Since I began my journey in a lifestyle change, I have had quite a few people ask me how I did it. How did you lose the weight? What diet are you doing? What kind of workouts do you do? I could answer all these questions, give my insight into what works, but the truth is, my answers might not be the answers for them.
Instead my answer is simple. I set a goal for myself, created the discipline, and found a way to achieve it.
Through my experience, there are 6 fundamentals I realized I needed to create that discipline and set my goal, otherwise I wouldn’t see the results I wanted to see.
1. Define your own path—do what is best for you!
Over the years, I’ve tried different diet after diet from health experts, doctors, and nutritionists. I tried what I saw my friends doing. Some would work, but then I’d bounce back to where I was prior to starting said “diet”, questioning everything, exclaiming profanities, and wondering why it didn’t work for me but did for them.
I wasn’t doing what was best for me. I wasn’t establishing my own path to live my best, healthiest life. I based my goal, my path, my expectations on everyone else’s journey, not my own.
I’m not saying you must create your path from scratch but consider what you gather and take from others’ experiences. My parents went on a rice and bean heavy diet earlier this year. My dad dropped 15 pounds at the snap of a finger, but my mother gained. She couldn’t understand why. They walked every day and ate the same meals. I can’t count how many times I heard, “It isn’t fair. Your father has lost all this weight and I am gaining.” My mother based her results on what she saw happening for my dad, instead of creating her own path for her body. Turns out rice and beans are two things my mother shouldn’t have been putting in her diet at all. She had created a path for herself that wasn’t the best for her. If you base your results on the exact same results as someone else’s journey (or from what worked for you in the past), there is a possibility you can set yourself up for some major disappointment. This will lead to the spiral effect. Major disappointment leads to frustration which leads to bitterness which leads to giving up on your goal which leads to accepting a life that deprives you instead of allowing you to live your best life.
2. Align your head and heart!
It is important to think logically when trying to see results from your goals. You plan out the logistics, specifics, and means you need to accomplish your goal. This will help with the discipline aspect. That’s the easy part, but if your head and heart aren’t aligned in your goal, you won’t be successful. You will be left wondering why it didn’t work and why it fell through. You will partially achieve the goal, but regress back into old habits, old situations, old insecurities because your head and heart aren’t working in harmony with one another. Our hearts are an interesting organ—strong, capable of intense feeling and worth, expressing a variety of emotions, but our hearts are also so fragile. One tiny prick of rejection or disappointment can lead to years of a bruised and chipped ego, confining us to a fixed mindset. Don’t allow yourself to stay there.
When I first started my fitness journey 8 years ago, my head and heart weren’t aligned. My heart was not in the right place with my head. I had done the logistical part of my fitness goal setting.
- Sign up for a gym membership
- Establish number of weekly workouts
- Sign up for a personal trainer once a week
- Establish number of pounds to lose
But I was trying to achieve a goal for all the wrong reasons. My goal setting had become a giant middle finger to my bullies from childhood, a hopeful solution to my longing to look like my best friend who guys always seemed interested in, my hope to look prettier than how I felt on the inside. My goal was about every single other person, situation, or painful memory in my life instead of the one thing that should be the focus of the goal: me. I was unsuccessful in the past because my goals weren’t for me. Before establishing and investing in your goal make sure to align your head and heart. Do a heart check. Who or what are you truly making this goal for in your life?
3. Surround yourself with a community of support!
We live in a world that tells us to be strong and independent, accomplishing things on our own, but we were made for community, made for relationship with others. This one is difficult for me. I’ve never felt like I fit in with people or believed I had true community. Sometimes it is hard for me to make true, genuine friendships work (and last). I tend to invest and give so much more than I feel I see in return, so I tend to shut myself off from people. I don’t let people see the genuine, vulnerable person that they need to see. But sometimes you can’t do it alone.
I slacked on goals in the past because I didn’t allow myself to be vulnerable with people when I needed to be.
When I did my immunity booster cleanse back in July this year, I established people in my life who I knew would be my people. The ones who would tell me the chips and salsa aren’t worth it, that muffin would set me back, or that slice of ice cream cake would eradicate any reset I had done to my body. In my moments of weakness, my moments where I felt like I couldn’t continue towards a medication free life through clean eating, my people reminded me of my “why”. They gave me the accountability when I couldn’t give it to myself. To grow and continue to develop, you need the support. Find a community of people that will help you achieve your goals instead of deterring you from it. Be intentional. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Be open. It’s the only way your people will help you grow.
