This week I had a few conversations with clients that were difficult for me. It has been 14 years since my weight loss journey started, and as I reflect and strive to put myself in their shoes, I struggle. I believe that so much of what I have learned that my clients want me to teach them came with time and truly getting to know myself better. Of course, there are the basics, any nutrition coach who is truly educated can teach the basics. Macronutrients, meal timing, frequency, etc. But eventually, it gets deeper. It gets harder.
There are a few things I have recognized that I can’t tell, teach, or do for my clients:
ONE. Fix the deep stuff, the real problem.
There came a point where I wasn’t going to make any more progress until I shifted my focus from my food and fitness and looked deeper inside myself at what it was I wanted. Many who struggle with disordered eating are feeding something else. Just like alcoholics who are drinking to numb themselves, those that binge, purge, or overeat to feel happy or simply to not feel at all have a deeper need. What is it? How do you find it?
It could be that you’re unhappy with your job. It could be that you’re unhappy in your marriage. Whatever “it” is, the reality is that if you don’t change your circumstances you might not change yourself.
When I turned 30, for whatever reason, I was troubled by all the things I wanted but had given up on having. One of them was to travel more. One of them was to leave my marriage. That one seemed impossible. I was feeling unhappy at work, and resentful at home, and I took it out of my physical body and eating habits. I kept thinking that if I looked a certain way, all the other things wouldn’t matter. Not only that, I believed I didn’t have it “that bad.” And I didn’t. Looking back, and probably hours of counseling later, I understand “that bad” isn’t great. It wasn’t being true to myself staying in the land of “its not that bad.”
I see my clients treat their mental well-being with the “good enough” mentality. And that is hard for me. I can’t help them by telling them to get a new job, get a divorce, have the hard conversation, do it anyway, etc. etc. It happens on their own time.
TWO. Commit already.
There is a frustrating belief out there that some people have more hours in the day than others. And I get it, everybody has different work schedules, a different number of kids, maybe a commute to work, etc. But I promise that there is someone out there with a similar situation as yours that IS committing to a similar goal. You can work a full-time job, be a caretaker for a dying family member, and run a marathon. I’ve seen it. You can be a full-time-self-employed mom whose husband works swing shift, with a kid that has swim practice, music lessons, train for a half ironman and take college classes. I’ve done it.
There is always a way, but only if you really want it and only if you are committed to it.
The hard part about commitment is that you need it every day. When it's snowing, when it’s windy, when it’s 100 degrees out, when you’re on vacation, when you’re tired, when you’re working a double–you still have to be committed.
There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more frustrating than a client who says they don’t have time to eat healthy. To do a 30-minute workout. To commit to the goal they say they want. What all of us who commit to a goal want you to know is that there are many reasons why a person may fall short, and that’s okay, but don’t blame it on time.
THREE. It’s okay to pivot.
There is an essay I wrote during my summer residency that I hope to pull out and dust off someday. What I wanted readers to learn after they read it was that it didn’t matter what you did to be active, as long as you kept moving. Unfortunately, the essay grew too long, there was too much backstory that felt important. It became a memoir of my childhood struggles with food–the secret eating disorder–and overcoming it.
But really what I wanted to say was this: When you grow bored of something, don’t quit, just try something else.
In the 14 years that I have committed to living a healthy, athletic lifestyle I have:
Participated in group fitness classes ~1 year
Taught Pilates ~4 years
Started running (ran a marathon and decided that wasn’t for me) ~1 year
Competed in 4 bodybuilding competitions ~3 years
Returned to running, starting cycling finishing more than ten 100 mile rides/races ~4 years
Participated in triathlons, including a half ironman ~2 years
Returned to running and ultrarunning ~3 years and counting
As I enter my fourth year of ultrarunning I am still not looking to pivot, but if I were to find myself growing tired of running, or dreading my training, I would without hesitation. I have a long list of activities I love. There is always something to explore.
There are many people I work with who feel panicked when they are no longer enjoying exercise. If this happens, you aren’t failing if you try something else. And like running for me, maybe you will come back to it later on in life. During my first marathon, while throwing up, I swore I would never run another marathon. Now I’m training to run 50 miles.
In 2019 as my 500-mile bike ride around Central Oregon came to an end, I felt pretty convinced I was falling out of love with my bike and for the first time, it didn’t worry me. I wasn’t freaked out that I would be aimless or not know what to do without my 6 days of cycling workouts each week. I was excited to return to another activity I loved. It was a realization that I love exercise. I love movement, I love being outside! The small matter of how I accomplish that changes with the seasons of life. Just like that, it’s okay to Pivot.