I remember as a young child in grade school thinking to myself, “I wonder if I can get my stomach stapled.” If you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s a procedure where they essentially make your stomach smaller so you get fuller faster. But as a child, all I knew was that larger people got the surgery to lose weight. I look back on that now in disbelief that a young girl, no older than 11 years old, would think she needed to have her stomach stapled. It is crazy how it doesn’t matter how old you are, there are still ways for girls, boys, men, women to get all these ideas in their heads that their bodies aren’t good enough. And this can come from many influences, but from my perspective, it all comes down to accepted societal norms. But I digress; that is a topic for another time.
Needless to say, I was very aware that I was a chunky kid. I was picked on and called names. To try to lose weight, I went on the Atkins diet when I was 11 years old… 11 years old! In my opinion, an 11 year old should not be on a “diet.” I lost some weight, but I wasn’t actually focused on my health (physical or mental), so I of course gained it all back. My weight has been one huge roller-coaster ride my whole life. As I entered my adult life, I would fluctuate anywhere between 150-187 lbs at my highest.
But I’m proud to say that things are different now. There were three main things that made all the difference in my journey with health and fitness. First – Nutrition. Over the past 4 years I have learned a lot about nutrition and what foods are good for me. I have also been blessed with access to a personal chef who provides me with healthy meals on a weekly basis, making my health, from a food standpoint, much easier and convenient. Second – Dance and exercise. Over the past year, I’ve started lifting at the gym with a trainer. Ladies, if you’re reading this thinking, you shouldn’t lift because you’re a woman, you can toss that idea right out the window! Weight training has helped make me so much stronger. And of course, we can’t forget about dance. Through dance, I found myself. With that, I started to view myself differently. I became more confident. Moreover, dance has been my consistent physical activity that kept my body moving since high school. But even while dancing, I still experienced major weight fluctuation during college.
So here is the third and missing piece of the equation: personal development. In 2014, I was exposed to it for the first time. I had no idea what it was at the time. If you’re not familiar with it, basically it’s the concept of bettering yourself in any and every aspect of life. So when I first heard about it, I was confused. I was like “I’m a pretty well rounded individual. What do I need to improve on?” Boy was I in for a rude awakening. I was thinking on such a one-dimensional level. But as it was so eloquently put in Shrek, we are onions with many layers. I started to peel those layers back and realize, holy crap, I had so many raw and untapped parts of me. Over the past three years, I’ve learned so much about myself and how I am inclined to act in different situations and have started to challenge my beliefs about myself and how the world works.
Now you may be thinking, Susie, what the heck are you talking about? What does this have to do with health and fitness. I’m here to tell you, mindset has EVERYTHING to do with it! How we view the world, including ourselves, drives our actions. Through personal development, I realized that I had this belief that I am fat. If you have a voice in your head consistently reminding you that you’re a fat person and that is a part of your identity, you would imagine that it would be hard to eat healthy and lose weight. Why would you? You’ve always been fat and that’s who you are. As much as I tried to go on diets, I would still gain weight. I needed to shift my mindset and change my belief. I started telling myself, “I am healthy and beautiful.” Then I started believing it. And that’s when the magic happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still on my fitness journey, and there are days when I have just a little too much ice cream. But I know that my identity is a healthy, strong, beautiful and confident friend, sister, daughter, instructor and woman. Instead of subconsciously putting myself down and (in effect) calling myself fat, I now speak encouraging words to myself on a daily basis.
I share this with you in hopes of providing encouragement. I get it; I’ve been there. Not liking my body and wishing that I looked different. So how do we change our mindsets about health and fitness? First we need to start asking ourselves, why? Question your beliefs. If your girlfriend says “hey, let’s try rock climbing,” and your response is that rock climbing isn’t for you, ask yourself why. What proof do you have that it’s not for you. We have to start getting to the bottom of why we stop ourselves from trying new things. We need to stop putting ourselves into limiting categories. We can be whoever we want to be! But we need to fully believe it. We need to be our own cheerleaders instead of putting ourselves down before we even get out on that rock climbing wall. Get on that wall! And if you fall and think that rock climbing still isn’t for you, why? What proof do you have? Cause you fell on your first try? Pfft! You think a professional rock climber never fell before? Don’t let a fear of failure stop you from trying new things. I’ll say it again: YOU CAN BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE. So who wants to go rock climbing?