I posted a photo on Facebook not so long ago that seemed to get quite a lot of attention. The picture was for my ‘sister’s’ inspection of an outfit I wore, and the shoes were really the star of the show. One of my friends wanted to know what exercise/diet I had been following. That got me thinking. As a personal trainer I get asked regularly, mainly by women, what they should do to get their bodies in shape/lose weight/tone up etc. And being a woman, I understand these concerns very well. But the advice I would like to give is this: the body is a by-product to my fitness goals. It is the bonus. If it was my main focus I would get bored very quickly!
There are people out there that do exercise solely for looking good, and good for them, I’m glad they can do it! But I learnt over the years that is just not enough for me to stay motivated and I found it put way to much pressure on me to fit the mould of how I ‘should’ look. I also found I got frustrated, demotivated, exercise became a chore I resented and food became the enemy. Personally, I don’t think this is a very healthy mentality, and it certainly was not very effective for me.
Once I started doing exercise for exercise sake and setting fitness goals, my whole focus and perspective shifted. The goal was not how much weight I could lose, but how far I could run (or swim or cycle). Not how many calories I had consumed in a day, but how strong I was feeling. The goals are about getting fitter, faster, stronger, rather than about how much I weigh, what my dress size is, or the circumference of my thighs.
There is so much more satisfaction for me knowing I am achieving my fitness goals inch-by-inch (excuse the pun!), knowing I’ve hit my training targets for the week. I get very excited when I’ve done a workout and I know I’ve pushed myself hard and I triumphed; that I made it through a tough session even though I didn’t feel like it. It’s that sense of pride and the small triumphs that got me hooked.
Food is a pleasure for me, as well as fuel. When I eat pizza I’m not thinking about the calories, when I drink a full fat latte, I don’t freak out and feel guilty. I’m conscious of what I eat, and mostly eat quite healthily, especially during the week. But on weekends I eat what I want, and I eat chocolate almost every day. It doesn’t send me into a tailspin of guilt that knocks my confidence.
So, if you’ve found exercise and dieting just to look a certain way hasn’t really worked out for you, find a fitness goal instead. Train towards it and enjoy the little triumphs. Give up the obsessive relationship with food and let it become your nutrition ally. Watch your confidence grow. And yes, then be proud of the by-product: your body : )