I’m getting a little personal today and sharing how I changed my mindset from unhealthy to healthy. Being healthy is a lifestyle. So how do you break bad habits and start living that lifestyle? You have to get into a healthy mindset. You have to train your mind to think healthy, and then it becomes a habit. A negative mindset leads to failure. I used to have a negative mind set and I was very unhealthy and unhappy. I finally figured out how to change that mind set and have become so much healthier and happier!
Today I want to share a little about my weight loss / healthy living journey with you. It’s not something I’ve really talked about much because I don’t like thinking about how unhealthy I was – it’s embarrassing. But, I am proud of where I am now. When I graduated college, I stopped dancing and working out every day and started working full time. I went from dancing 4-5 hours a day and working out or running 3-4 days a week to nothing. Back then, I didn’t think I had time to work out, and I didn’t worry about healthy eating. I worked 10 -12 hour days and I was always exhausted. I usually ate at my desk, and snacked all day long. The company that I worked for had a cafeteria in the building, so I would get a big breakfast, big lunch, and usually lots of unhealthy snacks to eat during the day. At first I just gained a little bit, and that was okay, I probably needed to, and I was still trying to run every now and then. But, eventually I quit running completely. Soon after, Jeremy and I got together, and we were eating out every night of the week and I never ate anything healthy. Over a few years, I gained almost 60 pounds. I was miserable, and I honestly had no idea what to do and how to fix it. I couldn’t stand to even look at myself, and I hated trying to shop for clothes or even just get dressed to go to work. I especially hated trying to get dressed to go out with friends. I didn’t want to leave my house.
I tried several times to lose weight and get healthy. I tried all kinds of diets and exercise. But, I would try it until I slipped up and then I was done. I felt like a failure, and I would eat because I was depressed, and then I would be depressed because I was eating. I can remember exactly when I hit rock bottom. I think it was the fact that I finally saw how other people viewed me. A co-worker and I were talking about energy drinks and she said they made her jittery and I said they didn’t bother me. (I drank them all the time.) Another co-worker chimed in that it was probably because of the difference in our sizes. She said I was a lot bigger, so it would take a lot more caffeine to affect me. She wasn’t meaning anything by it, but it hurt. That was the bottom for me. I finally was ready to make a change. But, in order to make that change, I had to change my mind set. That was the hardest part.
Today I want to share with you some of the things that I have learned from my own healthy living journey, and ways that I changed my mind set.
It’s a journey.
Bottom line, it’s a journey. There is not a quick fix and it’s not going to happen overnight, it’s a lifestyle change. You have to view health as a journey. If you view it as an all or nothing you will fail the first time you make a mistake. But that’s not how it works. You have to keep going, and learn from your mistakes. One bad meal doesn’t make you unhealthy, just as one good meal doesn’t make you healthy. You don’t have to be perfect all the time. Don’t let one mistake bring you down. If you mess up with your eating or miss work outs, just keep going. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. But don’t let one or even a few mistakes make you give up. Just start fresh the next chance you get.
When I was beginning this journey and trying to start living a healthy life I made sure that every Monday was a fresh start. No matter what I ate or if I missed work outs that weekend, I always started Monday’s new. If you keep doing this, eventually your mistakes will become fewer and fewer. Your mindset will change, and you will stop looking at it as starting over. You will just make the healthy choice the next time. Another way I looked at it was that every day was a fresh start. If I ate a bunch of cookies on Monday, I didn’t want to wait until the next Monday to start eating right again. I would start over on Tuesday. In the past, eating those cookies would put me back into a negative mindset – just a few won’t hurt. Or that I can eat a few each day this week and start over next Monday. Every time I messed up, I would tell myself that I’ll start next Monday. But, that wasn’t the right mindset. Now I’m to the point where I can eat a cookie and not go to that negative place. I can eat one now and not feel like I need to start over. It’s okay, I just keep going. You just have to change your mind set to get to this point.
Don’t give yourself a deadline. If you set a goal, like a weight loss goal and then give yourself a deadline, what happens if you don’t meet it? Do you give up? I always did. I learned early on, that I couldn’t give myself deadlines because all it did was upset me and make me want to quit when I didn’t meet it. It’s a long time journey. You can’t just commit for a few weeks or months. This has to be a lifestyle.
