From A Former Bikini Competitor Turned Food Freedom Coach
I’ve been deep in the fitness industry for almost a decade now – which is crazy to say, because I started my fitness journey at the very young age of 17 when I joined my local YMCA gym – so I without a doubt have MANY things I can look back on and wish I knew better at the time. But nonetheless, now I have knowledge and insight so I can share these super valuable mindset shifts and lessons I’ve learned over the years with you.
I thought long and hard about which areas I wanted to share, and these 3 really stuck out to me. I talk to countless women on a daily basis, and over the years have spoken to thousands of women, these are without a doubt the most common areas I hear women struggling with, so I hope these help guide you in the right direction within your own journey. Whether you are just starting out, or you’ve been doing things for years, I think you will benefit from these! Let’s get right into them!
- Restricting causes MORE problems (bingeing, cravings, insane hunger, food guilt, food thoughts, never-ending cycle)
Since the age of 17 years old, all I knew was restrictions. I was led to believe that the less food you ate, the better. I was taught essentially, that the less you eat the quicker you’ll see results, and the less you eat the more disciplined you are. My whole fitness journey started in the world of bodybuilding, so all I knew was depriving myself, eating as little as possible, eating a minimal variety of foods, it was all about how little I could eat. Little did I know I was not only causing severe inner health issues, but I also was setting myself up for the binge eating cycle.
When you put things off limits and tell yourself you ‘can’t’ have something, of course, you’re going to want that thing even more. The more you restrict, the worse these things get – so I dealt with bingeing, insane food cravings, and constantly overeating or under eating, for YEARS. There was no in-between.
The best advice I can give to anyone is to stop restricting, stop putting things off limits or labelling foods as good or bad.
Over time, the thing I learned was: that as soon as you stop restricting, which can sometimes feel hard to do, all those insane cravings and binge tendencies eventually do dissipate. I started to eat more consistently every day, I started to eat more of the foods I had put off limits; I stopped putting foods off limits altogether and did my best to just adopt a more balanced approach, not so all or nothing – obviously, this took time and it definitely did feel hard and foreign at first to eat enough, which now looking back is honestly so sad to say, the fact that most of us feel afraid or guilty for eating ENOUGH. The reality is we all deserve to eat enough, eat what we love and enjoy our nourishment, without guilt or fear. Nourishing our body is a gift, and eating should not be something you dread or something that consumes your life.
The best advice I can give to anyone is to stop restricting, stop putting things off limits or labelling foods as good or bad. Often we think if we give ourselves the permission to actually enjoy what we love or what we want, that we’ll only be eating burgers and pizza and chips for the rest of our lives all day every day, but when you incorporate what you want in the presence of an otherwise nutrient-dense diet and stop putting things off limits, you’ll actually notice you have LESS of these cravings, you won’t need to eat as much of one thing anymore and you’ll feel way more empowered by your nourishment choices, and not like food has all the power over you.
- Stop OVERdoing it on the cardio
You guys, I used to do HOURS of cardio every day, and I don’t mean fun outdoor activities you enjoy, I mean 2 dreadful hours on the stairmaster or treadmill. Oh my god looking back on that, I don’t know how I did it, but I know there are so many women still killing themselves with heaps of cardio, and it’s just so unnecessary, not to mention probably causing more inner stress and harm than anything. Especially if you’re already on a starvation diet! Tons and tons of cardio are just super taxing on the body, especially without enough food we’re forcing our body to ramp up cortisol and create more stress within, you’re likely eating away at your own muscle tissue, and you’re not going to be creating a shape or building muscle by doing this.
My best advice is to start weight training consistently, maybe 3-4 times per week, nothing crazy as all you need is 30-45 mins honestly, and go do things that you have fun doing that get you OUTSIDE. Walking, for example, is the most underrated form of exercise. Go play a sport with your friends, play with your kids at the park, walk along the beach or go for a hike, go swimming, ride your bike, or even clean up your yard – anything that gets you moving is AWESOME, and it is how you are going to create a lifestyle you love and can sustain. Remember, we should always be looking to ADD to our lives, not take away or punish ourselves, focus on an ABUNDANCE MINDSET and you will go FAR.
Know that your happiness is not determined by your body or what you look like – your body is the least interesting thing about you. Focus instead on gratitude and appreciation around all that your body allows you to do and experience.
- It was never about your body – your happiness and worth have nothing to do with what you look like
It’s never been about your body. Look, I know that we are bombarded all day every day, it sometimes feels like, with the ‘ideal body type’ and what ‘healthy should look like. BUT, let me tell you, shrinking your body or losing weight or looking a certain way is never going to be what truly makes you happy, it is never going to bring you the fulfillment and joy you so deeply desire. However, it is conditioned into us, to think a smaller body is the answer, it’s so deeply rooted into us from the time we’re basically babies, to (if we’re a woman or young girl) be small, quiet, petite, kind, soft, weak, etc etc and look a certain way if we are to be seen, worthy, successful or happy. I call BULL, a smaller body is not the answer to happiness or being our best selves. But, we see it everywhere right – in movies, in magazines, billboards, in malls, on our phones, it’s EVERYWHERE. The diet industry wants to keep us so distracted on our bodies – imagine all the time you’ve spent in your life obsessing over or hating on your body and imagine all that same time that could’ve been used to PROPEL you in your life and in the world, all that time and energy and money that could’ve been spent doing things you love and that make you happy. Instead, we are here, hating what we see in the mirror, obsessing over how clothes don’t fit us or wishing we looked like that Instagram model. I’ve been there too, heck, I still have really tough days where I feel consumed by my body and my body image, but I’ve also gotten to the point where I’m so sick of wasting my life trying to shrink myself or look a certain way, and for who?!
The only person I want to live for is for ME, not to look like that model, not to fit into those old jeans that fit me 2 years ago. Let’s get back to doing things that make us feel good and happy and bring joy to the deepest parts of our souls. Imagine being able to shift the narratives for your daughter, your sister, your mother, or your friends. Imagine being able to uplift ALL women and not have any woman feel ashamed of her body, or feel guilty for just existing exactly as she is. When we choose to love ourselves and take up space exactly as we are, at this moment, we pave the path for other women to do so too.
Please know that your happiness is not determined by your body or what you look like – your body is the least interesting thing about you. Focus instead on gratitude and appreciation around all that your body allows you to do and experience. When we shift our perspective to one of gratitude, everything changes for the better.
I hope these lessons I learned over the years have helped open your eyes to your own health and fitness journey. Overall, please do what makes you happy and feel good, because otherwise what’s the point? Make it a lifestyle and I promise you will go so much farther, and be able to thrive in your routines and habits. Keep going!