The Holiday Challenge I completed required an essay. How I Did It only happened because I changed the way I thought. I'd like to share here the essay I submitted, and the real "secret" of my -- and your -- body transformation success: belief.
Stronger. Healthier. Firmer. That's what I expected to be from joining this challenge. I did not know that this outer transformation would necessitate an inner transformation to far surpass it! Each rep, each set, every opportunity to indulge brought the negative voice in my head to a shriek, sounding out the inner demons of self-hatred and guilt that have plagued me almost as long as I can remember. I expected physical discomfort. I can easily deny a treat. I recite my goals. But I was blown away by the emotional challenge I unwittingly entered into.
The psychological difficulties became progressively harder as Christmas holidays opened up family wounds and brought hurtful words. While these may seem unrelated to physical training, the hurt, sadness and anger drove me toward comfort food and a good cry. I chose to hit the weights and enjoy nourishing food. I am proud. For the first time I chose to let the hurt go & improve myself in the face of hatred, rather than echoing it with the self-hatred of bad habits. For the first time ever, I found I had enough strength to take a stand and speak up about how I was being hurt. My confidence and sense of self-worth has soared each week as I've seen the progress, and the ability to overcome the family garbage is a direct result of that.
I learned that not all negative observations need be judgments of my worth or portentous of failure, and there is always opportunity to measure the upside. I still can't do a pull-up yet. I can do negatives when I never could before. My abs sure aren't a six-pack. My waist is stronger and smaller by inches. Observations of my physical skill are markers that help me tweak my regimen and ultimately progress my routine, and are not indicative of future weakness. I have enjoyed watching myself progress with the weights from a difficult 5 lb. bicep curl to an easy 17 lb. for the same, and I can't wait to see where I go in the months to come.
I found the sense and simple reasonableness of all Tom's material is what led me to accept positivism about what is possible. The research behind everything he writes gave me the confidence to believe, and confidence to keep with the program when I felt discouraged. Every day I discuss the BFFM principles with my husband, and he almost too willingly tells me what my compliance looks like from his perspective. I am glad to be able to trust that someone out there is offering the truth about fitness. Bookworm that I am, I purchased & read two books recommended by Tom, Psych and The MAX Muscle Plan, and these have only helped me.
Now that I have learned how to counter the lies that I've imbibed, discovering and disbelieving them is my continuing challenge. Sometimes words of criticism are disguised as concern: "Vanity is a sin, you do know that," "There are more important things you could do with your time." Some fallacies sound like wisdom, "Your husband should always be happy with however you look because he loves you." "Your children love you no matter how you look." Some words are just plain mean, "I don't have a chance of actually winning anything when there's so many others doing better." Here's a sample of what I've worked out – literally! – about these statements:
1. Not all pursuit of physical improvement is vanity. To brush and floss my teeth is not vanity! Neither is it vain to bolster my bones, ligaments, muscles and organs through strength training and good diet. Looking hot is the bonus!
2. It then follows that it is a vital use of my time to preserve the only body I have in its best possible condition.
3. My man should love me no matter how I look, but he doesn't have to like what he sees - and the same goes for me! I love myself enough to improve to my own satisfaction what I see in the mirror
4. My children absolutely love me -- and I love them. Which is all the more reason why it is critical that I take the best possible care of myself because they will absolutely, unconsciously, mimic my attitudes and habits, and I want them to always be in the best of health.
5. I can't control other's results. I can control mine. I give my utmost and that may be all the chance I need. If not, I still win against who I was – which is the ultimate win for everyone in this challenge.
My physique, stamina, energy and outlook have all steadily improved. One of the goals in my progress journal is to be an inspiration to others and I believe that is coming to fruition. My glowing face and slim belly provoked a friend to ask what I was doing to look "so good" on Christmas, so I shared BFFM with her and gave her a hardback copy of The Body Fat Solution. Watching my progress inspired my mother-in-law to track her calories and she began asking friends to workout with her. As a result, both she and my father-in-law shed some pounds in the holiday season. My training philosophy is having a ripple effect on my social circle.
This BFFM Holiday Challenge took place over Thanksgiving, family vacation, our annual party, my son's birthday, Christmas and New Year's. I lifted weights, ran, danced and ate protein like it was going out of style. Through it all I overcame my physical weakness as I defeated each and every one of my excuses. The changes I have made will be permanent, because I haven't just changed my diet and activities, I have changed my mind. For that, I am thankful.
I set out to be Strong. Healthy. Firm. I became Tenacious. And I have won!