Why I’m happily letting go of of my desire for perfect abs

Walking on the beach the other day, I passed many tan toned women who looked INCREDIBLE in their bikinis. Everyone’s jaws were dropping as they walked by – you know what I’m talking about! “What’s their secret?” I started brainstorming to myself, “I can probably get a body like that too! I just need to work out more, eat a leaner diet..” yadda yadda yadda. Sound familiar?

HOLD UP! Wait a minute!! My internal alarm starting sounding.

I’ve been there.

I tried that.

It didn’t work for me.

I realized these were my old thoughts creeping back in again. This was an old desire triggered by the women standing before me. A desire I let go of many years ago for very good reasons, replaced with new desires to have a healthy relationship with food and my body, based on self-acceptance and love. But in that moment all I wanted to look incredible in my bikini too!

It struck me then that self-care and self-love are non-linear journeys. You can work so hard to get 1000 miles down the road and suddenly BAM you are triggered and find yourself right back at the starting line.

What does this mean? Was it all for nothing? No, of course not! Simply put, we are human! We get triggered from time to time. It’s important at times like this that we remind ourselves of what we’ve learned along the way, how our old habits don’t serve us anymore, and how our new habits make us healthier and happier. So I reminded myself. When I desired to have a perfect bikini body:

  • I was extremely restrictive with my food, eating mostly whole clean foods like plain chicken breast with no condiments so as to avoid excess salt, fat, sugar, and artificial ingredients (side note – I LOVE condiments!!). Only on Sundays would I let myself have whatever I wanted or what I was craving.
  • I missed out on dinners and social time with friends because if it didn’t fall on a cheat day, I couldn’t risk going to a restaurant and eating something outside of my guidelines. It would ruin everything I worked for.
  • I would make myself do long intense workouts almost daily. I could only ever keep up with this for 1 or 2 months until I got so burned out that I’d take a day off, and it was so blissful that I would stop exercising completely for months.
  • I was grumpy all of the time because I was always hungry, but since I only let myself eat bland food, I didn’t enjoy it enough to actually want to eat enough of it to fill me up.
  • But I looked pretty darn good in a bikini and it felt so awesome that all of my clothes fit well. I had it goin’ on!!

Since I’ve let go of that desire:

  • My food choices are based on a desire to actually FEEL GOOD which comes from a place of self-love. There isn’t really anything that I won’t let myself have if I really want it, but I do try to make choices that best serve me. For example, if my office has donuts in the morning, I will consider, “How will this donut make me feel?” I know the answer is that I will be too full to eat my lunch, and I’ll get the sugar jitters, which I DO NOT enjoy. If I have a lot of work to get done, this will hinder me. But if it’s a slow day, then I may be willing to make the trade-off if I’m really craving a donut.
  • I will happily (and without guilt!) join friends out to eat because I enjoy the social time. The only reason I may want to avoid this is because I’ve found going out to eat is usually harder on my digestive system than a wholesome home-cooked meal. Again, the focus is on how I want my body to feel. It’s not about avoiding meals to maintain my weight or body type.
  • Condiments and sauces are my favorite and I will never settle for bland food! One of my latest hobbies in the kitchen is making sauces from scratch because it’s so easy and you can use very simple delicious ingredients.
  • I work out when I want and I never force it. If I start a work out and part way through I’m just not feeling it, I will let myself stop without guilt. I move because it feels good to move my body. I want to associate exercise with joy, not a dreadful mandatory task. I may have lulls here and there but my body will actually crave exercise and tell me when I’m not getting enough. This was a pretty new and welcome phenomenon!
  • I still look good in a bikini and feel good in my clothes! This I believe is a combination of more love and acceptance toward my body combined with a sustainable balanced way of eating and exercising. I still have days here and there where my body image is a poor and my pants get a little tight, but I’ll just find something comfortable to wear and give myself extra love.

I may never look like a bikini model. I may never have the definition in my abs that I always wanted, but food and exercise come from a place of love and ease, and I can whole-heatedly enjoy them. My body is happier. My mind is free. I am whole, balanced, and grateful. I can focus on the experience of living my life. Yes, this is where I’d rather be!

Your Turn: What are your triggers that bring back old thoughts, and how do you deal with it? Is there a habit or desire that is no longer serving you (or that you already gave up)? What is a new desire you can set your focus on that will serve you better? Reply to this email. We’d love to hear from you, and learn from your experiences!

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