Keep Your Friends Close....And Your Workout Buddy Closer

As I studied for the ACE PT Certification, I learned many new things. In fact, so many new things that I often went to bed feeling as if my brain was swollen with all the new information. However, some of the information I had already learned from personal experience. One of the biggest "duh, I already knew that" tidbits we received was the importance of social support in determining adherence to any new fitness program.
I had learned this from my own life in two ways....having that support and not having it.
My marriage offered absolutely 0% support in pursuing and/or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In fact, I would almost say it offered a negative percentage in that he quite literally encouraged me to eat junk food, skip workouts and watch lots of t.v. But, just as I pointed out in my last post, I do not at all blame him for this. It was ME and me alone who allowed him to persuade me. I was a consenting adult of sound mind each and every time I made a poor decision and I will not hand the blame, nor the power, to anyone other than myself.
That being said, if you are already on the fence about getting healthy and not very motivated, social support can make all the difference.
So, fast forward to today. I make it a point to surround myself with health conscious people whenever possible. I'm lucky in that my mother, sister and brother are all as health conscious as I am and we are all very close so I already have a great support team there.
However, add to this my boyfriend, and I have the perfect support network. Instead of the typical American couple pass times of t.v., sitting beside each other on seperate computers and dining out, our bonding time consists of working out, hiking, yoga, juicing, planning & cooking healthy meals (well, he helps with the planning and eating part anyway, haha), meditating, making vision boards, and finding and sharing inspirational reading material with each other. We, in a positive and gentle way, talk each other out of poor choices and suggest healthy ways to deal with problems.
People could argue, "well, you're just lucky that you have people who are so supportive, that's not what my circle of friends/family is like". And I would respond with the following four things:
  1. I began and maintained my healthy lifestyle before I left my husband, while I had post-partum depression, a new born baby, extreme financial problems, 30+ years old, back and neck problems, and while weighing 275 pounds and exercising in about 4 square feet of our storage room.
  2. I have eliminated certain, toxic people from my life because they didn't contribute to my wellbeing.
  3. I have a fitness-minded boyfriend because I refused to settle for anything less. In fact, I ended relationships before him because (as I mentioned in #2) they were not conducive to my new lifestyle. I spent years fantasizing about the type of partner that I could embrace this lifestyle with and I held out until I found it.
  4. are right, I am very lucky.
Yes, I didn't choose my family. My mom became health-conscious while I was growing up and set a great example for us during our teen years. However, since I've embraced the lifestyle, I've passed on new information and dedication onto my family and the synergy of all our knowledge and experiences has helped us all to grow exponentially over the past few years.
So your family sucks when it comes to nutrition? Your husband is clutching tightly to his Pepsi and your kids to their tater tots and you hate making two meals? Well, first, don't!!! Make one healthy meal. Be the example that your family is missing.
I will address one issue that can be a little stickier and that's feeding small children. While husbands and older children can fend for themselves, younger children (like my 4 year old son) are dependent on you to make sure they eat. My son eats better than most kids but I still have to make two meals because he gags on some of the more bitter or sophisticated foods but I still feed him healthy, single ingredient foods. A typical meal might be a salad with fish for me and boiled eggs, raw cashews & apple slices for him. He still isn't going to get junk just because he can't eat grown up food.
Small children need these types of nutritional building blocks as much as us if not more because these are the foods that are literally creating the bodies that will carry them through the rest of their lives. We must build a solid foundation, not just physically but psychologically as well by setting the best example we can for them. It can't be perfect. My son goes to daycare and they feed him total crap. (He actually informs the lunch lady that the food she is giving him is not healthy, haha, that's my boy!) And when he's with his dad one day a week, he gets pancakes for breakfast and peanut butter & fluff for lunch. However, he understands that sugar constipates him and eating too much junk food could make him sick so, when he comes home, he understands the importance of eating fruits and (occassionally) veggies. And he has even, at 4 years old, choked down fresh juice that tasted nasty because he was trying to beat a cold he was getting.
I assure you, I haven't done anything amazing here.
We splurge on junk food occassionally. He is exposed to it basically everywhere else when he's not with me. But he sees my example and he listens to my words (I don't just say "eat this, it's good for you". He even understands what his immune system is). If you can't motivate yourself to eat good for YOU, then let THIS motivate you! They are watching your every move!
Okay, so on to the real reason for this post. Social support. No, you can't change who your family is or what they eat/don't eat. You probably don't want to change who your spouse is, so you're kind of stuck with that as well. But, other than gently encouraging (mainly through your actions) your loved ones, you can find support many other places. Here's ideas of ways you can find social support:
  • Start a competition or support group in your workplace or church.
  • Look online for workout buddies (just be careful with this one and meet in a public/safe place)
  • Call your local gyms and see if they offer any kind of support programs
  • Post a message on Facebook asking if any of your friends are looking for support/workout buddies. Commit to more than one person. Not only does this broaden your support circle, it also ensures that, if one person flakes on you, you have a backup, or two, or seventy!
  • Join online support groups and/or communities.
  • Hire a personal trainer, health coach or nutritionist. Personal trainers will often train small groups of people so you could find a couple friends to do it with and the cost would be much more economical.
  • Go to Zumba!!! It's so easy and fun to make friends in these classes and people will start to notice after a while if you don't show up. Don't want to dance?....participate in one of the other 50-bazillion group exercise classes!
  • Get creative and be open to making new friends wherever you go. Join health based groups or a hiking club. On a Friday night, attend a yoga class instead of going to the bar, you're much more likely to meet like-minded people in these types of places than at bars, clubs, etc.
Bottom line, you don't have to have the support of every person in your life. Hell! You don't HAVE to have support from anyone but yourself! But finding creative ways to strategically place positive, health-conscious people in your life can be that extra little incentive you need to make healthier food choices or get to the gym. The reason for this isn't just because you have people supporting you and to who you must be accountable to but because what we think about is what we ARE about! If you are hanging out with fitness-minded individuals, you are likely going to be discussing the aspects of health & fitness more or even just thinking about them more merely by association and, I think we all know by now....Energy Flows Where Attention Goes.

