I’m kind of stating the obvious here by saying that these are trying times for many of us; things are going a little crazy out there, and there is contradictory, confusing and confronting information being spilled out of every media outlet in sight.
As much as I love to express my opinion on global issues, I like to stay in my lane when it comes to expressing them publicly unless they are directly related to something I know well, and practice often. Given the fact that I am in the health and wellness sphere, I will focus my attention on supporting you all in finding positivity, within crisis, as that is something I am particularly skilled at!
Finding silver linings to seemingly negative and hopeless situations is one of my favourite things to do, and something I have done hundreds (if not thousands) of times throughout my life whilst dealing with depression and anxiety growing up. It is really all about attitude, resilience, and where you choose to direct your attention.
When facing stress, or feeling blue, you need to do two things; the first is to change your state, meaning, you need to snap your body out of whatever funky energy it is ‘sitting’ in. The second is to find a silver lining, something that brings positive opportunity to a negative situation, so you can move forward.
So in the spirit of contributing something to this weird and stressful time, I’ve compiled a few of my favourite ways to uncover that silver lining, change your perspective, and your physical state, so you can continue on thriving in times of stress.
Perspective shifts are all about flipping a negative into a positive, moving from self-defeating mindset to a constructive one. It’s not an easy task, and sometimes you need to keep yourself accountable and snap out of victim mode in order to make it happen. It all depends on how ‘stuck’ you are.
STEP 1: Write down a list of all the benefits to your situation
You probably rolled your eyes when you read that. What positives!? In order to do this, you need to dig deep, as when you’re not in a good place these things don’t just jump to the surface. If you lost your job, did you actually like it? If you have no money, were you out of control with your spending? If you just went through a breakup, was that relationship really serving your highest good? Think outside the box a little and answer with honesty.
STEP 2: Write down a plan as to how you will make the most of the situation
A plan is where you take that benefitfrom the stressful situation that you uncovered in the previous point, and write down actionable steps to make something happen. This may be something like;
- The problem might be; I lost my job, but I didn’t like it anyways. The actionable step might be; reflect on what I would actually want to do. Apply for jobs in a more desirable field. Seek out further education to bridge the gap between what I can do, and what I want to do.
- The problem might be; I have no money, but I was overspending before. The actionable step might be; Make a budget; what can you afford, what do you need in your life, and what can go? When you do have money again, how are you going to hold onto it? What better way to reel in your spending when you actually have no money to spend anyways?
There is always a silver lining, you just need to look for it. Resilience comes along with stronger foundations after every ‘fall’, as when approached constructively, you climb out stronger than before.
STEP 3: Write down everything you have, that you are grateful for
Write a list and stick it on your fridge if you have to. When the coronavirus shutdown first occurred, I was pretty angry as gyms closed so now I am working from home, my income down, my business in limbo and to be honest I was feeling pretty apathetic for a day or two. Then a quote popped up in my feed, which I reposted, that put things way back into perspective;
“Ok, but honestly, how privileged are so many of us that during a global pandemic, we can just stay warm at home, reading, working, still being educated, creating, talking to our loved ones, with little worries and a fridge stocked with food?”
I have no idea who wrote the quote but what a reality check for us westerners who are complaining about lack of toilet paper and (these next two were me) closed gyms and the fact that it took me three hours and 4 grocery shops to find and purchase meat to fit my specific macro requirements??
Reality check. There is always something to be grateful for.
CHANGING YOUR PHYSICAL STATE
Sometimes, this one needs to come before the first if you can’t seem to get past your negative thinking cycle, or victimhood. We’ve all been there, where we have a problem and are not even slightly open to solutions to those problems, whether being offered by friends, family, coworkers, psychologists, etc.
When you’re stuck, you need to do something to change your state before you go ahead trying to be grateful. And fun fact, you probably won’t want to change your state, because you don’t feel like it. Oftentimes, in order to surpass out limited selves, we have to do things we don’t feel like doing. So to change your state, here are some of my favourite suggestions;
Create a go-to playlist, with all those songs that light you up
I mean lights you up, from the inside. You know those songs you hear that bring you such joy and make you just want to dance around like a crazy person? I have a playlist of those; it’s called ‘Wake-up/Inspirational’. I put it on when I feel crappy and eventually, you get back to feeling good
Get out into nature
Nature changes your state, something to do with the negative ions and the sounds it makes. Whether your jam is the beach, rainforest, up on a hill somewhere, or the local lake, force yourself to get out there and sit still, in your fave place, until you change your state.
