Fit and Happy for Life (no guilt needed!)


You ate a doughnut sitting in the break room at work (even though you swore up and down you wouldn’t). You skipped the gym to meet friends for happy hour drinks (even though you said you would go five days this week). Now your whole week of fitness and healthy eating is a wash. And you are beating yourself up for it, right? How did I know? I have been there too; heck we have probably all been there at some point.

Kristin Neff, PhD associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, observed how common it is for us to mentally punish ourselves this way, thinking we will shame ourselves into better behavior. But being our own Mean Girl is anything but productive.

In my early attempts to build a healthy lifestyle and fit body, I sacrificed my life for what I thought would make me happy. Days became structured around workouts and meal planning, preparation and timing. It became  “all or nothing”. One “bad” meal, one missed workout and I was a failure. I would beat myself up and chain myself to the treadmill. This attitude towards fitness began attracting attention. Social gatherings were difficult and family and friends questioned my eating habits.

Dedication became an obsession. Exercising and healthy eating was meant to enrich my life, not become my life.

As the old saying goes even “too much of a good thing can be bad”.  Striving to live a healthy lifestyle is one thing, letting it control your life is a whole new kind of beast. The moment your life is controlled by what you eat and how often you can get to the gym then it is time to reevaluate.

It was time for me to find a middle ground. Are you struggling with finding balance? Is it time to find your middle ground?  What does that even mean?

Fitness and eating healthy should be associated with nothing but positive connotations. Exercise reduces stress and aids in maintaining a healthy weight. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables alongside whole grains and lean protein is the secret to living a long life. These are tools meant to make the things you enjoy doing even more enjoyable.

Middle ground is where you can enjoy a piece of birthday cake without worrying that it will make you gain weight. Middle ground is missing a workout without punishing yourself. Middle ground is not obsessing over the number on the scale.

Finding middle ground is NOT implementing the perfect diet plan or making a detailed workout regiment, but finding in the right mindset and also having self-compassion. A combination of the two can go a long way in motivating you.

“Self-compassion means being kind to yourself, especially when you make a mistake,” said Neff. “As it turns out, caring about yourself is one of the best possible motivators for doing what’s healthy for you rather than what’s harmful to you.”

Read more to learn how to be more compassionate with yourself and how to help find your middle ground.

First, drop the drill sergeant mentality. Stop using terms like “I have to…” and setting strict goals. You are setting yourself up to fall short and feel bad about it. Instead encourage yourself, like you would a friend. Neff says, “Motivate yourself to do the right thing not because you’re inadequate, but because you want to be healthier, or land your dream job, or whatever your goal is. Keep your eyes on the prize, which is to be happy.”

Jean Fain, a psychotherapist, at Harvard Medical School said, “Telling yourself mean things ‘I shouldn’t have eaten that,’ ‘I’m going to gain weight’ is a setup for overindulging.” This is because self-criticism stirs up negative emotions like anxiety and self-loathing, and we’ll do whatever we can to get rid of them, like digging into the gallon of ice cream in the freezer. Next time you feel bad about eating a cookie, remember self-compassion. Instead of saying, “screw it” which could trigger overeating instead say “Its only ice cream. It is not the end of the world. Next meal I can go back to making healthier choices.”

Life is meant to be enjoyed, so instead of letting “being healthy” control your life, let it make your life more fulfilling.

Shine ON!!





© 2012 Inspired Living, LLC

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