At Free Soul we're so grateful to be surrounded by a vast network of incredible women. Each are experts in their fields, and often we're lucky enough to have them provide us (and you!) with their knowledge to help you level up your wellness from a new perspective. Helen Derbyshire, certified life coach and NLP practitioner at Real and Raw, with over 10 years of experience coaching women. With her help and non-bias advice, you can be reminded of your power and reach your full potential...
This blog is for those who are tired of setting goals in relation to health and wellness only to find themselves no longer sustaining it beyond the 2-3 week mark. And no, this isn’t a motivational blog to boost your motivation to ‘get back to it’. This is a holistic approach that will explain why this happens, what it means for you and your goals, and how to sustain your healthy habits long term in a more harmonious way.
We all know the importance of taking care of our mental and physical health. Not only does exercise strengthen your body and adds longevity to your life, but it is a fantastic way of maintaining a calmer mind and having better sleep! But for me, the biggest benefit of taking care of my health is the way it makes me feel about myself. When I take care of myself, I feel really proud and grateful but it hasn’t always been that way.
Health and wellness goals can be anything from eating more nutritious meals, taking your vitamins and supplements, moving your body regularly, and prioritising sleep and rest.
Now some of you may know me from my competing days (for those who don’t, I competed in 8 bodybuilding competitions across the span of 4 years with my last show ending in around 2015 or 16). When I was competing, discipline was not an issue for me, but after my competitions had ended and I was left with a poor relationship with my body, that put me into a ‘punishment and reward’ mindset in relation to my nutrition and exercise. Meaning, I would eat something as a ‘reward’ for a hard week in the gym, and punish myself with exercise for eating said ‘reward’. This was not a healthy cycle to be in and I found discipline to be exceptionally hard and sustaining my goals and habits started to feel like chores and I found myself falling out of love with anything health and wellness related, which naturally was a by-product of the cycle I found myself in.
Once I was able to break free from that cycle, which took a good couple of years and stepped completely away from anything related to intense fitness, that included friends, gyms, on social media, the way I trained and ate and channelled my energy elsewhere. Luckily, I had worked on my relationship with myself more for a couple of years before falling pregnant with my daughter, and having a stronger relationship with my mind and body allowed me to be in total awe of my body's abilities during and after pregnancy.
Over the past 2-3 years since having my daughter, I have found setting and sustaining health and wellness almost effortless, so let me tell you how to get to this point yourself.
But just before we get into the main body of this blog I just want to emphasize the importance of having a better relationship with ourselves through self development to support us in setting goals that are designed to take care of our mind and bodies rather than punish them or see movement and exercise as a chore.
Shifting Your Perspective
Shifting our perspective from ‘exercise’ to ‘movement’ and focusing on ‘moving our body in a way that feels good’ vs ‘going to the gym’ allows us to have a much more positive viewpoint on health and wellness. Understanding that exercise and healthy eating is not about the way we look, but about the way we feel. Knowing that we are investing in the future version of ourselves each time we show up for our daily/weekly movement, each time we take our supplements, each time we go to bed early instead of staying up late. Moving from “I have to go to the gym” to “I GET to workout”. You can also use positive affirmations to support this perspective shift.
Affirmations I really love are;
I am committed to my goals
I am passionate about health and wellness
I am taking care of my mind and body
I am taking care of me, for me
I am healthy and thriving
Building Self Trust
This is a big one, how many of you find yourselves being either all or nothing? Especially in relation to health and wellness? We do this because we haven’t yet discovered a middle ground and we do not trust ourselves to be anything other than “all” when we’ve immediately set a goal.
We can build self trust through committing to our promises (they do not have to be related to health and wellness), simple things like following through with what you said you would do, trusting your gut instinct, connecting on a deeper level with yourself where you can understand what you need and when and nurturing that relationship so that you can move towards a place of self trust that even if you do not make it to the gym one day or week, that’s ok because you have enough self trust that you know you can easily get back to it, you have enough evidence of making promises and commitments and following through with them. One day/week off the gym doesn’t mean it automatically defaults to ‘nothing’. I have to skip the gym for a few weeks altogether if I’m too swamped with work but I trust myself that I’ll resume when I can, and most importantly when I’m ready. Allow yourself to be in control of your health and well-being rather than it controlling you.
Setting Realistic Goals
This is an important point, so many of us (me included in the past), set unrealistic goals because they give us an instant dopamine boost. How amazing does it feel to plan that 6am workout the next day and have 1-2 days of eating really strict? It feels great right? Until day 3,4,5,6,7 and you’re burnt out, hating the food you’re eating, wondering what on earth you was thinking and end up defaulting back to prior habits.
Now, this isn’t because you’re “not disciplined enough”, it’s because you set an unrealistic expectation without a solid plan in place to support you in achieving those goals, not to mention, they weren't sustainable. We cannot go from one extreme to the other and expect longevity. The key to sustaining healthy habits is by following the habits that you can SUSTAIN long term.
Creating a Solid Plan
This point is more complex because it requires a lot more examples and information but it might just be the important point. Ok they’re all important but I feel this one need a big fuss. So, a solid plan isn’t just telling yourself in your mind you’ll do xyz. It requires a lot of analysis and reflection. It requires you to understand both your limiting habits as well as the new habits you wish to adopt. If you want to start going for morning workouts and it requires you to be out of bed by a specific time in order to complete the workout, the limiting habit would be staying up late on your phone. If you’re wanting to eat healthy nutritious meals but you didn’t plan to go grocery shopping or prepare anything in advance, it’s going to make it difficult.
