Self-motivation and self-discipline are really hard things to learn to get into the habit of. And getting comfortable is a very dangerous place to be. But I have to remind myself from time to time that my getting too comfortable is how I got to where I was a year ago.
These pictures are really embarassing to share, but last year I looked like this.
I’m not really sure why I allowed myself to get to that point but it wasn’t an overnight thing. It was piles and piles of bad habits, excuses, conveniency and just poor choices. I didn’t want to make the commitment, I didn’t want to face the music. I wanted to tell myself that what I was doing to myself was fine and that I was normal and there was nothing wrong with my eating habits and that my intermittent exercise habits were enough. But it wasn’t. And I was really tired of watching myself spiral out of control.
I made a commitment last year in November to finally join a gym again. Planet Fitness was the closest thing to my house and the cheapest. I had asked some of my athlete friends about it because I know of the reputation PF has for not being a “real gym” but even they said it’s stupid. Gym snobs are just that. Gym snobs. If you can’t do work with basic equipment, what is a “real gym” going to do for you? As long as you put in the work, who cares where you go? People can still get real results with just working out at home. Unfortunately for me, working out at home was no longer cutting it. I felt like I needed a change of scenery and less distraction. Like people who can’t study at home and go to the library instead to concentrate. At home, I get distracted and want to take breaks and do other things and go on my computer. But at the gym, I figured I’d have to concentrate, get through my workout and finish it since someone might be behind waiting for me to finish up so they can use the machine I’m on or the space I’m in. It pushes me to finish and be productive. Plus I do like being in an environment with people around me working out too. But at the same time, I hate taking classes. I work out better alone or one on one. I don’t like big group classes.
A year later, here I am. 25 lbs off and much, much happier with myself. It was definitely hard. But I think what’s even harder now is keeping it up to keep the weight off. It’s really easy to fall back into old habits and old ways because you feel comfortable. I find myself doing this with my rubberbanding weight. I’ll step on the scale, see a number and be like “Not bad. I can eat today!” and then I’ll make some bad choices because I don’t feel the need to eat clean or be conscious of my portions. A week later I’ll step on the scale and see the consequences of being too comfortable and dial back. I’ll work it off in a week just to feel comfortable again and the cycle repeats. So what do you do to keep up the motivation and discipline?
Don’t follow fad diets. What they say is true. If you give up something, you’ll just gain it right back when you’re done. This is exactly how I rubberband and gain weight so easily in a week. It’s water weight because my body is going crazy from a sudden increase in sugar and salt content. It’s also ridiculous how much sugar and salt is in processed foods compared to clean foods. Which leads to my next point.
Eat as clean as possible. What does “clean” mean? Whole, unprocessed or as little processed foods as possible. Like fruits and vegetables, lean meat, nothing that has to be refined or transformed into something else. Like cookies, instant noodles, pasta, cereal. Basically, “artificial foods.”
Moderation is key. I don’t avoid the “bad foods” entirely. I still eat my favorite ice cream or have some pasta every now and then. But I consider these “treat foods.” I save them for cheat days as a treat to myself for being good. If you cut them out completely, the rubberbanding gets worse. If you have them every now and then, it won’t affect you. You don’t get fat overnight just like you don’t lose weight overnight.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. But don’t be so easy on yourself either. If you skip the gym for a few days, it’s alright to be upset with yourself but make sure you get up, and get right back on the horse. Don’t let the days add up. Same thing with eating. Get right back on. Don’t keep making excuses after excuses - like oh, I already ate bad today, what’s another day? Another day is another day away from those goals. Don’t let it spiral out of control like that. I’ll admit though since I have no goals right now, I give myself more rest days than I did when I was working out basically every day. But when I’m in goal mode, I wouldn’t give myself a day off because I said to myself, do your goals take a day off? No, so why would you? Get up and go! A day away from your goals set you back a day further, and I was determined to power through to the finish line.
Comparison is the thief of joy. It’s hard to not look at other people and compare yourself. You’re only human and it’s in our nature. But remember that that doesn’t do yourself any good. I learned to start comparing myself to my previous selves to track progress. Besides, I wasn’t working on myself to make other people happy nor was I looking for their validation. I wanted to make myself happy and I needed my own validation.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Before I started this journey, I did not know how to deadlift, squat with weights, or basically do any lifting. I was scared. I was scared to look stupid, to be doing it wrong or that I would end up looking too “big.” I learned to ask for help when I wanted to try something new. I would ask another member or my trainer to show me how to do something. And most people are really nice about it. They’re flattered if you ask because it makes them feel good about themselves that you chose them to be your go-to. And then those people end up saying hi to you every so often and noticing your progress too. And it feels good when someone else can notice your hard work paying off, even if it’s in baby steps. I also learned that lifting weights is a game changer for my weight loss. It helps a lot more than cardio did, to burn the fat off. And with it, it helped tone my body more to the shape I want, than I ever was able to do with cardio alone. I ended up realizing I do enjoy lifting weights and that it’s a much more interesting and fun exercise than cardio which I used to think was the key to losing weight.
