featured image by Dagny Piasecki
I’ve recently been on a few dates, and one of the first questions I’ve found myself asking as the conversations progressed was, “What’s one thing you do every single day?” The answer couldn’t be related to something they should do every day (i.e. brush teeth, floss, etc.), but instead something that actually helped me get to know their personality and habits better. It was a fun question, and one that was prompted by my own thoughts about the lifestyle change I established earlier in 2018 and have proudly maintained. These are habits that have become non-negotiable in my life; things that I now do every single day without fail.
And what habit am I most proud of do you ask? Hands-down, making time to move my body daily for at least 30 minutes.
I’ve talked about my devotion to 30 minutes of daily movement in previous posts, but I don’t think I’ve fully addressed what prompted this lifestyle change. Some of you have been following my writing here since my very first post where I candidly talked about losing over 135lbs. Since that post almost 5 years ago, I’ve evolved so much – physically, mentally, emotionally, professionally, etc. And thankfully so – that’s a huge personal goal – to always move forward and grow.
image by kristen kilpatrick
One of my biggest points of growth in the past 5 years came during a period when I gained back a lot of that weight. I spent the greater part of 2013-2014 focusing a great amount of energy on losing weight and getting healthy. I later learned I didn’t have the healthiest approach. Not only did I not properly fuel a very active body by not getting enough calories, but also I became so obsessed with the number on the scale that my entire approach to health became obsessive. I labeled food as good or bad, I skipped copious amounts of social activities for fear I’d “go off track,” and I let a simple number – be it on a pair of jeans or the scale – determine my worth. I became so burnt out by this lifestyle that I slowly began to revert to my old ways and felt awful in the process – guilt, shame, embarrassment, and everything else in between. Even worse, I didn’t know how to deal with these emotions.
Now, before I move forward, I have to make one point crystal clear – this post is not about weight gain, weight loss, what number is on the scale, or anything close to that. But it is about making small changes to feel good. And that’s exactly what brought me to making the change to move 30 minutes a day – I wanted to feel good. I wanted to feel strong and healthy and connected to my body, and not like I had in the past. I couldn’t fathom another plan to follow, out-of-reach goal, or running myself to the ground again. Because that was the only way I knew in the past, I felt lost on what to do. Turns out, I didn’t have to make the big changes I thought.
image by hannah haston
Thankfully two people in my world were pivotal to helping spark change (well, three if we’re counting me). First: my therapist, who is more of a savior than she’ll ever know. She encouraged me keep it simple, toss the scale, and never step on it again. We quickly realized it was the root of so many issues and it had a ripple effect on my behaviors. The second person was my sister, who in May of 2018 joined a work challenge with our colleagues to exercise 30 minutes for 30 days. Seeing her flourish and become stronger, and more confident in such a short amount of time felt tangible and doable.
In July of 2018 I made the commitment to move 30 minutes every day, and of course, it’s led to great changes. The smallest of tweaks truly can lead to some really big and magical things. My only regret was not finding this way of moving and living earlier – but 6 months later, I’m thrilled it’s a real habit. Since we’re all different, it’s tough to tell at what point we each need to make a change or implement a new habit, but here are four questions that kept coming up for me when I knew it was time.
image by outdoor voices
How do I feel?
If I had one piece of advice for anyone, it would be to check in with yourself every single day and truly understand how you’re feeling. Are you in your head? Is fear overtaking your mind and body? Are you stressed, sad, anxious? I’ve spent too much glossing over feelings and tucking them away, only to have them manifest in bigger ways later. Therapy helped me understand the importance of addressing feelings as they come up and not later. This past summer, right before I started moving my body in an intentional way, I didn’t feel good about myself – and not just because of a number, but because I didn’t’ feel like I was living the life I wanted to live, I knew there was more. Ask yourself, and you’ll find the answers (also: therapy is gold if it fits within your budget).
image by darling
Am I excited?
Listen, I’m not saying we should wake up every day absolutely thrilled and on cloud 9, but are you generally excited about the things you’re doing? What lights you up? I can tell you the only excitement I was finding in July was external – I had a hard time getting excited about doing physical activity, which is something I used to love. I knew it was time.
Does this point towards my goals?
One of my goals in life is to be 80 and strong enough to go for a jog (or brisk walk) with my grandkids. When I see grandparents physically capable of activity like that, it warms my heart. And even more immediately, I love the idea of running another race (or at the very least maintaining a steady 5-miler on the trail.) I wasn’t making choices this summer that were remotely taking me to the next step. So, set some tangible goals (financial, physical, emotional, whatever you need) and ask yourself often if what you’re doing is helping you get there. If not, time to change it up.
image by hannah haston
Am I dancing?
When I’m happy, I dance. I took dance for 15 years growing up, so I’ve always been living life to some kind of beat. I know I’m loving life when it’s 8am on a Tuesday and I’m in my pajamas cooking breakfast and dancing. If that hasn’t happened in a while, I actually have to pause and think about why. What’s your version of dancing? And think about why you’re not doing it, when you love to.
Whatever your plans or goals are for 2019, I hope you remember that when you make time for change, it’s possible. Small changes can truly create big waves. Trust the process, and be kind to yourself. Happy New Year!