How Exercise Can Cause You To Gain Weight

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Are you exercising too much?

Being in the health and wellness world for over 17 years, I have seen my fair share of exercise advice — push harder, do this new program, slow it down, lift heavier — the advice goes on and on.

Yet, proposing the question of how much is too much is rarely asked or even encouraged. It seems that the fitness industry often speaks to and caters those that are in need of that extra push. That extra encouragement. That little kick you might need to move your body and better your physical health.

But what about those fitness enthusiasts that are regularly pushing themselves? Or, those in love with high intensity competition? What about those who are already living stressful lives and want to incorporate the right kind of exercise?

They are a special breed when it comes to exercise, at least exercising the right way for the best results.

It is common knowledge that exercise is one of the healthiest forms of self-care that we can indulge in. Strength training helps to build muscle and cardiovascular exercise helps to keep your heart healthy. But, if you do too much of either of these, a normally healthy habit can begin to break the body down and, inversely, cause you to be weak and overly stressed. It doesn’t stop there…

If you live a lifestyle that is high in stress, this is going to compound and add to the extra stress placed on your body from regular intense exercise. It doesn’t matter if your stress is related to  work, family, mental health, or emotional turmoil — it all equates to extra stress in the body.

How do you know if the exercise you are doing is placing too much extra stress on your body? It is not always so easy to spot, but there are a few signs that do begin to present. When your body can no longer take the over-exercising, signs of overtraining typically creep in. Overtraining can signal the body to start burning muscle for fuel and store more fat, resulting in some weight gain.

Overtraining shows up as —

  • Persistent muscle soreness
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Increased susceptibility to infections
  • Increased incidence of injuries
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Loss of motivation
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Muscle loss
  • Increased weakness

Probably not what you are hoping for with your exercise plan!

How Over-Exercising Impacts The Body

Over-exercising places excessive stress on the body. With this onset, your hormone levels begin to change — especially testosterone and cortisol (yes, women have testosterone too!).

Testosterone is important to help build lean muscle, increase bone density, and keep your heart and blood healthy. Having healthy, balanced, levels of testosterone are super important for gaining the results you want in your workouts. When excessive stress is placed on the body, cortisol levels increase and steal from your testosterone, throwing off your healthy hormonal ratios.

With the body’s delicate hormonal balance upset, it begins to signal to the body to burn muscle instead of fat. As a result, you may notice that the lifting of your usual amount of weights, running your usual distances, and performing the same type of exercises may be much more difficult than easy.

If cortisol levels rise too high and stay elevated for too long, the adrenal glands may become imbalanced and cortisol levels drop below normal. This is when weight gain occurs.

Your body has an amazing capacity to adapt, which is what makes your body so resilient.  If you keep demanding too much from your body, without the necessary rest and recovery, it will start to compromise and compensate in an effort to keep functioning.  Your stubborn body fat —especially belly fat — is just one of the ways in which your body compensates when exposed to too many stressors.

What You Can Do

Here is where I want to emphasis the importance of looking at the stress in your everyday life. Not every day will be stress-free — every day shouldn’t be — but it is about the flow of how stress enters, exits, and dances around the moments in your day. When you step back and look at the big picture, this will help guide you in the right kind of and right amount of exercise for you and your lifestyle in this moment of your life.

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest), how much stress do I realistically have at work, at home, and in my personal life? List out the stressors if this helps you see the big picture more clearly.
  • How am I feeling right now (i.e., tired, sore, heavy, sad, stressed, light, happy, so-so)?
  • Would pushing harder make me feel better or worse? Would slowing down make me feel better or worse?
  • Can I give my body what it really needs?

You may be quite surprised to find out how much stress you unknowingly deal with on a daily basis. When you can honestly say how much “daily stress” you are experiencing, then you can step back and look at your exercise regimen. If your “daily stress” is high, then it might be counterintuitive to hop on the elliptical trainer for an hour. It is common that people who lead a more stressful lifestyle tend to gravitate towards longer cardio as a way to deal with stress — the inner push is already in their nature. Instead, try yoga or a stretching class to emphasis stress-relieving and add gentle movement that your body is craving.