Express yourself through whichever means possible
Whether it be dancing around the house like a crazy person, singing at the top of your lungs, playing an instrument, drawing, reading, writing, do something that brings your soul to the surface. You don’t need to be skilled or talented at it, you just need an outlet. Having a go-to outlet is an easy way to change your state. Mine is singing, as I find it relaxing, or I have tribal music that I love to play loudly while dancing around in the lounge room. Weird, I know.
If you know how, this is a good one. Breathing, mindfulness, sound mediation, or walking meditation are all ways of changing your state and bringing about inner stillness.
Physical movement is crucial for releasing stored energy and reinvigorating your body. Whether for you this is running, walking, cycling, going to the gym, and whether or not you feel like doing it, just get it done. This will change your state.
So there you have it, I hope you find these suggestions useful! Once you change your state, you can return back to your original task of finding a silver lining to your challenging situation. There is one there, always, you just need to dig down a little deeper, and find it.
Note that I have steered away from focusing on more obvious things such as eating a healthful diet, getting plenty of sleep, avoiding the narratives of the mainstream media, though it is my belief that these things are crucial for physical and emotional resilience as well.
I have been a Personal Trainer for 17 years, and full-time for at least 10. I have always been obsessed with weight loss and body transformation. From the moment I spotted the first bit of fat on my body (around 12-13 years old), I became hooked on exercise, calorie counting, and beating myself up in the mirror.
I was naturally ‘curvy’, meaning a bit soft and not very muscular. Being this shape in the 90’s meant not fitting into fashionable clothing brands, not being able to find bras and swimmers that fit, and finding that even the sportswear that did fit, made me look ‘chunky’. That’s what I thought anyways.
There was also ZERO representation of averaged-sized women in the media. Remember, no internet in the 90’s 😉
I bought into all the teen magazine hype and observed how ‘happy’ all the skinny girls in school seemed to be, and formed the belief that being skinnier would make me happier and that I would be treated more positively if I looked ‘better’. So I went about achieving the perfect ‘fitness body’. I was willing to do anything to achieve it, regardless of my overall health. I mean, health had no mention in the fitness world anyway; it was all about how you look.
I did get pretty close to reaching my ‘perfect body’ but I did so at the expense of health. What came as a rude shock is, I still hated my body, even at 12% body fat. I just saw more flaws. I still felt like an imposter. I still felt not good enough.
Body-image issues are rooted much deeper than outer appearance, and all women need to realise this.
How much does our body image impact our lives in general?
A study conducted by Dove including 13,000 participants, found that an astounding number of women and girls allow their body image issues to determine whether or not they participate in important life activities, and how they assert themselves or express their opinion to others.
It also stated that most women of this mindset will consciously stop themselves from eating, whether or not their health is at risk. These are disturbing statistics, but I see this kind of behaviour in the women I coach on a daily basis. As you can see, I also felt this way myself.
So this means that women aren’t reaching their full potential, when they’re constantly worrying about their bodies.
Are we actually happier when we are skinnier though? No, we are not.
Who, or what, is to blame?
We could certainly blame the media, who flood us with images of beautiful, unrealistic, heavily edited bodies. But that wont help us. Research into the topic, and deeper inquiry into my own issues lead me to understand that the problem is much deeper than ‘the media’.
Generally speaking, when we feel unhappy or out of control, we tend to turn our attention to the ‘outside’ world. We try to mold ourselves to what we believe is socially acceptable. We attach our unhappiness to tangible things that we have conscious control over – more money, fancy car, a hot body, etc.
We lose sight of what’s important and believe that by changing ourselves, we will somehow become happier, or more worthy. We forget that it’s who we are that counts the most.
When we are happy with how we look, the rest of the world mirrors back to us that exact same feeling. People love you, when you love you.
Being skinny will not make you happier, but being healthy will
By reaching a healthy weight (20-25% body-fat, or even up to 30% for some women), we are definitely closer to reaching our full potential due to increased energy, health, lowered inflammation, improved sleep, and the greater overall emotional wellbeing that accompanies hormone balance.
Achieving a healthy weight also requires us to develop a healthy relationship with food, which is never a bad thing.
What can I do to start healing my relationship with my body?
Firstly, stop looking at all these perfect women and wishing you could be just like them. Unfollow anyone that triggers you to feel low self-worth. Assuming they’re the picture of health and happiness can be detrimental, as you really don’t know what these people do behind closed doors. You can’t actually know if they’re a true inspiration to you, or if they are being honest.
Switch your focus from calorie restriction and crash dieting (and beating yourself up) and focus on improving your health and vitality. Work out how many calories you need to eat for optimal health and start re-fuelling. You body composition will change all by itself if once you start nourishing it. I get all of my clients to increase calories and nourish their bodies before focusing on weight loss goals.
