5 Gamechangers to a Stronger, Healthier, and Happier You
HOW I REACHED AND MAINTAINED MY HEALTH AND FITNESS GOALS
I used to be extremely insecure about my body. Believe it or not, this is the first time i publicly write about my body image issues, and I am so grateful to be in a place where I am able to share my Ri-flections with you all. But before I share with you my five gamechangers, i want to tell you a bit about my first successful health and fitness journey, #roadtooctober.
many people don't know that I spent my adolescent and early adult life feeling less worthy because of my body and weight. As vocal as I've always been about practically anything under the sun, body image was the one issue i was too ashamed to discuss, yet i wore this insecurity on my sleeve everywhere i went.
I wore it on my sleeve on the volleyball court, self-conscious about my thighs rubbing against each other during my games. i wore it on my sleeve on the beautiful Beirut beaches, feeling insecure about my love handles in a bikini. i wore it on my sleeve during family gatherings at my grandma's house, ashamed that my body was fuller than the other women in my family.
what's ironic is that those spaces are some of my favorite places in the world, housing some of my most meaningful memories. it upset me that i was allowing those moments to be tainted by my self-consciousness. in june 2016, at 23 years old, i finally decided to get rid of this cloud looming over my life by traversing on my #roadtooctober (the first of my #roadto_ journeys!), my 5-month health and fitness commitment to look and feel great in preparation for my 24th birthday in October.
My gamechangers are not your typical health/fitness "how tos." i am not going to provide you with the next diet-fad, magical tea, or silver bullet to reaching your goals in a week, or even in a month. Not only are those practices and products misleading, but they end up being extremely detrimental to your mental and physical health.
the following five gamechangers will address your mindset, what i believe is the root of our health/wellness problem. these five strategies have truly changed the game for me, and if you let them, they Will for you, too!
GAMECHANGER #1: LOVE YOURSELF RIGHT NOW, NOT AFTER YOU REACH YOUR GOAL.
If I could scream this through your computer screen, I would. 🗣 You need to love yourself NOW, not later. Not after you lose or gain xx amount of weight. Not after you fit into those jeans you've been saving in your closet (true story). Do it now. In a sense, I achieved my #roadtooctober goals as soon as I decided to pursue that journey, because i set out with the intention to love myself before i even started. trust me on this.
Because guess what? If you don't love yourself, flaws and all, RIGHT NOW, you probably won't love yourself any more when those jeans fit. Self-love isn't superficial booboo. Think about the people in your life whom you love. Think about why you love them. Do you love them because of how they look? (if you do, then this post isn't for you at all - just saying). we need to give ourselves that same grace: love yourself now, and cheer yourself on every step of the way, just as you would a friend or lover.
WHAT I'M NOT SAYING:
I'm not telling you that you shouldn't want a change. I don't care if you want to lose/gain 3lbs or 130 lbs, if you want a thigh gap or a bigger booty - you have every right to want that change. I'm merely arguing that it is possible to love and treat kindly those very things that you are trying to change. I still love my belly fat, stretch marks, and imperfections. As a matter of fact, I would argue that there is NO way I would have reached or maintained my health and fitness goals if I didn't decide to love myself, flaws and all, every. single. step. of the way. More on this with gamechanger #3.
- Each day, take note of something that you love about yourself or something you did that made you proud that day.
- write yourself a love letter: include the things you would like to change. say that you would like to change those things, but write about them positively. re-read this letter whenever you're in need of some reassurance.
GAMECHANGER #2: FIND HEALTHY PRACTICES THAT YOU LIKE, AND DO THEM. CONSISTENTLY & CREATIVELY.
I know many people who dread running on the treadmill (me af), detest eating kale, and hate the taste of Flat Tummy Tea, but have included those exact things in their "weight-loss" regimen. WHY??!! why? Why engage in or consume something regularly that you fundamentally dislike? Let me tell you something - it doesn't work. Not only will you be miserable, you will not stick to that regimen. and then you'll be upset with yourself for falling off.
I lost weight because everything I did, from the stair master, to my high intensity interval training, to drinking my herbalife smoothies in the morning, I ACTUALLY LIKED DOING. do you like attending zumba classes as opposed to running on the treadmill like a hamster? Then do that! (no offense to fellow hamsters because i would rather be a hamster then try to dance lol) Do you like to log your calories as opposed to meal prepping? Then do that!! Case in point: find the healthy practices that you can actually see yourself incorporating (and even enjoying), and find creative and consistent ways to execute them.
WHAT I'M NOT SAYING:
Before you make "eating a Gotta-have-It Birthday Cake Remix from Coldstone" part of your daily regimen, what I'm not saying is that you shouldn't make any healthy sacrifices. you will have to make serious sacrifices. it's not going to be easy to choose healthy every single day. You are going to have days (or weeks) when you don't want to be active. I'm not telling you to put pleasure over purpose, I'm just telling you that your health journey should include realistic practices that you don't dread doing.
- Don't be afraid to try new things, even if you don't think you'll enjoy them. you are beginning a new lifestyle, so you never really know what will click.
- if you don't like something, try it for 3 consecutive days before you decide to drop it and find a healthy alternative.
GAMECHANGER #3: TREAT YOURSELF KINDLY AND FORGIVE YOURSELF WHEN YOU DID THINGS DIFFERENTLY THAN PLANNED.
