What’s Your Motivation?

“Where there is a will, there is a way.”  Those words were spoken to me a long time ago by a wise lady and have carried me through many of  life’s changes.  Thoughts of giving up on something always made me think of my grandmother and the way she encouraged me to continue on…

Oftentimes when we are looking to implement a change in our lives we wind up saying things like ‘I should’, or ‘I ought to’.  Working as a personal trainer, I hear this a lot.  People know that they should exercise or ought to eat better but often complain that their motivation diminishes and they just don’t do it.

What is missing?  Actions based on what we should do don’t usually keep us going for too long.  We may start out fired up for our new exercise program, but when we aren’t doing it for our own right reason, enthusiasm waivers and old habits reemerge.

The pathway to successful change lies in knowing yourself.  Ask the questions, “What do I want?  What is this going to give me?”  If you believe that exercising regularly will create a stronger, more confident you, set a good example for your kids, or give you more control over your life, you will be realizing your unique inspiration.  Being clear on what you really want is going to help you persevere and and rise above the the challenges you will inevitably encounter.

Take eating healthier for example, “What is important to me?”  Determining your answer to that question is a first step towards change.  Once you identify what you really want you can enhance your vision.  “What does healthy eating look and feel like to me?”  Why this step?  Each of us is unique.  We all live in a world full of ever changing variables and circumstances.  What is right for one person may not be right for another.  You are the only one who knows what feels right and will work for you.  You are your own best expert.  Put your knowledge to work in determining your answers.

Once you have explored what you really want, what it looks and feels like; you have the makings of your goal.  A clearly defined goal or vision is your road-map to success, for without one you don’t know where you are going and without a destination, you won’t know how to get there!

Clarity about what your goals are and why they are important to you is what is going to replace the “I should” with “I want to” and “I will”.  A thorough understanding of your goal will create your unique action steps.  You will know what to do next because it will be the only thing that makes sense to you.  A clear definition of your goal will enable you to determine the approach that’s right for you.

There are many good ideas about ways to eat better, exercise more, or stress less, but unless you are willing to do them, then that’s all they are, good ideas that have worked for other people.  Staying motivated for change involves finding the methods that make sense to you.  You may have a very healthy friend who is a vegetarian.  You may in turn think this is the way to go but does this make sense for you?  If your favorite meal includes a big, thick, juicy steak this dietary approach probably won’t last too long 🙂

What happens when you find yourself losing motivation?  Revisit the question “What do I really want?”.  Take for example the woman who begins an exercise program because she wants to lose weight.  At the beginning, she may be VERY motivated, but then as the days go on, she begins to dread the gym.  She is sore, tired and probably not eating enough in an attempt to diet.  If the weight loss doesn’t happen or stops, usually her desire to exercise stops with it.

By continually asking the question, “What do I want?”  She may be able to find new motivation.  I want to exercise, because I want to lose weight.  I want to lose weight to be healthier and be more self-confident.  I want health and confidence!!  Going to the gym regularly is something I have never been able to do.  I know when I go I feel good about myself; I am doing something good for me that makes me feel strong, healthy and alive.  

What if you lose your motivation and keep losing it?  Maybe you’re trying to do something that you are not truly inspired to do.  I need to lose weight because my husband thinks I look fat.  Doing something to please someone else almost never works.  This is the ‘will’ in ‘Where there is a will, there’s a way’.  Only when you know what you want will you have the fortitude to make it happen.   Reflecting upon what is important to you will help you stay focused and motivated to make things happen.

Finally, keep in mind that you are not perfect, none of us are.  Slip-ups will occur.  View these not as failures but opportunities for you to learn and grow. These experiences are vital steps towards change, and any step, big or small, is key to your success.  Unless you are Superman, you won’t be climbing a flight of stairs by jumping from the floor to the top.  One step at a time will get you where you need to be.  Believe in yourself and know that you have the power to make it happen!