Start looking within. Try to remember when it all started. Was it in school, or after carrying your first child? Was it something your mother always worried about? Once you identify where it started, you have better awareness and conscious awareness is the first piece of the puzzle when it comes to healing.
For me personally, when I started attacking my body I was already experiencing some depression and anxiety. I had very low self-esteem. I kind of just decided it was my body because it looked different to other girls’ bodies, and I fixated on it. Additionally, my mum always hated her body, and complained about being ‘fat’. In a way, making my body look good was my way of proving I was high value to the world around me.
How I coach women now
I still coach body transformation, even after this journey. I love it still and love working with women to optimize their health and body composition. I see it as kind of art form, a fun project you can work on and that you can carry around with you everywhere you go.
What I have changed though, is my approach. I replaced the all-or-nothing, get-the-best-body-in-the-shortest-amount-of-time-possible approach, with one that focuses on reaching goals in a healthy way – adequate calories, no overtraining, and with a positive view of self. Almost always with my clients, some work has to be done here in the beginning stages, but the end result is that we build bodies they love and in a healthy way.
It is unfortunate that we live in a world that values appearance over health, but it is pretty inescapable, especially with the addition of social media. Rather than getting angry about, it, or feeling victimised by it, we need to find our space within it to heal and nourish ourselves, so that when we see these ‘perfect’ women, we still feel great about our amazing selves!
Being in the business game I constantly see coaches and entrepreneurs talking (or shall we say bragging) about their ‘hustle’ – how hard they work, how many hours they put in, what time they get up in the morning, etc.
Is hustling really all its cracked up to be? How does it apply to life in general?
Lets compare the two…
Hustling is a masculine energy; it’s about pushing, controlling, forcing, and working things into place. It’s about doing whatever it takes. It’s a cognitive (thought-centred) process, where you observe what others do, think about how to beat them, and strive to outwork.
Aligning is a feminine energy, where you lay goals out, and ensure they’re congruent with you personally. It’s about bringing who you are, and what you want to do together, so they can work along side each other. Sounds like the winner already, right?
I think it depends on the level of success you want to achieve in that particular activity, and the kind of person you are, but assuming we are all women here I am going to propose that you get aligned, before you hustle.
I learned this lesson the hard way, always working harder, longer, and more effectively than all of my competitors. Yes it brought me a lot of ‘success’ at the time, but it lead me down a pretty dark road to burnout, which left me back peddling in the end. So here I am making sure you don’t make this same mistake!
I learned that simply working hard wasn’t enough. I needed to bring alignment into the mix.
Alignment + Hustle = Success
Success is not just about beating the competition. It’s about liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. We can thank Maya Angelou for that quote. So before moving forwards you need to have a pretty good idea of the goal posts you’re aiming for.
If you simply want to feel happy, then alignment is literally all you need. If you want to excel however, you need to hustle once you have your aligned and your goals are in place. It’s a constant push and pull between the two energies; we align, then we hustle, and repeat this process over the long haul until our goals have been achieved.
How to apply this ‘alignment over hustle’ principle
In general nutrition/health/weight loss goals, you align by making sure you’re losing weight for the right reasons, and that you are using a method that works with your body. That is enough to get you great results. The hustle comes in when you’re partaking in a competitive sport such as bodybuilding, or wanting to lose that extra 5% in the end.
In training/exercise, you align by finding a training regimen that you enjoy, is at your experience level, and is well balanced. Working with your body, and not overstepping your physical capacity, is essential. You hustle when you want to excel, after you have laid the foundations down
In business and at work, you align by working out what you want to gain from your business, regardless of outward ‘success’ markers. You hustle once you know why you are doing what you’re doing, and where you want to end up.
In relationships, I believe alignment is really the only thing you need. If you have to hustle someone to be your partner or friend, or hustle your family to do what you want, they’re probably not your people.
Finding alignment, with yourself and your goals
Finding alignment means finding out who you are on a deeper level. Remember that finding alignment is essentially a feminine energy, and feminine energy is PASSIVE. It works better when it’s aligned first.
STEP 1: You have to get quiet. Take a break from the ‘noise’ of the outside world. Meditate, go to the beach, or sit alone in your favourite café. Tuning out the outside world is the only real way you can work out what is going on for you, on the inside.
STEP 2: Ask yourself some deeper questions; is what I’m doing making me happy? Do I have a clear goal? Am I energised, or exhausted? Do I feel supported, or isolated? Be honest with yourself here.
STEP 3: Work out what you can let go of, and what to focus your attention on. Work out how you are going to ensure you don’t get caught up in other peoples ‘hustle’, and stay aligned with yours.
