October = Everything Pumpkin Spiced.
November = Thanksgiving. (And I’m pretty sure everything pumpkin spiced, still.)
December = Do I really even have to say it? Holiday baking, cookies, dinners, parties….
Tis’ the season for scarves and sweaters, dark snowy nights, large wine-filled glasses, homemade treats, cuddling by the fire, chestnuts roasting (do people really do that?), less exercising (because we’re all out shopping and baking), and yep–you guessed it–the season for fat gain.
It’s frustrating. You want to eat clean and stay on track through every holiday, but Pinterest shows you 308,987 ways to make cowboy cheesy chili and cornbread. Honey cornbread. Gluten free cornbread. Spicy jalapeño cornbread. Where does it end?!
How many of you fit into this category?
- Do you have a Pumpkin Recipes Pinterest board?
- Have you noticed that Octoberfest beers and deep, luscious red wines seem to make you feel even cozier and relaxed than any other time of year?
- Are you planning your Thanksgiving meal already? And will it be a healthy meal or a traditional-style-all-the-fixins’ holiday stuff and bust?
- And how many parties will you attend in December? How many holiday cookies will you eat, or maybe, try NOT to eat?
- Are you going to try and work out even harder to make up for the excess food? Or maybe you’re finding that life is really, really busy right now. How does the world expect you to work, shop, cook, bake, decorate, plan parties, attend parties, raise children, spend time with your partner, and still find time to make it to the gym and food prep for clean eating?!
Motivation is really hard to find for a lot of people right now. A few weeks ago, we asked our readers a really big question:
What’s your biggest health or fitness challenge right now?
And what do you think was one of the most popular responses? MOTIVATION. Do you agree?
It’s tiring to try to be good ALL.THE.TIME. Will power is draining. The more you use your will power, the more you’re exercising your brain. If you’re constantly exercising a muscle, doesn’t it get tired? Doesn’t it need a break? Sometimes you break down. Sometimes you just can’t do it anymore. Sometimes you just lose motivation.
If you’re lacking motivation, or you find that you sometimes struggle to keep your spirits up when it comes to diet and exercise, you’re not alone, holiday season or not! Everyone struggles with motivation at some point or another. It’s how you persist, cope, and keep pushing that will separate you from those who lose the will power….and then ditch the efforts all together.
Here’s what our strongfigure community said about their struggles with motivation:
If I have more than one-hiccup in my routine, I am in a downward spiral … uggghhhhh!
Solution: If you have a hiccup, realize you’re having a hiccup. If you wake up at 1am and find yourself with a spoonful of ice cream, don’t continue to have donuts for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and Chinese take-out for dinner–all because you had one hiccup and felt so bad about yourself you continued the hiccups!! Think about this for a second. A small hiccup may cost you a couple hundred calories, right? A DAY of hiccups will cost you a couple thousand calories, correct? And a week of hiccups will cost you several tens of thousands of calories. WHY in the WORLD do you continue?
Ok, yeah, there’s a bunch of sciency stuff we can (and have) written about and how the brain tastes something and convinces the gut you need more….but let’s just stop and look at this. You’re riding your bike. You fall down. What do you do next? You get up! You don’t just lay there on the sidewalk for a week watching your scraped-up legs bleed out. You get up! You brush it off. You slap on a few bandaids and move on. You learn. You’re better next time. Why isn’t the food the same way? I know it’s hard. I’ve been there and I get it. Sometimes it may take learning how to say “No” and other times you just have to throw all the crap out of your house and start fresh. But as soon as you get back up, you’ll be one step closer to knowing how to stand up again when the bike starts to wobble.
I find I go through waves where I don’t care what I eat, I’m super tired/lazy and just don’t want to go work out.
Solution: Everyone needs a few days off from the gym to relax, regroup, recover, and get caught up on life. That’s ok! I read once that one should never go more than three days without exercise. Even in my busiest weeks when work, holidays, travel, etc. are overwhelming, I keep this thought in mind: never go more than three days. I’m motivated to get back to the gym after a few days off.
Also, listen to your body. There are days you will be tired and you won’t want to go to the gym. But are you tired because you’ve been sitting at your desk all day? Will some heart-pumping exercise boost your energy and your mood? Make you want to eat healthier later? Probably. OR is your body saying “I’m tired because it’s been 7 days without a break from the gym and I am sore and ready for a relaxing evening!” ?? Think about what your body has been through and what it truly needs.