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One of my biggest ‘aha’ moments

I heard a song today and it made me smile.  It brought me back to one of my biggest ‘aha’ moments since I started re-learning how to eat intuitively.  ‘With Arms Wide Open’ by Creed was the song and my aha moment came as I was sweeping the kitchen floor and crying…

My story begins 2 years ago.  I was relatively new to intuitive eating.  I had just learned how to ‘make peace with food’ …well at least I thought I had.  The day was a beautiful spring day.  I decided I wanted to spruce up my living room by buying new curtains.  Up until this point, I have always made my curtains and buying them different for me.  As I shopped, I found myself getting more and more frustrated because I had an idea in my head as to what I wanted and couldn’t quite find it …hence the reason I have always made my own.

I found my mood seemed to really darken as I left the store (empty handed) which I thought was rather unusual, given the circumstances I mean really?  I couldn’t find curtains?  Big whoop… if that’s the worst thing that happens in my life I guess I’m not doing too badly.  

I picked up my son from school and he asked for a DQ.  I figured spending that time together would be fun!  When we got there, I thought about getting a cone too.  I had just learned to ‘make peace with food’.  I decided that yes, I was going to get one.  I wanted one and wanted to give myself the chance to really enjoy it, without guilt or shame.  I have plenty of friends who eat soft-serve and they don’t have ‘problems’ with their weight.  I owed it to myself to have this experience.  Today was going to be my day!

I was proud.  I enjoyed my cone without any guilt or remorse.  I felt satisfied and happy.  My mood seemed to change, however, when I came home to my naked windows.  Before I knew what hit me, the binge fest began… cereal, crackers, bread.  I honestly don’t remember what I got my hands into, but then again binges were usually like that.  I numbed myself with food.  It didn’t take too long before I felt sick to my stomach.  Not only did I feel physical pain, but I felt deflated.  An hour before I felt happy and satisfied, and now this…  and for what?  Curtains??? Really?  I did this to myself for curtains???  I thought I had been making such progress with Intuitive Eating… now, again, I felt like a total failure.

To make matters worse, that night was a big night for our family.  My son, who was graduating, was in a talent show at his High School.  They had been practicing daily for weeks and the show was something we were all looking forward to.  Waiting for the program to begin, my husband seemed to sense I was upset and asked if I was o.k.  He was unaware of my binge eating habits and therefore had no idea what was going on in my head …of course, I realize now, neither did I.  I was was angry and embarrassed with myself for my behavior earlier in the day.  Lost in my thoughts, I felt angrier and angrier.  I was missing things in my life that would never happen again.  I was not going to be able to enjoy my son’s performance as I should have because I felt so awful.  I knew this behavior had to stop.

 The next day I was sweeping the floor and ‘With Arms Wide Open’ came on the radio.  Before I knew what was happening I was openly  sobbing.  This was the song my son performed in the talent show the night before.  At this moment I was finally awakened to what had been really bothering me all along.  My first born was about to graduate High School and was heading off to college!  My life, his life, our lives as a family;  it was all changing so rapidly.  I knew, even though I will always be his mother, it is never going to be the same.  He was heading into adulthood.  As happy as I was happy for him, I also felt very sad and empty… my baby was growing up and moving on.

This was a defining moment for me.  Until then, I didn’t really understood why I was so troubled the day before.  It had nothing to do with the curtains.  I was experiencing the significant feelings of loss, uncertainty and worry that every parent faces when their children grow up and move on.  Up to this point in my life, uncomfortable feelings led me to unconsciously reach for food as a way to comfort and numb.

My reaction today would be very different than it was back then.  I know now to stop, before I reach for food.  I ask myself if I am hungry?  If the answer is no, then I become curious.  What else may be going on to make me reach for food? Sometimes there isn’t an immediate answer, and for me, I find that it is o.k. to say I feel ‘uncomfortable’.  When in this situation, I will turn to friends or other activities that make me feel better.  Had I taken the time, two years ago, to really sit with my feelings I would have realized that it was natural to feel sad.  Food didn’t make my problems go away, it only made me feel worse.   At that time in my life, that was the only coping mechanism I knew.  Now I try harder to experience my feelings so that I can deal with them in a healthier way… for my heart, head and my stomach 🙂

Yet another lesson Self-Acceptance (5/2/11)

We got a new front door.  That means paint.  For those of you who know me and my type A personality, it comes without question that the painting will not limited to the new door but will include the adjoining rooms and while we are at it, why not do all the rooms?   If you are going to make a mess, then make a mess! And so it begins.  I was ready.

