5 realizations that drove me to make peace with my physical progress
I recently shared a post on Instagram about how focusing on an aesthetic fitness goal can easily lead to resentment. A few years back, I fell in this exact negative loop. Despite tracking every gram I ate and doing all the training perfectly including calculated rest days, I couldn’t reach my aesthetic goals and it made me resentful. I was resentful toward myself (“I’m doing everything right, why isn’t my body following?!”) and resentful towards the world (“how come some people do 5 sit ups once and get a 6-pack and I’m killing myself in the gym and have nothing to show for it?!”). This resentful mindset completely took over my mind, my attitude and my life, for over a year. Gaging from the number of DM’s I got right after I posted it, it seemed to have resonated with many of you. One of the main questions I got was: “how did you snap yourself out of this mindset?” The truth is it wasn’t just one thing, it was a combination of a few. Here are 5 realizations that lead me to making peace with myself.
1. What if I never reach my aesthetic goals?
After over a year of literally devoting my entire life to reaching my aesthetic fitness goals, and not being satisfied with the outcome, this question seemed very real. At this point I was avoiding social situations that involved food (I stuck to my meal plans to the dot for over a year), I didn’t want to go out if it meant I would be tired and wouldn’t make the most of my gym session the next day, and became almost hostile to anyone who would intrude in my strictly calculated plans.
I started thinking: what if I’m doing all this to reach something unattainable?
Perhaps my body was just not cut out to look like the GymShark Athletes I envied. And if that were in fact the case, how would I live my life? Would I lose complete interest in fitness? Would I stop training and spend my days eating fried food in front of Netflix? Probably not. That’s not how I like to live my life. It was at that point that aesthetic goals aside, I realized that I truly loved my fitness routine. It made me feel good. The simple change in mentality from “I have to do this to reach my goals” to “I want to do this” changed it all. And this is scientifically accurate as well. It’s proven that choosing to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation secretes significantly less stress hormones that if you feel forced to do so.
2. Working on my Personal Mission Statement
One of the biggest things I took away from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (check out all my book recommendations here) was Covey’s recommendation for everyone to write down their Personal Mission Statement. This is essentially the work of gaining clarity with yourself on what your true purpose in life is, and what is most important to you.
Doing this exercise required a big step back, and I was able to connect with the type of impact I want to have on the world. Putting this into words was scary but exciting at the same time. It felt like I had something to truly hold me accountable. I had intentions to really leave the world in a better place, and this extended far further than having a 6-pack. Hell who even has time to worry about having a 6-pack when you could focus your time and energy in seriously changing the world for the better.
Ask yourself honestly “what is your mission” and you just might find that you have greater and bigger things to focus on.
3. Turning concrete objectives into feeling objectives
A big shift happened in my mindset during a coaching session with Life Coach Victoria Bauman. She asked me to turn my clear-cut “goals” into “feeling objectives” since ultimately, we are all always seeking a feeling. We say we want to: be a CEO, own our own business, complete a marathon, but in the end why do we seek those things? Because we want to feel a certain way. We want to feel successful, or accomplished, or maybe we want to feel like we’re making a loved one proud.
The true question isn’t “why don’t I look like XYZ?” it’s “why do I want to look like XYZ?”
It’s when you uncover what you’re truly seeking that everything becomes easier. Not only can you begin to find other ways to reach that “feeling objective”, but you might even find out that the aesthetic you’re trying to reach won’t guarantee reaching that feeling at all. This is why you’ll see someone set a goal to let’s say loose 5kg, and once they reach that goal they’re still not satisfied, because they still don’t feel sexy / confident / proud of themselves or whatever their objective is.
4. Who inspires me?
As much as we criticise social media for what it can do to our mental health, I also think it can be a great source of positivity and inspiration. The more I diversified the types of accounts I would follow, away from solely GymShark models and their “belfies”, I discovered so many incredible people that I actually admired. I realised that I never really admired those fitness models, I envied them, and that’s not the same thing. Admiration suggests the presence of respect and inspiration, where as with envy is defined as “resentful longing for some one’s possessions or qualities”. You tell me which one sounds healthier.
I then found people who I really admired, and what was striking was that the people who inspired me the most, were not fitness models. Most of them were business owners, entrepreneurs, authors, motivational speakers or activists. These people did not necessarily have 6-packs, but they inspired me non-the-less. I then realised, maybe I don’t need to have a perfect physique to inspire others.
A quote I heard from Jon Gabriel through an FMTV interview a few years back once again massively shifted my focus. He said: “it doesn’t work if you’re at war with your body”. It struck me all of a sudden that that was precisely what was in; war with my body. I resented my body for not responding exactly the way I wanted it to, and it felt like the more I pushed my body in one direction, the more it resisted in the other.
The final puzzle piece towards actually making peace with my body and where I was physically, was making the ultimate shift towards working with my body, not against it. It was understanding that everything I felt, was my body telling me something. I could ignore it but with two forces pushing in opposite directions, I wouldn’t get anywhere.
What I found was that as I started listening to my body, I could truly understand the cues. The challenge is always sensing the difference between: feeling lazy but getting movement in would be a good thing, and actually needing a break. This comes with time, however it will only come about when you properly listen.
As I shifted in this direction, I found myself getting sick way less often, which in turn actually allowed me to be more consistent. Your body isn’t stupid, it’s going to do everything it can to keep you healthy. That’s why it’s hard to go down to 10% body fat as a woman, because this isn’t healthy and your body does not want to let go of essential fat. However when you go for a morning run, your body releases endorphines (the happy hormone) that make you feel good. This is your body thanking you, and basically saying “I liked that - do that more please”. When you start eating intuitively, your body can give you real signals on if you’re actually hungry or not, as compared to making you crave carbs out of fear that you’re going to put it through starvation again if you’re restricting your food intake. Your body is actually programmed to make you as healthy as possible.
I realized for me, “healthy” was not a 6-pack. My body isn’t quite constructed in a way, and even when I went down to 12% body fat I didn’t get what I was seeking. However, after years now of really working with my body, I crave movement crave healthy food that will make me feel good, I crave sleep, and my body gives me little signals every time I need to slow down.
In the end, the ultimate shift came from letting go of the “her” and “I”, in the end, I am at one with my body. And oh my god, I’m so grateful for the magical way in which it communicates with me every day.