Third, if you’ve spent a lot of your life working out–and working out pretty hard–one of the first signs of metabolic compensation is losing motivation for the gym. Ease back on the workouts, but make smart food choices. The two must go hand-in-hand. And if you’re a woman reading this, think about your monthly cycle. There’s a pretty good chance that there’s at least one week per month you’re hungrier than normal and you crave worse foods than normal. There are also weeks during the month that you’re stronger, more determined, more capable of hitting bigger lifts and not even as hungry. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Typically, two weeks before aunt flow hits, you are your strongest. And typically over the next couple of weeks, you’ll be a little less strong and craving more food. When you KNOW what you’re body is going through, you’ll also know what you need. Eat foods high in iron, buy the extra dark chocolate, hydrate yourself, and stay ahead of your food choices. Take yoga during flow’s visit or ease off the workouts a bit and try to do more things that will keep your mind off food. We’re all different and we all go through troubling weeks, but every hardship is able to be overcome.
When I’ve lived with friends, it’s fun to cook together, and you inspire each other to save money and make healthy choices. But living alone, there’s a lot of temptation to “live life” and eat out, try new places, and making the choice to stay home and make salad vs. go try that new burger place with your girlfriends is difficult.
Solution: Food prep. You’ve GOT to food prep. One of our ambassadors and a good friend of mine, lives alone and she simply makes her food plan for the week and buys ONLY what she needs. She can’t eat the treats if they aren’t in her fridge!
Also, balancing the night life with friends and dating is REALLY hard when you’re trying to eat clean, avoid alcohol, and get your gallon of H20 down every day. But the key word is balance. You can’t go out every night. You can go out one or even two nights. You can drink seltzer water alternated with a couple beers. You can go to the gym on the days you plan on going out and making sure you lift some big weight. Balance big lifts with big eats. Make sure you get that gallon of water in before you have the beer. Order the burger and skip the fries, or ditch the bun and order sweet potato fries.
Dating is doable. Keep your drinks to one glass of wine and sip slowly. Order the chicken breast and steamed veggies. Are you partying together? If you know you’re going to party a lot and you know you’re going to drink more than just a couple, find a low-cal light beer and try try try not to drink so much that you lose all inhibitions and down a whole pizza at midnight. If 90% of everything else that you do is good for you, no one said you can’t live life! Just be mindful of your decisions. You know how you’ll feel tomorrow if tonight you pound 8 heavy beers, half a pizza and an order of nachos. But you also know how you’ll feel if you get to the gym, have three beers, meet your water intake, have one slice of pizza and a side salad.
Afraid your friends will laugh? Make fun of you? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your friendships. You’re making decisions for your body, your health, your peace of mind. If your friends and dating partners won’t accept or respect that, will you give up what you stand for all for the sake of a couple parties and a few beers? Trust me, in a few years, it won’t matter and you may be filled with regrets.
Live your life but don’t trash it either. Food prep. Fill your fridge with healthy foods. Designate which nights you’ll go out and which nights you’ll stay in. Make a healthy dessert when you stay in and practice moderation when you go out. What it boils down to in the end is “how bad do you want it?”
It’s tough to maintain a workout routine and a food regime that doesn’t bore me after a month or two.
Solution: Easiest fix I’ve got: switch it up. Find an 8 or 12-week workout program and follow the program consistently and then find a new one. You can access bodybuilding.com or t-nation.com (where I’ve gotten all my favorite programs from) or you can hire someone to send you programming each week. (Contact me if you’re interested in this.) Love powerlifting? Look up Jim Wendler training programs. Bodybuilding? Christian Thibedeau or Jamie Eason. CrossFit? Invictus programming is my favorite. And these are just the first ones to pop into my mind. I even have a pinterest board of programs I pin as I see them.
The good thing about changing up your routine is that your body adapts quickly to routine. I’m not saying to hop from program to program…you should always finish each program you start. But after you finish a program, take a recovery week and then find a new one that looks different, fun, and exciting. Sometimes the best motivators for exercise is trying something new!
As for food, keep the staples in your diet that you love, but experiment with sides, garnishes, ingredients, etc. One of my favorite staples is ground turkey. Sometimes I make meatballs with it, sometimes taco salad. This week I’m going to try a meatloaf. Another favorite food is sweet potatoes. Sometimes I mash them, sometimes I dice them and make a breakfast hash. Once, I made sweet potato waffles. Do you know how many different ways you can make healthy chili? Or various soups? How many different fruits you could add to cottage cheese or how many different protein shakes you can make? Take your fave healthy foods and experiment with different ways to cook and eat them.
