8 Tips for Making a Change
Last week I shared a post on 7 things I do to maintain a healthy lifestyle inside and out, and I received a lot of great feedback. People thanked me for sharing (yay! thank you for reading!), and said they really wanted to make a change for a healthier lifestyle, but that they needed something more. Some wanted to start working out, but didn't know where to begin. Others wanted to eat healthier, but counting calories and tracking macros was too confusing. And others just knew they wanted to get started, but couldn't get or stay motivated. I get it. I totally get it. I get it more than you know. I know how hard it is to make changes, find motivation, and keep going -- especially when you're not seeing results! When I was battling postpartum anxiety, I knew I needed to get to the gym, but I was tired, unmotivated and uninspired because, at 50 pounds overweight, I didn't even know where to begin. And I'm a certified personal trainer! Which them made me feel even worse! I knew my way around a gym, how to lift, and what exercises I needed to be doing. But just beginning felt impossible. I just didn't have it in me. But, simply put, I wanted it. I knew I needed to get healthier for my mental and physical health. I knew the way I was living was unsustainable and unhealthy, and I wanted more for myself and my relationship with my son. And so I did it. Now, at over 10 months postpartum, and after 7 months of consistently working out and eating right, I did it! I accomplished my goals. I lost 50 pounds, I gained muscle, and I built up my cardio stamina. Not to mention, and more importantly, I beat postpartum anxiety and depression and lived to tell about it. So, here's a list of what I used to get started:
1. Decide. It all starts with a decision. Literally. Just decide. What do you want? Do you want to lose 10 pounds? Do you want to gain muscle? Do you want to tone up? Do you want to run a marathon? Do you wan to squat 135? What do you want? Be clear. Be very, very clear. Write it down. And not in your phone notes that you'll never see. Somewhere you will see it. And think about it. And remember it. For me, at 50 pounds overweight from Teddy, tipping the scales at 175, my decision was that I wanted to lose the baby weight that I'd gained, and as by-products, to rebuild the strength I'd lost, and to increase my (non-existent) cardio output. That was was it. That was my decision. To be honest, I was tired of being unhappy with the way I looked. I was tired with looking in the mirror and seeing my flabby stomach, tired of wearing the same black maternity leggings because they were the only thing that fit, tired of knowing that I could do better, that I could be better, because I had been better. Now, with 50 extra pounds, while battling against postpartum anxiety, and with no energy to cook healthy meals and no extra time to put effort into macro counting, I felt like I was so far from my goals, but I only had two choices. One, sit there and do nothing and see no changes, or two, make the decision to get off my ass, use my physical capabilities and find a way. And so, I decided. I committed to myself that I was going to make a change. It was my decision for me. So, what do YOU want?
2. Visualize. I think this is one of the most important items on this list. Personally, I think the power of visualization is almost unstoppable. Put your phone down, close your eyes, and get very clear on the goals you are looking to achieve. When you wake up in the morning, while you're snoozing, picture yourself as exactly how you want to look, feel, or be. When you look in the mirror, see yourself exactly how you want to see yourself. When you get in the shower or relax in a bath, close your eyes and visualize what you want to see. Get very clear. To do this, I pulled up photos of what I'd looked like before I became pregnant, when I was at my peak of health, fitness and nutrition. I got very, very clear on this picture of myself I wanted to see in my reality. I only visualized this. I pictured myself with a six-pack, a long, lean torso, and muscular and toned arms and legs. I pictured myself at the gym, killing a workout. I pictured myself squatting 135 lbs. I didn't let that picture out of my mind. Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw this. Every time I took a bath, I saw this. Every time I walked into the gym, I FELT THIS. I pretended I was already at my goal weight. I walked the walk and I talked the talk. I KNEW I would get it. I would not accept anything less. Don't get me wrong, it was hard, especially stealing angles of myself in the those many gym mirrors--seeing my flabby belly hanging down during a plank, or my loose thighs jiggling as I did step-ups, or my underarm flab waving as I lifted weights. But I began to pretend it was toned. I only saw this. I only accepted this. I only worked for this. Get clear, visualize, and only see your end goal. So, what do you want to see?
