I’ve been a personal trainer for a long time now and a lifelong athlete. I’ve spent years measuring things — like weights, sets, body fat, macronutrient content, water intake — you name it, I've tracked it.
Though as of today, I've stopped counting. A few months ago, I was pushing wearable technology, like my trusted Fitbit, on everyone who would listen. I loved tracking my daily progress, until one day I missed my step count by about 20 steps. I felt like a total failure and as though my day, full of healthy pursuits, had been a total waste.
This perceived failure finally triggered something in me to take off my Fitbit. I took a step back and let myself breathe. Here’s what I discovered when I stopped being a slave to tracking:
1. I was looking at my body like a calculator instead of a living, breathing thing.
I felt like I had to hit the right marks in order to make any progress in my health. Instead of taking a natural and organic approach to health, I found myself treating my body like any changes to my diet or fitness would result in a catastrophic breakdown.
2. I learned that I had to listen to my body before listening to my Fitbit.
Your body is not a robot; it’s a biological organism. Some days you’re going to feel great; others you’re going to feel like crap. Sticking to the same rigid schedule of exercise and nutrition is not going to do your body any favors. When you’re run down, your body is calling out for rest, and it's important to listen and adjust your workout plan accordingly.
3. I realized being stressed out about how healthy you are means you're not healthy.
I think this is something many of us need to take a step back to address. We all need to be healthy. But when the point comes at which you are so stressed out about sticking to a Paleo diet or hitting a certain number of steps each day, I’m afraid that’s not true wellness.
If your pursuit of health is causing you anxiety and stress, you need to reexamine your life. You may have six-pack abs, but if it comes at the cost of your sanity, it’s critical to take a look at what you are wanting out of your health pursuits.
4. Being healthy is supposed to make you feel good, not bad, about yourself.
Don’t beat yourself up just because you had to cut your gym session short.
Remember why you are doing this in the first place. Exercise should leave you feeling good and wanting more. Meals should be a pleasurable experience that, again, leave you feeling at your best. Have your treats here and there, keep focused on making the best decisions possible, but don't hold yourself up to unrealistic expectations. Just as one meal is not going to transform your health, one bad meal is not going to destroy it.
5. Now I focus on progress, not perfection.
This is the goal for me at the end of the day. I ask myself, have I moved forward and made positive choices regarding my health? Your fitness and nutrition will never be perfect, so it’s better to take an approach that doesn’t consume your whole life with hitting certain numbers, leaving you feeling stressed and defeated. You may actually end up becoming healthier than you ever have been.