Last November, I resolved to finally get myself into great shape. I have always been a runner and naturally athletic. But my lifestyle had pulled me far away from this reality. I was overindulging (not a hard thing to do in New York) in rich restaurant foods and alcohol. The gift was I had what I believed to be a thriving social life, the curse was packing on pounds and feeling suboptimal much of the time.
So, I chose to combine intermittent fasting with my workout routine.
Here’s the thing: Every single one of us has set a goal like this in some area of our lives. And so many of us don’t achieve it. I’m going to share three important lessons I learned that will help you on your journey towards wellness and personal power.
1. The Problem Is Never What You Think It Is—Look Harder
As a trained coach, I’ve learned that most people’s struggles, including my own, have layers. We go to a friend for advice or a coach to process, only to find out it’s not about our partner not doing the dishes, our friend being late all the time, or not getting the promotion when we thought we deserved it. It’s about something much deeper and more fundamental. It’s about respect or boundaries or being enough or feeling valued and seen. We’re all a bunch of onions.
So when it comes to our health, eating habits, and fitness, our layers show up here too. My story has always been one of overindulgence. I’m a 7 on the enneagram—our dark side is gluttony. It shows up everywhere. Oh, and we like to reframe it as a good thing. We’re tricky that way.
With my health, it’s shown up as overeating. In my twenties, I felt I didn’t have the control to be any different. I marveled at (and cursed) the people who followed through on their diets and lost weight. Or who always went to the gym. I feared I could never become one of those militant exercisers/eaters. I told myself I just liked food too much and I was too busy for a regular exercise routine.
But the topic was not the topic. Succumbing to impulses and calling it my zest for life has been the easy way to live. The truth was, food had become a friend and an impulse. It was there for me when I was stressed, excited, sad, anxious, bored, tired, worried, scared, or procrastinating. Food was more comfort than it was sustenance. But that comfort was fleeting, which meant I could easily overdo it.
The topic was not that I couldn’t improve my eating habits, it was my relationship to food. And, it was a need to create healthier, lasting ways to give myself comfort.
Awareness is the first step to making a change. Once I knew, I couldn’t pretend. It’s like taking the red pill in the matrix. In this fasting process, I found many other ways to comfort myself and maintain awareness of my eating. It doesn’t mean I never messed this up again, but it does mean I am aware when I do. And I am softer in my correction, because I have compassion for myself and the role food has played in my life.
2. It’s Okay To Mess Up—Dust Yourself Off And Get Back In The Saddle
If you fall off your horse, fall forward. Now, I wouldn’t recommend this in real life—you could be trampled. But for metaphorical purposes, it works. Often when we veer off course from our goals, we stop pursuing them. Somehow our minds get made up that a mistake or two means we just can’t do it. We create a belief about who we are. But what if instead of beating yourself up about your “failure,” you looked at it as a place to observe and move forward?
Limiting beliefs are like quicksand—we take one step onto what looks like solid ground and suddenly we’re sinking. Many times, we don’t even realize we’re going down until we’re just about to suffocate. Catch yourself in the false beliefs you make up, be kind to yourself, and get back in the saddle.
When you’re on the ground dusting yourself off, here’s a fun rule to keep you both compassionate and accountable: Only mess up once. I used this when I hit my first roadblocks while fasting. I wanted to eat later than 7 p.m. and that would ruin my hours. I’ve had multiple mess ups in the last year, but I come back to center by reminding myself I can only mess up once. We must allow ourselves to be imperfect humans while holding ourselves to higher standards than before. This is how we build personal power.
You’re probably wondering if that’s once a day/week/month. That’s up to you. You know in your heart what it feels like to be committed to what you want. Choose what makes you feel truly committed and roll with that.
3. Your Desire To Change Has To Outweigh Your Fear Of Change
We can apply this to anything in life when it comes to the reasons we don’t change. We’re incredibly complex beings. Looking back on when I knew I needed to change and didn’t do it, I was afraid. Afraid to look, afraid of a new me, afraid of a new standard for myself. I was afraid of how that would impact the people I loved. Afraid of how I’d fully accept myself and hoping my people would still accept me. Can you feel how scary all of that is?
Letting fear control you is like paying to stand in wet concrete until it dries.
Once I got really into fasting, I started seeing my experience of food differently. I saw how much food my body really needed, what my body responded well to, and what it really craved. I smiled at how simple it all was and reeled at how long I’d let myself go down a road I didn’t want. Our behaviors create change in either an upward or downward spiral.
The experience was and continues to be seriously healing. Fasting drove forward my desire to become more fit than I’ve ever been in my life, more spiritually connected, more ambitious, more grateful, and more content. All the things I want in my upward spiral! What’s happened as a result is my old downward spiral behaviors are not needed anymore.
My transition has had many moments of discomfort too. Like the phrase “you can’t go home again,” it’s beautiful and sad. I know I don’t want to go “home,” but sometimes I miss the comfort, the way things were.
As we continue to undo what hasn’t been working and step into this new version ourselves, we also impact those around us who weren’t expecting (or sometimes wanting) us to change. I’m still going through changes in my relationships and adjusting. I had to leave some behind (with as much love as I could), I had to change some to make them work better for my boundaries, and I continue to watch so many beautiful relationships flourish.
None of this would have happened if I hadn’t gotten so sick of the direction I was headed in, that I HAD to veer to a new one. My desire to change far outweighed my fear of it. And thank god it did! Applying these things can be positively pervasive.
Once you’ve tried this in one area of your life, you’ll see the possibilities in others.
Remember, change is simple, but it’s far from easy. I still struggle with my fasting sometimes, and sometimes I don’t feel like running. There are areas of my like I can’t wait to fully muster up the courage to apply what I’ve written in this very article. But every day, I make small moves towards what we desire. The truly fulfilling thing is watching yourself put in the effort and feel stronger than you did, building your personal power and bravery. The outcome, whatever it may be, is just the cherry on top.