Sticking With The Gray

I come from a place of extremes.  Before discovering Intuitive Eating, my world was black and white, right or wrong.  There was no middle ground, only perfection.   Thankfully, I am in a much different place; one that has balance and peace.  Even though I love where I am, the allure of pushing limits does still tempt me.

Housed in the back room of one of the gyms where I work is the super elite.  The extreme athletes.  They work hard.  They are strong.  They are long and they lean.  I watch them come and go as they practice.  I marvel at how they push their body to limits they may have never thought possible.  Yes, I watch them and admire them, but I don’t want to be them.

Oh the thought crosses my mind… more often than I care to admit.  I could follow the ‘cave-man’ diet, as it is referred to… eating only the foods that were available to our ancient ancestors.  I could strive to get to a place where I can see the striations in my muscles as they work towards the fitness challenge of the day.  I could apply my time and efforts there, but I realize that this temptation can bring me down and bring me down hard.

For me, the back room is the gateway to extremism.  I lived there for awhile and it was scary.  I always had to do more, weigh less, lift heavier weights… all in the name of perfection.  ‘Try harder’ was my motto.  Before long, my hour long gym sessions became several hours each day.  My diet was militant… no variance from the straight path I was on.  My self worth was dictated by the weight I could lift and the number on the scale.  It lasted for a bit, but then my body and my psyche broke down.

Professional athletes train to peak their performance for their event.  But my event was my life.  I had no particular goal, no race, no contest that I was working towards.  All I knew was that I had to keep working.  In order to maintain the weight that I was at, I had to keep working.  It didn’t matter if my body was telling me I’d had enough,  I had to keep going.  I couldn’t stop because then I would think I was ‘giving in’.  I couldn’t stop because I was afraid of getting fat.

Ironically, the things I feared most, gaining weight and not being fit, were beginning to happen to me.  I had chronic injuries.  In my efforts to stay strong, I was making my body weaker.  I started started binge eating.   I was, as I know now, rebelling against the very strict standards I had set for myself.  I was stuck and I was scared.

That was then, this is now.   My eyes have been opened to the gray.  That place somewhere in between black and white.   I realized I could not continue on in this obsessive manner.  My life was very focused and I felt accomplished but at what cost?   When I was good,  I was good.  (going to the gym every day, not eating any bad foods)  But when I was bad, I was bad!  I felt out of control.  I needed a middle ground, a balance.

It started with the exercise.  I began to give myself permission to take a day off if I needed it.  When I did, I noticed my subsequent workouts were much better.  I focused on doing the things at the gym that I truly enjoyed.  I paid more attention to how my body felt and how it responded.  I began to question how my time at the gym was going to benefit me.  As a 48 year old working mom, was a plyometric jump onto a high step going to help me or hurt me?  I began doing the things I wanted to do, not what I felt I should or needed to do.

Building on the confidence I was experiencing at the gym, my new philosophy shifted towards food.  Learning to become an Intuitive Eater made me more sensitive to my body’s needs and internal cues.  I had to pay attention.  I had to listen and trust that my body knew what was best for me.  I relaxed my food rules and the binging stopped!  I was excited!  I began to eat the foods that brought me enjoyment, satisfaction and health.  Moderation was beginning to feel good, very good.

I found that the balance was within me.  I needed to do things according to how they made me feel; working from my heart and not my head.   Thinking I needed to go to the gym for several hours/day in order to maintain a weight that was not “natural” for my body left me tired, chronically injured and frustrated.  I was listening to external values.   I was judging myself by trying to fit into a mold that was being dictated to me.  The ideals of perfection.

I like my world now.   I eat and exercise according to how it feels and how my body responds.  I am fit and I am strong.  I ask the questions, What will this food do for me?  How will I feel after I eat it?  Will this exercise help me stay healthy?  How will I feel when I am done?  What do I need to do for me today?   I ask, but more importantly, now I listen.

Yes, I will continue to admire my colleagues in the back room.  It can be thrilling taking fitness and nutrition to that level, as for me, I’m sticking with the gray 🙂

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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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