woman doing handstand in front of body of water
find your equilibrium.

As consumers, we’re bombarded with weight loss and fitness messages in advertising and media. Mothers are trying to get back to their “pre-baby” bodies, fathers are poking fun at themselves with their awkwardly-dubbed “dad bods,” and oung girls and boys are trying to live up to the standards of celebrities and models. Truthfully, most people — whether they have children or not—have worried at some point about their physical appearance. If you’re perfectly happy with the way you look, I applaud you — but I also think you’re in the lucky minority. Many of us have some self-doubt, whether we speak about it or not.

Say you want to add exercise into your lifestyle because you know it will make you look better, feel better, and improve your health. Where’s the time for all that, though, when you’re already overwhelmed with familial, work, and social obligations? How can you find an hour for the gym when that means you won’t be able to cuddle your child, prepare for the meeting, or have lunch with your brother?

It’s easy to feel guilty for taking time for yourself to exercise — I used to do it all the time. When I made it to the gym, I was miserable because I knew that was precious time I could’ve been using to snuggle with my baby girls. I felt selfish. My workouts suffered because I was absentminded. Conversely, my self-esteem out of the gym suffered because I was unhappy with myself for not getting results.

I felt like I couldn’t win because I really couldn’t. It’s impossible to succeed at something when you haven’t given yourself permission.

After I came to the realization that I didn’t need to feel guilty for taking time for myself, I happily used my gym time and came home refreshed. When my confidence rose, so did my ability to navigate stressful situations. I found that exercise made my fuse with my children much longer and my relationship with my partner much better.

Are you finding yourself perched on the exercise/guilt ledge? It’s an unhappy place to be, and it’s best to get off quickly. Here are some affirmations to help you along your journey:

You deserve it.

Seriously, you do. Whatever your fitness goals are, you deserve to reach them. Think about everything you do for the people in your life. Think about how fulfilling it is to win a professional accolade or get a surprise embrace from your child. You deserved all those things, but you didn’t ask for them.

You deserve to feel better about yourself, and you deserve to ask for it. Make yourself a priority, too.

You’re a doer.

Those models on television, that itsy bitsy coworker who runs to the office, that guy who changes your oil with his biceps bulging under his uniform—unless they just hit the genetic jackpot, they’ve all likely logged gym hours and brown-bagged it at a luncheon or two. I guarantee you they didn’t “find the time” to take those steps because I don’t know anyone who just has spare time lying around. Those people made the time. You don’t have to aspire to look like them, as that may be unrealistic. In fact, you don’t want to look like anyone but yourself, but you do want to be healthier.

You are a doer, and you will make time.

You know your limits.

If there’s not enough time to accomplish a workout and meet all your other obligations, cut something else out. It’s acceptable to say no. Once you embrace this idea — really let it sink into your attitude and your interactions with people — it is so liberating.

Pencil yourself in every now and then.

You have an end-game.

What is your goal? Do you want to run a marathon, play with your kids without getting winded, or bring your cholesterol down? There are a number of goal sets to choose from when beginning a wellness program, and they’re all valid. Don’t diminish your process by feeling as though your goal isn’t big enough. There will always be someone who is stronger, faster, and leaner than you are. Don’t let negative self-talk veer you off course.

To reach your fitness goals, have a clearly defined end-game and create an attainable plan to get there. You want it; after all, you deserve it, you’re a doer, you know your limits, and you have a plan.

Now, the hard part — ditch the guilt. Give yourself permission to go after your healthy lifestyle, and go get it.

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