Notice I didn't say "when you fall off," or "when you have a 'bad' week," etc. in those moments, you just did things differently. This isn't me sugar-coating anything, it's just me recognizing that your process is yours and only yours, so there is no validity or value-add to speaking shamefully on a process that doesn't go directly as planned. the days when i missed the gym or decided to eat something that wasn't in the original plan, i let it happen, accepted it (even enjoyed it), and kept it moving on my health journey.
i cannot stress enough how important it is for you to treat yourself kindly and FORGIVE yourself for not stepping in direct alignment with your plan. This goes hand in hand with game changer #1. the way i see it, the lack of self-love and forgiveness is precisely why people prematurely fall off their health/fitness journeys or relapse after they've made some progress. we allow the preoccupation of being perfect overshadow the significant progress we are making. if you let it, this inevitable, vicious psychological cycle will be your biggest hindrance when trying to treat yourself and your body kindly.
WHAT I'M NOT SAYING:
I'm not telling you to spend the day on the couch every single time you don't feel like being active. I'm not saying that you should order fast-food when you crave it. I'm saying that you should learn yourself, listen to your body and understand the difference between days off and days where you may just need to push yourself a bit more to keep going. some days you really aren't meant to get up and be active, and that is absolutely okay. forgive yourself before you even allow yourself to feel negatively about it, count that day as part of your process, and keep it pushing.
- if you veer off your regimen, enjoy it! then, compensate for those changes in the coming days. do not look at this extra effort as a "punishment," but rather as you earning the changed behavior.
- EStablish a non-negotiable for days you feel like changing the plan: maybe you walk on the treadmill for a few minutes before you decide to call it quits.
GAMECHANGER #4: STAY IN YOUR LANE - WHAT'S FOR YOU WILL ALWAYS BE FOR YOU.
of the 5 gamechangers, this might be the one i struggled with the most. these days, it's so easy to compare our journeys to someone else's, to veer off into someone else's lane. i can't tell you the amount of times that i looked at instagram pictures of girls' bodies, comparing myself to them or devaluing the progress i've made. when i finally began to appreciate the idea of abundance, i realized that my lane is my lane, what's meant for me will always be mine, and there's enough goodness to go around. that's when i started competing only with myself.
i became happiest when i was able to simultaneously compliment or celebrate another woman's body but not want it for myself. when I was able to look in the mirror and love what i was given, without wanting something that was someone else's. we need to be mindful of our thoughts when we're scrolling on instagram or watching our favorite "fit girl's" story. pay attention and make sure your thoughts promote the self-love and kindness that is required to propel you forward on your journey.
WHAT I'M NOT SAYING:
listen. we all have a person who inspires us or whose physique we admire. i become a human lovestruck emoji when i see Candice in her dance videos - she's gorgeous! I'm not implying that you cannot admire someone's body or implement portions of someone else's regimen into your own where you see fit. I'm just saying that you can admire them and yourself simultaneously, without wanting to look like or be them. what is for you will always be for you.
- Cleanse your social media of any/all accounts that do not support your mental health along this journey. focus on your focus, not on someone else.
- As for the people in your every day life whom you admire, humanize them by talking to them. I guarantee that they have stories, reflections and takeaways of their own.
GAMECHANGER #5: REFRAME YOUR GOALS POSITIVELY; PROGRESS OVER PERFECTION.
my #roadtooctober was successful in large part because of the gamechangers mentioned above, but mostly because i learned to celebrate the baby steps just as much (and sometimes more) than the larger milestones. i saw the most results in my health/fitness journey the moment I stopped cALLING it a "weight-loss" journey, getting on the scale or obsessing over a specific pants size. I became serious about my journey when i focusED my energy on being faster, stronger, and healthier. reframing my goals in a positive light gave me permission to feel positively about everything I was doing, THE MOST minor or momentous MOVES.
every week in the gym, i was reaching a new milestone and pushing myself to new heights. i started to introduce a new "challenge" into my diet every week: drink 100 oz of water each day; replace my morning iced caramel macchiato with a herbalife/protein shake, ETC. i was celebrating the smallest gains: liftING ten more pounds than i could the week before; reachING 45 minutes on the stairmaster. in essence, i restructured my whole "why" to accommodate any improvement. this way, instead of focusing on "perfection," i focused on the smallest progress in my overall health. and honestly, the weight just came off from there.
WHAT I'M NOT SAYING:
I'm not saying that quantifiable goals have no place in your journey. I'm not telling you to downplay that moment when you fit into that dress or reach a healthy BMI. those things are extremely important, but they should not be your destination or goal. You shouldn't be choosing healthy to see a number, you should be choosing healthy because.....it's the healthy thing to do. when your journey is rooted in something deeper than body image, all that other stuff will follow.
- ask yourself why you want to reach your health/fitness goal(s). when you have your answer, ask yourself "why" to that original response two more times. that third "why" is something that you should write down, as that will be your driving force on the days that you lack motivation.
- start listening to your thoughts. reframe them into strictly positive speech. make sure that anything you say about your journey, your body or yourself is strictly positive.
as i mentioned earlier in this post, my five gamechangers are not going to change the game overnight, but i guarantee that if you incorporate them into your regimen, you will exceed your goals and maintain them as a part of your new healthy and happy lifestyle. So, try out a rima rec or two, and watch your life (and your body) change right before your eyes.