3. Be nice. Do you remember this Dove commercial that went viral in France? If you take anything away from this post, take the time to watch this commercial. It had women write down the things they said to themselves as they looked into the mirror. Then, they had actresses sit down in a cafe and say these things to each other like they were just random friends having a conversation. Customers nearby, hearing these conversations, sat appalled at the disgusting ways they spoke to one another. Think of the horrible things you've said to yourself when you look in the mirror. For me, it was, "Oh my God, my stomach is so disgusting!" And, "Ugh, my body is gross." And, "Jeez, I'm so fat." This is NOT OK and this has to stop! It took lots of practice and lots of awareness, but I can say I've stopped my negative dialogue (most of the time). Don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect, but I am aware. I trained myself to pay attention to what I said to myself. Now, the minute I catch myself saying these horrible, and quite untrue things, I immediately stop and replace that thought or saying with gratitude. I think how thankful I am for my body. How it keeps me safe, able, strong. How it grew my son into a healthy human being. How it pushed him out into the world and nursed him into a strong baby, and was kind of-sort of-gradually getting back to it's initial shape. Appreciate what you have. It can always be worse. You are healthy, able-bodied, and beautiful and so tell yourself that! If you're one that loves and cherishes every inch of your body like you should, get it girl! And tell your friends to do the same! So, be nice!
4. Do what you love. Now that you've made the decision, you've visualized what you want, it's time to pick a plan. What I mean is pick the way you enjoy working out in order to set yourself up for success. For me, I hate cardio and I enjoy yoga and weights. If I said 'ok, I'm going to go run every day,' then I would've failed because I hate running. I also hate working out at home. I just don't like it and I just don't find it a motivating environment. So, if I had said, 'ok, I'm going to watch YouTube videos on yoga or working out at home,' I would've failed because I don't get motivated in this environment. Don't set yourself up for failure. Be realistic! So, then I said, I like yoga in a studio and lifting in a gym, so what are my options? There was a nearby gym (literally across the street) with daycare for Teddy, but for yoga, there were no options with childcare. Yoga would've required more effort and better chances for failure because there were more variables to hurdle. Finding someone to watch T, getting out the door and driving to a set class time, finding parking in DC. I mean so much could've gone wrong. It wasn't going to happen. So, gym it was. Now, though I am a certified personal trainer, and I am experienced in lifting, because of the mental stress I was under from having a new (colicky) baby, I knew I couldn't mentally sit down and prepare a plan, or show up to the gym with a plan in mind to do. For me, I needed someone to tell me what to do. About that time, Kelsey Wells had come out with PWR program for the Sweat App and it was a guided weight-lifting gym routine. Perfect! All I had to do now was just show up and open the app. It started out nice and slow and let me make this clear, I died! Immediately, during the first set of bench step-ups and incline pushups, my muscles were shaking and I was so out of breath. And I used to do decline tricep pushups! I was shocked at the drastic reduction in strength and power that just three months postpartum had taken. Did I want to stop and say F it! I can't do this. I'll never get better and stronger. And did I want to quit and walk my ass right out of that gym and go home and feel sorry for myself. YES. For weeks I pushed through shaking muscles, negative self-talk, and heaving for air. But, I knew I just had to show up, do the workout, and eventually, I'd get better, stronger, faster. I'm not saying go download the Sweat app because some people like running, or spin, or walking, or hiking, but for me, it worked. It was $119 I think and you have access to all the BBG programs as well as yoga and post pregnancy. I should've started with post pregnancy actually, but for some reason, I thought I didn't need to. For those that don't mind, or don't have another choice, but to workout at home, it also contains the BBG and BBG Stronger programs that can be done at home. So, what do you love?
