Earlier this week, we wrote about “Fitspiration,” the dangers of holding yourself up to an ideal, and how these images and words may serve to guilt, shame, or downright insult you in the name of “motivation.” One of the tips we gave you to combat this phenomenon is to practice positive self-talk:
There is a growing body of research showing that “fat talk,” or discussion about one’s dislike of their personal appearance, is approaching “normal and expected” in our society, especially among females. Fat talk only makes things worse when it comes to body image by increasing body dissatisfaction and internalization of body image ideals. Set a good example by refusing to engage in “fat talk” about yourself or others. Instead focus on what you have accomplished, and be proud of where you are right now, because if you are reading this site and have completed even one day of our Whole30 program, we know you have things to be proud of.
Today, Melissa shares a personal story to illustrate the importance of focusing on the positive and celebrating all of the things you are, you have, and you did.
What Did You Do Today?
I took a mental step back from my training today, and for the first time in a long time, I saw my workout in a totally different light. I often focus on what I couldn’t do during a workout, in an effort to improve those skills. Came in a minute slower than last time, couldn’t move those five extra pounds, my push-ups still suck. I’m “motivated” (shamed? guilted?) by identifying my weaknesses and trying to do a little better the next time.
But what about the things I DID do during my workout? Most of the time, I simply write down the results without stopping to consider their significance. Today, though, I paid attention.
Today, I did pull-ups. I did a one set of three, a few doubles, and a few singles before I tuckered out. These were done over the course of an hour, in between my foam rolling and warm-up, deadlifts and presses.
Just a few years ago, I could do six gorgeous dead hang pull-ups in a row. Doing 20 over the course of a single workout was no big deal. Doing weighted pull-ups with 15# was cake. My pull-ups were so much better then.
I used to. I could have. I should be able to.
So here’s how I normally analyze my training performance in the moment: DAMMIT. I want five pull-ups again. In fact, I’d settle for a few sets of three. In fact, I’d settle for two in a row that looked a lot prettier than they looked today. What’s with that stupid knee-up thing I was doing at the end? That’s pretty much cheating. Those probably don’t even count.
If I worked on them more… If I lost five more pounds… If I wanted it more.
But as I hopped off the bar during my last set, I had A Moment. Just two months ago, at the tail end of a six month break from hard training, I couldn’t even DO a pull-up. I let them go, in favor of stress management, yoga, pilates, and lots and lots of time off. But today I can do a BUNCH of pull-ups. DEAD HANG pull-ups – no bands, no assistance, no kipping. And I’m a GIRL.
I’m a GIRL doing a BUNCH of DEAD HANG PULL-UPS.
Completely discarding any last shred of humility, putting all things in perspective… I think that’s awesome.*
*Many of you reading this article can’t do a single pull-up. And many of you reading can do five pull-ups, weighted pull-ups, pull-ups in your sleep. The point is, my accomplishments aren’t meant to be compared to yours. If you say, “Wow – you’re my pull-up hero!” I don’t feel more proud. And if you say, “Lame, Hartwig – talk to me when you have five.” I don’t feel less proud. My point is, YOUR accomplishments aren’t meant to be compared to MINE – or ANYONE ELSE’S, for that matter. You own them – and comparing them to anything or anyone else will tarnish their value. So don’t do it, okay?
What Will You Do Today?
It’s easy to lose perspective when you’re in the middle of an exercise program, the middle of a Whole30®, the middle of changing your life. There are always comparisons to be made – to others around you, to those in magazines or on TV… even to your past self. And the “used to,” the “could have,” the “should be able to” is the fastest way to destroy your self-esteem, halt your progress, and keep you focused on things that aren’t real. Holding yourself up to some societal ideal is damaging, but so is holding yourself up to some imaginary version of you – one who’s faster, stronger, leaner, or younger.
Negative self-talk, losing yourself in the mirror, the inability to accept a compliment or even to pay yourself a compliment when you do something worthy – these are all-too-common habits that need to be un-learned. Pronto. Because as you change your relationship with food, with exercise, with yourself, the used-to-could-have-should-be-able-to has no place. Instead,focus on the present, the here and now, the YOU.
The “I am.” The “I have.” The “I did.”
Every once in a while, take a minute to be proud of what you did today. Think about where you came from, and how much you’ve accomplished – not by CrossFit’s “elite fitness” standards, or the Whole30’s “perfect Paleo” standards, or Fitspiration’s “110 percent” standards, but by your OWN standards. Think about what you are, what you have, what you’ve done – not compared to anyone or anything, but simply for what they are, and what they mean to you.
What will you do today? Will you do your first dead-hang pull-up, one perfect push-up, pick up five pounds more than you did last week? Will you fight off a persistent craving, stand up for your new healthy habits, take on a challenging new recipe? Will you exercise even though you’re tired, meditate even though you’re anxious, forgive even though you’re angry?