I dug out my old paint pants, knowing full well they were going to be a little snug.  But to my dismay, they were more than that, they were tight!  I was disappointed, but continued wearing them as they are the only ones I have.

I went about my day, thinking all morning about my jeans.  I could feel myself getting more anxious.  I began to think about our discussion in our Intuitive Eating support group last night… and losing weight.  I began questioning my beliefs.  I started wondering what I was “doing wrong”.  I thought about the scale.  I thought about how many calories I had eaten already… I began thinking all these things and felt bad, real bad.  My painting, instead of the refreshing facelift I wanted for my house, became a tedious chore.

My thoughts shifted to my dieting days.  Contemplating new diets was always exciting!  Whenever I felt like I did today, dieting was my answer!  There was something wrong with me and was going to be proactive and fix it!  At least that’s how it used to be.  As I began to really remember, I got beyond the “exciting” part.  I thought about restricting calories, keeping food logs, being hungry, feeling deprived, being upset and the food police…. I remembered how I would be “very good” for 3-4 days, and then I would binge and feel out of control.  The feelings of shame, guilt and ultimate failure all came flooding back to me.

My mental breaks came on!   No more!!!  My psychological health and wellbeing is too important.  I began to reflect on where I am now.  I don’t binge anymore.  I do not get anxious when I am at a party, as I was yesterday, wondering what I “can” or “can’t” eat.  I had one piece of cake and was happy and done.  I don’t beat myself up mentally anymore.  I don’t play the body check game either.  I can eat pasta and pizza and be o.k. with it.  I didn’t raid the kids Easter Baskets and feel nauseous and guilt ridden.  Yes, I like where I am much better than where I used to be.

I know it is normal to still have the desire to lose weight.  But I also know that should I drop a few pounds, it will be a nice side-effect of normalizing my relationship with food.  I am taking care of my body; the best way I know how.  I am learning a new process and it’s going to take time.

Today was a big day for me… I felt a little rocked to the core.  But I feel much more solid now.  I have re-affirmed my beliefs.  And do you want to know the irony of all this?  When I got dressed this morning to teach my class, I thought I looked good.  Amazing! I am a work in progress, and I am ready again to enjoy the journey!

The Story Behind the Peace Lily

When choosing an image to represent my face book page, I knew I wanted something that could visually express what Intuitive Eating means to me.  It realized pretty quickly that it was the Peace Lily.

This was my choice for several reasons.  First, perhaps obviously, it was because of the name.  Intuitive Eating has given me a sense of inner peace that I never thought could be possible.  The Peace Lily’s name embodies that for me.

Secondly, as a living thing, the lily requires proper nourishment and care.  If given those elements, it will continue to grow and flourish.  As practicing Intuitive Eaters, we will continue to grow and expand in our learning; if we are able meet our bodies’ basic needs and learn to be gentle and kind to ourselves.

Finally, I chose this image for a more personal reason.  Several years ago a car accident took the lives of two of my family members.  As a gift of condolence my husband and I received a rock garden from some friends.  Unfortunately, the plants in that pot have all since died… all except for one; the Peace Lily.  That plant is now nearly 3 feet tall and stands proudly in my living room.  To me, this symbolizes strength and perseverance.  In order to discover the Intuitive Eater inside of you … you will also need to be strong and to persevere.  Remember, this journey is not a road of perfection.  It will take many detours along the way.  Sometimes you may feel as though you are not moving in the right direction.  Stay steady.  Be strong and continue on.  If you do, you will find what you seek.  Believe in yourself and you will achieve.

As one final note, I would like to share something special.  At the conclusion of my last support group, I shared the story of the peace lily.  About two weeks later, my plant bloomed for the first time in nearly four years.  To all of my ladies with whom I have shared tears, stories of joy, frustration and accomplishment… this is for you.  This is your message and my wish for each of you as you continue on your journey; internal peace, happiness and freedom.