Another thing you can do to vary your foods is to shop by sale prices. I’m not the type to go to the store without a plan, but Erik will go without even a list and head straight to the meat section. He’ll see what meat is on sale and then figure out what will best go with these meats. Sometimes he comes home and grills chicken and veggies, and other times he comes home with a roast, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Meats, veggies, berries, fruits, nuts, seeds, avocados, sweet potatoes…shop the perimeter of your store. Buy the things you see that are on sale and get creative in the kitchen! Now you’ve got new motivation AND can have fun cooking!
So now it’s time to get motivated. How will YOU motivate yourself to get back on track?
First, figure out what motivates you. Are you motivated by your significant other? Are you motivated by the need to improve your health? Are you motivated by a role model? Or maybe you’re motivated by being a role model?
Think about that right now. What or who motivates you to want to be healthier, stronger, fitter, live longer, etc.?
Figuring out how to motivate yourself as an individual is step one in living a healthier life. Once you’re motivated, the rest becomes easy.
So let’s find that motivation.
Answer the following questions:
- Why are you reading this post?
- Who motivates you to be healthier and fitter? And why?
- For whom do you want to become fitter and healthier? Explain.
7 Tips for making it through the holidays without losing your sanity:
1. Know yourself. If you absolutely live for candy canes, don’t try to avoid them all season. Your favorite holiday treat may actually make a wonderful post-workout carb that you can eat without guild with your protein shake. And if you allow yourself a small treat each day, you’re much more likely to avoid binging on holiday foods later.
2. If you go to a party, alternate your drinks with water. If you have a glass of wine, sip it slowly and then drink a glass of water before more wine. Try to stick to two beverages if possible and drink a lot of water. Seltzer water with limes and a straw may be satisfying enough without allowing others to continuously offer you other beverages.
3. Eat a healthy meal with appropriate amounts of protein, good fats, and healthy starches (sweet potatoes or oats) before you go out. You’ll be less likely to eat the other sugary foods. And when you get to the party, scope out all the foods. Pick one or two items you really want, and save those for when you get hungry. And what if you don’t have time to fix a meal before you leave? Scope out the party food and eat as much as the “healthy” food first. Save a couple sweets for dessert. Be smart but don’t deny yourself. It’s a great time of year.
4. Are YOU hosting the parties? Get on Pinterest right this very minute and look up healthy holiday foods. (Then invite me to your party please!) 😉 What about Thanksgiving? Are you hosting? Plan gluten-free cornbread stuffings, several veggie side dishes, lessen the sugar in the sweet potatoes, avoid eating bread even if you fix it (unless you really look forward to it) and have one dessert. Turkey is healthy, veggies are healthy, fruit platters and olives, cheese trays are fantastic, and a few mashed potatoes with gravy on the side are not going to kill you. And if you’re attending a dinner? Dig into the turkey, have small servings of starches, and load up on fruits and veggies. You know what’s healthy and what isn’t. You know what you need and what you don’t. There’s no reason you can’t walk away feeling good about your choices–even when they’re limited.
5. Enjoy yourself. Every person in the fitness field is going to be writing or Instagramming about how they are eating healthy and you can too! It’s inspiring! There are people out there who don’t mind saying no to pumpkin cheesecake! But you know what? You’re allowed to have pumpkin cheesecake with your family on Thanksgiving if you really want to. You deserve to enjoy your day–Thanksgiving, Christmas, whatever it may be–without guilt or worry. I know you work hard, and no, it’s not an excuse to go overboard. You work hard because you value your life and you understand the importance of good health. You know what good health means? Being happy. Enjoying your life because you’ve made it better for yourself. If you want to enjoy yourself without restriction for a couple of days, you are allowed.
6. Exercise. Drink a lot of water. Avoid excess sodium and sugar when possible. Take long walks with friends, loved ones, your pets. Go sledding. Stay active. If you do these things, you will survive the holidays just fine. Just keep moving.
7. Find your motivation, your reason to be successful. Do you want to set an example for your children? Impress your family? Prove to yourself that YOU can make this year, this season, the best it’s ever been? Your motivation will take you further than anything else I can write here. Think about it. Why is this important to you? Why are you here? Where will you go after this?
If you’re stuck on ideas, here’s my motivation story:
People always come to mind when I think of motivation. My dad was a huge inspiration to me and I think about him every time I lift. I think about Erik and impressing him. I even think about the other women I lift with—can I motivate them if I hit this next lift? People are definitely great motivators.