If this sounds like you and you believe you are over-exercising, here are some places you could begin:

  1. Add in more energy balancing practices. Perform low to moderate amounts of exercise and save some time to do daily stress relieving practices, such as meditation, visualization, deep breathing, and journaling. You could even sign up for a Reiki session or other energy work to help you get realigned. This allows your adrenal gland hormones to begin balancing and it helps to stabilize your blood sugar, both important for properly functioning adrenals.
  2. Stop doing long cardio sessions. If you’re doing long cardio workouts, you’re only adding to the problem.  Long cardio eats away at your lean muscle mass which is essential for increasing your metabolism to burn more calories.  And it dramatically increases your appetite making you more susceptible to unnecessary snacking and over eating. Not to mention that it can create imbalance in your blood sugar, opening you up to more food cravings and inflammation in the body. Instead of long cardio, try doing short, high intensity workouts (i.e., HIIT programs).  These workouts are much more effective at promoting fat burning hormones that target your stubborn fat. It is important to mention that if you are already dealing with more severe over-training symptoms or adrenal issues, high intensity workouts may still be too aggressive for you at this time.
  3. Change the way you lift weights. Lift heavier weights at lower repetitions instead of lower weights for higher repetitions. Lifting heavier weights has been linked to increasing testosterone levels, therefore, helping to keep the hormone balance more, well, balanced. It will also help to increase lean muscle mass and increase your overall metabolism.
  4. Make sure that you are getting adequate rest. Recovery and rest are often more important than exercising.  If you’re feeling sluggish or drained of energy, do an active recovery such as an easy walk, hike, or a leisurely bike ride. If you’re really tired, take the day off! It’s during periods of rest that your body does most of the fat burning, so don’t short change yourself.  Proper rest and recovery means you’re enabling your body to burn more fat.
  5. Feed your body (the right way). The foods we eat can place large amounts of stress on the body. A diet full of sugar, processed carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats can place a significant amount of stress on the body and increase systemic inflammation in the body. Eat a well-balanced nutrition plan of whole foods that contain plenty of vegetables, lean proteins, high quality carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a few fruits. Plenty of vegetables and colorful fruits are also high in anti-oxidants (which helps to fight the negative effects of stress on the body)! Limit your alcohol and sugar because as the body become stressed, you crave both of these more!

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Women, Weight-Loss, And How To Balance Your Hormones

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It all shifts.

Every single inch seems to shift to a part of the body that it wasn’t meant to be. 

The thighs move up to the hips, the butt moves up the belly, and the back of the arms extend their goodbye with just a little extra jiggle than you might want. 

The shift happens for men and women, but women are more afflicted because of their delicate hormonal balance that can easily get upset. 

It Isn’t All About The Calories

People have been brainwashed to think if we eat a little less or follow the latest fad diet, that the weight will just melt off of us — regardless of your age or current hormonal disposition. 

Unfortunately, there continues numerous dieting models that place this hypothesis on a pedestal, promising their female clients success. And then when it doesn’t work or only works for a short period of time? 

Well…

You blame yourself. You must have done something wrong or did not have the magical willpower unicorn to help you stay on track.

I discovered that the calorie-in/calorie-out hypothesis has been widely disproven and remains the greatest misconception women have about diet and weight loss. Calories matter, more to some women than others, but hormones matter more.

Most diets don’t work for women. They fail to address the hormonal root causes that are the most common reasons for resisting weight loss resistance — excess cortisol, insulin and/or leptin blockage, estrogen dominance, a sluggish thyroid, low testosterone, and problems with the HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal) control system.

The HPA (Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal) Axis

The HPA axis is the boss of all your hormones. It sits up high looking out over the hormonal kingdom and communicating based on how it interacts with other hormones. The root cause of cortisol imbalance is usually a dysregulated HPA axis. 

When the HPA is up-regulated, you churn out too much cortisol. Think muffin top, feeling like you’re constantly racing from task to task, feeling wired but tired, quickness to anger and irritability, and rapid weight gain.

