“No matter how deep the issue is and no matter how long you have struggled with it, the possibility exists for you to become absolutely FREE, WHOLE and HEALED.” – Brandon Bays
By: Chardét Durbin
When I was seventeen I hated my body. I was pear-shaped but without the bombshell breasts. I was “thick” as you’d say now. Only it wasn’t a compliment then. This was pre Kim Kardashian so rather than my body being celebrated, I was teased mercilessly with demeaning names like “thunder thighs”
When I finally had enough of the verbal abuse and self-hate, I took action. I began to obsessively run and to count calories. My knees would ache and my belly would groan but this pain was all worth it to me in the pursuit of thinness. And you know what? It worked. If success were measured by inches lost, then damn was I successful. I hit my target weight and I felt more confident. Unfortunately, this method had a dark side.
My self worth became tied to how I looked. Food became about numbers and not nutrients. The purpose of exercise wasn’t to be healthy or feel good but to not feel bad, to not feel guilty. If I wasn’t able to control my eating and do my workouts EVERY day then I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror. This was a toxic cycle that encouraged and perpetuated self-hate. I was working and dieting, yes, but I wasn’t healthy or happy.
When I started to exercise and monitor my diet, my motivation seemed simple enough: change from being “inadequate” to being “desirable.” I dragged my body through starvation, overtraining, binge eating and diet pills in pursuit of this ideal that I never could quite reach. It took YEARS before I realized that…
…there is no magical place that exercise and diet will get you to — you might have a number that you think is your ticket to happiness — be it in inches or pounds but your number is just that, a placeholder for the next number you come up with when you’re still not happy with yourself.
The truth is too that you need to work much harder for true wellness in order to enhance your life, your mind and your emotional state. Your body is just the physical manifestation of your efforts. If you stop there — with the way you look — with physical “gains,” you will never get the “emotional and mental gains.” These are worth so much more.
Once I learned this, and implemented wellness properly and for the right reasons, I became not just skinny and toned, but more importantly, strong and healthy — in my body and mind. I am in the best shape of my life! I eat healthily but I also indulge. I no longer have emotions tied to food other than, “this tastes good” or “that tastes bad.” I skip workouts if I need to and I don’t feel bad or “fatter” for it. I accept myself unconditionally. This is achievable for you too — whether you’re at the the middle of your journey or haven’t yet started yet — you can get on the healthiest course for you.
So how do you make wellness a lifelong journey and just not a target on the scale?
This is how you start:
1.) WEEK 1: Ditch the Miserable Workouts
Only do workouts you enjoy. A lot of people will argue with me on this one but I’m 10+ years proof and so are the many clients that I’ve worked with using this approach. Clients are much more successful at reaching their wellness goals when we do the type of workouts they like. That’s not to say they like EVERY exercise I give them but they like the style of it — be it boxing, running or otherwise.
If you enjoy something, you’ll do it more often. Your motivation transforms from negative (guilt or obligation) to positive (pleasure and progress.) Positive is much stronger in the long run.
So, ditch the miserable workouts you dread and won’t commit to long-term, and replace them with workouts that will challenge you BUT that you also enjoy doing overall!
2.) WEEK 2: Be PRESENT in Your Workouts
Stay mentally and emotionally present when you’re exercising. This is why dance or highly technical workouts like martial arts are fantastic — they force you to stay present in the moment, to observe your form and to feel the work of your muscles. You truly connect your body and mind. You can feel the results of your efforts before you see them and that’s powerful.
Maintaining presence while you’re working out will enable you to work out better because you’ll be more focused.
3.) WEEK 3: Eat Unconsciously
Try a week of unconscious eating — that’s right unconscious. Don’t calorie count. Don’t think about the meals (good or bad) you had that day. Push away emotions that you feel while eating.
Blank your mind when it comes to food. Was that chocolate good? Yes. Great. Don’t you feel guilty about it? BLANK. Shouldn’t you go work out more to make up for “being bad?” BLANK.
At the end of the week observe how you feel. Essentially what you’re trying to do is begin to eat for nourishment and enjoyment, not emotions. It’s the difference between savoring a pizza because it’s good or feeling like you need a pizza to get to your happy place.
4.) WEEK 4: Be Consciously Constructive
Next, get consciously constructive.
Notice I said constructive because you are going to think about your food but only in so far as it makes your life easier and nourishes you, not how bad you feel about it (not constructive.)
Set aside time on Sunday to plan your meals. You don’t need to make them all immediately, just get the groceries you’ll need. The, stick to this plan — only deviate when it revolves around something social like a dinner with friends.
Planned meals will keep you on track and keep you full. Full tummies are less likely to go rogue.
5.) WEEK 5: Keep Unhealthy Food at Bay
Keep unhealthy food outside of the house. You will be surprised at how easy impulse and emotionally driven eating are suppressed by laziness (having to go out to buy one specific item.) If you do end up going out – eat whatever you get outside of your home. Your home should be a place of wellness and health.
When you do have unhealthy food, try associating feelings with it that don’t stem from the food itself. For example, eat with friends so that you create a fond, social memory that the food is just part of, not central to. Another example would be making food from scratch so that you savor not just the food but also the efforts that went into making it — you create a proud accomplishment.
What you want to avoid doing is eating a chocolate bar because it was there and you were feeling stressed. HOWEVER, if you go against all this advice, there is one thing you can still always strive to do that will make the difference; savor your food…without guilt.
Cycle through the goals of these 5 weeks. Once you’ve finished, begin again. As you progress, see if you can tie in the goals of multiple weeks together, for example — week one and two into one week. Your goal is to eventually meet the goals of all five weeks in one.
Also add your own customization to it. This is a starting point — a map. It is not a recipe or a formula. How you evolve in your wellness journey will be unique to you. It’s challenging but also so rewarding. You can do this!
About Chardét Durbin: Chardét is a full-time personal trainer, group fitness instructor and creator of Corpão, a lifestyle movement that inspires women to find their “inner Brazilian” through fun workouts, good food and active retreats around the world. Chardét motivates clients to build their best body while still enjoying life. To learn more about Chardét and Corpão’s mission, check out her website or follow her on Instagram!