I used to think I’ll start Monday and then that would turn into next Monday, and then the next. You can see the pattern. It would be months later and I would be regretting putting it off. I would always start January 1st with a goal of losing weight before the summer. I can remember every Memorial Day weekend when we would be getting ready to go to the lake and I would be in tears about having to wear a bathing suit. I hated myself for not sticking to that goal. I would give up the first time I messed up. Which was probably January 2nd.
Another thing I have figured out is that you always have the time and energy to work out, and the capability to choose healthy food options. You just have to do it! The best time to start is now! If you say you don’t have time, that’s almost the same as saying that you don’t care about yourself. I used to always use the excuse that I was too tired. But, the funny thing is that when I started working out consistently, I actually had more energy!
It’s a learning process.
You have to figure out what works for you and what makes you happy. I started out trying to eat healthy 80% of the time. That gave me 20% to eat unhealthy. That may sound crazy, but when you go in all or nothing, you will probably slip up. When you start out with that all or nothing mentality, I think you are setting yourself up for failure, or at least I was setting myself up for failure. When I started with 80/20, I didn’t feel bad when I ate a “bad” meal. I knew that it was okay. Since I started with that, I have gradually moved to eating probably more like 90/10. I don’t crave the “bad” food anymore like I used to. Now, I crave healthy food. I do splurge every now and then and have something that I normally wouldn’t eat, and I enjoy it. But, it’s not something that I just have to have anymore.
Change the way you look at exercise.
The best advice I can give you about this is to understand that it’s going to be hard in the beginning. You will want to quit! I know I sure did. And I dreaded it! But, I always felt good afterwards. Keep going and the more you do it, the easier it gets and the better you feel. It’s hard and it’s not fun when you’re out of shape. But, think about how awesome you will feel when you get in shape. Another way to think about it is that it’s your time. This is something that you are doing for yourself and you can use it as your time to clear your mind, think things through, or just to enjoy some quiet alone time. After a crazy busy day, I love having time to myself to just listen to music and relax – and I do that while running or working out.
Find an exercise that you enjoy. If you hate running, don’t do that because then you will not want to do it at all. If you enjoy dancing, maybe find a Zumba class. If you do something that you enjoy, you will be more likely to continue doing it, and you will even start to look forward to it.
If you are just starting out, set small goals for yourself. If you have never worked out before, or it’s been a long time, don’t expect to be able to go out and run 3 miles or spend 30 minutes on an elliptical at the gym. Start small, maybe with walking for 30 minutes a few days a week. You will have to build up.
It’s also easier if you have a buddy to work out with. Someone that is encouraging and patient is the best! It makes it more fun, and it helps you to be accountable.
Focus on how you feel.
This goes for food and for exercise. But, first I want to talk about food. If you completely give up certain foods that will only make you want them more. But, if you focus on how those foods make you feel, you may not want them at all. In my own journey, I had a hard time giving up sweets. If it had sugar in it, I had to have it. For example, I loved donuts. I would eat a donut at least once a week. When I started on my journey, I told myself I couldn’t have them anymore, that they were bad for me. Of course all that did was make me crave them. I would wake up wanting one. Late at night, I would want to make a donut run. Or, I would even try and figure up the calories and how long I would have to run to burn it off. I would finally give in and eat not one, but a couple of donuts, or even a dozen donut holes because I had it in my mind that they were forbidden. And then, that would send me back to that negative place where I had messed up and I couldn’t do this. But, when I started focusing on how they made me feel, I completely changed my mind about them. I noticed that when I ate donuts, I was tired, sluggish, bloated, and my stomach would cramp for hours afterwards. And, they never filled me up. Once I realized that, I completely changed my mind. Now, donuts are not even appetizing to me. I don’t crave them, and I don’t ever want them at all.
I also started focusing on how I felt when I was craving foods. Was I stressed, upset, angry, bored? Once I started figuring out that I wasn’t really hungry, I could find other things to do instead of eat mindlessly.