5. Know before you go. This can be the difference between success and failure. Know what your workout is and what you're going to do before you even leave the house. Close our eyes and visualize what you're going to do and walk yourself through it. I do this in bed in the morning. I think about what I'll do that day, and then I walk through it in my mind. Not the entire thing, I mean we all have actual things to do, kids to get ready, and lives to live, but take 30 seconds and go through it in your mind and prepare yourself. Not committing to what you're going to do that day, just figuring you'll show up at the gym and do whatever you feel like, is setting yourself up for failure. Next thing you'll know, you'll be hanging out 'stretching' and scrolling through IG, not doing a damn thing. Now, I just see what my body feels like doing. I listen to my body. If my legs are sore, I'll do upper body. If I'm not really feeling it at all, then I'll do low intensity, steady state cardio (LISS), riding the bike for 35-40 min. I put on a great playlist and just ride. Or I'll go for a long walk with Teddy and push his stroller while I listen to a great podcast or an audio book, or even call a friend. I will do something. Don't get me wrong, you do need plenty of rest days. One of the worst things you can do is push your body when you're tired - you'll get burned out and injured, so listen to your body. Sure there are still days when I don't feel like doing anything, and maybe I'll take a rest day, but more often than not, I'll buck up and get my shit done. Because that gets me closer to my goal. Sitting on my ass will not. It's as simple as that. Sometimes it takes hard work, determination, motivation and pushing yourself to get yourself to where you want to be. Nothing worth having comes easy. So, what do you love to do?
6. No Excuses. Let me be clear. No one cares about your excuses. No one wants to hear them. No one cares you overslept. No one cares you had to work late. No one cares you forgot your socks. (Ok, maybe hopefully people care if you're sick or something, but you get it). Achieving your goals will be hard. You will inevitably want to make excuses as to why you can't do something. But making excuses will not get you closer to your goals. It will do the opposite. It will move you further and further from where you want to be. So stop. Be honest with yourself and take accountability for your actions and for your decisions. There is NO reason you cannot achieve what you want to. You've seen a million transformation pictures all over the internet and you've probably thought you couldn't do that. And you can't if you make excuses. And you can't if you think you can't. Not that this is what you're looking to do, but whatever it is you want to achieve, believe you can and don't accept anything less. You are worth it. Know you can and do everything in your power to do what it is you need to in order to achieve your goals. So, stop with the excuses.
7. Do. Not. Ever. Give. Up. Ever. You have to be patient. Transforming your lifestyle takes a long time. It took me 10 months. 10 months!!! That's a long time to commit to something. I cannot tell you how many times I was working out and trying to eat right over the last 10 months and I'd be drenched in sweat, exhausted, giving it my all and I'd look in the mirror and I'd barely see a change. I'd think 'F it! I'll just quit!' But then I'd stop myself and say, no, you will do this. You can do this. You are doing this! And so, I kept going. And you know what? I kid you not, every, single time, right after that thought of giving up, and right after I decided to ignore that thought and keep going, I started to see results. I started to see validation for the hard work that I was putting in! So, just keep going!
8. Live life. Ok, you've made the decision, you've visualized your goals, you've stopped the negative self-talk, you've planned and followed your workouts, you've stopped the excuses, you've kept going and now, you're doing it! But be very careful to not take things to the extreme. This should be fun and enjoyable, and you should start to be feeling good about what you're doing for yourself and the healthy habits you're creating. I've been very guilty of taking things to the extreme in the past. I'd start to see results and I'd get psycho about keeping them. I felt like if I skipped one workout or had one "cheat meal" that I would lose my progress. That is ridiculous!!! Now, I realize that. But at the time, I would cancel plans to go to the gym, I'd skip happy hours to meet my macros, I may or may not have even called into work to go to a workout class! lol. (Seriously, who does that?!) It wasn't until I was pregnant that I looked back at how I was living and thought WTF?! I was a little nuts! Or a lot nuts! What I was doing was unsustainable. I became burned out, I got injured, and I alienated friends. This should be fun and healthy (and hard), and you've got to live your life! You've got to hang out with your friends, take rest days, enjoy the foods you crave, just in moderation. If you wanna go to happy hour, have a drink or two! If you want to go out to eat, go! Just be smart. Will drinking a strawberry daiquiri and nachos get you closer to your goal or will having a white wine spritzer and chicken and veggies get you closer? If you can't live in moderation, then you need to reassess your habits. And that will come. The healthier you become, the less you will want to eat a tub of Bluebell and the more you will want to have chocolate covered almonds. So, after all this, enjoy it!
If you have anything to add to this list or points I may have missed, please comment below!
Thanks for taking the time to read!
The Ginger Ninja