When the HPA is constantly up-regulated, it can get super burned out, like how you feel after those days of back-to-back meetings and then coming home to making dinner and managing your kid’s soccer schedules.

At this point, the HPA becomes down-regulated and suddenly you have a lack of stamina, you are quick to catch a cold, your viewpoint turns more negative, and your thyroid begins to show imbalances.

Since the HPA is often the root cause, the key is resetting it. Any other attempt at fixing the hormones will likely fail in the long run if the HPA is not addressed and stabilized.

It All Starts With Cortisol

There are so many steps you can take to address your cortisol and it really is bio-individual. Some are more researched than others, with my suggestions below being some of the most researched and successful with my clients. Here is my simple protocol to get you started for balancing cortisol.

  • Start a regular massage routine. Getting a massage once or twice a month not only prioritizes self-care, but it also helps the muscles and the fascia to release tightness and it helps to move stuck energy throughout the body. You can do this by paying for massage and/or you can start a foam roller practice, which acts like a self massage. 
  • Add B Vitamins and Omega-3’s if you are deficient. Both of these nutritional gems helps to soothe the nervous system. You can get them in supplemental form or you can eat foods like salmon, leafy greens, liver, beef, eggs, sunflower seeds, and nutritional yeast for B vitamins. Want more Omega-3’s? Fill your meals with foods like walnuts, almonds, fatty fishes, avocados, and chia seeds.
  • Honor your voice. This was the biggest action step for my own personal success! Talk through what’s stressing you with someone you trust. Get it off your chest and learn how you can work through it so it doesn’t consume you. While you are at it…
  • Honor your energy. Restore your energy by regular meditation or yoga sessions to help calm the nervous system and bring your conscious awareness back into homeostasis and alignment.
  • Drink more green tea. L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, helps to reduce stress. Limit your coffee and alcohol, especially if you are more sensitive to either of these. 
  • Eat more dark chocolate. Yes, eat more dark chocolate, but make sure that it is the 75% or higher variety or raw cacao. Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, a mineral necessary to balancing your stress response. 
  • Take phosphatidylserine.  Phosphatidylserine is helpful to take until you perceive less stress and your HPA is no longer hypervigilant. 
  • Add an adaptogen that helps to reset cortisol. You can try Ashwagandha or Rhodiola, often being successful when taken at night. To help increase your testosterone, you can try some Maca in the morning. 

As you get older and your hormones begin to naturally transition into a peri-, post-, and menopausal stage, it is even more important to pay attention to your stress levels and to the hormones that play critical roles. Next blog, I will be talking about the key hormonal players that you need to know about that keep you in balance and living your best life yet!

References: 

  1. Cuciureanu MD, Vink R. Magnesium and stress. In: Vink R, Nechifor M, editors. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System [Internet]. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2011. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507250/
  2. Hellhammer, J., Vogt, D., Franz, N., Freitas, U., & Rutenberg, D. (2014). A soy-based phosphatidylserine/ phosphatidic acid complex (PAS) normalizes the stress reactivity of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-axis in chronically stressed male subjects: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Lipids in health and disease, 13, 121. https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-511X-13-121

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Got Cellulite? 5 Ways To Reduce The Appearance

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Let’s talk cellulite.

At any age, cellulite may feel like a curse or a physical attribute that results in many days of wearing long pants.  Noses have been turned up at the mere sight of it. And a wave of shame or embarrassment may wash over you when you catch a glimpse of your reflection.

But cellulite is, in fact, normal and there is nothing wrong with it. Even though men can have cellulite, women are more prone to the lumps and bumps because of their hormonal structure and their fat distribution. It really is no big deal and does not mean that you are “disgusting” or that your body is “unattractive.”

Let’s get real — babies have cellulite!

Women of all shapes and sizes can have cellulite! How noticeable it is can be based on your genes, body fat percentage, age, and the thickness of your skin. Some women are more prone it, no matter how much they do to reduce it. For others, it could be a sign that their lifestyle choices need some adjusting.

You are never going to totally get rid of cellulite, but you can possibly reduce it by making a few small adjustments to optimize how your body responds.