If you find yourself cringing at the idea of this whole suggestion, it’s a sure-fire sign you need to do a lot of work in this area!
Without alignment, we risk losing connection with our deeper wants and needs. We risk going a million miles in the wrong direction. We risk never discovering, or losing sight of our own unique gifts and talents. We also risk burning out and having to backpedal, which in itself is extremely stressful. Been there, done that.
I got such a good response to my recent business change announcement that I thought I would start my blogging early! With the popular topic of…
NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS
Personally, I don’t set them. Not in the traditional sense anyways. I tend to opt for introducing changes to my life whenever I feel they’re needed. I used to be an avid believer/setter of new years resolutions though – from getting a summer body, quitting alcohol, junk food, or coffee, to quitting being treated like crap, etc. So I know a thing or two about why these kinds of ‘resolutions’ don’t work.
As much as we want them to, patterns and behaviours don’t go away just because we decided. They are way more complex than that.
So why don’t they work?
In short, we are highly programmable and habitual beings that act unconsciously, most of the time. We are the result of everything that we have witnessed and experienced throughout our lives up until this point. The habits and behaviours we exhibit are ingrainedin us. Yes we can choose to change, but without the right approach our mind and body just goes on with the same old pattern it is used to.
We often get insights about what we want to change. They’re like visions toward a more powerful, wholesome you. That’s all they are though. these insights are not powerful enough to make us actually change. They are there to plant the seed.
True change requires effort, persistence, self-awareness, and patience.
Lets take the ‘I will never drink alcohol again’resolution as an example;
You set the intention to change your habit of consuming alcohol. You have identified that you’re using it to calm down or numb, and you don’t want to do that anymore. You are tired of being that person who relies on a drink, and want more self-control.
1st January passes, and you succeeded! Good job.
2nd January passes, and you succeeded again! Even better 😉
3rd January passes, and maybe the 4th, 5th, 6th. Still going strong.
As you continue with it, you begin to feel a little restless. You’re not feeling great. It’s Saturday night, your friends are drinking, and you don’t want to be left out. Maybe you had a fight with a significant person in your life and you’re struggling to settle the emotional stress that lingers on afterwards.
You think, to hell with it! I love alcohol, alcohol loves me, everyone else is doing it and I’m not technically an alcoholic, so – it’s okay. You justify to yourself why this needs to be a part of your life again, instead of sticking it out for the long haul like you promised.
Once the initial drink wares off, you’re disappointed. Why cant you do anything right?
Because the alcohol, just like every other habitual behaviour or addiction has an emotional connection along with it. Whether it’s belonging, numbing, relaxing, feeling like a queen, avoiding boredom, it doesn’t matter. There is an emotionalreason behind your need for alcohol, and your body/mind will make an excuse to bring it back in.
Unless you deal with the emotion, or the reason you’re doing what you’re doing,you will constantly revert back to it, justify sabotaging it, and go back to your old ways. You’ll still feel bad about it on some level, but you’ll wait until the next significant time or date, before you decide to try again.
So the key to understand here is that your emotions drive your choices, and they are more powerful than your decision to change.
What’s the solution?
The first and most powerful way to approach a resolution is….. DRUMROLL…. to deal with the emotion head on. Given the fact that this is a confronting idea and out of my scope of practice, I’m going to suggest a method that is much more practical.
I recommend that you choose a theme, or statement for the New Year, and nut out some practical ways to approach it. So here is how that works;
STEP 1: Choose a theme
A theme is like a blanket-statement, written as a commitment to yourself. It can be as broad or specific as you like. Here are some examples;
- “I commit to finding two things that I am really good at this year”
- “I commit to taking good care of myself”
- “I commit to finding a new career path”
- “I commit to engaging in frequent physical activity”
- “I commit to educating myself about self-love and self-mastery”
- “I commit to making time for myself and learning more about who I am”
- “I commit to making new friendships with people who _________”,
- “I commit to embracing all aspects of myself without fear” (that’s my one for 2020)
Overthinking it? Simply put, your theme should be whatever floats your boat and bugs you the most about yourself.From here, you need to set some clear boundaries about how that may look. So taking the example of ‘I commit to taking good care of myself’. Here’s how it looks;
STEP 2: Write down your ‘WHY’ * This is the most important step *
If you have no reason for the goal that comes with an emotional drive, there is no reason to change. Your why should be the emotional benefit that you gain by honouring your commitment to yourself.
STEP 3: Write down all the ways in which you believe you aren’t doing this.
- I eat takeaway every night.
- I am constantly exhausted but haven’t looked further into it
- All my friends are into partying, and aren’t healthy
- I am dependent on coffee.
