It’s that time of year again. When we promise ourselves we will be better. We will shed our old habits that have made us “gross,” that have made us “pudgy” or “soft.” We will exercise religiously. We will be disciplined. We will starve ourselves if we need to! We will undo all the damage that has made us ashamed of our bodies and ourselves. We promise, “I will not be fat this year. I will not be ashamed to wear shorts. I will wear a bikini to the pool this summer. I will fit into that pair of jeans that made me break down into a terrible crying fit because I couldn’t get them over my thighs the last time I tried them on. I refuse to be disgusting.”
Does this sound familiar? It certainly sounds familiar to me. I used to do this multiple times a year, not just on New Year’s Day. I was a constant disappointment to myself. I never measured up. I wanted to look like an athlete, to be proud of my body, to wear size-two jeans, and rock a six-pack year round. I was an utter failure in my own eyes because I could never quite meet my goals, and if I did it was fleeting. I would have the six-pack and fit into those jeans, but only for a month or so. Why was that? Not because of lack of effort. I was starving and working out to exhaustion. What was going wrong? Not only was I trashing myself, but maybe I was focusing on the wrong things? Yes, I was making the wrong resolutions.
A Different Kind of Goal
Today things are different. I no longer resolve to lose fifteen pounds. I no longer yearn to fit into jeans made for pre-teens. I no longer look in the mirror in disgust when my jeans fit a little too tightly. Today, I have different goals. I have a different kind of resolution. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about what I look like, but it means the outside takes care of itself most of the time and my priorities lie elsewhere. And guess what? As a result, I look way closer to that athlete than I ever did when I was chasing purely aesthetic goals.
That’s crazy, right? You quit caring about having abs and you get them?! Kind of. What really happened was that I started caring far more about my athletic performance and, in turn, my body started rewarding me. When I was just focused on how I looked, I underrated myself, I did too much cardio, I avoided exercises that would make me too “bulky,” and as a result I lost muscle, strength, and my metabolism stalled. I didn’t have enough energy to really push myself. Once I started focusing on how much I could lift, getting a muscle up, getting my handstand pushups, or on how much I could snatch, deadlift, and squat, that’s when the magic started to happen.
A Different Kind of Attitude
Things are still changing for me, too. The stronger I get, the less I care about what I look like. Physical strength begets mental strength. Once you realize your body’s potential and start appreciating it’s abilities, then you will care a whole lot less if your thighs don’t fit into a pair of old “skinny jeans.” You will carry yourself with a whole new confidence.
Food is less of a battle, too. Not only can you eat more because your workouts are more productive and you carry more muscle, but eating poorly makes you feel awful and hinders your performance. If you under-eat your workout sucks and if you eat the wrong thing or too much you’re slow, lethargic, and heavy. It’s no longer a game of “I hate how I look so I’m going to punish myself by starving,” but a strategy of fueling performance.
A Different Kind of Resolution
If any of this sounds familiar and you are ready to get off of the resolution-self-hate train, I challenge you to make a different set of resolutions this year. Instead of “I want a six-pack by March,” how about “I will run my fastest 5K this spring.” Or instead of trying to fit into those old jeans from college, you resolve to squat 200lbs. Who the hell cares if you can fit into those jeans? Because we both know you were subsisting on fat-free frozen yogurt and Diet Coke in college and you are not going there again – and back then you couldn’t even dream of squatting 200lbs.
Instead of resolving to eat under a thousand calories a day and do cardio for at least 45 minutes five days a week, why don’t you sign up for a CrossFit competition or plan a hiking trip with friends? These kinds of resolutions will not only leave you looking and feeling better, but they will provide you with memories, moments of pride, and feelings of self-worth that no diet or session on the step-mill will ever give you. I can tell you the number of times I bragged about doing thirty minutes on the elliptical. Zero. Do I brag about my lifting records? Of course I do. Every person on Facebook and Instagram knows when I hit a new goal!
You must be healthy, and you must take care of yourself (not abuse yourself). Going forward, focus on your body’s abilities, not it’s faults. Concentrate on performance goals and nurturing your body, not trashing it or punishing yourself. Make #adifferentkindofresolution now and see how you change physically and mentally over the next few months.
Have you thought of your resolution? Share it in the comments below so we can support you on your journey.
Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photos 2 & 3 courtesy of CrossFit Impulse.