How to end the cycle of guilt and love your body


Do you wrestle with guilt over eating healthier and exercising more?

You decide “Today is the day! I’m going to eat healthy all day and stay away from all the junk. I’m going to make it to the gym (today and 5 more days this week). Today is the day I’m going to do it all right.” Then the day drags by, temptations come your way, you get busy, you give in once, twice. Then you scrap it all and decide tomorrow is another day. “I’ll start again tomorrow!” There are some days you “do really well”, it lasts a while but then you fall back into the slump again. Then you are frustrated with yourself. You feel like you should be able to do this. Why can’t you? Why can’t you conquer this? What’s wrong with you?

This has been the opening conversation of many, many of my coaching sessions. Beautiful, wonderful, talented, successful women (and men) sharing their frustration and emotion around this daily challenge. They believe they lack discipline, will-power and self-control. They’re upset, ashamed, frustrated.

They are not alone.

Fortunately, the cycle of frustration can end!

Most of the power to overcome this cycle lies in our own thinking.  Here area few common barriers and solutions to break through those barriers!

Barrier:   We try to do too much. We’ve heard we are supposed to exercise at least 5 days a week. We know that a perfect diet means NO junk. So we try to do it ALL- and do it perfectly. Well, according to someone else’s standard of perfect. Then when we can’t, we feel shame and disappointment.

Solution: Take a realistic look at where you are today, and make one tiny step in the next week. Maybe it is adding one day of exercise, maybe it’s a 20 minute walk, maybe it’s adding one vegetable to a meal. Add one SPECIFIC goal and ask yourself, “How confident am I that I can do this for the next week?” If your confidence is an 8/10 or above (10= extremely confident and 1 = not gonna happen) then you have a good goal. If it’s not, revise it.

Many people wonder if starting so small is really going to do any good. I simply reply, “Is it more than you are doing today?” The answer is always “Yes” and a huge relief falls over them as they realize it doesn’t have to be so BIG. Take small bites, set small goals and then watch them add up to big results.

If you only change one habit a month, at the end of the year you have 12 new healthy habits!

Barrier: We aren’t clear about why we are doing this. Why eat better? Why exercise? Why bother? Many times, the motivation is coming from an outside or “extrinsic” factor. It could be a spouse or doctor insisting or encouraging, or it could be your own guilt, shame and frustration about the way you look or feel physically or emotionally. Either way, these aren’t the ingredients successful change is made from.

Solution: The most motivating reason to do something is simply because you enjoy it. It comes from within. What healthy foods do you enjoy? What physical activities do you enjoy? Can you see yourself doing a physical activity because you just truly love it?   You lose yourself in the moment while you are doing it? You may not feel this way now, but it has happened for many, many people. The difference is that they shift their focus from the original reason for doing it. It’s no longer the punishment they have to go through to lose weight. It’s the part of their day where they get to let go of everything, focus on themselves and feel incredibly satisfied with getting a glimpse of the strength that lies within them. I’ve heard a ton of people tell me, “I don’t think I will ever love exercise.”   I don’t think the answer is loving the exercise. I think the answer is loving who you are when you exercise. Or loving who you are when you feed your body nourishing foods.

Barrier: We think we have to be good at it (today). “I just don’t know how to cook.” “I’m not very athletic.” “I’m not taking a Zumba class, have you seem me dance??” We get hung up in how we look while we are doing it, or how easy it comes to us. This alone can stop us in our tracks because we feel vulnerable. One of our most basic needs is to feel competent, but when we take on something new it is impossible to feel competent day one.

Solution: Focus on getting better, not being good. When you focus on getting better, you focus on growth. What can I learn from this? How can I grow from this? How do I get better at this? A growth mindset predicts greater success and allows for freedom, fun and creativity. If we believe that our abilities are fixed and we have to be good at something to be successful, three things happen. 1- We are constantly judging ourselves and our abilities. 2- We feel bad about ourselves if we decide we “aren’t good”. 3- We miss out on the opportunity to grow.

If we can switch to progress thinking, we will be better off. Am I getting better? If the answer is YES, that is all you can ask for. Progress.

So rather than living with a cycle of guilt, re-evaluate the way you are thinking. You might find the freedom and SUCCESS you are looking for in a new mindset.

Karen Hansen