As a women’s wellness coach I get asked a lot of questions by women trying to work their way through the maze of information (and misinformation) out there about health and wellness. Some of the most common questions I hear are about very specific techniques and practices, such as:
“How do you feel about keto/paleo/Whole30?”
“I read that Beyonce does this one booty-blasting move, so can we add it to my programming?”
“Should I be taking apple cider vinegar every day to help me with weight loss?”
“Do you think I need to be doing intermittent fasting?”
“I heard HIIT is the only kind of cardio that is worthwhile–what do you think?”
I get it. These are the fitness and wellness buzzwords that are in the headlines most often, so people have questions about them. More commonly, women will just jump headfirst into one practice or another without doing much research or thinking it through.
Diet culture has taught us that we should be vigilant in our search for quick fixes and magic solutions, so I can’t blame women for having shiny-object syndrome around these kinds of detailed actions. So many of us feel like we will be trapped in the maze forever that when we hear others talking excitedly about new options, our minds transform those options into enticing “EXIT” signs. Next thing you know, we’re making a beeline toward the promised escape from our suffering.
The problem with most newsworthy techniques and practices is that adopting them is like remembering your fancy hat but forgetting your pants.
Let’s say you’re dressing for a party. You put on your makeup. Pick out matching jewelry. And you cap the whole outfit off with the perfect fancy hat. The hat is the pièce de résistance to the entire look, and you can’t wait to show it off. You grab your purse, call for a rideshare, and step outside to wait for your driver to arrive. You notice that other people on the sidewalk are giving you really strange looks. You wonder if it’s the hat. “Is it too much?” But you decide they just don’t understand and can’t appreciate high fashion. Thankfully, your driver arrives before you can think more about it. You open the door to get in, and your driver, looking shocked, says, “Ma’am – I think you may have forgotten your pants!” You look down, and sure enough, in your excitement over your hat, you completely forgot to put on pants. Yikes!
Did I lose you? Stick with me here. For most people, worrying about which new dieting technique to try, superfood to add to their daily regiment, or special piece of equipment to add to their home gym is like the fancy hat. In the context of a well-thought-out outfit, a fancy hat may be the accessory that makes the outfit truly special. But if you’ve forgotten your pants, the fancy hat will probably look garish or out of place. You’ll likely take it off to stop drawing attention to yourself and skip the party altogether.
Your pants may not be particularly special, but they are the foundation for everything you put on after them.
There are many reasons that women jump straight to the shiny objects of the fitness and wellness world, but one of the big ones is boredom with the more basic techniques and underestimating their importance. Why bother with movement that makes you feel good and brings you joy when you can do high-intensity workouts that make you so sweaty and sore that you feel like you got run over by a semi truck the next day? Why bother with learning to eat when you’re hungry, stop eating when you’re full, and sort through your issues around food when you could go on a cool new diet that lets you eat bacon and eggs for every meal and never touch a vegetable again?
But as with anything in life where you try to skip the fundamentals to get right to the perceived “good stuff,” the results are usually disastrous. There is a reason that young musicians first learn their scales before ever attempting classical concertos. It’s because if they tried to play a concerto right off the bat, it would prove to be so challenging and frustrating that they would likely give up on the instrument completely.
How many diets have you embarked on that turned your nutrition world upside down so fast that you had to quit? How many new pieces of equipment have you bought in the past that now collect dust in a corner? What about miracle foods you tried that ended up in the trash?
Every time you jump into something new for your fitness and wellness before becoming consistent with the basics, you are doing yourself a disservice. Consider where you’d be now if from the beginning you had committed to building a foundation of good habits before ever trying something shiny and new. You might not have ever needed something shiny and new in the first place! You’d definitely already be at that party instead of having had to turn around to go back home and grab your pants.
Build your outfit from the ground up, and focus on one thing at a time.
There is a concept that I love called “Big Rocks.” Big Rocks could be described as cornerstone actions that have the most impact–an idea popularized by the author Dr. Stephen R. Covey. His theory is that in order to be productive, we need to work on the Big Rocks first or we won’t get to them at all because we’ll be too busy dealing with all the small rocks. I think the concept applies perfectly to fitness and wellness. How are your Big Rocks going? Have you put much thought into them? Do you have a plan in place to help you stay consistent?
Your Big Rocks will likely look different from my Big Rocks, and your Big Rocks will also grow and change as you do. One year ago my Big Rocks were different than they are now. As I have learned new things about my body’s preferences and have become more advanced at certain skills, my Big Rocks have shifted. But all Big Rocks are based in the most important things we can do in our lives to feel our best.
My current Big Rocks are the following:
- Strength training a few times per week
- Practicing eating intuitively and staying in touch with what my body wants
- Eating a wide variety of plant foods each day
- Aiming for at least 7 hours of sleep per night
- Practicing trapeze at least 1-2 times per week
- Getting out into the sun and nature a few times each week, even if it’s as simple as walking my dog around the neighborhood
By prioritizing my Big Rocks each week, I feel grounded and centered in my wellness plan. Every week isn’t perfect, but having guidelines that I try to follow has made a difference for me and helped a lot with consistency.
Other examples of Big Rocks might be taking a walk at least three days a week, eating vegetables with at least one meal a day, drinking 64 ounces of water each day, etc. Your Big Rocks must be unique to you and your needs.
Consider hanging your fancy hat back on the rack for a little while.
I know that the fancy hat is pretty and comes with the promise of looking like a new woman, but it’s useless to you until you get your pants in order.
You need to spend some time getting in touch with what makes you truly feel your best and finding ways to work those things into your life consistently. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy. It’s a process that won’t happen overnight and is ever-changing.
But if you can put on your blinders and ignore all of the shiny objects, the result will be getting more in touch with the things that will make a real difference in your life. And believe me, the fancy hat isn’t going anywhere. With time, you may feel secure enough to introduce a fancy hat or two back into your wardrobe. Or you may realize that basics are more your style after all.