Changing Your Viewpoint

When I was 15 years old, we stopped at a not-so-local McDonalds for lunch on our day trip with my aunt and cousin. It was a hot day so my shorty shorts and my tank top were the perfect outfit to keep me cool on a warm day of exploring. Young, insecure, and uber impressionable, I sat there eating my french fries and burger, not thinking much other than how good the meal was tasting. All of a sudden, I was brought back into reality when my aunt breaks the silence and points out the cellulite on my thighs and continues to proclaim to the table that I better watch what I eat because I was “getting fat.” My teenage hormones took over and I become embarrassed, emotional, and full of shame and insecurity. I remember not enjoying the rest of my lunch because I couldn’t stop focusing on my “fat legs.”

I am not alone in this. We live in a society that has deemed cellulite to be a sign of being overweight, aging or being unhealthy. This is not necessarily true. 

We all have it. 

It is normal and not harmful.

And, it is time to start having compassion for our beautiful bodies and learning that it is ok to love your body, cellulite and all. 

It is not about the cellulite and the amount you have on your body, it is about how you are taking care of you, your physical body, and your overall health. And, if you reduce the cellulite in the process of getting healthier? Bonus!

What Is Cellulite And What Causes It?

Cellulite consists of several changes in your skin’s normal structure and changes within the fat cells themselves. It is also coupled with circulation issues. Have you ever touched the lumpy skin on your hips, thighs, and buttocks? Chances are that it may feel a little more cool to touch because of the poor blood circulation. 

When the skin overlying certain areas of fat is pulled downward to the deeper tissues by connective tissue bands, cellulite can occur. This is seen by the uneven surface that it creates. It is most commonly found in the hips, thighs, abdomen, buttocks, and breasts.

The collagen fibers between the skin and muscle separate the underlying fat into multiple pockets. This is why cellulite can become more visible as you age and your skin becomes thinner and loses elasticity. All of this exposes the rippled connective tissues underneath. 

Poor diet, lack of exercise, an unhealthy lifestyle, accumulated toxins, genetics, weight gain, pregnancy, and hormones could all cause cellulite. 

Hormonal Impact

The body is incredibly wise and it’s hormones are designed to continually play a dance of balance so that the body can function optimally. Unfortunately, and depending on your season of life or your lifestyle choices, those hormones can become unbalanced, with some hormones moving into a state of dysfunction. Because of this, cellulite can be more dramatic on some than it is on others. 

Most women are going to have cellulite, just because they are women, and looking more dramatic depending on what season of life they are in (puberty, pregnancy, menopause, etc). Let me explain…

The woman’s back of her thighs are very responsive to her hormonal balance and profile. Estrogen prevents fat breakdown and loss by increasing the activity of thigh fat cells. Estrogen also stimulates an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, or LPL, which is responsible for fat growth. Now, this can appear in the buttocks and the abdomen, but it is often most seen in the back of the legs. 

Then there is prolactin. Prolactin, also known as the breast-feeding hormone, increases water retention in the fatty tissue, making each cell look larger and lumpier and making cellulite more visible.

So this leads to the next question — If estrogen and prolactin do this, then why does a women in peri-,post-, and menopause often experience such dramatic affects of cellulite? There are multiple answers for this (less active, less collagen production, etc) but one huge factor is another hormone.

Insulin.

Estrogen and progesterone affect how your cells respond to insulin. After menopause, changes in your hormone levels can trigger fluctuations in your blood sugar levels. You may notice that your blood sugar level changes more than before, and goes up and down.

Exercise, managing stress, and eating a diet lower in carbohydrates all help to manage your blood glucose and insulin levels. 

Whenever you eat a carbohydrate-rich food such as donuts, ice cream, pasta, bread, candy, etc or drink a carbohydrate-rich drink such as soda, juice, beer, wine, etc, your body releases insulin to manage the glucose, or the sugar from the carbs, that are entering your bloodstream. Ideally, your muscles will welcome it and use it for energy or store it for later use.

