I coach and work with a lot of women over the Internet and at IFAST.
I love working with women!
They listen the best and are always the most excited when they achieve one of their goals. Nothing makes me smile more than watching one of my female clients perform her first chin-up or push-up from the floor. Women are a lot of fun!
Unfortunately, many women I work with initially are not happy. They lack confidence in themselves largely because they are unhappy with their bodies. This unhappiness is often fueled by unreasonable expectations placed on themselves of what they should look like, and I blame many people for this especially those in my profession.
Almost everyday I see insane pictures on my Facebook wall of ripped women with 10% bodyfat and a motivational quote saying something along the lines of “Do your best everyday and you will have the body you desire.”
That is bull$%!*! Who are you helping by posting that?!
I hate seeing these images because they are just fueling these unreasonable expectations. The images are doing more harm than good. Also, many of these extremely skinny women are not even healthy. Skinny and lean does not always equal a healthy and happy body.
My good friend Jon Goodman just wrote an excellent post about getting back to the basics in fitness. Fitness professionals and experts, in trying to help make people fitter, have actually made it worse by causing confusion and setting unrealistic expectations.
For example, many women come to me having spent many hours on a treadmill eating very few calories and still struggle to find happiness with their body.
The misconception is that they are eating too much and/or not doing enough “cardio”. But, the truth is that many of these women are actually underweight with a little excess body fat from being stressed, not sleeping enough, or making poor food choices (not necessarily eating too much, but eating the wrong foods). They also lack any muscle definition because they stray from lifting weights for fear of getting “bulky”.
One of my goals as a writer and coach is to help women pick a realistic goal and then set process goals that will help them achieve a body and mindset they are happy with. I am not really a fan of setting bodyweight or bodyfat goals such as I want to weigh X number of pounds or I want to get to X% bodyfat.
The reason I am not a fan of this is because if you do reach that type of goal, then where do you go from there? How do you even know you will be happy with your body at that weight or bodyfat percentage? Yes, you may be happy that you achieved your goal, but how long will that last?
Therefore, I like to have process goals or habits for women to focus on. This way they are constantly guided in their mission to be healthy and happy with themselves.
What are some process goals you can focus on to get a healthy, happy body?
Here are my most important ones for women:
-Strength Train 2-3x/wk.
I realize a lot of you may have little to no experience with this, and that is okay. I want to help you become more familiar with the benefits of lifting weights and how to go about getting started. I promise to write an article soon about this exact topic. In the meantime, here are some excellent blogs and resources to get you started:
Zach Moore Fitness – Yes, my site. 🙂 Make sure to keep it bookmarked because I will be covering more of these topics in the future.
One more thing – NO, you will not get big and bulky from lifting weights. In fact, as I said above, many women are underweight. The majority of women who lose excess bodyfat by undereating or performing a ton of “cardio” will just be extremely skinny. Building muscle is what actually helps to get that “toned” look.
-Provide your body with nourishing foods.
I will also talk more about this in the future, but you cannot go wrong with this simple formula:
fat (or starch if around workout) + protein + veggies + spices = healthy and awesome
Try to stay as close to whole, fresh foods as possible.
Here are some other great resources that make it fairly simple:
Handouts from Whole 9 – Start with these before reading the two articles below. The handouts go in depth on how to plan your meals and grocery shop. I especially like their meal planning template.
Mark Sisson on How to Eat According to the Primal Eating Plan
Chris Kresser on Nourishing Your Body – this one is a little more advanced.
I believe this is the area that most women get overwhelmed with. Do not worry. My goal is to make this as simple as possible for you in future posts and articles. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask away.
-Sleep. Aim for 7+ hours a night.
You can be doing everything else right, but if you are not sleeping then you are going to make little progress.
The same applies to stress as it does to sleep. Stress can make even the most active and clean eating person unhappy and unhealthy. It is important to manage this.
-Get your mind right. This may be the most important on the list.
This means that you need to constantly reinforce a positive attitude about yourself. A great tip is to get up every morning, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are beautiful. It may seem silly, but the mind is incredibly powerful. If you constantly reinforce this positive state of mind, then you are more likely to come to believe it.
-3-5 hours a week of non-stressful activity.
Basically, JUST MOVE. A lot of people refer to this a non-exercise physical activity (NEPA). It is something that we have gotten more and more away from in our society. Walk, play with your kids, go the park, whatever. As Mark Sisson says, “Move around a lot at a slow pace.”
Do not view this as “cardio”. It should be non-stressful.
So, that is my list. Now do not try to do a complete overhaul and adopt all of the above if you are not currently doing any of them. Pick one from the above list that you are confident that you can consistently do, and go after it. Read the links I have provided for the category and learn as much as possible about it. Once you have that habit down, then move onto another one.
I plan to cover each of these points in depth at a future time also. So as I said above, make sure to stick around.
Lastly, I want to say to say to all the women that you need to make time for yourself. A lot of moms I encounter often feel guilty for taking an hour or two out of their day to work out. This is the wrong mindset. If you do not take care of your health and body, then you are not going to be as effective at taking care of your family. It is important for your mind and health to have some alone time.
Love your body, and take care of it. Not only will it improve your health, but it will make you a happier person as well.