Today, you will do something worth being proud of.
Share that thing here, with us.
Photo credit: CrossFit Impulse
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Bob Guere says
Great self-inspection Melissa. Great post as always; entertaining and informative.
Yeah, I know what you mean. Sometimes I read what other people are doing in the forum threads about what to eat pre- and post- workout, and I think “do my workouts really even count as workouts, in this discussion?”
But, hey, I’m a middle-aged lady who can do 100 incline pushups. It’s better than sitting on the couch!
Excellent post. It is so easy to lose perspective of your OWN goals. I am six months pregnant and still lifting and cross fitting but being **smart** about it. In the beginning of my pregnancy I felt a lot of anxiety about whether or not I was going to be able to ‘get back’ to my pre-pregnancy body and if I was going to be as strong as I was before. This can be especially difficult when you see strong and lean women and men in your gym lifting heavy and blasting through workouts with a great intensity. So, instead I have been reminding myself that the most important and healthy thing for ME right now is to focus on maintaing my health and my baby’s health and I take comfort in the fact that I have all the tools necessary to continue my healthy lifestyle after the baby is born. And yes, pregnant women do compare themselves to other pregnant women. It never ends. My husband has to constantly remind me to keep things in perspective and just think about what I AM doing. Again, great post. Thanks Melissa.
CAN I GET AN AMEN! Nice post today. Actually…nice posts ALWAYS. Thanks for putting it back into perspective for me. Sometimes as we strive for that last 1%, 2%, we lose sight of how far we’ve come.
Powerful post. Thanks!
Thank you so much!
Alisha Fuller says
That’s good stuff right there, Melissa. As a new box owner, it’s so hard to get athletes to see this. Instead they are watching videos online when they get home and then comparing themselves to those people. Not cool. I think we all need to be reminded to be in the here and now and to celebrate our successes, no matter how small. I think fitness and health are a lifelong journey. You will have ups and downs because there will always be new challenges and obstacles, but you have to keep a good head on your shoulders to weather that.
Andrea Dedmon says
I slept in, didn’t take my dog for our early morning walk, didn’t do my scheduled work-out and did not feel guilty about it, did not lay in bed telling myself to just “get up, already”…this is rare but it felt good.
Tom Denham - Whole9 EE says
I am going to take it easy today. Thanks for the encouragement.
It seems like I am always coming back from an injury rooted in “I should be able to…” Recently I pushed so hard I thought my shoulder might require surgery. I had to take two weeks off. Today I am grateful I can lift anything over my head and do any pull-ups.
The funny thing is, in the middle of my two weeks off, I had lunch with a friend whom I had not seen for a year. As soon as he saw me he said, “Wow! What are you doing? You look great!” What impressed him was not what I did in recent workouts when I jumped from the 16 to the 20 kg kettlebell (and injured myself). It was the cumulative effect of my last 6 months of training. Slow and steady may not win the race, but it did build my now noticeably bigger chest and arms.
Thanks for the healthy reminder. I have a hard time comparing myself to… myself. Me, last year, in a much less healthy emotional place, but I was 30 pounds lighter and more in line with what the “fitspiration” images say a woman should be. Today, I’m happier and in a healthy relationship, but this one thing still niggles at me.
But I’m learning to respect my body with rest, movement, and real food whole30 style, and that’s something to be proud of.
So powerful, and such perfect timing for me!
I made a TON of progress in 2010 (lost fat, ran a BQ debut marathon, did my first pull-up, finally felt strong & confident). I then backslid in 2011 by gaining some fat and letting myself get deep into job-related stress – although I also won a 5k & a 10k, completed a 50k, did 10 consecutive pull-ups, became a groupt fitness instructor, trained for my first powerlifting meet, and cured my acne by eating Paleo – but WHY would I focus on those when I think “2011”?
I’m now progressing in my fat loss again, but it’s in slow-and-steady baby steps. And I’m slowly building up my running distance after suffering from stress reactions. And I’m watching several friends kick ass at running or powerlifting or pullups while I’m…not. I definitely have that horrible tendency to compare myself to them, or (in some ways, this feels worse:) compare back to 2010 or beat myself up for 2011’s “failures” and my inability to Do All The Things. I’ve been working on positive thinking, and I love the idea of celebrating what I can do RIGHT NOW.
So, here’s what I did today that’s something to be proud of: 4 sets of 5 pull-ups. Easily. The pride is not so much in what I did, but that this was my plan for the day and I really wasn’t sure I would be able to do it, BUT I DID!
I had A Moment like this recently. I realized:
1. I am still struggling to have a 100% perfect paleo diet and will have serious guilt if I cave and eat something that isn’t paleo. I also have guilt that I don’t make bone broth, still don’t eat liver regularly, sometimes I still use ketchup on my eggs, blah blah blah.
