Dec 302009
Photo of Susan swimming

Photo by Chris Mooney

One factor that often inhibits progress in both the diet and the exercise departments  is what I’ll call the “identity crisis.” Maybe you have been overweight most of your life or were the last kid picked in gym class. Perhaps after  years of seeing yourself as “fat” and/or “unathletic,” you have convinced yourself you can’t be anything else. If truth be known, I was the last kid picked in gym class. Through a great deal of discipline and practice, I was able to transform myself into the athletic person I always wanted to be. If you’re not happy with your fitness level or weight, I’m asking you to take that step today to see yourself as someone entirely new.

Before you can make this happen in your own life, you have to decide who you want to be and start identifying with that. For example, I swim with a U.S. Masters swimming team 3 days a week and often compete on a state and national level. So I see myself as a swimmer and I have cool swimsuits and a team warm-up suit and a team cap and all my favorite swimming gear that reminds me and others that I’m a swimmer.

I also identify myself as a fitness professional, since I teach many classes and work one-on-one with clients every week. Because I work in fitness, I also believe it is important for me to be a role model for health and fitness. So that inspires me to eat and drink less at parties, because I don’t want to let down the people who look up to me anymore than I want to disappoint myself.  At last night’s party, even some of the other people pushed the sweet plates away once they learned my profession.

I also identify myself as writer,  parent, and wife. It isn’t difficult for me to play any of my roles any more because I have become accustomed to them after years and years of “living” this lifestyle.

So here’s my suggestion. Try to follow the same principles in your own life. Embrace as part of your identity what you want to become. Instead of telling everyone else you’re unathletic, say “I’ve taken up tennis lessons and I’m already getting more of my serves in bounds.” Whenever you get ready to leave the house, take a look in the mirror at your tennis skirted physique and say  to yourself “I’m a tennis player.” And when you have extra money, instead of buying junk food at the mall, splurge on a new racket or a new tennis skirt or pair of shoes. Before you know it, playing tennis will be part of your day and even fun as you improve your skills and meet other players.

You can follow the same principles with weight loss. Lose the “I’ve always been fat” mantra that is sure to leave you gaining rather than losing weight and say instead (after you have really started changing your diet)  “I’m eating lots of fruits and vegetables. I know this is so much better for my body than junk food and foods packed with preservatives.”  After a few weeks, healthy eating will be part of your lifestyle and “good” foods will start to appeal to you more than the “not-so-good” foods. 

So let’s all search our souls as we embark on 2010 and start seeing ourselves as the best we can be instead of who we have been.

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