But when I started working out maybe 15+ years ago, the only real motivator I had was losing weight. I was sick of being the fat girl. I remember once thinking to myself, “I’ll never get the kind of guy I want if I don’t take care of myself the way I need to.” It wasn’t in vain—I just knew I was single; I wanted to be with someone smart who took care of himself…and was nice on the eyes. I’m human. But I felt like I wasn’t taking care of myself which meant I wasn’t so nice on the eyes. I was really motivated to fix that.
By the time I got into a consistent gym routine, my motivators moved beyond “just losing weight,” though I’ll admit, that was always important for the majority of my overweight years. Once I started making friends in the gym, it was like this whole new world of people started existing for me. I not only loved the endorphins I got from my workouts—which truly kept me coming back every day—but I started making really good friends who expected to see me there. I would sign up for spin classes, tell my friends I’d meet them for a run at 5am, or plan to take a class after work with a friend. You can’t just let people down!
My motivators for a long time were the fat I wanted to lose and my new friends. And even if I could withstand the guilty feelings of letting myself down, I refused to let others down. And in the midst of training with all my new BFFs, I met Erik.
Erik introduced me to lifting weights. And what I found out—with his help—was that I was pretty gifted at picking up heavy things. And I LOVED it. I’ll never forget the first time I bench pressed with him. We were trying to find my maximum lift so that we could start a bench press program. I benched 110 pounds and Erik was shocked. He was SO impressed that I could lift that much weight having never done it before. And seeing him so impressed like that? I just wanted to see him light up every time I lifted anything. Erik believed in me from day one, and he made me believe in me. From that day on he never let me get away with thinking I wasn’t anything but the strongest girl he knew. He boosted my self-esteem which in turn helped me lift heavier and I became stronger. After many years of training together, getting stronger, and always ALWAYS fighting for a bigger lift and a stronger body, my natural competitiveness turned into my motivation.
And most recently? Strongfigure motivate me because I have a tribe of people who follow me and support me. My ambassadors and clients motivate me. They do something fitness-centered every single day and they always tweet it, Instagram it, or post it in our Facebook group page. I can always get on Facebook or Instagram in the morning and see that people all over the world are lifting weights, breaking new records, learning new skills, and are pushing the edges of strength and what it means to be strong. How can I not wake up instantly motivated to do the same?
Beyond my own life of fitness and the websites we’ve created because of it, coaching others is the BEST motivation for me. I train a woman who inspires me when she says, “I think I can use the 50 pound dumbbell for this lift.” (I did that?! I helped her become that strong?!) I find motivation when my clients swing a kettlebell for 100 reps, all because I ask them to. Just recently, April 2015 to be exact, I started coaching a lady who came to me and said, “I just need this in my life right now.” She’s a 40-something-year-old who hasn’t been physically active in a long time. I have worked with her one day a week every week since April. She can now deadlift her body weight. She can do 25 unbroken wall balls with a 12 lb ball. She can sprint, swing kettlebells, squat, and farmer carry further distances than I ask her to. At the end of every session, she looks at me–sometimes hugs me–and says “I did that?!” And she smiles and says I’ll see you next week. Every time she walks away, my motivation to work harder than I worked the last time I said I was going to work harder, is indescribable. It’s that new strength. The desire to grow. The willingness to learn new things. It’s like the innocence of a baby–you just can’t help but want to feel that way too.
When I think about what motivates me, I know it used to be my weight and losing it. I know it’s the friendships I’ve made, and I know it is very much still seeing Erik’s face light up when I find ways to surprise him with my strength. It’s also the thrill of the newest lift, the excitement of competition, the push to always be better, always a little stronger. But even more now, it’s the people who work so hard for me, who rely on me, who need my motivation—sometimes more than I need it myself. It may even be you—reading this right now. You are my motivation because someone out there right now is in the same spot I was in 15 years ago and he or she needs help. I couldn’t be here and tell you that I could change your life if I hadn’t done the same for me and especially if I wasn’t doing it now.
Motivation is found in all forms and YOU possess it. You just have to find where it’s the strongest right now at this moment and USE IT.
From fat to fit and a person who knew nothing to an author in the same field–that’s my motivation. I know that if I can do this, ANYONE can. And it’s now my passion to make you believe that too.
If you own the StrongFigure Total Health and Fitness Workbook, you can reference it for more motivational stories! (If you don’t–we’re releasing it again soon! Stay tuned and make sure you subscribe to strongfigure.com so you don’t miss all the important ordering info!)