Sunday, January 22, 2012

Silencing the negative; embracing the positive

Recently, I conducted an experiment, having an idea of the results I would get. I didn’t, however, realize the level of emotion that would come from the feedback I received. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. When sharing with others how I sometimes feel about myself, I get just as emotional, if not more so.

My questions were simple: How do you get past the negative thoughts you have about yourself? How do you keep them quiet and keep on keeping on? What do you do to keep working to reach that fitness/health goal?

The response I received was overwhelming – so many people emailed me or sent me a message with some very heart-wrenching, honest and, truthfully, sad feelings they felt about themselves. Still, many of those same people also shared with me how they overcome these negative feelings and how they continually strive to embrace the positive. Here are their words, in no particular order.

Everyone has gifts

One of the first messages I received was from a friend who, honestly, I would love to look like. Funny, isn’t those who you want to “be like” sometimes share the same sentiment you have about yourself. Her outlook was such a strong one, I’d love to share it:

“I remind myself that I have two healthy legs powering me through the day; two strong arms capable of loading laundry and hugging my family and friends; abs that housed 36 pounds of people in them.... wouldn't trade the kids for all the six-packs in the world. Everyone has gifts, mine is not a rock-hard body. And that's fine,” she says.

Powerful words. I should listen to them a little more.

The mental pity party

So should another dear friend of mine, who, since following Weight Watchers, has lost a whopping 52 pounds! Hello!! 52 pounds! But you know what? She still suffers the frustration that comes with losing less than she wants on a particular week. It’s what can be commonly called the “mental pity party” and it can take all the positive vibes you’ve got going on and BAM take them away as soon as you step on that damn scale. But even she realized it was time for that party to stop!

In her words: “I have really tried to focus on the things I CAN do now...I can exercise on the elliptical machine (first in years), I rock climbed for the first time, I can jump rope (fitness, not playground style) AND I can run intervals on the treadmill...6.0, 6.5, 7.0--I'm so proud of myself! That's what I focus on when insecurity or doubt rears its ugly head!”

Incredible, right?

How about the guys?

It’s not just a “girl thing.” Men are plagued by the same negative feelings and they can, in some ways, be more difficult to shake. After all, they aren’t supposed to share their thoughts on these sort of things...

“I remember that navel-gazing is rarely a better tonic for a bad mood than finding some sort of productive activity,” one friend shares. “I recognize that bad moods are generally temporary and will rarely last more than a day or two, and that for as bad as any particular time might be, I'm still doing pretty well with life...perspective is everything.”

Sounds pretty positive. He goes on to say “I pat myself on the back if I do well and don't beat myself up about it too much if I don't achieve what I want fitness-wise. I've been in great shape and in not so great shape and honestly it didn't make as much of a difference in my life as you might think. Having a positive attitude about yourself whatever shape you're in matters more.”

Ahh, the positive attitude – it’s what this whole story is about, right? Silencing the negative and embracing the positive.

One moment can change everything

“This is what I do every time I need a boost to reach my fitness goals. I think back to when I was hit by a car on my road bike. Laying in the middle of the road without being able to feel my legs really changed my outlook on life. While waiting on the ambulance I made a mental list of the things I would do if I could walk again. I'm so grateful that my body works again! Thinking about the accident gets me through the last mile of a long run or the last few burpees!”

Another friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer a few days before she was supposed to run a half marathon. Too emotionally distraught, she opted to forego that race, but one year to the day that she was diagnosed – she ran the race that she had missed the year before. A year and 6 months after surgery and not being able to complete a lap, she ran a marathon.

“When I think of it that way, she says, “How can I not be proud of myself? No matter what size I am!”

And that, quite perfectly, puts it all in perspective.

That’s not me!

What happens when we look at someone else and think to ourselves, “if only I looked like him/her. If only I could lose that last 10 pounds, or have more definition in my arms, or get rid of that belly fat...if only...if only.” When we do that, we lose sight of everything positive that WE have to offer. Why compare yourself to someone who isn’t you?

I try to remember that fitness and health don't always fit into a perfect box,” comments one friend. {How true is THAT statement?} “They are not the same for everyone. Even when I am in the best shape of my life, I am not 5'10'' or stick thin. I try and focus on my strengths and stay open to trying new things in the world of fitness.”

Can I get an “AMEN?”

No one is perfect! {And yes, you ARE worth it!}

“Life is about challenging yourself, trying as best as you can, facing your mistakes as a learning opportunity, and trying again,” comments another. “I deserve to succeed. I think many people don't feel they are worthy of success.”

But you are worthy of success! We all are, and it’s a journey...lifelong health and wellness is a journey that evolves, moves forward, takes steps back and keeps changing with you!

“There's no finish line, I will always have new health & fitness goals!”

So true!

“I'm a work in progress and ALWAYS will be! Because of this, I quickly erase negative thoughts, as I will have the rest of my life to continue to better myself! I want to be healthy from the inside out.”

Get the support you need and take advantage of it!

Six months after my fourth child was born, I ran my first half marathon. Never being a runner, I may have temporarily lost my mind in thinking this was a good idea. I do not know what prompted me to train for something like this, but I did it. I ran it, and then proceeded to run one race a month for 12 months. And do you know what held me accountable? Sharing my goal with anyone who would listen! Turns out I’m not alone in doing this...

“For me I have found that when I talk with my friends/workout community about what I want to do, that I am more apt to actually do it,” comments one friend, who went on to say that she did the same thing when she decided to run her first marathon. “When I decided I wanted to do a marathon, I told everyone that I planned to run a marathon. Then I felt accountable. When times got tough during my training, and boy did they get tough, I had my community to support me. I was able to push through the hard times and celebrate with my friends when I accomplished my goal!”

Think about your support team, and ask them to cheer you on!

Skinny does not = fit

“For the past 12 years or so body image has become a real struggle for me,” comments one friend in an email I received. “I have to constantly remind myself that skinny does not mean strong, fit or in shape and sometimes not even healthy. I know I am fit, strong and in shape but I also want to be "skinny". I do not have the genes or brought up with the habits to have the body I imagine in my head that I should have.”

Not just in shape, but also one who actively trained for a marathon, this woman was in shape and was able to run 26.2 miles! However, she was still upset with herself because she wasn’t the size she wanted to be.

“It is such a frustrating thing to work out 5 days a week but still feel uncomfortable in clothing because I'm not wearing the size of jeans that I would like,” she says. “It is also very frustrating to have friends that don't work out and have what I see as a better body.”

The bottom line

Another extremely fit friend of mine shared her thoughts about silencing the negative and embracing the positive.

I give thanks, multiple times a day, for what I can do. If there's something I can't do, I don't dwell on it. I either take small steps and work toward it if it's attainable (with "I can, I can, I can!" repeating in my mind) or put it out of my mind completely, if it's not.”

I like that – “I can. I can. I can.”

She continues, “Life's all about choices - there are thousands to be made when we get up every day: Our attitude, what we eat, if and how to exercise, etc. I'm continuously telling myself, "Make the best choice." Knowing that the best choice will have a more positive impact on my health, attitude or well-being, makes the decision easier. And if the best choice isn't made - because at times it's not - I don't look back, I just keep moving forward.”

“There's simply no room for negativity.”

So there it is. How do you get past the negative thoughts you have? What else can you do to keep moving forward, to keep striving for more, to keep realizing you are worth it? Whatever you need to do, do it. Because you are worth it.

Silence the negative. Embrace the positive.

All the best in health!

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