Don’t be afraid to stop counting - counting the calories, the pounds, the reps, the assignments, the days. Counting just makes our brains feel in control of a situation. It fuels the ego. But when we don’t eat few enough calories, or weigh few enough pounds, or get in too few of reps, we beat ourselves up. We get upset that we’re not meeting our goals. At least, I do.
I’m a slider. I’ll do really well with a new lifestyle change for a while, but then I’ll have an off week and slip up for the next month and a half. And it’s hard to change your habits and lifestyle. Now that I know I can, or that I am capable, it’s just convincing myself that I need to do it at this moment. At this point, I have a pretty good idea of what my body needs to be healthy and to take good care of it – it’s just whether or not I have the desire and needed self-discipline to help me be my best self.
I’m someone who’s never been particularly thrilled with their weight – but no girl I’ve ever known has been, so I know I’m in good company here. I tried countless ways to get rid of weight and be more fit: I did the SpecialK Challenge, I swam laps 5 days a week for an entire summer, and I tried a trainer + meal program at a local gym.
It wasn’t until I decided that I just wanted to be healthy that I finally started to notice a permanent change in my lifestyle and body (not that I haven’t had periods of regression, of course). I stopped counting calories and instead starting reading ingredient labels, making an effort to know what nutrients and chemicals I was putting into my body and consciously balancing my diet.
I stopped weighing myself and just focused on how I felt and looked in the mirror. I never weighed myself at my heaviest; I just decided I was going to start and started, and didn’t look back. I only weigh myself at the doctor’s office now, when I have to (and still dread this moment every time). This has helped significantly, since your weight can fluctuate so much as a woman with hormones, day-to-day eating, and other fluctuations in lifestyle. It was always discouraging when I would work really hard to be healthy one day and wake up heavier than I was the day before; now I don’t have that problem. I just concentrate on how my clothes are fitting and how my body feels. And I remember that I'm not being healthy for a better body tomorrow; the choices I make today will be reflected a week from now. The work you're doing this week pays off the next - it's just that patience thing that's tough.
The biggest thing for me to stop counting, however, was my exercise time. Growing up, you’re preached all these rules about how much exercise you should be getting each day, week, etc. And I’m sure those are all very valid points. But honestly, I am much more willing to exercise if I just do it when my body tells me to and don’t time myself to “make sure I get my 30 minutes a day” or “10,000 steps a day.” Being an entrepreneur and freelance graphic designer, I get to design my own daily schedule and take breaks whenever I need to, filling in that time by simply working later into the evening – no big deal, especially if it helps me keep my sanity through the day. So, when my body gets fidgety, I get up and dance for a little while. I don’t time myself (unless I have a meeting coming up), but just go until I am tired or don’t feeling going anymore. Of course, this is no ordinary dancing – I move my furniture and leap around my living room like a seven year old playing dancer on stage at a concert. I mix in yoga poses, qi gong moves, spinning, and random-ass stretches I make up as I go along. It’s a total body workout, and it’s really freaking fun.
Another thing I started doing were what I call “fun runs.” These always involve my favorite Odesza tracks (see Fun Run playlist at the bottom of this post) and if possible a fun destination, like a park with an adult-sized swing. For these, instead of setting a timer or distance goal, I just put on my music and start walking. I’ll start quickening my pace with the music, and when I feel ready, start to jog. After I’m warmed up with that, I’ll start running, then flow into a hard sprint where I feel like I’m flying – all timed with beats in the music, of course. Then, when I feel like my legs are going faster than my torso, I’ll start to steadily slow down just as I had come up, consciously reversing the rate at which I had come up. Then, I’ll walk until I’ve caught my breath and do it again.
Every time I’m at the peak of this pattern, I swear to god that I’ll never do it again. I’ve always hated exercise – it’s hard! But I just do what I can – no more, no less – and then come down, catch my breath, and decide it wasn’t so bad after all – especially since there was no one screaming at me for not having run long or fast enough. Like I said, I just did what I could. And I know deep down that if I don’t push myself to do my limits during this exercise, it won’t be benefitting me at all, and that’s more motivation than anyone looming over my shoulder. You know how far your body can go, and you know if you’re doing what you can to help it. I much prefer it to a personal trainer and weekly check-in schedule.
I really changed my exercise habits when I was using cannabis in Colorado last summer. Cannabis gave me the mental strength to commit to exercising every single day and push through the mental anxiety of the idea of exercising itself. I would use motivating sativa strains in the early morning to get me energized and excited about the horrible run that lay ahead. I also did, what was for me, a very intense 50-minute yoga video every single day – and this was more of a chore than a pleasure (unlike how yoga is now for me, thankfully!). Cannabis would make that looming time fly by and help me live in the moment and focus on my body to get the best out of my exercise and mental pause, instead of thinking about all the work I still had to get done (I’m a severe over-thinker). I of course ended up loving yoga after committing to it and finally getting good at it, and am now working on my inversions. (I’m getting closer to a handstand!)
So, don’t be afraid to stop counting. Stop counting those calories; just read the labels and consciously ask yourself if those are ingredients you want to put into your body. Stop counting how many reps you did on the leg machine – just go until you can’t anymore, then regain your strength, and do it again. Your body will get better over time, you just have to trust and believe in yourself. Be happy with and love the body you currently have as you help and encourage it to be better.