You know those people who do something extraordinary? You look at them and think “That’s amazing but I could never do that!”. And you doubt your ability to do what others achieve because we each have our own internal dialog and subjective “truths” (often unflattering ones) we tell ourselves. This is my own personal Mother’s Day story about how my mom made a change, gave me the best mothers day gift ever and the lessons we learned along the way.
I grew up in what was every child’s junk food dream house. My friends would come over and eat everything in the pantry. So when I made the transition to a healthy life style a few years ago, my mom was shocked and maybe even a bit intimidated. You see, my mom expresses her love through food and if she can’t feed me, how will I know she loves me? She is also the kind of mom and grandma that while working two jobs, still finds the time to help her family, friends, colleagues and students and spends every free minute with her grandchildren. She has the time and capacity to take care of everybody around her but taking care of herself just didn’t make it to the top of her list. When she witnessed my transformation it was one of those moments where she thought “that’s amazing but I could never do that”. Until she did!
Every year my mom comes to visit for a few weeks. We have our routine that includes places we visit, stores where we shop,and of course, favorite foods we like to share. A couple days before her visit I’d go to BJ’s and stock up on Entennmans, Twizzlers and Raisinets. This year, like every other year, as her February visit was approaching, I asked her what treats to stock up on for her visit. She replied: “This time, I think we should do it your way”. I was shocked, thrilled and skeptical, all at the same time. I asked her to think about it and let me know if that is what she really wants because I know first hand – you can’t make this change just to please someone else. You need to be intrinsically motivated. (Lesson #1:) You have to reach the point where you are no longer willing to accept your current situation. You have to know a change must happen. Not that my mom was extremely overweight (not even close) but she was not happy with where she was or the direction things were going. She knew that the time to make a change was now.
This brings me to Lesson #2: If you fail to plan then you are planning to fail! You must have a plan!
Once my mom assured me she was serious, I crafted a plan for her success. First, I removed temptations and obstacles. Then I set out to find a plan that was doable yet effective, and it had to get her on the right path for both working out and eating right.
Being a fan of several Beachbody products, I set her up with the 21 Day Fix, which is a complete and simple eating plan with a set of workout DVD’s to follow for 21 days. It was perfect.
When she arrived, I could see that she was nervous. We wrote out a weeks worth of meal plans and did all the necessary food prep. My mom had never been on a diet before and although I explained it was a lifestyle change, not a crash diet, I could tell that all she was thinking was: I’m going to be starving and this is going to suck. Neither one of expected that over the next few weeks not only didn’t she starve, but on many days she couldn’t even finish all the allotted food. There is no magic or mystery about this, when you eat nutrient dense food and you are consuming the right mix of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, you stay fuller for longer. Because (Lesson #3:) It’s not about eating less, it’s about eating right.
The daily workouts were challenging at first but got easier as time went on. I was amazed by her level of commitment and even on days when we were tired she powered through. After 3 weeks she started to see results, but more importantly, she realized she survived! She realized SHE CAN DO IT! And that realization is when the real change happens: (Lesson #4:) Building Self efficacy – the belief in your ability to control the outcome. The belief in yourself. That moment when your internal dialog goes from “I could never do that” to “I can do this!” or “I am doing this!”. The only way to build self efficacy is to let yourself succeed. Commit to it, plan for it and then just get it done!
When my mom returned home, I was worried about how she would continue on her own but we developed a system. Aside from talking everyday (or 5 times a day) and letting me know when she did her workout, every Monday she would weigh herself and I’d wake up to a text message reporting the week’s progress. She was losing the pounds gradually and consistently. Was it all fun and games all the time? Of course not! It was hard and sometimes she even treated herself to food that was not on the plan but she knew she would have to report back on every missed workout and weigh in. The weekly weigh ins and food reporting might have added pressure but for her it was the motivating kind. You want to have fun with your training but such a big part of your success is Lesson #5: Accountability. It can be in the form of a trainer, a workout partner or family member, but you have to have a system, some way of measuring your progress and holding yourself accountable.
So if you want to succeed, rally your network – tell your friends what you are setting out to do. Ask them to help you. When you make a change, people around you may be resistant. It inevitably makes them reflect upon their own ways. They might not always like it but stick to your guns, don’t let them deter you. My mom does a great job of (Lesson #6:) Tuning out the noise. I could hear the change in her voice, in the way she talked about her new life style “this is how I do things now”. My mom can now set goals for herself and believe that she can achieve them. She works for them and knows that she will get there – the target weight, the desired plank and anything else that she sets her mind to. She prepares her food in advance, she carves out time for her workouts, she is getting stronger and stronger. Yes, at the age of sixty-something developing strength is more important than ever and it is not too late to start. You plan for retirement financially, why not physically as well?
It’s been almost three and a half months since she started and she is down about 15 lbs. There are no magic potions. Just hard work. Every day. It’s making sure you get your workout in and then not ruining it the other 23 hours of the day by eating food that doesn’t benefit your body or your goal. And while you’re changing your lifestyle, you can’t do it sometimes, you have to do it all the time. Eventually, as you progress you can follow the 80/20 rule BUT (Lesson #7:) Consistency is key. Stick to the program, follow through and you will get there.
On the wall of my home studio, the first thing my clients see when they come in is a reminder that “Motivation is what gets you started but habit is what keeps you going.” (I’m all about the cliches if they are motivating and true). Don’t wait for motivation to kick in, start creating habits. That is when you’ll see the real change happen.
I could not be more proud of her and amazed by this unbelievable transformation. It requires courage, commitment and the desire to succeed. This is about so much more than just lost pounds. It’s about strength gains, confidence and above all the feeling of doing something great for yourself, regaining control of your life. Many of us have such hard time allowing ourselves to do this because it is perceived as a luxury. But truly, as cliche as it is, the best mothers day gift a mom can give or receive is taking care of herself. The airlines say it best – secure your own mask before helping others.
Happy Mothers Day!