My posts on Facebook and IG are like anyone else's... they're meant to inspire and motivate and help others on their health and fitness journey. I'm usually smiling, all "yay, fitness!" Or talking about results I've gotten. Or sharing something I've learned along the way. It's all true, mind you. I have learned things and there are things that work and most days I feel pretty damn good about that part of my life. But I have a secret that's about to not be anymore. Not an end of the world secret, not a mouth-gaping secret, not a secret that anyone other than me probably cares about... but it's something I don't advertise. Because it feels superficial and stupid and I clearly judge myself harshly for it.
Ready? Here it is: I run a business focused on helping people get fit and healthy. And? I'm not very fit. I'm not obese or anything. I mean, that really is me in the Stray Dog photo on FB. But it's me over the summer. I've gained weight since then. And I seem to keep gaining.
So basically, what I tell people to do isn't really working for me anymore. And if I'm totally honest, it hasn't worked for a while. I eat right most of the time. I don't drink a lot of alcohol. I exercise regularly and I change it up all the time. But my body still doesn't look like I want it to look. My husband the other day assured me that if he did the things that I do, he would be ripped. I? Just look like your average 40-something.
It bugs me more than I want it to bug me. I know my bigger goals are health and mobility into old age, that I want to feel good in my skin and have energy in abundance, but my bagel belly and fatty thighs make me feel, well, sad. There's really no other word.
And yeah, go ahead, tell me about how there are so many other important things going on in the world right now and it's pathetic that I'm choosing to care about this and can't I just get over myself and love my body and be less narcissistic and quit getting my panties in a twist about something so trivial and that I'm so vain and really, you look "fine", and I'd love to be where you are so you have issues and seriously, if that's what you think matters in life then you need help and I feel sorry for your daughter because she's gonna end up with an eating disorder and maybe if you started focusing your energy on things that were more important then you'd get over yourself already.
I've heard it all before. And those are just the voices in my own head. So if you were thinking those things as you read, go away. I'm hard enough on myself as it is. This message isn't for you.
And yet, here I am anyway. Just a girl, standing in front of the mirror, naked, asking it to love her. And feeling as if it never will.
And no matter what I seem to do, no matter how clean I eat, how much (or little) I exercise, what supplements I take... I just keep gaining and looking... worse. I've plant-based and paleo'd and eaten fat and eaten no fat and ditched sugar and carbs and dairy and eggs and supplemented and oiled and meditated and walked and HIIT and danced and pilate'd and kick-boxed and lifted heavy and still, I can't sit without feeling my stomach fat.
And, you can shame me for this if you want, but I want to look like a lean, fit athlete. Period. I just do. You can read into that all you want, the cultural messages that I've been exposed to since childhood and how sexism and the objectification of women have brainwashed me into wanting this type of body, any type of body, anything other than what I have. Save it. I've been beating myself up my whole life not for not looking the way I want, but just for wanting it in the first place. I'm so over caring anymore. I want to look the way I want to look. Period. I'm done apologizing for the things I want in life. Anyway, I remember what it feels like to have this kind of body because I've been there before in my life and I refuse to believe I can't get there again. I'm not talking about the oiled up, photo-shopped fitness model, mind you, but I want it to be obvious that I am "in" fitness. I want to look at myself and see muscle and strength and health, not extra fat.
So, are all my products a sham? No. I truly believe in them and have seen them work for most people. The average person will find great results if they follow the programs. But for some of us? Something else is at play. Do I know what this is? Nope. But I'm about to take an important step towards figuring it out.
I made an appointment with a doctor. Not any doctor, because several years ago when I told my regular doctor (who is overweight) that I was struggling to lose weight, she basically looked at me with disdain and told me that I was getting older now and I should just deal. Or try running. Because runners seemed to be skinny. 🙄 I pushed her to do some tests anyway, and found out my vitamins D and B12 were super low. I've supplemented ever since. And stopped going to see her.
This doctor is different. She's a doctor of functional medicine. She runs all kinds of tests with the goal being to get your body back in perfect running condition. At her seminar, she talked about how supplements are just that: supplements. Not something you need to stay on forever, but something that supports your body while it heals itself so that it can function normally again.