These are just examples, but write down literally everythingyou do, that you feel is incongruent to the statement ‘I take good care of myself’. Make sure you write down what youwant, not what you think it should look like.
STEP 4: Brainstorm the things you can introduce into your life to counteract these incongruent habits you have
- I will eat home-cooked dinners 4 nights per week
- I will see a health practitioner once per month and implement what I can in relation to my fatigue
- I will seek out new friendships with those who are interested in health and fitness
- I will limit cut my coffee consumption back by 1 shot per day.
STEP 5: Assess whether they are achievable, and come up with a game plan!
Grab your list of commitments, and ask yourself, as you go down them individually, if they feel achievable for you. If they don’t, or they feel too full on, then reduce them a little. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure. Remember if they intimidate you, they’re probably good choices. Change is nevercomfortable
You may need to enlist the support of a friend, your family, a professional, or sign-up to a group, etc. Do whatever you need to do to get the ball rolling.
So that’s it. You need to spend a little time on it, but it’s sure to get you headed in the right direction.
Why this method works;
- It’s positive, and all change requires a positive drive.
- It’s not too specific – there is room for movement and growth
- You’re likely not to fail, thus avoiding the ‘I’m useless’ trap
- You can approach it with bite-size chunks depending on your comfort and speed
- You can revisit it throughout the year, add more commitments underneath it, or change directions where needed.
Word of warning:Don’t get caught up thinking that if you don’t commit to ‘quitting’ a bad habit cold turkey that it won’t go away. Small steps towards change allow the process to occur more organically. You let go completely when you’re ready, rather than ripping off the band-aid in one go.
So, that’s it! Sorry its not an easy solution. True change is never easy!
If you found value in this, please share. It takes a couple of hours to put together good content, so the more people who get to benefit from it the better!
I saw a post on Facebook the other day questioning whether trainers should have a six-pack before offering any kind of health/fitness advice. I LOLd a little bit, but then one of my clients who is almost qualified to PT was questioning her place in the industry as she is, in her opinion, not lean and muscular enough to succeed. I hear this a lot so, it got me thinking
This is me at 76kgs, after 16 years of working in the health and fitness industry. I started gym training when I was 15 and I’m now in my 30’s. Do I look perfect? Nope, I am sitting at 29% body fat. Am I a shit trainer? No. Should I stop offering advice because I’m not a size 8, and don’t reflect the ‘typical’ female trainer body shape of this time? Hell no
Limiting your idea of health and fitness-related knowledge to the presence/absence of a 6 pack and low body-fat is denying the existence of so many factors that affect one’s body composition. These include genetics (biggest one), life experiences, age, performance-enhancing drugs, stress levels, and the list goes on
Limiting the worth of a female trainer to the muscularity and leanness of her physique is a rejection of the many other aspects that make women beautiful/powerful: women are soft, wise, strong, intuitive, caring, etc. The more estrogen we have, the softer we are, and emotionally we absorb a lot of what happens around us. These traits, in my opinion, are essential when it comes to inspiring health and wellness amongst women.
This industry is very masculine, and it always has been. I have had to fight to embrace my femininity with it, and I see many women fighting the same battle. We aren’t all cookie-cutter body shapes as the fitness industry suggests us to be!
Your physical body reflects your triumphs but it reflects your scars too, and a little body-fat is not a bad thing when you are looking after yourself. Probably time women embrace that
I love this picture as to me it represents how much my perspective has changed, both as a trainer and as a woman in this industry. Definitely not as strong or as lean as I once was, but stronger and healthier than ever in both body and mind
These days I liken the pursuit of this ‘perfect’ female physique to playing a game of soccer, but where the goal posts keep being moved and the shape of the ball keeps changing. You can NEVER reach it, and mainly because what also doesn’t change is your lack of perspective, which leaves you unable to recognize your own personal power or beauty even when it’s staring you right in the face.
In some ways I think the fitness industry has lost it’s way a little. I think women have lost sight of what’s achievable naturally, what is healthy, and where the truth lies. As a trainer I strive to be what I wish I had at the beginning of my journey, even if it doesn’t fit within the ‘norms’ of what is happening at this present time. My experiences have shaped me and I don’t budge on my principles, no matter what anyone says. I support my clients in any direction they choose to go, be it bodybuilding, powerlifting or whatever because I love and value them, but because their health is the top priority they are able to achieve more than I ever did
It’s important to remember that no matter who you are, you don’t have to be the hottest, skinniest, fittest, or strongest girl out in order to own your space in this world; you just have to be happy with yourself. Eat well because you love you body, lift weights because you love your body, but own your individual journey and remember it’s a different journey to everyone else’s