Motivation Monday ~ Surviving Summer

Am I the only person on the planet that seems to gain weight during the summer? I feel like I am the opposite of 99.9999% of people trying to lose weight – I gain it during the summer and lose it during the winter. Or that is at least the general trend for me. Sometimes it is a wash during either season and I find a nice balance of maintenance.

I think it has something to do with the increased pressure to have a body that is exposed to sunlight whilst wearing the perfect bikini and lounging about the pool with a drink in hand. Some people thrive under that pressure – it’s the last bit of motivation they need to clean up their eating habits and increase their activity. Others tend to cave under that pressure. It creates a stress that ultimately leads to self sabotaging behavior that only puts them further away from where they want to be.

Either way, I have a problem with the mentality. Becoming more fit or comfortable in our own skin should never be born from pressure. It should come from the desire to do something good for ourselves, to treat ourselves well, to be happy with the capabilities of our bodies in their current state and so on. It’s this type of positive thinking that spurs on the positive actions that propel you forward on your fitness journey.

A motivation of pressure, on the other hand, carries with it some degree of negative thinking, and while it may lead to some temporary results for the three months of the summer, it will ultimately keep you from moving forward in the long term. You see, the problem with pressure as a motivator is that once the pressure is removed, it ceases to motivate you in the same way. In this case, the pressure tends to lighten up as the summer and the beach vacations and pool parties wind down. There is less of a reason to have to maintain ‘perfection’ and so you don’t engage in the behaviors that led you to that point to the same degree. You may even let the weight creep up as you head into the comfy winter months, safely covered up under chunky sweaters and tights. All the progress that had been made is now lost and the cycle repeats.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could gain momentum on your fitness journey without being at the whim of seasonal changes? As the summer months are now upon us, what I would like to suggest is a change in mentality, one that would propel motivation year round rather than stopping come September 1. Sounds great doesn’t it? The following tips are those that you can begin to learn and integrate into your lifestyle now and begin to form healthier habits.

1. Avoid Extremities.

One of the associated problems that comes with using pressure as a motivator is that it tends to push you to extremities of behavior. When you feel pressured to obtain a certain goal by a certain timeline, it leads you to do just about anything to obtain it. Rarely, however, do you realize it as extreme behavior however, especially when it yields the results you are after. You throw it under the label of dieting and move on with your life. The problem with this mentality is that it’s just not balanced or healthy in the long run. Whether that means you are restricting our caloric intake too greatly, over exercising, or some combination of the two, the result is one that throws your body completely out of balance.

Moreover, maintaining that kind of deficit is just not sustainable over long periods of time. So if you are looking to drop a few pounds during the summer months, the key is to avoid extremities. Figure out what your caloric intake should be for the day and set moderate reductions that will lead to a steady 1-2 pound weight loss per week. Ignore the marketing pleas for products or diets that will do otherwise – they will only hinder you. Consume a well balanced healthful diet that meets your nutritional needs and the rest will simply follow.

2. Find what you love.

Summer really is a great time to focus on fitness. The weather is nicer, people tend to be outside and more engaged in general activity, and it’s just “easier” to be fit. Take advantage of that fact and use the time to find activities that you really love to do. Maybe it’s taking some outdoor yoga classes or getting really into cycling. Try out a bunch of different activities and stick to the ones you truly enjoy. Avoid doing an activity just because you feel like you have to in order to be thin. The best exercise is the one that you will do consistently, and now is the time to try out a bunch of different things. When the winter comes, you will be more likely to find ways to carry out those activities indoors or complete general conditioning and strength training that will get you ready for the next outdoor season. Again, the key is adapting a longer term outlook.

3. Plan ahead.

Summer may open up more opportunities to be fit, but there are also plenty of opportunities to slip up and over indulge. First, it’s important to keep in mind, that it’s okay to indulge on occasion. To be successful in the long run, you need to learn how to enjoy these indulgences in a healthful manner – one that still fits into your overall plan and that does not leave you feeling guilt or shame over consuming ‘forbidden’ foods.

The key is to plan ahead – and for that I highly recommend getting into tracking your intake. Trackers like MyFitnessPal will allow you to see how you are doing in terms of meeting your nutritional needs and, if you input your exercise as well, you might find that there is room for some indulgence throughout the summer. When you have planned for it, and know that it can fit into your nutrition for the day, you are far less likely to feel that sense of guilt for it. When motivated by pressure, however, every little slip up only brings with it guilt, and either pushes us back to extremities or leads you to self-sabotaging behaviors. If a dedicated food tracker is not for you, the 80/20 guideline is a helpful one. Over the span of  a week, or even a day, think that 80% of your diet should be healthy, whole, nutritious foods, while the remaining 20% gives you some wiggle room to enjoy the indulgences of summer.

4. Watch your words.

Remember that positive thinking begets positive actions. Thinking negatively about yourself or your body will only lead to negative results in the form of extreme or self sabotaging behaviors. The problem is that it tends to be easier to point out our limitations rather than our strengths. This is where developing a personal mantra can help to keep your thoughts more positively focused. When the negative starts to creep in, pull yourself back to that positive mantra and repeat it over and over in your head until it sinks in. That mantra can be something as simple as ‘I am capable’ or it can be more developed. Take your areas of weakness and flip it around to a positive mantra. Positive thinking is more powerful than you ever dreamed possible!

5. Keep the bigger picture in sight.

Ultimately, what it all comes down to is that in order to survive summer without falling victim to the pressure to obtain a perfect body, is to keep the bigger picture in sight. It is always good to have short term goals, but when they come from a sense of pressure they will only lead towards extreme behaviors. Sometimes they temporarily help us and sometimes they directly self-sabotage us, but neither is helpful to the long term. Always keep in mind that there is a bigger picture at play. What is it that you are ultimately trying to achieve in terms of your fitness journey? Keeping your eye on the ultimate prize, combined with the four tips I listed first, will keep you moving forward for 12 months out of the year instead of just 3.

Take some time to think about where your head is at this summer. Are you feeling the pressure to get your body to a certain place for the summer months? Are you feeling guilty that you haven’t been able to accomplish it and ready to throw in the towel? Take time to reflect on your current mentality and where you can integrate these 5 tips. The result will be well worth it to your fitness journey.

Get Fit For It, Beth

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