I've been experimenting now for over two years, trying different things to heal myself, and nothing has helped in the long-term. So I'm finally spending the time and money and giving myself over to a professional. It's worth it to me.
Is there a positive in this? I think so. The fact that I haven't given up. That I didn't believe what that other doctor told me and I've kept looking for answers. And neither should you. Whatever your health and fitness goals happen to be, keep looking for a solution. And trust that there's one out there. And remember... getting healthy is a revolutionary act.
It was almost a year ago now that I fell into a full fledged tailspin about my life: my career, my body, the overwhelming feeling that there was so much more to this crazy ride and why wasn't I anywhere close to where I thought I'd be in my 40s? Call it a midlife crisis brought about by the depths of winter (or "winter" since I do, after all, life in beautiful California) or an identity crisis brought on by that hiatus from the self called motherhood- it doesn't much matter. What does matter is how stuck and hopeless I felt. So I decided one way out was to put health and fitness front and center. I mean I'd always had a passion for these things, but now I was serious. And I was gonna help others along the way. We'd transform together and it would be amazing. And in the end I would have a success story and be able to say, "See? I did it! So can you!" Fast forward.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite working out pretty much every day for the past year and eating in a way to support my goals, my body remains much the same. I still don't look like someone that eats right and works out regularly. I look like a middle-aged mom who's focused on other things in life and doesn't have time to give a flying fuck about what her body looks like anymore. I wish that was me. I wish I was self-evolved enough to be her, the woman who laughs with ease as she eats a brownie without the slightest sense of guilt or shame. The woman who has accepted her amazing body and all its faults with grace and love. The woman who passes on that confidence to her own daughter. Don't get me wrong: there are fleeting moments where I am her and feel at peace , at one with the universe. But they are few and far between.
I could blame society and the impossible standards of beauty it sets for us from the time we are girls, or patriarchy for making it seem as if beauty was the "be all-end all" to power and success as a female, or other women when we pick each other apart and compete for the scarce resource of good men. I don't, though. Because the only person I really have to blame is myself. Through all the years of eating disorders (nothing diagnosed, but definitely spent much of my life obsessed with food and calories and fat) the one thing I've avoided was doing the hard work, the soul-crushing work, that it takes to become that other woman. The one that loves herself completely: scars, cellulite, fat, bone, muscle, hair and all. The one that accepts what is and appreciates the very real fact that it could all be taken from her in a moment.
Maybe it's time to finally do it. Better late than never, right?
Does this mean I'm going to quit working out? Does it mean I'm going to stuff my face with all the forbidden food? Probably not. What I do know is that I'm no longer going to shy away from the hard, scary truths. I'm not going to avoid the discomfort, the awkward conversations, my inner voice that screams at me to listen to her. Because hopelessness and despair shouldn't be the result of not being able to get into a pair of pants in your closet: there are bigger fish to fry. So to speak.
I want to take a little time to talk about how to get back into a fitness routine. We've all been there: going to the gym every week, working out at home to a program, walking everyday... We get into a good routine of movement and being active and then BLAM!!! We have to travel for work or we get sick or we go away for the weekend for a friend's wedding. And our routine is shot. At first it's no big deal. But then, before we know it, it's been a month and we haven't been to the gym once!
Why does this happen? Well, because life. Life gets in the way sometimes. This? We can't control. What we can control, however, is our mindset around these matters. Here's how it used to go down for me: I'm working out every day, getting in a real groove, and then I go to a conference for the week. And I'm eating out, staying up late, totally out of my normal routine. Then I'd come home and feel blah, not into it, and all these thoughts would run through my head:
"I've been working out so consistently! I deserve a break!"
"I can start the program over, but let's wait until Monday so I'm on track with the guidebook."
"I'm so close to my goals. Don't worry about it."
"I'm never gonna reach my goals anyway, so I'm just gonna take a break."
"I missed three days of the program, I can't just jump back in. Where should I start again? Should I double up on the ones I missed? Should I skip those and start fresh?! Ug! I don't know. I'm just gonna go out for a drink."
(Yeah, I'm clearly a little cray.)
I've learned much since those days. And here's the biggest lesson. Ready?
Fitness is a lifestyle, not a quick fix.
