The health & fitness world is an industry in which social media has people believing everybody within it, lives like a saint. Well I can tell you after the Easter weekend that is definitely not true in the real world. I certainly over-indulged on chocolate, and pretty much everybody I have spoken to did the same in some capacity. But, have I beaten myself up about it this week? Well years ago, I might have done just that.
Easter is a bit of an extreme example of the point I am discussing, so let’s take it back to the average weekend. You have done great all week with nutrition and exercise, stuck to the plan and eaten healthy. Then the weekend comes, you have a few drinks and order a couple of takeaways. Here’s a few things I have heard when speaking to clients on a Monday:
“I’ve had an awful weekend; I need you to beast me as punishment”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I ruin all my progress every weekend”
“I’m a waste of time, I’m never going to lose weight”
“I can’t make the session today, not feeling well” (Usually because they already feel defeated, not because they’re not feeling well)
The Real Problem is not alcohol or takeaways, it’s attitude!
Firstly, I am never going to push anybody beyond their capabilities, just because they’ve eaten a few extra calories. Where will that leave them, feeling like crap and can’t exercise for a couple of days – this completely defeats the object of what we are trying to do! I really don’t buy into the whole “PT’s & coaches need to shout at clients and destroy their bodies every session” attitude, we are a little more methodical than that.
All of the quotes above aren’t one-offs, I hear them too often, mainly from clients that are fairly new to us. There’s something very British about each quote, most of us naturally go straight into a self-loathing, glass half empty attitude when things don’t go as planned. I’m guilty of it too sometimes, like I said it just feels very British to put ourselves down.
On the surface, you might think this attitude is what’s needed. If you do something that negates your progress, you need to punish yourself for going off-track, right?! Well no, not in my eyes.
Self-reflection, not self-criticism
The danger of putting all this pressure on staying on track, and criticising yourself will only do 2 things:
1. Make the healthy lifestyle you are striving for feel like more of a chore
2. Lower your confidence and feeling of self-worth
We will naturally compare ourselves to others and seeing the ‘highlights’ of a fitness models life on Instagram will always make us think we need to cut out booze, chocolate, and fun all together. I know some of these supposed fitness models and I will tell you now, most of them are drinking at weekends, having fun and not taking themselves too seriously. The ones that aren’t, well I don’t know them and I’m not sure I want to!
The frequency in which you have these weekend blow-outs does come into it. Because if it’s just every now and then, bloody hell just enjoy it! You don’t get lean in a couple of days, so you’re not going to get fat in a couple of days either, relax. But if it’s most weekends you end up going too far and feeling like you’re back to square one, then this is where your attitude comes into play.
Self-deprecation in this circumstance can be so detrimental to you progressing and becoming more consistent. That is not the way to deal with anything, let’s put this method into another situation to understand why…
Your son/daughter has started playing football. They really enjoy it and it’s getting them fit, confident and meeting new friends. However, they aren’t very good and are struggling to improve.
You are on the sideline watching and every time they make a mistake you shout at them and tell them they’re useless. The only outcome is going to be they lose confidence, don’t enjoy it, and eventually end up quitting.
This is exactly what we tend to do with ourselves when it comes to sticking to a healthy lifestyle. If we wouldn’t treat other people like that, then why do we do it to ourselves? It ends up becoming a burden, we lose confidence, motivation, and we feel like we can’t stick to it so we just give up all together.
So how would we treat the football situation? We would need to keep encouraging them, telling them people make mistakes all the time, learning from them is the only way to improve. The fact that they are enjoying it is enough reason to continue playing alone.
To learn from the mistakes they are making on the pitch (or that we are making at the weekends), we need to step back and reflect on what exactly is going wrong. Home in on the main issues and think about how to improve them. He/she may need to improve their shooting, so we put a little time and effort into understanding the best way to improve that and dedicate ourselves to practicing. It may mean we have to sacrifice an extra couple of hours a week to this, but it’s a damn sight better than the alternative; losing confidence, self-worth, and giving it up all together.
The exact same applies to our nutrition and training. There are going to be bumps in the road, and times where we binge and go off-track a little. We are human, we can’t stop living our lives. Get out there and have a drink with friends, go to dinner with family, order a takeaway sometimes. But for god’s sake, please do not ever put yourself down for doing this. Roll with it, tomorrow is a new day.
If it starts becoming a little too regular and is detrimental to your progress, that’s when you step back and reflect on why you are doing it, and how you can improve. Make a plan for how to improve and try your best to stick to it.
You are human, progress is not linear. You don’t deserve the criticism you give yourself.
Remember: Self-reflect, don’t self-deprecate. You’re worth more than that.