2. I loathe the fact that while I’ve lost fat and gained muscle, I haven’t had the total body transformation a lot of people seem to have had.
3. I get this “well if you were just more motivated, 100% instead of 95%, did more more more” mentality and it sucks and drains me.
So I did a year in review and found that:
1. In the past year I have gone from being a vegetarian to a quality meat eater, which makes me and my body much happier
2. Grains have virtually no place in my diet – I do not think to make sandwiches for lunch, order pasta for dinner, and effortlessly can refuse a bread basket. THIS IS NO SMALL FEAT!
3. I have more energy than ever before. Even if I don’t have “my perfect body” I am now able to live my life more fully, work harder, and do more things that I want to do.
4. I eat meat and vegetables for breakfast. I mean… come on! This is huge!
So… instead of feeling guilty and like I haven’t made any progress because I still have some body fat, I am patting myself on the back because I’ve made huge changes over a year that most people don’t have the discipline to do. And I’m going to reward myself with a big ole grassfed burger for lunch.
This is great advice- I’m constantly focused on getting to my goals that I lose sight of how far I’ve come. And I try to think about all the things I’m proud of, but a lot of times that gets lost. It’s easy to say that you will acknowledge what you have accomplished but another to put it into regular practice. I will try to make a daily habit of writing down what I’m proud of each day so I can look back on it.
Today I can say that I completed a tough Bikram Yoga class AND Day 3 of my Whole30!
SunnyB @ andloveittoo says
I was just about to start a post where I discuss my first Whole30. Undoubtedly this post would discuss the fact that I am not where I want to be, I used to be..I should be…etc etc;
Thank you for changing the direction of my post. Thank you for helping me see how far I have gone and what I am doing right, right now!
Today, I did Day 3, Week 2 on the Couch to 5k program, even though I woke up sore and exhausted from 7+ hours deep cleaning my house yesterday (yes, I count that as a workout ;)). Today I ran faster and further than I did on Monday, faster and further than I did on any other day so far.
I am happy with what I have done so far today.
Thanks again, Melissa.
bring -> being
Today, I pointed out a typo. :)
I’ve thought about that often when running (or slowly moving my legs in a running fashion) When I feel like I’m going too slow or not making any progress in time or distance, I remind myself that I’m doing SOMETHING. And this helps me run more cheerfully and then being satisfied with who I am and keeping healthy, not with a time or distance or weight.
Day 2 of The Whole 30 is coming to close and I’m quite happy about it. It hasn’t been easy, but instead of focusing on how many more days to go, I’m focusing on getting through the day itself, and being more conscious about a craving, eating out of boredom, and really listening to my body. Very excited to get my copy of ISWF tomorrow and really understand and learn more about paleo!
Melissa @Whole9 says
Thank you all for sharing your accomplishments, and how you’ve been feeling about where you are, and how you feel TODAY about where you are. Reframing can be such a helpful exercise – it requires little effort to look at yourself in a whole new light, but boy, does it make a difference in your day!
This article is exactly what I needed today–I’ve been focusing on body weight exercises (simplefit.org) and had the “I finished a minute earlier last time” conversation with myself along with the, “I used to do…” separation anxiety. Everything has to be taken into perspective. We may not always be the best at everything, but we’re always getting better at something–even if that means the numbers we used to watch like a hawk go in a direction we’re not comfortable with. I love challenging myself with numbers I want to improve, but appreciating the things that are happening right now keeps me from giving up.
Tracy Seman says
Trying to find on your blog or website about your training Melissa. I’ve done everything from run marathons, to figure competitions to now Paleo and CrossFit. I LOVE both. Due to my diet I workout less and look better with much less effort as before. Been reading so much negative about CrossFit which I love. Just trying to find the best balance. More lift days? Too many metcons, for too long or too short…. Any tips on where to find the best balanced workout program would be amazing! There are a lot of men out there saying lift heavy, lift heavy. I have no problem with heavy, but even though I know women cannot get huge… I’ve still seen a lot of CrossFit women with thick butts and thighs (muscle, not fat).
Just bought your book and its sitting at home….two more books to read first. BUT this is my first time to read your blog and let me just say WOW.
I have always struggled with negative self talk, nothing ever feels good enough, and I don’t take compliments well. This blog was spot on with my daily struggles.
Today, I am more fit than I’ve been since college. My core is stronger than EVER – I can kill some planks. I even walk up and down steps and walk sideways in plank position. 15 seconds of a plank hold used to feel impossible!
My knees continue to improve and I feel energized and positive about my health.
