eliminate all the foods you love. When your diet is so restrictive that you stop socializing because you know you’ll be tempted to eat “bad” foods, that’s when your nutrition goal is now hindering your life. No foods are inherently “bad.” Heavy restrictions and elimination does not lead to long term success!
So find a way to train and eat that benefits your health while bringing your life joy!
6) Find what works for you
It’s so important to try new things until you find what works best. What works for someone else may not work for you. You may notice better workouts if you only workout 3 days a week instead of the 5 or 6 you are trying to do. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. So pay attention to your limits. Know when you need to rest. Know what activities make you dread exercising. Know what way of eating leaves you feeling fully, happy and energized. If something doesn’t work, don’t give up, keep trying and you’ll eventually figure out what works best for you!
7) Keep track of progress, even small accomplishments
It’s when we don’t think something is working that we tend to throw in the towel. Change happens slowly and often in ways we don’t recognize. I wish I had started a journal when I was beginning my journey so I could better see how quickly changing my routine benefited me. It wasn’t the aesthetic changes that I first noticed, but how I felt. It’s amazing how quickly you will begin to feel more energized after prioritizing your nutrition and exercise. It also reduced how many headaches I was having and I was able to sleep better. These changes happened in the matter of a week or two. I didn’t even notice them until I really started to think back on my life before. You’ll miss so many things if you aren’t looking for them, and may give up too early! So keep track of not only how you think you look, but more importantly how you feel. At the end of the day, health is about how you feel and giving yourself the ability to live a happy and fulfilling life without the drawbacks that being unhealthy can cause.
I always remind anyone starting out, recommitting, or debating giving up that being healthy is for you. It’s not about what others think of you, but how you feel about yourself. So give yourself the opportunity to work towards the healthiest version of yourself and rid yourself of toxic expectations. You can do this! I BELIEVE IN YOU!
Until next time… and remember health and happiness is for all!