Little changes are still changes! Remember to celebrate every piece of hard work you earn along the way. Be proud of that definition and fitting back into old clothes. Be proud of the numbers on the scales going down and those inches slowly melting off.
It also helps to go to the gym with someone. You don’t have to, but I found that having a gym buddy helped to hold me accountable. My trainer over time transitioned to my gym buddy once I started to get the hang of everything and started getting into the routine for each leg, arm, back, chest, stomach and shoulder workout day we did. It became second nature and I no longer had to log all my workouts in a book anymore because it was just in my head like second nature. Which brings me to another helpful tip.
Starting out, I kept a fitness journal. I would write on one side everything I ate to keep track of my portions and how much protein/carbs/fat I ate. I didn’t go crazy and worry about calories and numbers because it was just too much work and headache. It was simply more of a guideline so I would be more conscious to not overdo it. On the other side, I’d write down my exercises, how many reps, how much weight, what body part we worked out that day, and if we did cardio, how long for, the distance and estimated calories burned. It helped not only gauge my workouts, but keep track so I would cycle through all the different body parts to work out day by day, and not do something twice in a row or forget/neglect one particular muscle group. Towards the later end of workouts, I ditched the journal when I felt comfortable with not having to constantly track myself anymore. I trusted myself to hold myself accountable without having to write it all down. I still track my cardio on my phone though to help train for my half marathon.
Set goals and make sure to celebrate little victories on the way. Don’t accept failure or even recognize failure. There’s really no such thing as failure on your journey. It’s all just setbacks. You just have to focus and want it bad enough and power through. I work a lot harder when I have goals in mind than when I’m in maintaining mode. I know people say don’t worry about the number on the scale but for me, it’s a helpful indicator for tracking my personal progress and honestly it helps. Which is another point - do what works for you. And if it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to try something else. Every one is different so what works for me, may not necessarily work for you. You may enjoy cardio more than I do. You might prefer yoga or lower intensity workouts. Do you. Just make sure it’s working and you stay on track. I take a lot of pictures as well, but modeling and selfies on my phone. And they’re all very helpful to track my progress.
And speaking of photos, here’s looking back on some of my favorite shots I got this year ever since my body started changing and the results finally came shining through, slow by slow, I started loving my photos again. It feels good to feel good in your own skin again. I feel like me. It’s probably not a big difference to some people to the photos up top but to me, those changes are huge. Even looking back at my “skinny” pics back in college, I see a big difference in tone and definition. I love how much leaner I look and in turn I look taller even though I’m still 5’2”. That chubby weight really did make me look wide and short. Personally for me, the “thicc” look does not look good nor is it flattering on my frame.
Again like I said before, the trick is to maintain. Working towards a goal is a lot harder than maintaining due to that dangerous comfortability zone and rubberbanding. And what makes it even harder is probably all the good food around the holiday seasons and the cold weather so you feel even more comfortable bulking up to keep warm. Plus who really sees your summer body in the winter?
BUT! This is where you need to make the most of your self motivation and self discipline. Don’t “take a break” simply because it’s the holidays. Remember, these are supposed to be sustainable lifestyle changes. Don’t slack off just because of the season. Keep on the grind and come summer, you won’t have to work as hard to get that summer bod back.
Currently, I’m still maintaining my gym routine throughout the week. The only difference is I’m focusing more on cardio to train for my race in February, albeit in small increments. I still do an hour of lifting every morning and I try to rotate between the elliptical and the bike afterwards(until my physical therapy sessions progresses me back to running). I also cut down from 6-7 days a week to 5-6 days. I also try to eat clean on those same days. I cut back on my eggs but I still try to get my protein in through greek yogurt, protein bars, roast chicken, broccoli, tuna fish, ground turkey, meatballs and grilled chicken salads. On my days off, spent with friends and family I cheat. I give myself more leeway during the holidays now than I did during the year but after working all year, I think I deserve it. Especially since I have the tools to fix it if I happen to indulge too much. I lay off for a few extra days to dial back. I’m happy with where I am though so I’m not going to go too hard on myself for the holidays.
If you guys are having trouble reaching your goals or staying on track, remember I’m a message away if you need some help or motivation! I hope some of my above tips helped.
Remember you’re stronger than you know and anything is possible as long as you want it bad enough and are willing to put in the work. I’m a firm believer of it. I’ve worked hard my whole life at my personal goals and have yet to really fail at anything when I want something bad enough. And I’m not talking about just weight loss. I’m talking about college, being a homeowner, planning a wedding, etc. Everything I’ve ever wanted, I’ve made happen through hard work and perseverance and not taking no for an answer. I’m not going to lie, there will be a lot of obstacles and days where you don’t want to get out of bed. But just remember you’re only screwing yourself over by not putting in the work. You waste your own time. And if you wouldn’t tolerate others wasting your time, why would you allow yourself? Don’t. Put in the time and the work. Let me see that sweat.