What I like to do, and I took inspiration from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, where he talks about reverse engineering your goals. So essentially looking at the end goal, and working backwards. So, for example, if your goal is to improve your overall health and well-being, and say you’d like to get to a point whereby you’re working out 4-5 times per week, you need to understand what is required for that to happen. Will you start with 2 times per week? When will you workout? At what time? What type of workout? Identify all of those things, and then, identify your limiting habits, similarly to the examples I mentioned above. For me, I really love going for a morning walk, but I know if I don’t lay my workout clothes out the night before and put them on as soon as I’m out of bed, I’m not going, because I will get too comfortable, not want to go back upstairs and creep past my daughters bedroom (which has 1 extremely creaky step and wakes her up) and then the walk simply doesn’t happen, and I know that about myself, so instead, I might lay my clothes out downstairs the night before so regardless of whether I remember to get changed right away, I’ll see them when I come down and it will prompt me.
You have to apply this very concept to every single one of your goals. Want to start taking vitamins? Do you have them all available? Are they on display to remind you? Can you set a reminder on your phone? Why not take them with breakfast every day so that your breakfast is a prompt. That’s called habit stacking (another James Clear reference), whereby you stack your habits together to combine more into less time and to prompt you to do them much easier.
Building Healthy Habits
Loosely touching on habit stacking in my previous point, ways in which we can do this is, listening to a podcast when we go for a walk, dry brushing whilst your kettle is boiling (my favourite right now). The habits that come after a non-negotiable are really powerful, such as meditating after you’ve finished your morning coffee, going to the gym after work because say work and your morning coffee are fixed and established in your routine, so by programming your mind to do your new mindful healthy habit after the pre existing one really increases your chances of sustaining it.
The cliche saying is ‘it takes 21 days to form a habit’ but I don’t believe that, I believe a habit needs to be continually built every single day until we have enough trust in ourselves that it’s ok if we miss a day or a week that we can bring it right back. The habit must also be optimised based around your life (examples I gave above, whereby it’s integrated into your life and attributed to your goals) in order for it to feel simplified, sustainable and hopefully effortless. But don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that every single workout I cannot wait to do, it just means I get up and show up because that’s my habit and routine, but also knowing when to listen to my mind and body and ease off knowing I have the ability and the habit is deeply ingrained already that I’ll return when I’m ready too and that’s where I want you to get too.
This is something not enough people do, we only seem to celebrate the huge big things (and sometimes not even then). It’s important that we celebrate the micro-milestones. Things like, your first morning run, taking your vitamins consecutively for a few days, meditating for 5 minutes vs 2, simply having a quieter mind whilst you meditate, showing up for your journal practice each morning. This really supports self love and that positive feedback loop rather than the negative loop which I spoke about in my introduction.
Incorporating Variety and Flexibility:
Some people love flexibility and variety, and others like repetition, I’m a blend of both. I’m perfectly ok eating the same thing for lunch every day as it’s one less decision for me to make, whilst I love variety in my workouts, so having 2-3 resistance training days, 1 tennis day, and 1 boxing workout makes me excited for each of my workouts rather than the same thing day in day out. So perhaps consider whether you have enough variety in your nutrition and your method of movement. Can you find an exercise class you absolutely love and it gets you excited? Also being ok with trial and error, I’ve tried so many different workout classes all to find the one that I can’t wait for the next class. (Kobox - London FYI).
For some of you, you might also be ex-competitors where resistance training is all we did, plus the cardio during contest prep season so it might feel hard to break out of your regimented routine, but I promise you the more colour and variety you add to your health and wellness, the more enjoyable you will find it and therefore, more sustainable.
Accountability + Community
Find yourself a support system that can help you in not only being accountable, but to also make this journey more enjoyable.
Last but never least, is core values. You know I love to talk about core values! But I swear by them. By establishing your core values (which assuming one of them relates to health + wellness) allows everything to be so much more effortless. But not only the establishment of these values, but also the very long term goal associated with these values. So for example, my life long goal in relation to health and wellness is to be the agile grandma to my future grandkids, it’s to be the old lady that still plays tennis, is light on her feet and youthful regardless of age, it is to live a long life so that I am around to experience more, and to hopefully live a life that is healthy for as long as it possibly can be. But in order for me to achieve that goal, I have to come all the way back to the present day and ensure that what I do now is meaningful and beneficial to the long term goal. Having this life long goal actually takes the pressure away, there is not a specific deadline or day attached to it, but my efforts will compound over time to help me in working towards that, and because the goal is so attractive and beautiful, it feels second nature to take care of myself today, it almost feels easy.
For more information on establishing your core values, listen to Episode 58 of The Real & Raw Podcast
To conclude, remember that sustaining your health and wellness goals is not a one-time achievement; it is an ongoing commitment that requires dedication, adaptability, and self-compassion. Embrace the process, for it is in the daily choices, small victories, and even occasional setbacks that true growth occurs.
Celebrate every milestone, no matter how small, and use setbacks as stepping stones to propel you forward. Surround yourself with a support system that uplifts and inspires you, and practice self-care to nourish your mind, body, and soul along the way.
For more information on sustaining health habits, listen to Episode 21 of The Real & Raw Podcast
Here’s to being the healthiest and happiest versions of ourselves.
Love and Light, Hx
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