Whoever said, “perception is reality” was right on the mark when it comes to fitness because, too often, what’s in our head makes or breaks our success. We’re often our own worst enemy when it comes to our long-term health goals because we spend too much time bemoaning our perceived failures instead of celebrating our actual successes.
I see that all the time at Curves. A woman will lose six inches and 3 pounds and she will be upset that she “only” lost 3 pounds instead of being excited that she’s a “half a foot” smaller.
She will then confess to me about the one cookie that she had that week, or a missed workout and before long, she will be buried in guilt thinking about all of her missteps.
One of the most important parts of my job is to help her turn that thinking around.
Guilt can be debilitating to your long-term health and fitness goals. When you mess up (or, more importantly, think you’ve messed up), it’s natural to feel guilty. At that point, you have a choice: to let that guilt plummet you into a downward cycle of more missteps and more guilt; or to accept that you stumbled a bit and say, “Where do I go from here?”
A big mistake people make when trying to get healthier is not understanding that it’s a lifetime process. There’s no beginning and no end. When they fall off a bit, they think they have to “start over.” Too many “do-overs” causes frustration. And frustration leads to eating an entire box of cookies instead of just that one.
A better approach is to simply take two steps forward. You’re still ahead of where you were before.
Of course, consistent success is still something to strive for. You should still work hard to keep missteps from happening. But it helps to be prepared with a plan and a positive attitude for when they do happen. Many times, this means a rededication, a refocusing, and a recommitment.
There are some simple steps that can help you get back on track:
• Admit where you went wrong. Think about what happened to throw you off track and what you might have done differently to prevent it.
• Figure out your weak areas. Look at common situations that tend to throw you off and notice if there are patterns.
• Get prepared. Plan your workouts. Put them in the calendar as you would any other appointment. Plan your meals. Stock up on healthy foods and remove unhealthy ones from the cupboard.
• Write down your goals. Seeing your fitness goals on paper will re-motivate you.
• Get support. Friends and family members can help you stay committed.
• Stop kicking yourself. When you have a bit of a bump along the way, give yourself a time limit (say 15 minutes) for feeling guilty. When that time’s up, put the guilt aside and move on.
“Two steps forward, one step back” is usually a negative term to describe someone who is having trouble making progress. But switched around, “one step back, two steps forward,” means that you’re still going to get there.
Remember, it’s all about perception.
Laura McKellar is a health and fitness consultant and the owner of North Andover Curves, a 30-minute women's fitness center offering a total body workout. For more information about Curves, visit www.northandovercurves.com; or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CurvesNA.