But in a world where we are less active and are not burning off the amount of carbohydrate-rich foods we are taking in, the glucose has to spill over to the fat cells, gets turned into fatty acids, and then stored as triglycerides. This causes fat cells to squish out and become more visible. 

The bad news is that if you are not very active, a high carbohydrate-rich diet will induce more fat cell growth. The good news is that you can balance that out with a healthy mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. If you want to lower your insulin response even more, choosing the right kind of exercise and body movement that is right for your body and your stress levels can dramatically help!

5 Ways To Smoother Skin

1. Be Food Savvy

One of the keys to reducing cellulite is to reduce the toxin build-up in your body. Tip #3 and #4 will help with this as well, but it really starts with the food you are choosing to eat each day. 

Eating processed foods that are high in carbohydrates, refined sugars, preservatives, unhealthy fats and salt leads to the accumulation of toxins in your body. The body stores these toxins in fat cells. Try to eliminate these from your nutrition plan –

  • Trans fats (found in many processed and packaged foods)
  • Canola oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil
  • Refined sugar and excess sugar
  • Highly processed foods
  • Table salt and excessive salt

Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and fiber can help to reduce toxins from your body while also providing your body with the nutrients it needs to help balance out your hormones. 

There are many ways that you can get a hefty dose of antioxidants and, even in ways that are helpful for multiple health issues. French Pine Bark Extract, an antioxidant known for neutralizing free radicals and toxins in the body, can also increase blood circulation and strengthen your blood vessels. Grapeseed Extract is an antioxidant that is known to improve circulation in the legs, strengthen blood vessels in the lower body, and prevent build-up of fatty tissue and the inflammation in the skin — all of these benefits indirectly helping to reduce cellulite. 

Healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, etc helps to balance out hormones, improve the integrity of your skin health, and balance out insulin levels, just to name a few. It also helps to keep you fuller longer and staves off food cravings.

One overlooked area of the nutrition-cellulite relationship is hydration. You might believe that if you drink too much water, you will begin to look bloated and cellulite will worsen. This is simply not true! Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day (more if you drink tea, coffee, juice, and any other dehydrating beverages) to flush out the toxins in the body and to hydrate the skin. 

2. Get More Collagen Into Your Diet

After you turn 30, you start to lose 1-2% of collagen a year. Hormonal changes can cause even more collagen loss and thinning of the skin. Without your skin having significant collagen levels, the chance of fat deposits being pushed up against the skin and creating the dimpling look is much more likely. 

One of the most effective ways to combat this is to increase your skin collagen density by taking a collagen peptide supplement and drinking slow-cooked bone broth. Clinical studies show that collagen peptides get absorbed into the bloodstream and then penetrate and remain in the dermis, triggering collagen production in the skin.

Looking for high-quality collagen sources? Try Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen Protein or Great Lakes Collagen Powder (red can for gelatin/cooking, green can for smoothies). Looking for bone broth? My two favorites are Kettle and Fire and Bonafide. 

3. Dry Brush Your Skin

Remember, cellulite appearance is directly connected to your circulation. Dry brushing is a technique to improve lymphatic drainage and blood circulation while helping to eliminate the toxins that break down connective tissue. A whopping 70% of your body’s lymphatic vessels are located right underneath the skin.

Dry brushing doesn’t take long to see results! It also plumps the skin temporarily, lessening the appearance of cellulite and making your skin feel softer and more smooth. 

4. Get Your Body Moving

Moving your body helps to build up the muscle, increase circulation, burn body fat, and lower insulin levels — all of these promoting smooth skin and reduced appearance of cellulite. Doing full body movement is important, but focus on exercise and strength training that will build up your lower body and use the body as one whole unit, such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, hamstring curls, and leg extensions. This will help to target those areas most prone to fat cell distribution.

If you don’t have time to get to a gym or do a full workout, do chair squats at work or lunges in your cubical. Or, you could go for speed walks on your lunch break. 

