Questions I've heard more than once: How do I shrink my belly? How do I get rid of arm “flab”? How do I get six pack abs? How do I get toned? How do I get smaller legs? These questions are similar and quite familiar to personal trainers. Of course the answer is: it depends! Many factors will come into it AND honestly, sometimes the answer is...You don’t! You focus on other things instead. For the most part, you likely have a pretty good idea of what you need to do and may have attempted and even achieved your desired results previously …but it’s not that simple, right? I’m not gonna lay out a weight loss or six pack abs plan for you here. But I will present a few important areas of consideration. Before you lift a weight, break a sweat, or modify your caloric intake in an effort to change a specific body part, consider the following questions.
Why do you want to change that particular body part?
In order to sustain the effort needed to make these types of changes, it’s important to have a strong and defined why. Sometimes when we delve into the desire for change, we discover it is based on a previous negative experience, comparing our bodies to others or the bodies of our youth, or something deeper like improved health, self-confidence, strength or endurance. You may find that your desire isn't so much the arms or stomach or legs, it's what they represent to you.
Body image issues and negative focus on specific body parts is pretty much a universally-shared experience among women. It’s okay to seek change or "improvement" but at the same time it is necessary to practice self-acceptance, self-compassion, and the realization that perfect bodies, especially as seen on Instagram, don't exist.
What happens if you make efforts to change and it doesn’t end up as you planned?
Medical conditions, genetics, or other factors can potentially prevent you from fully achieving your desired results. Then what? Your options will be to continue to think those negative thoughts and creatively conceal what you dislike, seek out alternatives to change, such as surgery, or accept these “flaws” and move on. Sometimes the best option is to find indifference and focus elsewhere.
I grew up hating my calves and my nose and... honestly, I had a whole bunch of self-image issues. My calves are still big, enough that medical professionals and massage therapists mention them. Instead of hating and hiding them as I did in the past, I learned to accept them. I can run, jump, dance, and walk because of my large and in-charge calves. They aren't my favorite body part and I don't "love" them but they're all right.
Currently, I’m experiencing greater belly bloat and size due to a gynecological medical condition. When I catch myself thinking negative thoughts, I've started questioning them. It goes a little like…“Why am saying these things to myself? Is it due to bullshit beliefs about what my body “should” look like? Am I doing things to support my health and well-being now and in the future? Would you say or think this about someone else?"
We gotta do what we can to get away from negative self-talk and return to a more positive, productive way of thinking while in the process of change or accepting what we cannot change.
What trade-offs are you willing to make?
“To get something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” Behavior change is required for physical change. It is a process and, when done right, usually takes a bit of time. If you want a leaner physique, of course you will have to give up some time and energy for training & movement; time that is currently being used doing other things (priorities have to change). You may also have to change your environment to make it more conducive to the habits that will help you reach your goal. You will need to become aware of current habits that aren’t helping you reach your goal and make efforts to change them such as types and amount of foods you eat, social outing meals/drinks, and time spent sleeping/doing recovery activities. If what you desire and the actions you are willing to take don’t match up, you need to alter your goal to something that does align with what you are ready, willing, and able to do. Go back to your why.
A bit more on getting lean and seeing abs: in general, women need to reduce body fat to less than 19% to “see abs” – here is a great article from PN about getting lean).
Finally, what happens after you achieve your goal? Will the changes you made to get you there be sustainable long-term or are you okay with short-term change? What’s left to motivate you to continue?
Often aesthetic goals are built around a momentary change and may not support long-term progress. Once you have the “product” (your results) it seems like you should be done paying for it. The reality is that your results are more like a product you've rented which will be taken away shortly after you stop paying. This is why whenever you decide to make changes, do it with systems that are sustainable, balanced, and contain elements of enjoyment. Enjoying the process and finding wins along the way is critical to long-term success! Otherwise, you are going to constantly struggle when that rent is due. I encourage you to focus on falling in love with the process, rather than the outcome. When you focus on the process and the benefits you receive for your whole self, then you find sustainability.
Fat loss or getting lean with a focus on achieving a certain aesthetic is a common goal. I’m not going to tell you it’s wrong, it's not. However, I will tell you that usually the purely physical focus isn’t often sustainable long-term and can lead to unhealthy and unbalanced habits and ways of thinking. Consider goals that are based on what you can do rather than how you look. Get honest with yourself. Start working on shutting down negative self-talk. Find balanced, enjoyable ways to move you towards your desired outcome. Learn to love the process.
Like the way sustainable change sounds? Contact me for an initial consultation and take the first step towards finding your balanced life. Let's get to work!