We’ve all been there. The BEGINNING. Day one of trying to make positive changes in our bodies and our minds. It’s awful. You look ahead at the apparent mountains you must climb to get to where you want to be. It seems like an endlessly impossible painful process and you question over and over, why bother?
Health, fitness and nutrition have been priorities for me my entire life however, I have 3 children which means 3 times I have had to lose weight and regain my fitness. After each pregnancy, I have looked at the mountain, swore, and considered giving up the fight. I understand the hardship of starting this quest for health and fitness, time and time again. In fact, this was the biggest personal hurdle for me to get past when considering having a third child- I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to ‘fight back’ again having done it twice already in the previous 3 years. It’s so much easier to ‘be fit’ than it is to ‘get fit’. Starting out is hard; a 30-minute workout feels like 3 hours, your body aches (during AND after), you are exhausted, not energised (unlike the endorphin rush you get when you are at a certain level of fitness). Regardless, each time I have thought about the benefits of getting to where I want to be and I push on….
Peel back the layers:
So, here we go. I have my doctors okay to head back to the gym, childcare is sorted for an hour; no excuses, it’s time to get back into shape. I reluctantly walk into the gym and look around, my mind full of unhelpful chatter. “Wow- that girl has a six pack”; “that guy just pressed more weight than I could lift with a fork lift.” Then I look at myself in baggy clothes (can’t fit into the old stuff!), 10 lbs heavier than I want to be and unable to walk 5km without getting out of breath. It feels awful and I just want to turn straight around and go back to my sofa for a much needed nap. But I know where I want to be and I know how good it feels once I get there.
After coming back to the gym after my third pregnancy, my favorite trainer said to me, ‘you are just pealing back the layers- go slow’. This really resonated with me. It gave me permission to ease up on the expectations for myself, to forgive my ‘imperfections’, and get there in my own time – layer by layer. We hear it over and over again, life’s a journey, not a destination, and as I reflect on this, so is my quest for a healthier me. Who cares if I only managed to walk 5km if its 5km more than I did yesterday? EVERY small change I make in a given day toward a healthier me counts and I try to remind myself of this often.
So, what have I learned after my repeated voyage to getting back to shape? Set realistic expectations. If you are working full time or have young children, the gym might not be an option every day. Try a new (and simple) healthy salmon recipe instead of your usual dinner, start taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work, squeeze in a little 20-minute workout in your living room after a long day, or find 5 minutes before going to sleep to do some breathing exercises. Do what feels right for your body on that given day; be kind.
Find your motivation:
The current trend in social media is all about #fitspiration- endless posts of people in their skimpiest gym gear showing how amazing they look and how strong/fast/agile they are. Don’t get me wrong, I get that there is a (somewhat narcissistic) culture which benefits from this type of messaging- but what about the rest of us? Where do we find the catalyst to keep going? I believe everyone has a different answer to this and if you want to be successful in achieving your goals, you need to figure this out for yourself. For me, I have 3 kids I want to be healthy for and most importantly, set an example for. I also truly believe that health breeds happiness. Knowing I have done something good for myself is a great feeling and for me; a feeling of smug satisfaction to go to bed with. It lifts my mood, calms my mind, and just makes me a generally happier person.
At TOVI, we are here to help you get to where YOU want to be- whatever that looks like. This might be running your first 10k, learning how to better deal with the stress in your life, or even getting 20,000 likes on Instagram for your #fitspiration photos. We want to support you in making healthy choices in your life, while acknowledging that we are all human and part of being healthy is learning to forgive yourself.
Written by Dr. Tara Coletta, PhD
Tara's research focused on obesity and metabolism. She studied exercise science (MS, UMass Amherst) before earning a PhD in nutritional biochemistry (Tufts University). Wellness remains an integral part of Tara’s life as she works to balance being a mother of three.