by Amy Hunter
Every year at this time I haul out the spring/summer clothes that have been tucked away all winter. Last week, I had an event to attend and thought I’d pick out a pair spring pants to wear. Naively, I pulled on the first pair and was shocked to find they didn’t fit. Convinced it must be the winter shrinkage that happens to clothes stored in a box (this happens right?) and not ready to surrender to my new enlarged reality, I grabbed the final pair. This was the super stretchy black capris; my fat-day pants and I confidently stepped into them only to experience the same gasp (read sucking in) as I tried to do them up. I felt the sick hot flush of shame and disappointment wash over me. How did I let this happen?
Too much sitting behind my computer, mindless trips to the cupboard, frequent missed trips to the gym all add up to well, a larger size. And it’s not that I don’t know this, I know why I gain weight, the importance of exercise and how to eat right. I know a lot about all of this, it’s just that I don’t do what I know. I’m a nurse and a coach who is passionate about healthy eating and wellness. So how come a smart, well-informed woman like me can’t do up the button on her pants?
Here’s the paradox: knowing does not equal results. Thinking about having a fit, healthy, body and mind won’t give me one. Having a lot of information doesn’t’ mean much if I don’t do something with it. I can know a lot of facts and study results, but if I don’t take new action and commit to change nothing much will happen. And to change I have to dig deep and figure out what story is getting in my way, what am I telling myself that keeps me stuck in the same place.
The stories we hold shape us, influence our choices and actions. When it comes to our bodies, the stories can be very powerful. Sometimes we have an image that is too far from our starting place and we become overwhelmed and do nothing. We can sabotage our good intentions by holding onto a story that we are too busy, or we don’t have enough time. Whatever the story is, it has us believing it’s true which keeps us doing the same thing, keeps us in denial and comfortable. And I am living proof of just how powerful a story is, how blindly carrying on in the same patterns keep us living out our story until a breakdown happens, in this case, a pile of too tight pants.
So what can we do, what can I do to make lasting change, to get back into my wardrobe?
First, become aware of the story that keeps you comfortable and gives you permission to do nothing. I call this my comfort zone story. It sounds like this: “I didn’t get enough sleep and I won’t be at my best so I’ll do it tomorrow”. Or “I have too much to do, I have to take care of all these other things first, then I’ll go exercise” etc. This is the story, it is familiar and comfortable and often, if you’re like me, you believe it. Noticing when your story shows up to keep you stuck gives you an opportunity to choose to keep it or choose a new story.
Notice, when you are looking to find support for your story Our mind is busy and clever; it looks to find support for our story, a brilliant and subtle strategy our mind utilizes to keep us locked in our familiar comfort zone. For instance, here’s a comfort zone thought: “I don’t have enough time”; evidence to support this: my long do list. However, I created the list and thus, have some control over it, but I leave this part out of my story!
Ask yourself how is my story serving me? At one time maybe the story had relevance or purpose, the question is does it now? Consider the benefit and the downside to holding onto this story and decide whether you want to keep it or create a new one.
Spend time reflecting on what you want for your body. This is a chance to really design what you want for yourself; only you know what it will take to feel good in your body. I know that when I’m taking care of myself, I just feel good, I feel strong, more confident and less stressed. Taking time to connect to the emotions I have when I am fit will help me create a new story and remind me both physically and emotionally why taking care of myself is important. Once you figure out why you want to take care of your body, make a promise to yourself to do it. This commitment will begin to hold you accountable and help you take action, to make choices that align with what matters to you. And put your promise to yourself somewhere where you will see it everyday. I stuck mine on my desktop.
While you take small steps towards change, be gentle and kind, your new story is fighting to hold back the old one. If you slip back into your old story, just notice and acknowledge you have choice. You’re not trapped in your story anymore. Noticing your story, acknowledging you want to make a change and creating a new story for yourself is empowering, it puts us at choice rather than being a victim in our lives. Making a promise to your self, taking small steps towards new actions puts us in integrity and moving forward from a place of purpose.
For me, after I exhausted all hope of finding a pair of pants that fit, the emotions I experienced put me into action. A pulled on my stretchy yoga pants (yes, they still fit!), grabbed my IPod and went for a run. Initially, I was running away from my pant pile, but as I continued, I felt the shift in my mood, my energy and felt more in control. It hurt, it wasn’t fun and, I did it anyway. When I was done, I felt better, stronger and committed to make exercise a part of my day again.
And, I bought a new pair of pants to get me out the door and to my event. I am keeping my pant pile stacked in clear view for me to see, just in case my old story sneaks up and tries to take over again.