More often than not, change cannot be forced. As much as we try, or as much pressure as we get from others, we are just not ready. We need a much bigger motivation than ourselves. We need a bigger cause than our daily routine. We need a transformational experience to kick our butts into action.
My friend, Heather Simmons has an inspirational change story I would like to share with you. We often talk about weight loss and diet, but only the extreme cases seem to catch our attention such as losing 100lb or 10 sizes….as if you need to wait until it’s too late to do something about your health. And yes, those are amazing stories, but they are not easy and they don’t happen often.
The reason why I like Heather’s story is that she is not one of those extreme cases. Hers is a story than anyone could relate to or learn from. It’s really about changing her lifestyle and her children’s before it’s too late. We don’t talk enough about what healthy means, and clean eating, and just basic exercise for everyone, not just for overweight people. We should talk about nutrition and exercise just like we teach our kids about brushing their teeth.
If you looked at Heather at any point throughout her life, you’d have never thought about making any suggestions to her on what to eat. Actually, no, I am wrong! You’d tell her to eat a burger, some fries, and a shake. Heather has suffered all her life from a different type of stigma, one that I can also relate to. It’s the “skinny girl” stigma: “you need to eat more”, “you look like Ally McBeal”, “you need to eat a burger once in a while”. I know most people don’t think of this as an issue, but trust me, it is as hurtful and offensive as calling an overweight person “fat”.
Ok, I got a little side-tracked and on my soapbox. Heather has been a skinny girl all her life, but she has not been healthy or in shape. A traumatic event at the age of 14 pushed her into an unhealthy relationship with food and an eating disorder. She was not withholding food, she was just eating crappy food. Unhealthy eating was her normal. Despite her mother and sister’s attempts to help her, she wasn’t ready. Unhealthy, crappy food was her comfort.
In her early 20s, a relationship with her boyfriend (now husband) has planted the seed of change. I talk a lot about the stages of change in my post 5 Stages to Lasting & Meaningful Change. Heather was in the Precontemplation/Contemplation stage for a long time. Those are stages when we may be aware of unhealthy behaviors or we may not, or we may not be willing to do anything about it, or we may not know how to sustain the change more than 2 days.
In my books, I often refer to marriage and having kids as true transformational experiences that will change you. In Heather’s case, her husband’s support as well as the birth of their beautiful children became her primary motivation to do better. Becoming a mother was the extra kick she needed to get off the couch. Giving in to a persistent friend, who was a Beachbody coach, she decided to give wellness a try, not only by doing it, but also by teaching and becoming a coach herself.
In the last 3 years, Heather went from eating whatever she wanted but without any nutritional value (think vending machines) to reading labels, learning all about nutrients, eating more veggies and fruits, and even growing her own garden! She doesn’t believe in an all-or-nothing approach; it’s more like 80-20. 80% of the meals are healthy, 20% are cheat meals. You gotta to have some fun and feel like a bad girl sometimes!
In addition, here is Heather on exercise: “I have always been naturally thin thanks to good genes so I did not have a set workout plan. I walked and had a treadmill that turned into a catch all. After coaching, I exercise daily, I follow a 21-day plan and I have the luxury to change my workout daily depending on my mood or how I feel. But I always get it done. Sometimes I have my workout partners with me aka my mini-mes and they are always welcomed. They are who I am working so hard to set the best example for.
I have always been thin but being thin and being in shape are two different things. My body has changed and I see new muscles that I have never had, not even in high school. Weight-lifting and feeding my body the proper things were enough to make a huge difference. So, I personally measure my exercise success by new muscle growth. I can however do way more pushups and burpees than I ever even attempted before!”
I asked Heather how she felt about her body and mentally before. Here is her answer: “I felt ok but like all women after kids I felt a little squishier and saggier then I would have liked. Mentally, I felt lost, needing an outlet outside of my home but I never wanted to leave my kiddos to go work. Now, I feel stronger and healthier than I have ever felt!! Mentally I feel like I have found a way to feed my soul, help others find happiness inside of themselves and find their confidence back to rock their body and feel good about it!!”
SMALL & ACHIEVABLE goals lead to BIG success stories
I asked her to tell me how she ensures that her clients don’t give up after one month. Here are her suggestions and as you notice, they are holistic and include the entire being (your mind, body, and soul):
- Eat clean, real whole foods; think the rainbow when choosing foods, cook more, and drink 48-64 oz water daily.
- When exercising, choose something fun to do!! Track your progress not by the scale but by measurements. Pick a good time that works for you.
- Sleep!!! (I will add that this one is a MUST) Get 7-8 hours a night.
- Think positive. Listen to inspirational music, read personal development books, focus on your blessings, surround yourself with positive people. A healthy lifestyle means your mental health as well as body.
- Give more. Verbalize thankfulness. Help someone in need. Giving just makes you feel better which will trickle into other areas of your life.
- Love. Love yourself, embrace healthy relationships! Try to avoid unhealthy relationships, people that don’t make you feel good about yourself and your life.
I couldn’t agree more. These are not complicated concepts in theory, but sometimes difficult to implement in real life, which is why we could all use these simple reminders and a few good friends and coaches to remind us of what’s important, how to prioritize, and stick to your plans.
If you have more questions for Heather and her groups, here is where you can find her:
Heather’s story deviates from stereotypes and it can really apply to anyone that has struggled to change anything, especially attempting to eat healthier and get off the couch. I think after a certain age, we seem to find more and more comfort in food, although the metabolism slows down. We eat when we are bored, sad, happy, at work, at home, on vacation….and then we get depressed about feeling bloated, sluggish, and not fitting in our clothes….and all of those are a sleuth of negative thoughts and feelings that also affect our mental well-being. Diets and relapses are daily conversations.
For an extra dose of strategy, I’ve created this free download to walk you through the typical stages of change, to help you design your own roadmap to change, and of course, to help you reduce your number of relapses. As always, I welcome your comments, your stories, your struggles, and your successes.
ABOUT: Dr. Ruxandra LeMay is a licensed psychologist with experience and interest in communication, relationships, stress and anxiety management, executive coaching and entrepreneurship. She is the author of My Spouse Wants More Sex Than Me: The 2-Minute Solution For a Happier Marriage and My Spouse is Different Than Me: How to Mediate Irreconcilable Differences and Grow in Your Marriage. For more information, join her at ruxandralemay.com, a website for people who hate therapy, but still need it!