I have always been the first to go for overkill. If there is a workout plan – I’d complete it and a bit more to make sure I haven’t slacked. If there is a diet – I’d leave some food untouched to practice control. That extra mile in fitness promised exceptional results and better chances for success. I was willing to travel it every time.
What I thought would be a destination – a well-defined body with a low percentage of body fat – turned out to be a moving target. In my mind, if I did not complete the extra mile, the target would vanish out of site. So I had to race again. Until one day I realized that I was struggling with fatigue and mental exhaustion and lived with a hormonal misbalance like it was not a big deal.
I did not understand that toughness I developed was a facade for paranoia about the fragility of my “fitness lifestyle”. I equated this term exclusively with qualities of physical appearance and much less with the level of performance or state of mind. As I constantly craved food, I panicked that one misstep can take away all my results.
It took me well over year to stop treating carbs like an evil monster. And it still haunts me that if I miss a workout, I feel like my body becomes softer. But I am far ahead now. I realized the power of intentionality.
I tried doing “fitness lifestyle” with intent, putting my eager attention to it as opposed to mindlessly following a diet or powering through a workout. It led to a better results even if I chose a less demanding route.
Here is what I learned trying to be intentional in fitness.
I developed two patterns of mindless dieting. First, I would eat exceptionally clean food, but the quantity required for satisfaction always exceeded the calories I needed to consume. So, while eating exemplary healthy, I was overeating in fact. Second, I would take on a diet and followed it without a question and maybe with an extra restriction I would add to it. While calorie intake was under control, the required emotional discipline caused some serious stress.
When I overcame my fear for carbs and tried eating with intent, I could have food that was not as healthy but I’d eat less. It was also easier to achieve emotional satisfaction with a great tasting food. So I both did not over-consume in terms of calories and felt happy and sane. I also understood that there was enough food for tomorrow and the day after. So I didn’t need to eat it all at once.
I used to train every day just to get a quick workout for the fact alone rather than for the benefits of it. Lifting weights, I would listen to music, think of work, or entertain some random thoughts. Cardio was usually running away from something or running towards something else. I was rarely present in the process and usually convert to a default proven routine. Workout became a ritual to regulate my growing anxiety, a proven method to get my endorphin fix. Unsurprisingly, fear of missing a workout also caused stress. As the result, I constantly felt bloated and was never sore the next day.
Then I decided to refocus the scarcity of time available for training on something else: determination to make the most out of it. I filled less time with more purposeful work instead of Instagram feed and YoutTube videos. My focus stayed on the muscles I trained, proper movement, deep breathing, and full range of motion. I also used smaller weights and did less time in cardio. But every moment I did, I was there present and committed.
That was the first time I started feeling sore after my workouts. I was not just frantically burning calories – I was moving toward my healthier better self.
The desire to minimize the number of decisions we need to make is natural for busy and overworked people. So we take a fitness regime that we discovered somewhere on Instagram or that was “prepared for us” but was actually not, and adopt it mindlessly without listening to our body’s response. We find comfort in the fact that someone has gone through it before us and “look their body is unbelievable now”. And we ignore that our own body is telling us something.
In contrast to jumping into a completely new and restrictive regime, we can live intently making small daily choices toward healthy. We can move our body gradually to a better lifestyle. This way, every step will become a part of a habit rather than a nagging uncomfortable change that demands a lot of attention to deal with. This way, even doing less, we can achieve more.