The art of listening is a huge part of what I do. Fortunately, I've had the opportunity to catch various perspectives of what fitness or wellness "should" look like over the years...and I'm finally able to start formulating my opinion on what's actually happening when people "fail" at "getting in shape."
LET'S START WITH THE TRAINER'S PERSPECTIVE.
They get a new client, anxious to get in shape for beach season. Fired up and ready to hit the ground running. Four weeks into it (sometimes more, often less), said client starts canceling appointments, "has no time" to do assigned homework, and has been hitting happy hour far too frequently to make any physical changes to their body. By this time, the trainer is starting to get frustrated, or is maybe even writing this client off as another one that just bit the dust. The trainer starts feeling like said client just didn't have it in them, or that they focused more on fabricating excuses rather than working hard. Fast forward another couple of weeks, and said client has completely fallen off because it didn't work, and the trainer soon forgets about them.
NEXT UP: CLIENT'S PERSPECTIVE
Beach season is coming up. Which means it's time for some balls-to-the-walls workouts to get that winter fluff off before Memorial Day kicks off a summer of swimsuits and self consciousness. It also means that the weather is getting nicer....and it's also patio season, brunch season, and beer! You've been going to the gym since January 1...but feel like it's time to step it up a notch by getting a trainer, hoping to get those abs ready for some exposure. Three times a week seems sufficient for that ass kicking from the cute trainer guy. You're totally committed, want to impress him with your eagerness for success, and are pumped! Week one is great, you're able to exhibit self control at the bars, are sort of meal prepping, or at least eating less bad when you're out with friends. Week two gets a little iffy, and by week three, you're feeling like all of your friends are either having so much fun without you (you decided to pass on a couple of happy hours, and are suffering from major FOMO while still determined to <hopefully> see some "tone" in your arms), or you're tired of them giving you the stank face when you don't want to order that third margarita. Things start to get awkward because you're trying to keep up with your social life, but can't figure out how to keep having fun with your friends, without sacrificing your "sun's out, gun's out" goals. Your trainer doesn't understand when you tell him you couldn't follow your meal plan because you had 3 work happy hours this week, and they only have unhealthy food at the bars. Him and his ripped abs definitely don't understand your struggle, you feel like he's judging you, and eventually you start losing hope that he'll be able to get you where you want to be before that July cruise you booked.
WHAT'S THE ANSWER?
Simply put? Control. Taking back control of your priorities, your habits, and ultimately, your life. Is it possible to achieve those fitness goals, summertime or otherwise, without sacrificing your enthusiastic social life? Of course!! <insert cheesy "anything is possible" motivational poster> Remember mom asking you "If Sally were to jump off a bridge, would you do it, too?" Hey! Guess what...this is the same scenario (more booze/less tragic). It's possible to go to happy hour and not get hammered. It's even possible to go and order a bubbly water with a lime, rather than glass after glass of empty calories that are moving you further and further from your fitness goals. And the food? Two options.
- Eat a snack before going (at work or at home...just prepare!), so you're not ravenous when you're there.
- Make smart decisions! Is it something you really want? Will it get you closer to your goal? Or push you away? Is that hour of deliciousness going to be detrimental to overall goals? Then maybe pass on the temporary satisfaction, as in investment in longer-term achievement.
A (very inspiring) client of mine recently shared a story with me about a situation she encountered, just a few weeks after starting a "re-education" of health and fitness for herself. She was out with friends, being mindful of what she was deciding to consume that evening. One of the men in her group asked her how long she was "doing this" for. Her response couldn't have been more perfect. A minor look of confusion, paired with "ummmm, life?" was expressed to him. When she told me this story, it made me feel a few emotions:
- Extremely proud of her for embarking upon this journey with the absolute perfect attitude.
- Annoyed at the fact that her peer's question is an unfortunate reflection of how many Americans perceive "getting healthy."
As though it's a period of time that is finite, before returning to original habits. How does this even make sense? Is it not obvious, that if you do anything temporarily, results aren't sustainable?!?!?
Health is about creating positive habits. This often means making compromises and sacrifices to achieve that. But, if you're truly ready to change your life, the journey can be approached with a positive attitude, and you'll surprise even yourself at the accomplishments you'll actualize.
One final thought? Be patient. With yourself. But also with those that surround you. After all, as you're re-educating yourself on how you'd like to carry out your day-to-day, you're also re-educating them on what to expect when they're around you. If they're used to the party-party version of you....it might take some time to recondition them to see you with a glass of sparkling water rather than double fisting hefeweizens. Will they give you a hard time and tease you about it? YES!! But in the long term, they're likely much more self consumed than you think, and will put a stop to their remarks before you know it. And...who knows...they might even ask you what your "secret" is! ;)
Enjoy the journey!
Teresa Harris can be found at Equinox every morning, having fun with her fitness clients. She loves to geek out on the psychology of eating (aka "why did I just eat a whole pint of Ben & Jerry's and now feel like shit?"), and is always in search of new, interesting things to cook. You'll likely catch her at DuPont Farmer's Market Sunday mornings, in search of a random ingredient to challenge herself with.
Check her out @ betterthanfitness.com.