Treat Your Body How You Want It To Feel
Nowadays, the fitness and health world is constantly bombarded with new philosophies about how to be healthy in a single slogan: Eat Paleo. Eat Keto. Go vegan. Do yoga. No, do Crossfit.
Though these cycling ideologies advocate for very different lifestyles, they have one thing in common: they’re exclusive in nature – claiming that theirs is the single path to the health and fitness of which we are all in pursuit. They give us an ultimatum, trying to make us believe that if we don’t jump on board with the latest trend, there’s something wrong with the way we are training and living.
A lot of us get caught up in following these trends. As humans we are constantly seeking new thrills, wanting to try new things. The fitness media starts promoting a new punch line and we think: This is it. I’ve finally found the key to accomplishing my goal!– be it weight loss, a certain performance goal, etc.
Most of the time, these pursuits end in disappointment, because following an exclusive diet or workout regimen just isn’t feasible for most people. One deviation from the standards and we feel like we’re a failure. We start to beat ourselves up and lose motivation. That’s the problem with restriction – it binds us to a tight set of rules of which we become bored of following, and soon we find ourselves squirming in our seats and “cheating” by reaching for a slice of cake we don’t actually want or skipping a workout.
The good news is that despite what the fitness media feeds us, growing fitter and healthier doesn’t have to be exclusive. From a logical standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to adopt a “one-size fits all” mantra for a group of individuals. We all are all wired differently with a vast array of genetics, goals, tastes, interests and talents.
That being said, your key to growing healthier and fitter can indeed be summed up in a single sentence, but one that can be made personal to you: Treat your body how you want it to feel.
Rather than being exclusive in its claim, this mantra is all-encompassing and malleable, leaving it up to you to decide what the rules are. It’s simple yet powerful, begging us to pause before making a decision to consider if we are going to like the way we feel afterwards. It’s futuristic in its approach, looking out for the well-being of the future you, tomorrow, next year and for a lifetime.
It’s what led a friend of mine to give up her habit of scrolling through Instagram after her alarm went off, and instead use that time to do a short yoga flow, because she liked the way she felt the rest of the day. It’s why I run every day yet eat a scoop of ice cream every day, too.
If you make decisions by answering the question, “How do I want my future self to feel?” you’ll find yourself leading a healthier lifestyle without the burden of sticking to a set of rules. It goes along with another one of my favorite pieces of advice: “Do something every day that your future self will thank you for.” Researchers are finding that the most sustainable way to create a healthier lifestyle is not to succumb to a restrictive diet, but to expand the variety of food we eat. Which seems like a more doable way to avoid reaching for that second slice of cake – to simply try to will yourself not to do it, or to replace it by finding a healthier option that you also enjoy?
The great thing about using this mantra is that it’s going to look different for everyone, and it’s going to differ day to day. We all know already that being our healthiest self involves taking sleep, stress, and energy needs into consideration. Most days, treating your body how you want it to feel will mean pushing past the excuses and getting to the gym or out on the trails. However, when life gets stressful, treating your body how you want it to feel will give you the OK to hit snooze and get that extra hour of rest instead. For the most part, it will mean eating well-balanced meals rich in protein and essential nutrients; but there are times when your body (and your brain) might be begging for that chocolate bar, too.
Let’s forego the restriction and go for exploration instead. Food and movement are two essential parts of life that are meant to be richly enjoyed – not seen as punishment. Here are some recommendations to begin treating your body how you want it to feel:
- Identify the foods you reach for when you lose control, the foods that make your body ultimately feel physically crappy and/or sluggish. Differentiate between those traps and the occasional chocolate bar that makes you feel happy and good. Identifying the foods that make us feel bad is the first step to choosing something else instead.
- Pack your lunch (and your pantry) with snacks that give you lasting energy and that you enjoy. For every go-to snack that makes you feel crappy, find a new snack that you also enjoy and can choose instead.
- A former Force team member, Jake, used to have what he called “Jake’s box of Hangry.” It was essentially a lunch box full of his favorite protein-rich, fulfilling snacks that he kept in his fridge for when he came home hungry and vulnerable. It might be a good idea to make a “[Insert your name here]’s box of Hangry.”
- Explore foods you haven’t yet given yourself the opportunity to like. Make it a goal to try a new recipe each week (Force coaches and clients ALWAYS have good recipe recommendations!).
- Identify forms of movement and exercise that make you feel the best. Identify at least one you can do on your own when you don’t have time to make it to the gym.
- When you wake up in the morning, give yourself 5 minutes to do what makes you feel physically ready for the day – deep breathing, a yoga flow, or some light resets and warm-ups.
- Mix up your workouts. Ask a Force Coach to program you something completely new.
- Don’t punish yourself by dieting. Celebrate life with food & movement.