I have started to learn lately that in the search for personal change and improvement, whether it is for health, for greater levels of fitness, for work, for school, personal life… whatever it may be, one of the most important steps to achieving lasting change is to have a true and honest sense of personal awareness. Change does not happen over night, and even if it does, it cannot last without a deep internalization of where you’ve been, and where you strive to go. Being aware means coming to terms with every part of yourself, not just the apparent ones that you hope to improve. If it’s a lifestyle change you are after, then it’s an entire life that you need to come to terms with.
This is something I am realizing lately, as I write this blog and examine my methods and motives for improvement. I have fluctuated with my weight, my dedication to my health, and my body image for years, never quite reaching a stable and lasting change, and I’m starting to see why. Each time I become incredibly motivated to change, I jump on it immediately and within a week, or even a day, all my habits are different. I am strict with myself, I follow all the rules, I am excited, and admittedly overzealous, and it started to dawn on me this week that perhaps this was the reason for my continued “failure”. I just simply changed things too quickly and I didn’t properly examine what I wanted and what it would take within me to really make that happen. I certainly achieved some results in a short-ish period of time, like losing 10 pounds in a few months, but the weight always comes back with a vengance and I could never understand why. Not to say that I suddenly do understand, but I think I’m starting to look at things differently and to be more honest with myself, and perhaps that is a better place to start. Losing 10 pounds isn’t really hard as it is… losing the insecurities, negative self talk, anxiety, stress, and confusion about your relationship to food and exercise, that really represent the true challenge. That’s the part that requires introspection, awareness, honesty, bravery, and quite a bit of humility. Without that, change won’t stick and old habits will sneak back eventually, because what is at the core of those habits hasn’t undergone the necessary therapy in order to truly change.
A friend recently told me (that day that I was dealing with intense anxiety) that things will get worse before they get better. I see that as a process in which you come face-to-face with your personal “demons”… insecurities, fears, anxieties, traumas, histories, etc, and accept them into your life not as enemies, but as very real, honest parts of the person that you are. Coming to terms with one’s weaknesses is the first of a long set of steps that need to occur before change can take place. Before jumping ahead of ourselves (like what I have always done), we need to take time to simply become aware.
What this translates to for me in my quest to find my own personal strength in food, exercise, and health is that before I can expect to see any improvements, even before I start making huge changes in my lifestyle, I need to simply reflect and become aware of my habits and of the emotions associated with them. What am I feeling before, during, and after an intense battle with food? What motivated me to get up and exercise today, and how did I feel immediately after? 12 hours later? What is going through my head at dinner time with my host family?
And in a deeper way, what was my relationship with food and exercise like as a child? As a teen? What is my parents’ relationship like with food and exercise and how has that shaped me? Have I had any traumatic or memorable experiences relating to food or exercise?
And moving beyond just food and exercise, because I know these are ultimately just superficial expressions of a deeper state of being, I need to ask myself things like: What is at the root of my anxiety? How does my ADD affect my ability to finish a task? How have my parents positively and negatively affected my sense of self? Which of my parents’ insecurities or personal struggles has been passed on to me? Which insecurities are entirely my own? What am I afraid of? What do I hope to achieve as a person in my life?
These are my own questions to ponder, though I encourage anyone (even if you’ve already achieved your goals and you’ve got alllllll the answers) to take a moment to reflect on similar, but personalized, questions about your own state of being. It doesn’t matter what change you are hoping to achieve… I am starting to realize that it all starts here. Awareness.