This is a guest blog by Sharon Blecker, a member of the CA community!
Many of us know how to get back on track when we start to fall short of our performance, aesthetic, or health goals. We tend to pull the same levers each time: Hit the gym harder; meal prep more consistently, and avoid certain foods more strictly. For most, this becomes a reactionary and cyclical process where results rarely last longer than a few months. In this article, I discuss four unexpected factors that have allowed me to sustain my body composition and performance with less effort and friction. Be forewarned: They’re not what you would expect.
Before I jump in, I think it’s appropriate to share a little about who I am and what I do. Professionally, I am a change architect. I specialize in implementing lasting change for organizations. Implementing lasting change tends to follow a more or less consistent process. You identify the desired outcome and tactfully mitigate the impacts on yourself and others as you navigate what we call “the valley of despair.”
Last July, I moved to Canada and Costa Rica with the intent of living a more authentic life. Secluded from almost every aspect of modern life, I finally had the freedom and space to listen to my mind, body, and soul without external influences. As time went on, I noticed how my body reacted to certain foods and how easy it was to avoid what didn’t make me feel great.
Now I’m not recommending everyone quit their job and travel the world to accomplish their nutritional or physical aspirations. But through my journey, I stumbled upon four unexpected factors that enabled me to transform my well-being and overall life long-term.
- Identify your core values.
Values serve as our compass through every situation, decision, challenge, etc. Despite their importance, many of us go through life with a loose understanding of our core values. After a few days of journaling and reflection, I identified my top three core values last year. One is to prioritize my well-being and growth above all else. By focusing on this, I’ve learned to pause before consuming something and internally reflect on whether it aligns with my value or not. On the rare occasion that I choose to deviate from this value, I do so with intent and without judgment.
- Be authentically and unapologetically yourself.
After I identified my values, I needed to find a way to ensure I was positioning myself to stick to them regardless of where life took me. To me, that meant I had to learn to stop compromising my values for others’ comfort. That’s a big ask of someone who is naturally nurturing, emotional, and empathetic. But I practiced, and oddly enough, people started to thank me for my honesty. It was almost as if I gave them permission to be unapologetically themselves through my actions. Talk about an unexpected gift!
- Practice awareness and listening.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say something along the lines of “Well, isn’t it normal to feel bad when you eat XYZ?” No, it is not normal to feel bloated, in pain, or gassy after eating or drinking something. That is your body trying to tell you to stop. But our culture consistently drives this message of instant gratification. Eat what you want. Eat as much as you want. And if you feel like crap afterward, there's a pill to silence that.
When we are aware and listening to what our bodies are telling us, we’re able to cut through a lifetime of programming and begin to thrive. We start to connect and fall in love with these remarkable “meat suits” that protect us, serve us, and do their best to make us feel great every day.
- Take full ownership of your decisions and environment.
The environment you put yourself in has a massive impact on your ability to act in accordance with your values and who you want to be. Think about that for a moment. How many times do you catch yourself consuming something you typically wouldn’t because you’re with a friend or loved one? How many times have you left a restaurant feeling stuffed or uncomfortable? What if you allowed yourself to enjoy these moments while still sticking to your nutritional needs? We often think it would be too much of an inconvenience, or simply not fun, to stick to our dietary restrictions. Will my friends think I'm boring if I'm not drinking? To be honest, the answer is probably “yes!” But over time they'll adapt and learn to respect you and your decisions. And you may find that you eventually inspire some of them to make changes for themselves.
Take ownership of establishing a routine that sets you up for success. I had to admit that I don't enjoy meal prepping or cooking regularly. I want my meals to be quick, easy, delicious, and ready to go whenever I'm hungry. Yes, I am a bit of a diva. But being honest with myself allowed me to find a solution via a company called Balanced Bites. They deliver clean, chef-made meals to my house every Wednesday for less than what I typically spend at the grocery store.
Through this journey, I gained more confidence and faith in myself than ever before. I don't count my macros or obsess over my training, and yet somehow, I'm in the best shape of my life; my body performs beautifully, and I'm sublimely happy.
If nothing else, I hope my story helps others explore these four areas for themselves. And who knows, maybe some of you will experience long-lasting change as well!