A Funny Thing Happened When I Gave Up On Being Perfect

Yesterday was the first day since I gave birth to my son thirteen years ago (hello post-baby belly)  that I looked in the mirror and thought, "Huh, maybe I could wear a bikini in public again someday, if I wanted to." Now I probably never WILL wear a bikini again, not being that much of a bikini person to begin with ( I like to actually swim when I go to the beach and I don't like to be constantly adjusting my swimsuit so that nothing shows that shouldn't), but it would be nice to feel like I have the option. 

So what brought this on? Have I achieved some great pinnacle of fitness success? Not so much. Have I had plastic surgery? Absolutely not. Have I suddenly discovered the key to true self confidence and no longer care what I look like or what other people think about me? Not really, but maybe a little bit. I think it really boils down to one thing:

I stopped worrying about perfection. I'm not focusing on trying to look perfect, I'm not focusing on finding and following the perfect workout plan and I'm not focusing on following some mythical perfect eating plan (yeah, I don't do "diets").

A funny thing happened when I gave up on being perfect - I started making progress. Instead of spending all kinds of time trying to figure out what kind of workout I should be doing to achieve the best results and coming up with regimented schedules I could never manage to stick to, I started spending some of my free time actually being active, one way or another, whenever I could fit it in. Instead of spending my limited emotional energy beating myself up for not following through on my carefully constructed plans, schedules and goals, I decided to give myself some grace and simplify my expectations.

Right now, my plan looks like this:

1. Aim to be active every day, for at least 5 minutes. This usually consists of a 30-45 minute walk with the dog or 10-30 minutes of yoga, Pilates and/or body weight exercises. Justin and I are trying to do some weight lifting together too, but so far this hasn't happened very consistently. When the weather is nicer out, it might involve swimming, doing an obstacle course or riding my bike. Who cares, as long as I'm moving. And sure, 5 minutes doesn't seem like very much time, but that's kind of the point. It seems ridiculous to tell myself I can't manage just 5 minutes of activity, and once I get started I almost always keep going much longer than 5 minutes. 

2. If I meet my goal every day for a month, I'm giving myself some kind of prize. I just haven't quite decided what yet. One way or another I think it will involve spending a little bit more money on clothing for myself than I normally do (I'm trying to transition my wardrobe to clothes I truly enjoy wearing, rather than clothes I  just tolerate because I have to wear something).

3. I'm keeping track of my efforts. I printed off a blank calendar for this month and taped it up in my bedroom. Every couple of days I manage to remember to log my activity for the past few days. If I miss a few days because I'm really sick, or there's some kind of emergency that takes an inordinate amount of time or energy or I have some kind of emotional meltdown (February 4th, I'm looking at you!), guess what? I still get my prize because, well...grace.

4. Eat mostly healthy food and stop eating when I'm full. To me, "healthy food" means food made with ingredients found in nature (vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, meat) that aren't too highly processed, without a bunch of additives. I'm trying to eat more vegetables, cut back on carbohydrates a bit and really minimize added sugar. I prefer, whenever possible, to eat food grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and meat raised humanely without added hormones and the routine use of antibiotics. This may sound like a lot to focus on, but it's how I've tried to eat for years, so it's not really asking a lot of myself. I still eat things that are not particularly nourishing (chips, candy, frozen pizza etc. ) on a fairly regular basis and while I'm not trying to give those things up altogether, I'm working to gradually crowd them out with healthier options.

Although I still care what I look like (more than I would like to), I'm not doing any of this stuff with the goal of changing my appearance. I want to feel good, to stay healthy, to have energy, to be flexible and strong, to feel calm. It's funny what taking care of yourself, simply for the sake of taking care of yourself, can do. I may  or may not look different now than I did a month ago or even a year ago, but I feel different about myself - more hopeful, more confident, more accepting.