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Managing the Mental Side of a Health Journey

So you’re thinking about getting healthier, but not sure you are ready…
You’ve been making healthy changes, but you still feel like you are struggling…

Often times it’s the mental aspect that holds us back from reaching our full potential.  Being fit is not a destination, it’s a journey.  It’s an evolving state of being.  It’s not just about the act, it’s about how you feel, think and approach it.

I didn’t start doing anything active in my life until I was about to turn 30 and had just gotten married.  I looked at pictures of myself on my honeymoon and thought, what has happened to me?  I’d been fluctuating at 10-30lbs overweight for several years.  I’d been thinking about how I needed to change my eating habits and get active, off and on for years.  I was unhappy in my skin and having to buy another size up. I didn’t feel good, I had stomach aches often from junk food….Sometimes you just aren’t ready mentally.  Timing isn’t right.  For me, the timing was finally right and I had the time to commit. 

That was 12 years ago. What I learned through out this journey that I’ve been on is that it’s a constantly changing and evolving thing.  I’m always learning something new about myself, challenging myself.  What worked when I was 30 doesn’t work at 40; as our bodies change, we need to adapt.  I read a lot on health and nutrition to keep up on the food industry and health recommendations.  Because health and nutrition is such a big part of my life, I often get people asking for advice.  They often ask about nutrition, recipes or workouts, but the mental side of things is just as important in my opinion.  Maybe more important!  It’s often over-looked or not thought about at all until you are “in it”.  So, here’s a few of my thoughts on the subject:

1. Find Your Why

Everyone has a different reason *why* they want to make positive changes in their lives.  You need to think about yours and keep it in mind, every single day.  If it’s important to you, don’t give up.

2. Journal

I don’t care how you journal, but you need to do it.  If it’s about feelings, that’s great.  I didn’t need it for that as much as I needed it to be about what I was doing every day to get healthy.  I recorded my weight, what I ate, what I did that was active.  It was helpful to look over if I was struggling a certain week or month to see what I was doing that was or wasn’t working.  If it was the holidays I wrote out my plans for staying on track with healthy eating.  Or writing down healthy recipes I wanted to try.  I was accountable to myself because I had to check in with my journal to report how I did.  I actually *still* have a journal, it’s a habit now.  Currently, it’s used for logging what I do each day to be active (running, yoga, biking etc.) and the time spent.

3.  Be Social

If you can, find a friend to get active with, share new recipes, or just the ups and downs of making new habits stick; do it.  I know people who join Biggest Loser Challenges at work, share weigh-in’s etc.  Talk to your family, ask them for their support.  Find trainers to follow on Facebook, Blogger, Instagram etc. and look at what they are posting (workouts, recipes, tips & tricks etc.) that can be helpful.  I feel like with support and education, anything is possible!

4. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone & Re-Define Yourself

I’m not exaggerating when I say that your mental game has to be on point. Mostly, you need to change how you look at yourself.  So what if you’ve never ran a day in your life or never been to a Zumba class?  It doesn’t mean you can’t start tomorrow and become a runner, cardio-enthusiast, Yogi, biker etc.  You don’t need to qualify anything to yourself or anyone.  Find that inner confidence!  And if you try something and hate it, try something else.  There are *so many* programs at various gyms and so many exercise videos you can either buy or watch on YouTube, find something you love and let that define you.

5. Get Creative

It’s hard to make changes!  That’s why it’s going to require you to put your thinking cap on and get creative on your *how*.  Is it saving ten minutes at the end of your lunch to go for a brisk walk?  Is it going in on an organic produce delivery with a friend to manage cost?  Or maybe it’s searching online for the most effective ten minute full body workouts.  Whatever hurdle you will come across, and you’ll come across a few I’m sure, it will require creativity on your part to figure out a solution.

6. Think Long-Term

Often times losing weight or trading in bad habits for better ones seems like a short-term game.  Time to change that!  It’s a journey, not a destination.  So, if your short-term plan was lose 10lbs and run a 5k and you accomplished that, time to start thinking longer term.  Where do you want to be next year or 3 years from now?  Personally, I’ve found I get bored and need new challenges to keep things interesting.  I buy a new workout plan/dvd, sign up for a longer race or a race out of town etc.  The second part to this is that it is necessary to remember that being a healthy individual is something that is constantly changing and evolving and you need habits that you can sustain for the rest of your life.  Keep that in mind because if you’re only thinking short term, “I can do X”, you’re not looking at it the right way and you’ll be back where you started at some point. 

7. Focus on the Positive

This takes work, but you can’t skip this step.  When it gets hard or you’re stressed out, it’s the only way to move forward.  Scale the same for 3 weeks?  Take measurements, you may be gaining muscle and losing inches.  Having a hard time fitting in working out; every little bit counts.  Had a bad weekend, move on and focus on what you can do during the week to do better. When you look in the mirror choose to see what you love, not what you are unhappy with.

Theresa W
Author: Theresa W

Theresa is a wife and stay at home mother of 2 boys, David (13) and Aiden (10). Her hobbies include traveling, reading, running, cooking and volunteering at MI Humane Society with the adoptable cats. She also spends her free time serving as PTO President at her son's elementary school. She enjoys being active and is proud to have completed 4 marathons. She loves to share her passion for health and fitness with others.