When we view fitness as a quick fix, it's easy to get derailed. Maybe we don't see results soon enough. Or we get off our program and feel like we need to start over completely, so then we say "screw it!" and give up. When my goals used to be to reach a certain weight, or fit back into a certain pair of jeans, I found that my motivation wouldn't last. Which led to yo-yo-ing. Some months I'd be a beast, others a slug. So I changed my mindset.
And it happened in a moment. I literally woke up one morning and decided I was done feeling grumpy and weak and tired. I was done feeling bad about myself. I was done making excuses and I was done thinking this was about anything other than my long-term health. And when I say I decided, I mean I felt it in my bones.
And I started putting my health first. Putting fitness on my list of non-negotiables. Because when I work out or am active in some way every day, I feel 100 times better than when I don't. I'm more confident, I'm happier, I'm more patient, more emotionally stable. So I do it. No matter where I am. No matter what I'm doing. I find something. Even if it's just for 20 minutes, I do something. I've made into such a good habit, that it's become just like a bad one: hard to break.
But I'm not obsessive about it. I don't freak out if I just can't make it work that day. Because again, I've shifted my mindset. This is something I'll be doing forever. Because I like being active- being able to hike and climb and run- and I want to keep doing these things for as long as possible. Like my mom, who's almost 70 and can still hike in Yosemite.
Changing our mindset around fitness is one of the most important things we can do to reach our goals. Because our mind is usually one of the biggest obstacles in our way.
People find all sorts of things motivating when it comes to fitness: tangible rewards, fear, glory, winning, possibility of losing, jealousy, health, competition, results, love, being able to eat whatever you want (that only lasts so long, young ones...), fun, accolades... the list goes on and on. But over the years I've found there's really only two things that keep me motivated in the long term: habit and feeling.
Every day, we make thousands of decisions. Decisions about our jobs, our families, our relationships. It takes effort and it can be exhausting. Add to that list our decisions about health and fitness and something's gotta give. My guess is that for you, as it was for me, it was my food or my workout. Thus, I've worked hard over the past couple of years to make working out and eating clean a habit. A good habit. Something that just happens without me giving it much thought. This? Is easier said than done. But if I rely on willpower, then usually by the end of the day, I either 1. give up and give in- what's one donut? or 2. I decide that I've been good all day long so what's one donut? Habit makes this much, much easier. How? My alarm goes off. I get up. I put my dvd in the Playstation. I press play. It's just what I do. It's a non-negotiable. I don't think about it. It just happens. How did I get here? By making myself do this for long enough that now it's deeply engrained in who I am. In fact, I feel weird when I don't do this. That? Is progress and leads me to my next point.
Feeling. Notice I didn't say progress or results. Getting results from an eating or fitness plan is fantastic. Losing 10 pounds, lifting heavier weights, fitting back into those college pants, being able to do tricep pushups, seeing gorgeous muscle staring back at you in the mirror... all of these are results of hard work and effort. But as exciting as they are, I can't rely on this for motivation. Why? Because inevitably the results stall. You plateau. Your body changes with age. You notice that what you've been doing hasn't worked as well lately. For me, all of this can feel devastating. I'm working so hard and nothing is happening! But something is happening, you just can't see it. That's when I focus on how eating right and working out makes me feel. Because when I'm on my game, I feel unstoppable. I feel confident, sexy, happy, emotionally more stable... I have more energy, patience, and I think about things more positively. Basically, I feel great. Even when the results aren't as obvious.
So my advice to you is stop focusing on those physical results that eating well and working out deliver. Focus instead on building healthy habits and how all these healthy habits make you feel. I promise you, if you do this? That progress you're making will just be the icing on the cake. Or, maybe I should say, the hummus on the carrots! That's probably healthier. :)
I recently read a fantastic piece on YouFood's blog called The Rise of Health Porn, and Why Not All Inspiration is Created Equal. The gist of it was that many of us spend more time looking at fitspiration than actually taking action towards our goals, and that's mainly because these images, like the ones above, give us only empty promises of a better tomorrow and little information as to how one gets there.
I'm here to confess that in the past I have often gotten lost down the dark hole of Pinterest health porn, surfacing for air far later, feeling ashamed and a little dirty. Oh, wait... that was that time I googled Hentai porn.
But seriously, I know that I've spent countless hours looking instead of doing, thinking about instead of taking action. So I get why we do this.
