You know the saying, “don’t argue for your limitations, unless you want to keep them”?
It’s something we all do from time to time…telling ourselves all the reasons why something that we claim to want is totally unachievable due to blah, blah, and blah.
Maybe you’ve heard yourself say:
“I make plans to get my workouts in, but something always gets in the way.”
“I’ve always had a struggle with my weight. Seriously, it will just never be easy for me.”
“Juggling a job and three kids makes it super difficult for me to eat healthy. I don’t have the time to shop and cook a decent meal and my husband offers zero help—maybe when the kids are older I can figure this out.”
Last year, I started working with a client, Gina*, who was feeling really stuck in her life. Gina worked up to 60 hours per week at a high stress job that she hated. Gina wanted to quit (she totally fantasized about quitting in a take-this-job-and-shove-it kind of way), but said she couldn’t leave because she needed the healthcare benefits and she didn’t have the energy required to look for another job.
Gina was also unhappy with her body. She was about 50 pounds overweight and was a chronic yo-yo dieter. Gina told me that she couldn’t stick with a diet for more than a few weeks. She tried to make herself exercise, but said it was really hard because she “despises” exercise.
About 6 months prior, Gina had been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Her doctor recommended a complete dietary overhaul and regular exercise. Gina was super resistant to what she considered a sacrifice and thought it was unfair that she had diabetes when others with worse habits than her own did not have the disease.
Gina’s thoughts were really tripping her up. She said she wanted to change but was basically arguing for the change to be difficult, if not impossible.
Look at Gina’s words; notice how often she used words like “can’t” and the overall negative slant to her story. There’s a little bit of a victim mentality going on here, too. Gina clearly felt like she had little control over the circumstances of her life.
So, how did Gina stop arguing for her limitations?
Slowly but surely, Gina started taking responsibility for her life:
She recognized that she was *choosing* to stay at a job she disliked because the healthcare benefits were valuable to her and it was not a high enough priority for her to devote time to looking for a new job.
Shifting her attitude of resentment about having Type 2 Diabetes was Gina’s biggest challenge. When she began to see that what we, as a culture, consider normal—sedentary lifestyle, convenience/processed foods, high stress, etc.—was not healthy for any of us, it really helped with her mindset.
Due to her diabetes, Gina knew that finding an eating plan that she could live with for the rest of her life was critical to her health. Instead of being “on a diet” or “off the wagon”, Gina began practicing making healthier food choices while allowing herself treats on a regular basis. She stopped rating each day as "good" or "bad" diet-wise.
Gina started to be more open to finding ways to move that she could be okay with…she “despised” the gym because she was so self-conscious there and worried that she was doing things wrong. Gina actually liked hiking and doing things outdoors, but needed to find something inside for crappy weather days. She decided to do a trial at a local personal training studio (one-on-one training in a semi-private environment) which she ended up liking enough to stick with it 2 days per week consistently.
Gina’s progress has been gradual, but impressive. Over the past year she has dropped 32 pounds, leaned out (body fat percentage has decreased), increased her endurance, and her A1c levels have dropped significantly. But Gina swears the biggest change has been in the way that she perceives things:
“I am so much more comfortable in my body than I was a year ago. Seriously, my body can do things I did not know it could do. What has surprised me, though, is how becoming aware of my thoughts, aware of the stories I was telling myself, has carried over into all aspects of my life. Now, if I have a negative thought, I question it. I ask myself, ‘is this really true? Is this thought serving me? Can I look at this differently?’ This has been life changing for me.”
What limitations are you arguing for? Can you see some of your own thoughts and beliefs reflected in Gina’s story?
*Pretty much never use real names