5. Scrub Your Skin With Coffee

Outside of the caffeine boost, drinking my cup of coffee in the morning was always a delight because I knew that those grounds were having an extended life cycle. I used to save my coffee grounds and use them as a delicious smelling exfoliant body scrub. Sure, it smelled great, but it was also doing my body good. Scrub the body with coffee grounds helps to remove water and toxins trapped in the body and skin. 

Coffee scrubs can help to remove dead skin cells, regenerate healthy new cells, reduces the appearance of cellulite. They also have powerful anti-inflammatory and metabolic properties. And, when combined with a natural oil, such as almond, olive, evening primrose, and coconut, the coffee scrub can help to reduce free radical damage and improve your skin’s elasticity. 

Even though cellulite is normal and should not be shameful or embarrassing, there are ways that you can reduce the appearance so that you feel more comfortable in your own skin!

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Why Willpower Is Overrated: 5 Steps To Get What You Want

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If I only had more willpower…

I would finally finish that book that I have always wanted to write.

I would shed those last 10 lbs that continue to nag at me like that bowl of ice cream right before bed.

I would allow myself to slow down and really prioritize myself — maybe I would even stop making excuses of why I simply have no time to exercise. 

Yet, willpower —the right amount of willpower — never really seems to be available. And if you can seem to rummage up the willpower to take action, it quickly slips into the abyss after a few measly days. 

The definition of willpower according to dictionary.com is the “control of one’s impulses and actions; self-control.” As much as we need to have the will to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and into the unfamiliar to be able to start the process of changing habits, I don’t believe it starts there.

And, I don’t believe in willpower being the driving force to achieve what you want. I don’t really believe in willpower. 

I think that it is unfair to say that most of our bad habits are due to laziness or lack of willpower. On the surface it may appear like that. You either do something or you don’t and if you do, you have willpower and, if you don’t, well then you are lazy and uncommitted. Right?

Wrong.

Accomplishing anything new requires risk. And, most of us do not like risk and we sure don’t like stepping out of our comfort zones for too long in order to make real, sustainable, long-lasting change. This is precisely why the health industry is booming, people have unfathomable levels of gambling debt, credit cards get maxed out, and we can’t seem to get up early to drag ourselves out of bed for an early morning workout. 

For years, I was a self-proclaimed procrastinator — waiting until the last minute to get anything done. No matter how big or small, I waited and would then rush, stressing myself out feeling the grips of deadlines tightening around my throat. I would get angry at the project, anyone involved, time — yep, I actually would get angry with Universal time or lack there of. But, never ever ever did I get upset with myself. To me, if was who I was and what I did. 

I would try to dig deep and rummage up willpower to start projects early or leave the house on time. Anything to not wait until the last minute. At first, I had success, but in the long run I always failed and slipped right back into my procrastinating ways.  

That was all until I started to address that shadow part of my personality at it’s core. And I stopped giving myself a break. What I learned shook up my entire understanding of myself. I was a self-sabotager and procrastinating was one tool that I used to deconstruct and rip apart the life that I was trying to build. It was my safety net that soothed and kissed my fear of not being good enough, smart enough, resourceful enough. It gave me a place to blame if someone didn’t like my work or was frustrated with me or my actions. It was all excuses. 

Excuses that took me away from my deepest reasons of why I truly wanted something and why they were priorities to me. 

It Isn’t About Willpower, It’s About Acceptance

The concept of willpower is quite harsh. You push and push. You fight the good fight. You stir up all the triggers and feelings within you that will eventually make you get a little spazzy. And then when it is so uncomfortable that you can hardly bear it anymore, you release it and tuck it away, hoping and praying that you have the strength to wrestle with it again one day. 

But I have to tell you something…

Your strongest desire will always outweigh other desires. This is true for any kind of desire, positive or negative. If your desire to lose weight is not as strong as your desire for comfort in the evening after a long, stressful day, your desire for comfort will win every single time. And, if you use cookies as your tool to give you comfort instead of taking a bath or going for an evening walk, then the cookies will win every single time. 

