Are you constantly on and off your fitness horse? Instead of getting back on and hoping for different results, rethink your strategy. Ask yourself, "What has and has not worked in the past?"
Pinpoint the valuable lessons and work to reproduce successful approaches. Abandon anything else. Start fresh. Adopt one -- or possibly a combination -- of these four slightly out-of-the-box health goals. Create a future self who is consistently healthy.
Goal 1. Appropriate health responses
Too often our health responses are the opposite of productive; they are disproportionate, all-or-nothing, knee-jerk reactions.
Appropriate responses are productive; they are measured. When you respond appropriately, you don't delude yourself, but nor do you make something a bigger deal than it needs to be.
Learn from your experiences and make smarter, more productive choices in the future.
Let's say you gain five pounds and are distressed by it. One unproductive, unmeasured response is, "I am worthless and fat and I will starve myself to lose this weight." On the other end of the spectrum, the unproductive thought is, "Screw it! I gained five pounds; I might as well gain another five."
Instead, the problem needs an appropriate response -- a productive response -- a response that will make your future self healthier. Instead say, "Despite the five pounds I am a worthwhile person. I love myself enough not to overreact and to take the rational steps so that in four weeks I will have lost the weight." Be productive. Don't chose denial, but don't "lean into" depression either. Make a plan to take those rational steps. If the strategy doesn't work for you, again have a measured response.
Don't "dig deeper" into a method that isn't working, but also don't give up on health altogether. Instead of digging deeper or abandoning the dig, dig smarter. To have appropriate responses you must change your mindset. Value your effort when trying to reach a goal -- not just the outcome. Learn from your experiences and make smarter, more productive choices in the future.
As with everything, don't be afraid to start because of fear of failure. Not moving forward out of fear is an unproductive, inappropriate response. You will never succeed if you don't start. If you try something -- and put real effort in -- that experience will always be worth something.
Goal 2. Self-care
Your health quest is something you are doing for you. Your body is not a garbage can -- care enough about yourself to consume healthy food. Eating fresh berries is a present, not a punishment. Deciding to eat processed crap full of preservatives is not a "reward."
Forcing yourself to work out and eat healthy food because you think you "should" typically leads to feelings akin to adolescent rebellion and deprivation. Who is going to continue to make healthy choices when it feels imposed?
Goal 3. Find joy
Too often joy is thought of as the opposite of working out. Having fun and feeling joy are not the opposite of anything; they are daily "non-negotiables" integral to making any and all healthy food and exercise choices stick. The more pockets of joy you can find, the more likely you will be to make healthy choices.
Rethink what health is for you.
Fun can be lounging poolside with friends or going for a run (running is my "bliss"). If you don't find ways to create joy in your life you will feel depressed and unmotivated; it is almost impossible to make yourself move when you are depressed.
Now, I know you are not going to love every moment of life or exercise -- I absolutely have sad moments -- but instead of letting negatives bleed into the rest of your life, let your moments of joy snowball; then use the positive energy to lace up your shoes and get out the door.
Goal 4. Redefine what "fit" looks like on you
People fall off of the fitness horse in large part because they let preconceived cookie-cutter ideas of what a "fit person" is inform their image of health success. A stereotypically fit person drinks protein shakes, has washboard abs, and trains daily. Why even start working out when the image of what you are trying to become seems so unachievable?
Rethink what health is for you. Personalize it. Being healthy is not -- for most people -- about looking like a movie star. Find the version of health that works for you -- a version of health that includes a workout and nutrition plan with no end date.
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