I'm also here to tell you that the only way you're going to reach your fitness and health goals is by creating a plan, finding a community to support you in this plan, and then digging deep by doing the hard work of implementing and sticking to your plan.
There are numerous ways to do this. In the beginning, I did it completely on my own. Read a book or two, completely changed the way I ate, began exercising consistently, and the results finally convinced others in my family to join me. That was almost 12 years ago, and I still find it difficult. I won't sugar-coat it- eating healthy and being fit is work. A lot of work. And if you're not inspired daily by those around you, you're guaranteed to become frustrated.
This is why having a pack is key for me... support, accountability, fun, and friendship. Nowadays, it's easier than ever to find your peeps. Social media is a great tool for creating a tribe of like-minded individuals working towards something together. So, if you've been struggling, or are beginning to feel that it's hopeless, I want you to know that I've been there. And you are not alone. Join my pack and take that first step towards becoming your best, most confident you.
Oh, and by the way, you can follow me on YouFood as well @gonnagetripped2015.
No. It didn't happen. I didn't get ripped in 2015. But every day, I'm one step closer.
So I'm visiting my seester in AZ and she brought me to the gym where she works with an awesome trainer that she loves. I'm not super comfortable in gyms ever since that time I made the mistake of making out with my trainer in the women's only weight room (I was in my 20s... don't judge), and although I love the variety of equipment a gym provides, I can't really stomach the salesmanship of gyms. And the guys that make loud grunting noises while they lift. I mean, whatever floats your boat, but it's not really my thing. (Except for Diablo Rock Gym, and most climbing gyms... they rock! Har! I'm so funny.)
Anyway, I'm excited to go do a workout with my sister and check out the place she frequents. As we walk in the door, however, we are greeted by Douchbag Gym Owner. Now, I don't throw this term around lightly. I'm a pretty chill person and tend to just go with the flow. Most of the time I'm actually pretty zen and happy and not phased by much. Being someone who avoids confrontation like the plague, this works out pretty well for me. But this guy? Omg. No smile. Clearly irritated that I'm there. Apparently, according to him, there's a rule at the gym where guest passes don't apply to out-of-state guests because they "can't make a sale, then." Really? He then proceeds to make a big deal out of making an exception for me, but not in a friendly way. I wanted to say, "So, common courtesy doesn't apply to people from out-of-state?" But I didn't want to make a big deal of it, because my sister goes to this gym and, being naturally a big chicken, it was easier to just let it slide.
He then proceeds to have me fill out paperwork, including my address. He ads in, just for the charm effect, "And don't put the local address where you're staying. Put your real address." He still hasn't made any eye contact with me, said "Hi." or "Welcome to our gym." mind you. We finally leave the front desk and my sister goes off with her trainer. He continues to not smile, make eye contact, or give me anything other than the cold shoulder. I finally just left and sat outside because it felt so uncomfortable. Whatever.
My future, confident, bad-ass self went back in and asked him one question, "What impression do you think I'm leaving your gym with?" I wanted to spell everything out for him from my perspective. I wanted to say:
1st- I worked at the front desk of a gym for several years and if I had ever treated someone that came in the door in the manner you treated not only me, but your paying member, I would have been fired on the spot.
2nd- Do you really think that being friendly, welcoming, and willing to let some rule slide would be that big of a hardship to your gym? And if so, then maybe you need a different business model.
3rd- Guess what? I'm a blogger with a following of 800k. And guess what I'm going to be blogging about tonight? The shitty experience I had at your gym. Which could have so easily gone in a completely different direction. (this is future self, remember? Current self has zero followers, but a girl can dream!)
Maybe I should chalk it up to the guy being on his man-period. Or being a cog in the giant wheel that gets treated like shit on a daily basis. Turns out he's the new man in charge. Stay gold, ponyboy. Stay gold.
This is Belinda Benn. She's someone I find inspirational in that she wasn't always into fitness. In fact, she didn't get started on her body transformation until her 40s. I find hope in that, because although I have no ambitions to become a fitness model, I do want to transform my body into a lean, mean fighting machine. And I don't want my age to hold me back. So I will keep working out, lifting heavy, remembering my why, and moving forward towards my goal.
Stray Dog Revolution