Thank you so much and I look forward to keeping up with your blogs. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
today somebody told me I looked good…and i said , simply, ‘thank you’ (with a smile of course)…a few days ago i ran 10K(!)…and frankly i think accepting the compliment was the harder of the two – almost as hard as drinking my coffee black ;-)
Kristin S says
Absolutely awesome post!! So inspiring and encouraging. I’m new to your site and will now be a faithful reader with content like this. Thank you!
I did one heck of a killer workout yesterday and before I even began I was giving myself a way out…”it’s okay if you only do two rounds of this move” type stuff. I stopped and reminded myself of what I’ve been able to accomplish in the past, and it kept me pushing on. I ended up doing 6 rounds of 10 push ups! Plus lots of other stuff and I’m totally feeling it today. I celebrated the end of the workout with a few “woo hoos” and an “I knew you could do it!” :)
I just found your site via RobWolf.com and have to say I am really enjoying it. This post needs to be read by a lot of people in the blogosphere. There are so many people out there using there blogs in ways that disempower both themselves and others. That coupled with the terrible diet and workout advice that goes on out there just makes for a lot of unhappy people. Thanks for giving a little perspective.
Melissa @Whole9 says
Tracy, I no longer keep a public record of my training, because what works for me, my goals, and my context isn’t going to work for everyone. What you’re really asking for is a consultation, to evaluate your goals and context and help you come up with a plan that’s right for you. We do that sort of thing, of course, but there’s no way I can help you find a good plan without diving into the details of your life.
To all – great work on your accomplishments (especially Anita’s compliment-accepting… why is that so darn hard for so many of us?). I’m glad you’re enjoying this kind of content – we’ll continue to create more personalized, motivational articles like this (along with our educational stuff).
I have this quote on my inspiration board…’comparison is a killer of joy’…so true!
Best blog post I’ve read (and I follow several blogs)! This post just about brought tears to my eyes with the content. I enjoy running half and full marathons and am always encouraging my running partner/friend by having her focus on various positive things and discouraging any focus on the negative things like feeling slower, feeling more tired, not as strong, blah blah blah. I never allow that kind of talk during our runs whether they are training runs or running events.
When it came to going to my CrossFit affiliate, it was another story. I found myself being ashamed to admit that I still can’t do a pull-up and that I couldn’t put as much on my bar as some of the women who started around the same time or even after I did! I even found that I’d see disappointment (or what I perceived to be disappointment) in the faces of the coaches because I was still struggling with certain things. I started to get very down on myself and feeling unmotivated. I found myself skipping WODs and opting for going home after work instead. As we all know, this just leads to feeling even worse and starts a vicious cycle of negativity.
I have recently changed affiliates and find that I am now starting to have a more positive spin on my training which I attribute to the difference in the coaching. It’s a more supportive, positive atmosphere that focuses more on technique than on the kgs on the bar or the speed. I am finding it to be more healthy and enjoyable for me. I still find myself doing some negative talk when I’m working on something in the gym but, if one of my coaches hear it, they remind me that this is a ‘process’ and it’s about a progression. They are quick to focus on the positive things while at the same time focusing on building solid technique. I am in love with my new ‘home’ and find myself looking forward to the WOD’s and just being in the facility and around them. There is still that little bit of shame in me about the pull-ups but, I try to remind myself that while I may not be able to do pull-ups like the others around me, I can still do many other things that I am extremely proud of and I am frequently complimented on how fit I am and how youthful I come across.
I still don’t know why it’s easy for me to turn to the positive, encouraging, motivating person when running but, struggle with being the same with my CrossFit training however; I’m working on it and getting better with it each time I go.
We are all a ‘work in progress’ and it’s our perspectives that either make that work easier or more difficult to do. Sometimes, we just need a good blog post (or a good friend) to slap that perspective around a bit to get it working for us in a positive way. :)
Thank you for the powerful slap to my perspective today! I will print this post out so that I have a hard copy to remind myself every time I feel myself veering towards the negativity.
Melissa @Whole9 says
RG, so happy that you found inspiration in this post. CrossFit can be a difficult animal – there are so many amazing athletes who can lift more than you, run faster than you, finish with a better time than you. It can be intimidating! In addition, ever CF gym has a different “vibe,” and you may have simply needed to find the vibe and environment that was right for you.
Keep focusing on the positive and eliminating negative self-talk as often as you can, because it really is a killer of self-esteem. It’s all in how you CHOOSE to look at it!
Megan Rorer says
Another great post! Since starting my first Whole30 (I’m on day 10), I have slacked off in the fitness department … I just haven’t felt like doing much of anything except KILL KILL KILL and SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP! But today, I felt the urge to stretch … and then go for a walk, do some calisthenics, etc. (like what I was used to feeling almost every day). I started doing some pull ups and beat myself up about the fact that I could do so much more a month ago, felt bad and all that jazz … and then I read this. Talk about perfect timing! It seems like we all could give ourselves more credit where its due :)