Yours always,

Janine

It’s all finally starting to click!! (6/8/11)

14 months ago I began a personal journey.  I read Intuitive Eating for the first time.  I was connected from page one!  I felt like this book was written using a window into my soul.  Everything made so much sense!  I was happy.  This was going to be my salvation… of course, for those of us who have spent years dieting; we have known many “salvations”.  But somehow, this one was going to be different.

At first, I was amazed how letting go of rules and judgments around food and eating gave me so much freedom.  Don’t misunderstand me; making peace with chocolate was terrifying!  And then there was the white bagel.  I mean really, a “white” bagel… who does that?  (Yes I know, very snobbish of me) … but I ate it, all of it, for 3 days, that was my afternoon snack, with a banana and peanut butter (sans salt of course… lighten up here people, I am poking fun of myself).  Anyway, this was something I would never “allow” myself to eat.  Well I did it, I enjoyed it, and I am now done with it.

This is how it started… I made some big realizations at the beginning, but things began to level off.  I felt as though I wasn’t progressing any further towards my goal of becoming an Intuitive Eater.  I was having periods of binging… not anywhere near what they used to be like, and if they happened, I did not beat myself up emotionally over it.  So it wasn’t all bad, but still I was frustrated.  I had read the book several times by now.  Conceptually, everything made sense… so why wasn’t I able to implement the principles?

I realized, although I understood what I needed to do, I wasn’t really allowing myself the experience.  I was still unsure and afraid, but until I lived the principles, these were just words on a page and had no real meaning for me.  I was afraid many things: of gaining weight, of accepting my ‘here and now’ body and I was afraid of being hungry.  I kept telling myself, this all makes sense, just take the leap of faith and go with it.  But it was hard.   Slowly, one at a time, I was able to overcome my fears.  And with each of these victories, I became more confident that I could overcome the rest.

I didn’t want to have anything to do with the scale.  I knew that mentally and physically I felt better, and for now that was enough.  Then came the day at the doctors; being the dutiful patient, I stepped on.  Before I could say don’t tell me, he uttered the number.  And do you know what?  At that moment, I realized the number didn’t matter!!  My doctor wasn’t concerned (it was 10lbs. heavier than a year ago).  He said he could tell by looking at me it was muscle.  I knew I had been training hard.  I felt good and the number didn’t matter!  Woo hoo!  Win #1

Then there was the first hot day of spring.  I knew that last year’s clothes would not be comfortable.  I needed to shop, but it was o.k.  This was the beginning of a new me.  I was tired of being uncomfortable and self-conscious in clothes that didn’t fit right.  I went to the store.  I ignored sizes and looked for things that I liked and made me feel good.  I found some great stuff and left the store feeling happy.  I know when I have an outfit that feels good I feel good.  I realized that day, like the scale, clothing sizes were just numbers.  They vary greatly from manufactures, styles and cuts.  I remembered a day I borrowed some clothing from a very “skinny” friend of mine.  The items she lent me were ‘larges’.  She told me as she handed them to me, these run small, I really don’t pay attention to sizes, I just but what fits and feels right.  I guess I should have paid more attention to her.  Win #2.

As a leftover from my dieting days, I was terrified of being hungry.   I began to realize, however, when I took the time to really figure out what I wanted to eat I was truly satisfied and ate less.  While I knew this to be true, I was also aware of my fear of becoming “too hungry”.   As a result, I would eat whatever was available when I became hungry.  One day, I really tried to figure out what I wanted to eat.  Nothing immediately came to mind… so I decided to wait a few minutes.  I thought, if I can get what I “really want”, I will be happier and more satisfied.  My deal with myself was 15 minutes.  If after that time, I still didn’t know what I wanted, I’d eat something.  Well sure enough, after about 10 minutes I knew what I wanted… pasta with stir-fried vegetables.  I knew it; I felt it and I cooked it.  It was awesome!!  I savored every bit of it and realized… I wasn’t going to overeat if I didn’t eat right away because I am more in tune to my body and I am more aware of my fullness cues.  I know I have unconditional permission to eat so I don’t have to be hungry and I don’t have to be afraid anymore.  Yeah win #3.

So bottom line… persevere, be patient and nurturing.  This is truly a journey that takes time.  Notice your discoveries along the way… for each of these are the building blocks of trust that you will need to take your next steps.  It can be done… you can do it.  Believe and you will.

