I had been blessed with a relatively high metabolism in my younger years, so it was something a shock when the weight started to creep on in my mid-twenties. It started innocently enough. A couple of pounds gained over the holidays. A size up in pants each time I went shopping. But then I started to feel sluggish, unmotivated, and I struggled with long stretches of low mood that bordered on depression. I attributed it all to the normal stresses of life. Then one day I got on the scale one day in my early thirties and realized that a decade of working a desk job and living a mostly sedentary lifestyle had caught up with me. With a BMI of 24.9, I was right on the cusp of being officially “overweight.” And while BMI certainly doesn’t tell the whole story and therefore is not a great metric for calculating overall health, I have a petite frame and I knew that the weight gain was not reflecting an inexplicable gain in muscle mass.
What was frustrating to me about all this is that I wasn’t an inactive person, or so I thought. After all, I’d hit up my fair share of yoga classes over the years, and I even had two half marathons under my belt. But the truth was that I lacked consistency and went through long stretches of total inactivity. At the end of 2016, I realized that something needed to change. In the year and a half since, I am pleased to report that I’ve lost over twenty pounds. Exercise is not only a consistent part of my routine, it’s something I look forward to. My healthier lifestyle has not only helped me manage my weight, it has also boosted my overall energy and mood. I also believe it has helped me better handle the stresses of work and life. So what changed? It’s not because I finally had the right wearable tech, followed a certain diet, or because I chose a specific fitness plan. It’s because I had a shift in mindset first, and then the healthy change followed. If you’re struggling to form a healthier lifestyle, here’s why changing your mindset first is key:
1. Fitness programs and diets only work if you follow them
Perhaps this seems obvious, but it wasn’t always so for me. I used to spend so much time researching the best fitness plans and diets. But then I didn’t take action. I got hung up somewhere between planning and doing. Is the problem that you chose a Ketogenic diet instead of a Paleo diet? Or is the problem is that you’re still snacking on potato chips after work every day? (which I believe is in the “avoid” column for both diets anyway.) Is the problem that you decided on the Bodyboss Method instead of Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide? Or is the problem that you gave up after doing the first workout? The point is, just about any consistent fitness routine combined with a reasonably balanced diet is going to yield positive results. Diet and exercise are tools for a healthy lifestyle, but like any tool, you need to use them in order for them to work. So be focused less on the what, and more on the do.
2. Consistency starts with your mindset
I used to mope around for months, waiting for motivation to visit as though it were a neglectful fairweather friend. When I finally did muster up some motivation to exercise, it would fizzle out within days (or sometimes hours) of starting a new fitness regime. I’d end up hurting myself, feeling discouraged, or eating a copious amount of Haagen Daz. And when I decided that I’d ruined all my progress, I thought, “I might as well just quit.” It only took one setback to convince me that exercise was not worth the effort, and I’d resort back to my mostly sedentary lifestyle. I struggled with consistency because I struggled with motivation. And I struggled with motivation because I struggled with mindset. That’s because motivation isn’t something that just strikes you like lightning out of the blue. (Well, not usually for me anyway!) Sustainable motivation comes from taking action first. With the right mindset, when you act and finish what you set out to do, it motivates you to continue.
3. A healthy lifestyle is ongoing
A healthy lifestyle is just that: a lifestyle. There’s no finish line. What happens when you finally run that half marathon? Or finish that fitness program? Or lose 20 pounds? In order to make fitness a part of your lifestyle, it has to be about more than reaching a goal. And if you’ve been living a decidedly unhealthy lifestyle for a while, becoming healthy is a slow and gradual process. If you don’t have a solid mental foundation for sticking to your fitness regime, you risk becoming overwhelmed or discouraged. So many people give up because they’re looking at the top of the mountain instead of the next step. A healthy lifestyle is about forever focusing on that next step, no matter how far the mountain’s peak is. Because really, with the right mindset, there’s no peak at all. You draw success from what you’ve accomplished today. Become focused on the process instead of the results.
The things that hold you back from getting in shape are a series of perceptions that you have about diet, exercise, and yourself. But just because you perceive something in a certain way doesn’t make it the truth. Yet, challenging your old mindset can be really tough, especially if you’ve been running the same inner monologue about health, fitness, and diet for years. I know this first hand! The first step is to find your why. Sure, you want to be healthy, who doesn’t? But if you don’t have clarity on exactly why it’s important to you, it’s going to be tough to set goals and adjust your mindset. Dig deeper than vanity. Because no, it’s not just about looking good in a swimsuit. So what is it about for you? Confidence? Energy? Self-empowerment? Balance? Then ask yourself: What does a healthy lifestyle look like to you? What’s the first step to achieving it? Then don’t wait. Go take that first step.
Corrie Alexander is a content creator and customer service manager from Toronto, Ontario. Her climb up the corporate ladder cultivated her interest in the topic of career development, a passion rivaled only by her love of exercise and strong coffee. Visit her website, thefitcareerist.com, and follow her on Twitter here.
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