How many times have you considered a new diet or training routine, but just couldn’t get started?
How many times have you started one or more new habits to improve your health, but just couldn’t stick to it?
How many times have you been making progress towards your goals, but then you quit, or your routine got derailed, and you just couldn’t get back on track?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you can’t even keep track of all the times you’ve found yourself in one of these situations.
I’ll tell you why, too.
It’s not because you’re weak.
It’s not because you’re lazy.
It’s not because you’re a failure.
It’s because of how you speak to yourself.
In your head and under your breath, the words you use towards yourself matter more than you might think.
Let’s imagine for a minute that a friend of yours has tasked you with coaching her through her efforts to clean up her diet and hit the gym in an effort to lose weight and feel better.
You’ve already got a plan, and your friend desperately wants to succeed.
The two of you just can’t seem to get started, though, because you keep bringing up reasons not to put off these changes.
“Are you sure this is going to work?”
“What if this doesn’t work?”
“What if you miss a workout?’
“What if you aren’t able to find the ingredients you need?”
“What will you do at family functions?”
“How will you handle social situations?”
Having perfectionist tendencies, your friend is terrified at the idea of getting started without these questions.
As your friend starts to paint in her head the answers to these questions, you start to dig deeper with more reasons she might not want to get started.
You play on her fear of failure.
“You’re probably going to screw this up.”
“You always quit these kinds of things.”
“You’re going to make a fool of yourself.”
“You’re not strong enough for this.”
“This is going to be too difficult.”
You play on her fear of success.
“How will your friends, family, and coworkers view you as person?”
“How will this impact your relationships?”
“You don’t deserve to be healthy and happy.”
“You’re not worthy.”
Finally, though, your friend gets started.
She stocks up on delicious, healthy food.
She finds a gym that she loves and a training routine she enjoys.
She actually starts to build some momentum!
The inches start to melt off.
Her energy starts to return.
Then, one day, she’s faced with temptation after a more stressful than normal day.
Staring down a box of cookies, a tub of ice cream, or a bag of chips, your friend is faced with a choice.
This isn’t just a choice about whether to indulge in her cravings.
This choice runs deeper than that.
Your friend knows that if she indulges, she won’t even really enjoy herself.
As a matter of fact, she’s been here before.
She knows that if she indulges, it won’t even be that enjoyable.
She’ll immediately regret the decision.
She won’t only feel bad physically, but also mentally.
She understands that this is more than just about calories, carbs, or fat.
This is about her commitment to herself.
Knowing full well the ramifications of indulgence, you chime in with some guidance.
“You’ve been so good lately…”
“You deserve this…”
“One bite won’t hurt…”
You steer her away from her long-term goals, and although she hates that you’ve done this, she can’t help but listen to you.
Afterwards she’s caught up in a storm of guilt.
All with herself.
You chime in again.
“This is just like you.”
“You always do this.”
“You always quit.”
“You’re a failure.”
“I told you so.”
As she starts to contemplate what to do next, you offer a bit more advice.
“You’ve already blown ruined today, so you might as well just keep going”.
Meals after meal.
Day after day.
Week after week.
Month after month.
They continue to roll by, as guilt, shame, embarrassment, and fear keep your friend from getting back to her routine.
You’re there the whole way reminding her of what’s happened, and how she’s bound to do it all over again if she gives it another shot.
In a situation such as this, would your friend be successful with her efforts?
That being said, you’re probably thinking, “I would NEVER do that to my friend.”
Yet you do this to yourself.
Every single time you get frustrated with how you look and feel, and contemplate making a change.
Every single time you’re faced with decisions that aren’t in alignment with your goals.
Every single time you find yourself in a situation where you’ve chosen a route that you wish you hadn’t.
These are the things that you tell yourself.
So often, the problem isn’t that we don’t know what to do or that we don’t want to do it.
Rather, the problem is that we discourage ourselves, keep ourselves down, and beat ourselves up with our self-talk.
We might not think this matters or even be aware of what we’re doing, but this kind of negative self-talk can be one of the biggest obstacles between us and our health and fitness goals.
Since you can’t fix a problem you don’t recognize, the first step in correcting this pattern will be to practice mindfulness.
There are many ways to do this, but I personally am a fan of meditation, which I’ve written about here.
Once you’ve developed the ability to recognize the thought patterns, emotions, and stories you’ve created that are holding you back, it’s time to get to work undoing them.
I’m willing to bet that your problems come from lack of self-worth.
Fixing this isn’t always easy, and I’m not sure that I’ll be able to provide much help through a blog post, but here are some ideas.
Find things that you genuinely love – or even just like – about yourself and remind yourself of these things frequently.
If you can’t find anything that you like, then look at the things you don’t like about yourself and work on them.
Make a plan, get off your ass, and get after it.
You deserve to be healthy and happy.
It won’t be easy.
It won’t be fast.
You will make mistakes.
But you’ll get there.
Just don’t settle.
You’re worth it.
You’ve got this.