The Blame Game

I talk often about how I changed my life so drastically and how miserable I used to be and, as a result, I get a lot of messages from people (usually women) who say they can relate to my old life and that they are miserable. They talk about how they wish their lives were different and about their strong desire to change.

So, in this post, I want to talk about the difference between those who succeed in life and those who remain stagnant. And it all boils down to one thing. Your attitude Do you make excuses or blame others? Or do you know that you alone have the ultimate power in your life?

There are two types of people in this world, people who believe bad things always happen to them and they have no control over them (i.e. victims) and people who understand bad things will always happen but they control how they react to them and what they do next.

My changes were not a result of external circumstances. They were, instead, a result of self-empowerment. The reason I point this out is because external circumstances are fluid, constantly changing and we have very little control over them at times, whereas being empowered (meaning, in control of ones own life) is forever!

I am the second. Always have been actually.

I was in a miserable marriage for 12 years. And, when I say miserable, I mean we were extremely poorly matched and horrible for each other. I never felt about him the way he, and everyone, deserves to have someone feel about them. I look back and realize (now that he is in a marriage with a woman who adores him and is a wonderful match), it wasn't just my life I was stealing away by staying, it was his too.

During our marriage, we constantly fought. There was constant tension and unhappiness. I tried so hard to make it work because I had made a commitment and I took that very seriously. And I felt an obligation to him because I was now his family. I had also made a commitment to an employer and I took that very serious as well. I felt that everyone needed me and that I couldn't let anyone down. However, in spite of all of those feelings of obligation, I never once felt like a victim.

As my weight crept up, I blamed no one but myself. I did not blame my coworkers who ate out every single day and encouraged me to do the same. These were the same coworkers who brought delicious goodies and laid them out in the break room on a regular basis. I blamed no one but myself when I ate them. I did not blame my ex-husband who constantly persuaded me to pick up McDonalds or pizza almost every evening on my way home from my exhausting day. This was the same man who even talked me out of working out at times that I would actually be motivated and, instead, staying at home with him and watching t.v. with a spread of junk food in front of us. I blamed no one but myself when I allowed myself to be persuaded.

And I am so glad that I never gave my power away, because that's exactly what blaming does, it gives your power to someone else. Let me say that again, blaming gives your power away. No thank you!

I always knew that I was overweight and miserable because I had poor priorities. Once my priorities changed, my life changed....FOREVER. I emphasize forever because, *I* am in control of my life. Not someone else. Not my circumstances. Only me. Not only would nothing ever make me abuse my body and/or mind again, but I also would never again allow myself to willingly be in a toxic situation again.

We can very easily and very frequently find someone or something to blame our poor choices on. But, as long as our circumstances resulted from a choice WE made, we have no one to blame but ourselves. And that's a wonderful thing!! There are so many things we don't have control over, things that are truly unfair in life. A child with cancer, someone we love not loving us back, a flat tire, etc. And, in these situations, the one unchanging connection is that our only power is how we react to such things. Do we eat ourselves numb or do we go to the gym? Do we curl up on the couch and embrace being a victim or do we sit down and make a list of everything in our lives we have control over and get busy?!

I choose the second, every time! Not because I'm so special but because I've learned for past experience that doing the first makes me feel like shit! It's what new-agers call "low energy activities".

I can't control everything, no one can. But, as long as there is a breath in my body, I can control my attitude toward any situation and I can find the silver lining. Then I can lace up my shoes and run away from that helpless feeling.