I also had to start examining how I viewed my relationship with exercise and food. It was a process to work through the negative thoughts to get to a healthy place. Now, instead of getting mad at myself when I overeat, or eat something not healthy, I know it’s okay. I used to get mad and feel bad about it and then I would just eat because I was upset. That’s not a healthy mindset. I also used to get mad at myself or feel guilty if I skipped a workout or run. Then that would lead to more emotional eating and skipping more workouts. Give yourself a break. Treat yourself like you would treat a friend. If they had a pizza for dinner would you get mad at them and make them feel bad about it? Probably not, so why do it to yourself? Hold yourself to the same standards that you would everyone else.
Pay attention to how you feel when you exercise. Chances are you will be sore, but it’s a good sore. You will be able to feel like you have accomplished something. And, some of you may laugh when I say this, and I would have too, but it really does eventually become addicting. You will want to work out, you will crave it! I promise it will make you feel good about yourself and can even make you feel more confident.
A biggie under this category is to not use the scale as an indicator. Just focus on how you feel. You may lose inches before you lose pounds. Your clothes may fit better and you will feel better, but the scale might not move for awhile. That’s okay, just don’t get upset if you are feeling good and the scale is not reflecting that.
Find a support system.
Surround yourself with supportive, positive people. It’s a lot easier to make changes when you have people that are positive and encouraging. If you are around people who are going to try and talk you out of exercising to do something else, or people who are going to question or make fun of what you eat, then you are going to have a hard time being successful.
Not everyone will want to make this change with you, and that’s okay. Some people are happy living how they are. But, as long as they will support your healthy choices, you will be successful. My husband won’t eat half the stuff I do. He wants meat and potatoes! But, he is supportive when I eat healthy food. He also is mindful of when we go out to eat. He will ask me if there is anything there that I can eat when we are deciding where to go. He is supportive of me running and working out, and will help anyway he can to make sure that I have time to do that. When I have long runs, he will even come bring me water and check on me.
What also helped me was that I had friends that ran and ate healthy. So it was helpful to have someone to push me to do the same instead of try to talk me out of it.
Change your mind from “need” to “want”.
You must stop thinking that you need certain foods; just like I did with donuts. I didn’t need a donut, I wanted a donut. You don’t need dessert after every meal, you want that. This helped me tremendously. I used to think I needed something sweet to end a meal. Or, I needed some sugar to give me some energy. But, I really didn’t. Once I was able to switch my way of thinking, it made a huge difference in the way I was eating. I started viewing food more as fuel, and focusing on what I actually needed.
If there is anyone out there struggling with this, I hope these tips help you. These are just some of the things that helped me in the beginning of my healthy living journey. You can plan everything and be ready to start, but until you have the right mindset, it won’t work. You have to train your mind just like you do everything else.
I don’t want anyone to read this and think it was a simple change. I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy at first, and it took a long time. (And I’m still a work in progress!) But, I just kept trying until it became easier. The more I tried, the more I learned, and the easier it became. There are still times when it can be difficult. That’s why I have learned not to stress anymore about eating one bad meal. (My mindset used to be that this meal is okay, but that would be my justification at every meal. It doesn’t work like that.) If I go to a friend’s house and there is nothing healthy to eat, I don’t stress about it. I enjoy my time with friends. I have learned how to watch what I eat, and not get upset if I eat something that I think is bad for me. That doesn’t make me unhealthy.
During this journey, my body has quit craving all of the unhealthy foods that I used to eat. One of my favorite foods was cherry pie. I ate it all the time. It doesn’t even sound good to me anymore. But, even though most of the time I do crave healthier foods, there are times every now and then that a burger just sounds delicious! In fact, after my long races that’s always what I want. I will eat one every now and then. But the next meal I eat will be healthy. And again, I’m not perfect. I do mess up. I miss workouts and eat unhealthy foods. But, it’s a onetime thing. It’s not every meal or every day.
It’s crazy to me the difference in myself from when I started this journey and now. I have such a healthier relationship with food and exercise and I am taking so much better care of myself. Being healthy has become a part of my life, and I really enjoy sharing it with my family, friends, and all of my virtual friends!