A lesson on self-acceptance (2/17/11)

So here, I am, still mulling over the fact that my jeans (no, not the skinny jeans, the jeans I wore 2 weeks ago) were way too tight yesterday.  Why?  Why were they tight and why do I care?  I ask myself these questions time and time again.  Why does it bother me so much?  I’ll tell you why… it ticks me off!  There I said it out loud for all to hear!!! I feel that I work very hard to stay in shape.  So why can’t I just eat what I want and have the body that I want?  It’s not fair!!  O.k., I’m done yelling now.   It’s true, that’s one point of view… it’s not fair and it makes me mad.

So now I have 2 choices, I can stay mad, feel bad about myself, tell myself how I don’t work hard enough, or don’t eat right… or I can try to change my thinking… While I exercise hard and try to eat right, I don’t always do what is best.  Hummm…. negative thinking, implies that I am gaining weight because I have been overeating.  O.k. I know, sometimes I use food for the wrong reasons.  I want my goal around food to be… “If I eat this food, will I feel better afterwards, physically?  Is this what I really need right now?”… and I am actively working on that one.   I know it’s going to take time, so I need to be patient with myself.  Yelling at myself has got me nowhere as of yet, so I now choose to be gentle with my psyche and give myself a break!  When it is possible for me to turn to something other than food when stressed, I will.  Until the day that I no longer automatically reach for food for comfort, I need to allow myself room to grow.  I will nurture that spirit because I have faith that this day will come.

So let’s get back to being mad.  I am mad because seemingly I can’t have what I want, that coveted long lean body.  So now I think, “Why do I want that so badly?  What is it going to give me that I don’t already have?  Is my husband going to love me more?  Will I become a better mom/friend?  How is this going to change me?  What will I gain?”  I may have more self-confidence… shopping is more fun.  Ok, two things.  Yeah, not ready to jump on the body bashing bandwagon just yet…I won’t be so self-conscious.  Oh now there is a thought.  “What exactly do I have to be self-conscious about anyway?  Do I have a great big booger hanging out of my nose?  A big piece of spinach in-between my front teeth?”  I don’t think so … I checked 😉  Being self-conscious about my weight implies there is something “wrong” with me.  I can walk and run and teach… I can do lots of things I never thought I would be able to do (yes, push-ups are still tough).   I am strong and have endurance.  I am proud of my physical accomplishments.  So what was my problem again?… oh yes, my thighs/butt.

When I had my dilemma yesterday, I wondered how my afternoon would have been different if I had just picked up a different pair of pants.  I wasn’t seeking the ones I put on, they just happened to be on top.  If I had put on another pair of pants instead, I never would have felt badly and I probably wouldn’t be sitting here looking at a sink full of dirty dishes writing this… So the pants told me that I gained weight; maybe, maybe not.  I did eat pizza several times over the last couple of days; not that there is anything wrong with pizza, but it was salty.  I am due for my period.  So there are 2 things that could cause me to retain fluid.  I have been exercising more than usual and I don’t think I have been drinking enough water; another reason to retain fluid.  Now, am I just sitting here making excuses?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think I have seriously been overeating, not enough to gain that much weight.

I have been exercising a ton, but not because I have to, but because I want to.  I am learning something new (teaching cycling) and enjoying it.  So, do I have an answer?  Not really, but what I do realize is that I don’t want to exercise any more than I currently am (every single part of me hurt this morning…but in a good way).  And I don’t want to start thinking about restricting my food intake.  So where does that leave me?  I know I am now in a place where I am happy (for the most part) about my nutrition/fitness choices.  They have been making me feel empowered and strong.  I choose to do things because I want to, not because I have to.  I am taking responsibility for my actions… if I ate chocolate, you can bet I enjoyed and savored every bit of it.  If I passed on the cookie, it was because I was full, not because I shouldn’t eat it; I know I can have it later if I want it.  So when I sat down and thought about all these things, I realized, at least for me anyway, mentally (and physically) I am in a much better place; happy with me, the here and now me.  And who knows, maybe those jeans did stay in the dryer too long…lol.  peace.

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