Here are 5 crucial steps to get you off the no willpower blame game and move forward with long-term success:

1. Have Acceptance Of What Is.

Knowing where you stand and what your real, honest to goodness realities of a situation are the first must have step. If you are unaware of the reality of the situation, then gaining acceptance of that reality will continue to slip through your grip. This means looking with honesty at: 

  • Your actions and your patterns, those things you do over and over that typically cause you to throw willpower to the wind
  • Your pain points and how they affect you and those around you, those things that hold you back from moving forward (i.e., spending time with your spouse in the evening by sitting on the couch and enjoying a cookie together. Your time with him is valuable)
  • Your level of control in the situation, those areas of the specific situation that you have any level of control over.

After you get a grasp on these details, now it is time to accept what is and how you have been. No blame. No shame. None of them are good or bad. It just is.

Take away the guilt, take a deep breath, and know that you are ok. 

Let’s move to step two…

2. Knowing What You Want And Why.

This may sound like an obvious step, but I am often surprised when people tell me that they have no idea what they really want. You may think that you want to lose 10 lbs, but do you really want to lose 10 lbs or do you want to not feel so bloated and tired and feel super attractive in that little black dress that you have hanging in the back of your closet, waiting for that special dinner date so you can wow your spouse? 

Knowing what you specifically want is different than having an idea. And, knowing what you want is different than knowing what you think you should have. It gets easy to become lost in your life’s shoulds — many of us are one social comparison away from shaving our heads and hiding in our closet until we start to feel better about ourselves. 

What it truly comes down to is, not only knowing what you want, but also knowing WHY you want it. Do you want to lose those 10 lbs because you want to fit into that little black dress or do you want to feel sexy for your spouse and have your spouse’s eyes on you throughout the entire dinner? Or maybe you want to fit into that little black dress because it will mean that you will be one step closer to being healthy so you can be around for your kids as they grow older. Your big WHY is so important to keep you on track and connected to what you really want. 

3. Know What Is Stronger Than What You Want.

All great things come with a certain level of obstacles. And when your step 2 runs super deep into the caverns of your soul, your obstacles are going to be greater. But don’t let this scare you! Knowing what some of the common obstacles are can help you become better prepared.

As I mentioned above, your strongest desire will always outweigh other desires. Obstacles can be very enticing. If you had a long, stressful day and only have 15 minutes after dinner to get a walk in, your desire (obstacle) to sit on the couch and relax is inevitably going to be stronger than your walk written on our day’s to-do list. That walk is not going to happen. 

When these obstacles pop up, and they will, you need a game plan. Brainstorm as many obstacles as you can around your goal. With each obstacle, come up with at least one alternative plan that can keep you on track. Keep that game plan somewhere that you know you can refer to when the going gets tough. 

Not only does this reinforce that you do have control in the situation, but it also begins to rewire your brain and create new neural pathways that will make it easier to stay on track next time that the obstacle presents itself. 

4. Take One Small Action Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone.

Stepping out of our comfort zones can be super scary, but these steps can help to propel you to take massive action! Think back to a time that you took a chance or you did something that was a little scary. Sure, it was probably nerve-racking, but I bet it was also liberating or inspiring or motivating. And, I bet it inspired you to take action elsewhere, even if it was just for a moment. That is the beauty of getting out of your comfort zone. Sometimes the thrill can ignite our passions and push us forward!

We all have different levels of comfort, so this step will be very unique to you. It is really about taking a chance, continuing to rewrite your brain’s neural pathways, and creating different habits and different actions. This sets you up for a path of success in what willpower has failed with in the past. 

5. Reevaluate And Hone In.

Anything you want to grow in has to have a level of evaluation to see if you are growing, standing still, or falling behind. At the end of the day, sit down and reevaluate on how you did. Did you stick to the original plan or did you have to fall back on some obstacle alternative game plan? What worked? What didn’t work? Where did you succeed and where did you fail? 

Getting out of the willpower loop is all about being honest with yourself and reevaluating your efforts is no different. Take an honest look at the day or the week. Where can you celebrate? Where can you try something different? 

Getting out of living life on auto-pilot will help you to better understand yourself and your goals. What is even more of a gift is how it will put you in the driver’s seat of life and allow you to be more in control of your destiny than ever before!

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