4. Bring out your inner student—educate yourself!
Sorry for all of you who hated school and hoped that once you were an adult you could stop being a student. This should never be the case. If we aren’t taking the initiative to learn and develop, we will never grow. Life will remain stagnant which will eventually lead to mediocrity, which will then lead to you asking yourself, “Where is the meaning in my life?” A meaningful life requires growth and requires investing time and energy into learning more. Whenever you are setting goals or investing in a new experience, educating yourself is a must. The first time I attempted to take my fitness and health seriously, I didn’t take the time to educate myself on certain workout routines or benefits of exercise. Above that though, I didn’t take the time AT ALL to investigate the importance of nutrition. Guys, nutrition matters. As a result, after losing the weight, I slacked off in my nutrition. If I continued to workout 6 days a week (3 of which were two workouts a day), I could eat whatever I wanted, right? Wrong mindset. Had I taking the time to invest in learning more, I wouldn’t have questioned the mediocre results I was getting. In fact, I wouldn’t have had mediocre results but astounding results. Educating yourself and gaining background knowledge in whatever area your goal is will lead to discovering new ideas and the results you want.
5. Be flexible and provide yourself grace!
This one was a hard one for me to realize. Because of my past experiences with binge eating, secretive eating, bored eating, emotional eating—you get the picture, my experience with unhealthy eating habits—I tend to be extremely hard on myself and don’t allow room for flexibility or grace. What I didn’t realize, though, is by not allowing myself grace for the occasional sugary sweet or alcoholic beverage, I started applying the layer of bricks that turned into a foundation of resentment towards myself, trapping me in the mindset that I was incapable of growth and change. When I tried to set a goal for myself and “slipped up” grabbing that fast food meal on the way to work or indulging in one (or several brownies), a huge wave of guilt and shame would flow over me. I didn’t allow myself grace in that moment. Instead it reminded me of the past painful experiences with food and made me believe I was only worthy of that old life. It took me awhile to realize I am worth so much more.
There will be times in our journeys where we will be unhappy with our results or where we are in that moment. In these moments we have two options: become content with that result, accepting that this must be the way it will be or choose to provide ourselves grace, which can lead to setting a new goal and give us results for a better life. The other day I was talking with a friend, and I could see the look of disappointment on his face he had for himself as he talked about what he felt was a big hit to his ego. My heart was heavy for him that day as he became focused on that one issue of his journey. He, like me, tends not to give himself grace in things we consider pitfalls for ourselves. I only hope he sees that he is more than just that one component and provides himself some grace in that moment because giving grace to ourselves isn’t slacking or going back on a goal; it’s refining who we are, molding us into a stronger, healthier, more vibrant version of ourselves. By giving ourselves grace and being flexible, understanding that sometimes we might have a set-back or need to readjust a goal or expectation will only help us strengthen our mental game when it comes to our goals and passions in life.
6. Embrace the past you!
I love the image of a phoenix bird, a featured character, symbolizing rebirth in many religious and cultural stories. The phoenix is said to be majestic and glorious, so reflective that it radiates rays from the sun. Every 500 years the bird builds its nest used as its tomb and combusts in flames, reducing it to ashes. A new phoenix rises to life out of these ashes. The phoenix is reborn into a new glory, ready to thrive.
And that’s what we must do if we want to see our goals achieved. We have to embrace the rubble, the ashes, the pain from our past, embracing who we once were, in order to thrive as the person we want to become. We must take the remains of the past us and utilize them to our advantage. The remains from our past can lead to a new passion which leads to so much more.
For years, I refused to embrace who I once was—the shy, insecure, self-doubting, over-weight, unhappy person—because I was ashamed and didn’t think myself capable of breaking away from those identifiers. I was chained to this unhealthy identity I had created for myself. I didn’t want to face the fact that even though I preached to everyone around that I loved myself the way I was, I actually hated the girl I saw in the mirror. The late night crying sessions, the looks of disgust I gave myself, the brutal and harsh words I told myself daily all remained hidden from view. Because I never released my grip from this bondage, I could never commit fully to any of my goals. So, I ignored the past me, refused to acknowledge that that was who I once was even when goals were partially met. As a result, I regressed back, hiding behind my brokenness, unable to accept that the past me could be the foundation for a new me. I refused to see that the ruins of my past–my insecurities, doubts, lack of self-love–could be something good that could lead to something great. Then one morning I woke up and realized something.
I want to be the flippin’ phoenix.
It’s okay to acknowledge the pain and hurt from your past. It’s okay to acknowledge your brokenness. It’s okay to use the past you as a catalyst for change. Embrace the past you, so you can thrive as the radiant person you are meant to be in this life. Embracing the past you can lead to something amazing. A renewed life is possible from the remnants of the past.