Happy International Women’s Day friends!
I wanted to take this special opportunity to talk a little bit about my personal journey with health and fitness in honor of this important day. As a health professional and registered dietitian, I get stigmatized a lot as being a celery juice-drinking workout-aholic. And while there’s nothing wrong with enjoying celery juice or hitting the gym, that’s just not a true reflection of my real life.
Growing up I was a gymnast. I can’t even remember when I started because I was so young, but it was the thing I lived and breathed and like every other competitive gymnast, I was Olympics bound! (P.S. This was during the time of the “Magnificent Seven” so you could say I was slightly OBSESSED.) As a pre-teen I had made my way up to Level 7 and even placed as a State champion. But something shifted after that personal high… I felt like I had accomplished all I could personally accomplish and now was done. All my life had been centered around this sport yet I was checking out.
Did you know that by age 14, girls are dropping out of sports 1.5x faster than boys? Or that by age 17, 51% of girls who participated in sports have quit because they do not have a sense that they belong, and they don’t see a future in sport.
Now of course I didn’t know these stats at the time, but this is how things unfolded for me. Who was I and what was I going to do without being a “gymnast”? A few years later I did find my high school’s pom squad (aka dance team), but a similar fate came to be once I graduated high school and went off to college. Except this time, I desperately wanted to continue competitive dance yet there just wasn’t a place for me in Knoxville, TN unless I was a dance studio darling who had been training since birth. It was heartbreaking at the time. And my fitness took a backseat to make room for some unhealthy habits because I just didn’t know how to deal. I stopped moving my body. I was eating “late night” and just not taking care of myself like I had when I was passionate about my purpose.
Looking back, I do wish I had explored more and given myself the opportunity to fall in love with something else instead of being resentful of how my cookie crumbled. (See, I can smile about it now!) Life has worked out just fine for me, but we’re in a different day and age today with many more resources at our fingertips! So here are 3 simple tips to help you begin to break through any barriers you’re facing – small or large; personal or professional!
(1) SHARE YOUR STRUGGLES. When I was younger, I very much had a “anything you can do I can do better” attitude undoubtedly fueled by my competitive past. What I didn’t realize about muscling my way through problems is that I was actually digging myself in deeper (and lonelier) hole. Now older and wiser, I realize that you ask for help not because you are “weak”, but because you want to remain STRONG. And you never know who else might be feeling the same way as you and with united voices, you’re more able to make waves that matter to you.
(2) SAY ‘THANK YOU, NEXT’ TO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS. When I was feeling lost after my time with dance was coming to an unwanted end… I had a lot of overwhelming feelings like “I’m not dancing because I wasn’t good enough” or “I wasn’t worthy” of being able to do what I wanted do. And unfortunately, at the time I didn’t have the know-how to combat these self-defeating thoughts. Now as a CDC Diabetes Prevention Program Lifestyle Coach, I teach my participants that negative thinking zaps all of our hopes of being able to achieve our goals and leaves us feeling discouraged and unmotivated. To stop this downward spiral, talk back to those negative thoughts with something positive and affirming, like…
- “Circumstances are what they are, but I can choose my attitude towards them.”
- “Every challenge that comes along is an opportunity to learn and grow.”
- “I have done difficult things before. I can do difficult things again.”
(3) DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. It’s just no use trying to force something that just wasn’t meant to be. (Sorry JT, I’ll have to catch your next round of tryouts for backup dancers some other lifetime.) Looking back I could’ve used all that self-loathing towards bettering myself and moving on in life. Give yourself permission to be a beginner, to make mistakes no matter how scary, and try something you haven’t before. This act can re-energize and reinvigorate your desires to keep working towards what makes YOU happy. Keep things fresh and interesting so you don’t get bored and blah and slip into unhealthy habits. You just might just fall in love with something new!
You’ll be amazing at how these simple approaches can apply to so many puzzle pieces in your life. I’m hopeful that they’ll help bring you joy and inspiration again no matter what barrier you’re currently facing!
And if you need a little more inspiration this International Women’s Day, check out adidas Breaking Barriers initiative which celebrates strong women and how they are breaking barriers each and every day. (I know I’m ready to pull up my spandex and get out there!)