From my heaviest to my tiniest and then to my balanced happy. In the months, and years, between these photos, my mindset was all over the place.
When you start a new fitness or health routine, your life changes. Your body physically changes, your habits (hopefully) change, and your mindset also changes. The first two changes are widely documented. They are the basis of a fitness routine honestly, but there isn’t enough talk about the mental changes in a health journey. There’s no one way that your mind changes, everyone is different, but it can spiral out of control pretty quick so we’re going to tackle this topic today.
I hear people, either clients or just overhead in public, always talk about how they had cookies last night and felt the guilt. They felt the guilt of eating a bad food, and now they need to workout harder. This is not mindset we want. Food, whether it’s a salad or a cookie, is food. All food is made up of calories (yes, some have more than others but still) and calories keep us alive. Calories are a necessity, they keep our systems functioning and our bodies moving. Yes, you could have made better choices than a cookie, but food should never be associated with guilt, ever. It’s really easy to get caught up in the health food mindset, especially seeing other fitness pages eating nothing but pretty salads and grilled chicken, but you’re human! You can make the choice to eat whatever you want, and that’s good! Learning to eat all foods in moderation is a huge part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s about what you do most of the time, not sometimes. Get out of the guilt mentality and get into the moderation mentality.
This is a personal subject to me. I competed in a bodybuilding competition in 2015 and restricted my calories way too much going into it. I wasn’t even as small as I wanted to be, which is nuts because I was the tiniest. But thats not the point here. During the end of my competition prep, and continuing long after I competed, I began binging. This was because I restricted so much that when I finally ate something I wanted (even something as silly as almond butter), I couldn’t stop. I was “supposed” to eat one tablespoon of almond butter and ended up needing to fill the now quarter full container of almond with water and throw it away to stop myself from eating. It wasn’t just a lack of self control, I had no control and ate myself sick. So what did I do after that? I restricted further and exercised like crazy to “make up for it”. Which is not a healthy mindset. It took two years of no tracking food/macros/workouts/anything for my mind to reset. I preach moderation because I know. I know how it feels to be consumed by guilt after consuming a whole box of cereal in one sitting, even though I didn’t want it and I “knew better”. I know how it feels to not be able to have certain foods in the house. I know how it feels to literally kill yourself in the gym and continue to gain weight because all you do is binge. That’s why flexible dieting is the only thing I preach for a healthy lifestyle. You can eat what you want, in moderation. It depletes your binges because you don’t need to binge on “bad foods” anymore, you can just track them and eat them. It’s not a diet. Fitness isn’t a temporary thing, its a full on lifestyle change. Something to remember: extremes cause more extremes.
Constantly scrolling through instagram, looking at professional fitness models day in and day out, does nothing but destroy your mindset. I’m going to say some things now that you might think are harsh but they’re the truth. Stage lean is not healthy. People who stay stage lean all the time are not healthy. Doing two hours of cardio per day is not healthy. Needing to workout or else having a meltdown is not healthy. Going to the gym when you have the flu/cold/about to pass out from exhaustion is not healthy. These people you (and I both) follow only put the best of themselves online. They put the photos of them flexing their abs off and beautiful salads, but they don’t post the bad. When I was in competition prep, do you think I posted about how my mind was destroying me? Nope, I posted how tiny I was. There’s a revolution on instagram right now of people doing exactly this. Bringing back their tiny pictures and revealing the truth. A lot of former competitors are “gaining weight” (aka heading back to a healthy weight) and hanging up their bikinis and heels for a balanced lifestyle. It’s refreshing because competing is the big thing right now. And whether you want to compete or not, chances are your “fitspo” (fitness inspiration) either is a competitor or follows a competition strict life, so you’re exposed to this life. It’s important to know the truth because otherwise you try to emulate this life, get discouraged, go to extremes, find the guilt, and here we are, being unhealthy.
So, now that you’re terrified of getting healthy because of all the shenanigans that can go wrong, let me give you some tips on how to do it right. When starting out, start small. Don’t go from overweight to bikini competitor right off the bat. Don’t go from eating fast food and never working out to only eating veggies and doing hours of cardio. Start small. Add in a serving of veggies per day, add in an extra glass of water per day, or start with a goal of three workouts a week. Once those become habits, you can add more. The more gradual of a transition, the better off you’ll be. Make sure you allow yourself the things you love. I love sugar so I make sure I can fit something sweet into my macros daily. I currently track my macros but I don’t stress if I go over by a bit. Yeah, it’ll hinder my goals a bit but, to me, keeping my mind clear of disordered thoughts, is way more important than keeping my carbs at Xg per day. My main eating goals are to hit my protein amounts daily (yay muscle) and to have at least 4 servings of veggies per day. Sometimes that means I don’t eat my veggies until dinner and have like 3 servings of broccoli at once, but that’s just how I’m feeling that day. Another tip with macro counting: plan. Try to plan out your dinners and go grocery shopping once a week, making sure you have plenty of your fave foods, and your not so faves that you need to eat (veggies, we’re looking at you), so they are readily available. Roughly plan out your day the night before. Allow yourself a serving of some sort of treat so you don’t feel deprived.
And don’t worry about being perfect. No one is. Just try to do something every day towards your goals. You got this. It’s not a race, it’s your life. Treat yourself well for your health and don’t forget to treat yourself well for your mind.