How many times have you started a new fitness regime (always on a Monday of course) in order to get that dream body you’ve always wanted? When you decide to hit the gym, what are your fitness goals? More than likely it will be to lose weight and transform your body, am I right?
Since a very young age, probably around 14 years old, I have been a yo-yo dieter, always starting fad diets and extreme fitness regimes that my body and mind just can’t keep up with.
I’ve tried everything, from low-calorie diets, low-fat diets, slim fast diets, weight watchers and even tried my hand at a vegan diet. All paired with high-intensity cardio workouts 4-5 times a week, or pilates 6 days a week or just hitting the gym and using every cardio machine available.
None of these methods had any long-term outcome and always had some sort of negative effect on my mental health.
Working out to lose weight is NOT the answer
Every time I’ve turned to exercise, it’s always been to burn calories and lose pounds. My only indicator as to whether I was doing things right, was the numbers on either the scales or the tape measure. If I hadn’t lost anything that week, my diet would be restricted and my workouts would go up.
I’d constantly be suffering from an injury, I’d have no free time to just enjoy hobbies because I was working out all the time and I was constantly beating myself up for not achieving a certain number, never once thinking about what it was doing to me mentally.
Be flexible with your goals
When you are setting yourself such strict goals, you are creating an internal war, always arguing with yourself, always being too hard on yourself when you don’t reach your fitness goals and usually, this will send you into extremely dangerous habits.
I used to restrict myself to 1200 calories every day and made sure I ran for at least 30 minutes every other day. This combination may have worked with my weight loss, but my mental health suffered for it. Even if I didn’t notice it at the time.
When I didn’t reach my weight loss goal I would knock my calories down even further and only eat 900 calories a day. I would make sure I was active at all times to burn off the calories I did eat and even though I thought I was just dieting, looking back I can see that this was a form of eating disorder.
How to create healthy fitness goals that work for your body and mind
Fast-forward over the last 3 years and a few mental breakdowns later and here I am. I still suffer from depression and anxiety, but I’m now looking into how fitness can help me control these issues. I’m educating myself about what effect exercise has on the mind and why it works and this approach has led me to create fitness goals that I can enjoy working towards, that benefit my body and my mind and that I can actually enjoy as a hobby. How did I reach this point? Well, I have to tip my hat to the unbelievably supportive Girl Gains community, but also these little changes to my outlook on fitness goals and exercise.
How have I changed my view on working out?
- I now workout to lift my mood and increase my serotonin – I no longer hit the gym with the idea of sweating out all the fat and burning all the calories I’ve eaten.
- I use a workout as a form of meditation – Focusing purely on my workout in that specific moment is the ultimate form of meditation, as it takes my mind off anything I may be stressing over.
- I exercise to burn off excess or nervous energy – If I’ve had a bad day, an exciting day or if I’m upset about something, I always have way too much energy and can never sleep properly as a consequence. Working out helps me to channel that energy into something that will benefit my body and keep me sane!
- I use my new found love of fitness to meet amazing people – Not only through gym classes but also through the fitness community in Manchester, whether it’s attending events or meetups, I’ve met so many amazing people through fitness so far.
- I mix up the types of workouts that I do – I no longer just run for miles on the treadmill, I change up the types of exercises I do, from weights to yoga, HIITs to swimming. Mixing things up helps me to stay excited about my gym time.
- I shift my focus on what my body can do, rather than how it looks – This is obviously easier said than done and it has taken me years to be able to get to this point. Don’t get me wrong, I still have days where I’m hard on myself for how my body looks and those negative thoughts start to creep in, but I’m a lot better at challenging those thoughts and shifting my perspective during those times.
Changing your mindset could change your body
Changing the way you think about your fitness goals and how you view success when it comes to fitness is not an easy task. It has taken me a long time and a lot of research and experimentation in order to get myself onto a much healthier road. The key to altering the way your mind works, how it thinks and how it reacts to situations, is through consistency. Just practising a few mindfulness techniques once a week isn’t going to change you and it’s only by working hard and staying focused that you’ll start to notice a shift in mindset.
Want to chat about how you can start to alter the way you think about fitness? I’m always open to questions, even though I’m not an expert or a trained professional, sometimes it can help to just chat, so feel free to get in touch!