Journey to Your Fittest Future Self
What would you say is the biggest setback women meet on their journey to a healthy lifestyle?
Ourselves. We tend to be our own worst enemies. We use belittling and shaming self-talk. We compare ourselves to others versus thriving in our own lane. We buy into a perfectionist mindset. We try to do everything, which too often leaves us burned out, depressed, and frustrated.
I always tell my clients, “A yes to someone else’s priority is a no to yours.” We can all do anything but not everything. You can’t pour from an empty cup. No one wins if you push yourself to the brink of what a human can physically and emotionally withstand.
Stop trying to be perfect. Perfectionism sets you up for failure; it is an unrealistic ask — “perfect” doesn’t exist. It is holding yourself to impossible standards.
Replace “perfectionism” with “healthy striving.” Hold yourself to high but realistic standards. Be willing to work at building the skills you need to succeed. You probably don’t currently excel at running, or maybe you have terrible form when squatting … so?? That data doesn’t show you are doomed for health failure. It just proves you have not yet built those skills.
Who isn’t mediocre at most things when they start? Give yourself the time to be mediocre and to learn and to grow. Start as a neophyte. Don’t compare yourself to the greats. Compare yourself to where you were yesterday.
Decide what matters to you — what choices will make you feel you are living with integrity — and then stick to your guns no matter what others think. Live life in a way that makes sense for you and your family. Say no to what doesn’t work for you.
Understanding that we are all different and that we need to create a unique plan for ourselves, where does one start?
I would say you start with building awareness. Work to understand yourself.
The problem is that you can’t create new, healthier habits until you are aware of your current habits.
You can’t decide to stop mindlessly eating a full dinner while cooking or swiping 500 calories of almonds off of a co-worker’s desk until you know you are a “grazer” or a “swiper.” You can’t intentionally choose to spend your time more productively or talk to yourself with more kindness until you know how you currently talk to yourself and spend your time.
Build your “awareness muscle.” For two weeks, journal how you spend your time, your food and exercise, and your negative thought loops.
Also, consider “interviewing yourself.” Ask questions like, “What are my financial realities? How much can I spend on my health?” “What are my past injuries?” “What is my version of fit?” “How can I ensure I don’t reinjure myself?” “How much time do I realistically have to commit to movement?” “What is my exercise personality — should I work out at home or the gym, or do I thrive on competition?”
Use the “data” from the journals and interview to create realistic goals and a tailored action plan.
What is the most important tool for a woman beginning her fitness journey?
I think it is a tie between the ability to “course correct quickly” and having a “growth mindset.”
No health plan ever goes as planned. You will fall off your health horse; wobbles are an inherent part of life. We are all human. You will miss a few workouts or eat a few too many cookies. The trick is not to shame spiral when you do: Don’t let two cookies turn into five. Course correct quickly — get back on your health horse today, not next week.
When you do fall, embrace a growth mindset. All experiences are simply data. Analyze why you fell. Did you eat out of sadness? Next time, phone a friend. Did you “TV eat” from boredom? Consider knitting to keep your hands busy. Did you binge at 11 p.m.? Don’t bring junk food into the house.
Replace the unrealistic goal of “never falling” with “fall less often and less intensely — get up faster, armed with new information.”
I talk about the concept of the “NUTRITIONmix.” What are the foundations of a healthy “NUTRITIONmix”?
Those foundations are awareness and consistently following through on the basics. Most of us underestimate our unhealthy habits and overestimate our healthy habits. And too many of us buy into the fallacy that an eating program has to be “new” and “exciting” to be worthwhile.
When it comes to nutrition, most people don’t need complexity; they need to follow the basics consistently. Eat real, nutritionally dense food. Eat when you’re hungry; stop when you’re full (or before you are full). And eat mindfully.
Embrace that hydration is key and that liquids “count”: calories count, even in liquid form. Pay attention to what you drink, not just what you eat. Focus on portions and planning.One cookie is not the same as five cookies. Always have a plan — prep healthy food, plan what you will eat at parties, and have an advanced “attack” in social situations.
What is the one thing women don’t get enough of on their journey to being their fittest future self?
Joy. Fun. Self-acceptance. Too often, working out and eating well become another “should” — another obligation. We force ourselves through workouts we hate, restrict our food consumption until we feel unsatisfied and deprived, and tie ourselves in knots trying to become an unrealistic version of ourselves.
Is it any wonder we “cheat” on our diets and skip workouts?
Long term, no one can make themselves consistently do workouts they hate or survive on a calorically and nutritionally deficient diet. Find health solutions that you enjoy — or at least you don’t despise.
Form goals that are relevant and important to you. Find your “why.” I strength train so I can run injury free for life. My dad stays fit so he can play hockey. Do you. Be you. Comparison is the thief of joy. Thrive in your own lane.
Kathleen Trotter is a fitness expert, personal trainer, media personality, life coach, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, and author of Finding Your Fit and Your Fittest Future Self (www.kathleentrotter.com).