Today I’m sharing some of the things I wish I’d have known when I started my health and fitness journey. It’s also kind of an open letter to myself. As I look back on my journey, there are so many things I wish I could’ve realized and told myself – things that probably would have helped me cultivate a healthier relationship with food, fitness, and my body, a lot earlier on. My hope is that for any of you out there reading this, this will inspire you to maybe look at yourself and your journey from a different perspective, and realize it’s not all about being perfect.
Instagram is not real life
Over the years, I’ve followed hundreds of people in the fitness industry. Whether they’re athletes, fitness competitors, fitness models, brand ambassadors, bloggers, you name it, I followed them. In the beginning, I started following these people for inspiration and for informational purposes. Seeing their pictures seemed to “motivate” in the beginning, and I was looking for any and every tidbit of information I could find. Yet over the years, I realized they started to become just the opposite of motivation for me. They started to give me such a negative picture of what health and fitness should be about and they made me feel like I wasn’t making any progress, just because I didn’t look like them.
For many of these people, fitness is their full time job. They are paid to workout, to eat a certain way, to post about their every meal/training session. They’re also paid to look the way they do. While there is nothing wrong with that, it is wrong for the every day person to assume they’re going to be able to achieve a body composition even remotely similar to these people. I used to spend hours and hours scrolling through Instagram wondering why, after months of tracking macros, and daily strength training, I still didn’t look anything like them. That is because it’s completely unrealistic to think that with my diet and my workouts, I would be able to look that way, and that is okay. I have a full time job, a life outside of working out, cheat days, etc. Having realistic expectations of what your body is capable of is so important. Do not compare yourself to someone you see on Instagram, no matter who they are. Your journey is your journey, and your journey only.
The scale is not an accurate measure of progress
This is something that after 8 years of being on this journey, I have finally convinced myself of. For years, all I cared about was the number on the scale. In the past, I could feel horrible about myself, like I hadn’t made any progress at all, but if I stepped on the scale and it was a number I liked, I was thrilled. And by the same token, I could feel amazing, like I was definitely making progress, the whole macro thing was working, my hours in the gym were paying off, etc. Yet if I stepped on the scale and it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to see, I would sink into a never ending hole of I need to do more cardio, I need to lower my macros, I need to start doing two a day workouts, etc. It was such an unhealthy way of measuring progress. After years of preaching to myself that the number on the scale didn’t matter, I’ve realized it truly doesn’t. I have not stepped on the scale since last July, and that is a huge victory for me.
Don’t get me wrong, Bianca keeps one in our bathroom and there are times when I am so tempted to step on it just to see what it says, but it’s not worth it. Measuring progress should not be based on a number. I use progress pictures, how I’m feeling during my workouts, tracking how much my strength has improved in the gym, etc. as ways to track progress. That number on the scale means nothing.
It’s okay to be imperfect
This too is something I didn’t grasp until very recently, but it has changed the way I view my own journey. For the longest time, I was hung up on being perfect. Guilt would take over all of my thoughts for the craziest reasons. If I didn’t make it to the gym 6 days a week, I felt guilty. If I didn’t hit my macros perfectly for the day, I felt guilty. If I wasn’t seeing the progress I wanted to see after making small changes to my diet/workouts, I felt guilty. If I decided to eat something that wouldn’t fit my macros, I felt guilty. I wasted so much of my time feeling that because I wasn’t doing things perfectly, I wasn’t healthy, and was the reason I wasn’t looking exactly how I wanted to.
Years have gone by, and I now realize how unhealthy that mindset was. That kind of thinking can lead to disordered eating, over exercising, bad body image, etc. Hear me out – yes, it is great to be motivated and to want to go to the gym 6 days a week and to want to hit your macros every day. But this is not going to happen every single week/day, and you have to realize that’s okay.
I am on this journey to better myself, from the inside out, and being perfect isn’t the key to getting there. It’s okay to have one too many glasses of wine with your girlfriends on a girls night out. It okay to eat a piece of cake at the grad party you’re going to. It’s okay to get fries instead of a side salad every once in awhile. All of these things are okay. It’s okay to skip the gym when you’re sick. It’s okay to take the week off when you’re on vacation. It’s okay to leave the gym in the middle of the workout when you’re not feeling your best, and pick up the next day. All of these things are okay. Part of being healthy is knowing that it’s okay to be imperfect.
The fact that I can go get Dairy Queen with my family and not feel guilty? That is health to me. The fact that I can skip counting macros/four days of working out to celebrate my birthday on vacation with my friends and not feel anxious? That is health to me. Those are things I could not have done a few years ago, and that mental progress and acceptance of imperfection, means a lot more to me than a number on a scale ever will.
Celebrate progress big or small, small victories lead to big victories
For so long, I got hung up on the fact that I wasn’t seeing “big” changes in my body. After a year of strength training and counting macros, surely I was supposed to be in tip top shape right? Wrong. Changes take time, a lot of time. The truth of the matter is, here I am, 8 years after beginning this journey, and I’m still not exactly where I want to be. Some weeks I love the way I look, other weeks, I get down on myself. That’s because I’m human. That’s why celebrating the small victories, is so important.
It’s the celebrating that keeps me motivated. Maybe you only ate out once this week, celebrate that. You did the hardest spin class you’ve ever done this week, celebrate that. You made it to two morning workouts this week, celebrate that. You made time for a Saturday workout, celebrate that. You ran for the first time in months this week, celebrate that. You made a new healthy recipe you absolutely love, celebrate that.
Even my closest friends probably don’t know this, but each week I write down one thing, either fitness or health related that I am proud of. I have been doing it for a year now and it is so amazing to look back on. Not only does it make me proud to see all of my weekly “proud moments”, but it has also made a difference in my relationship with my body. As I look back on it, I realize all the positive changes and celebrations that make me proud of this body and all it’s accomplished. It’s not about what I didn’t do each week, but what I did do, and that has helped me tremendously. Celebrate the small things, because in the end, they’re going to add up to big things!
And with that, I’m off my soapbox! This is a more personal post that I’ve been wanting to share for awhile now, so I hope you all found something that resonated with you! Have a happy Monday and a wonderful week!