"The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." -Michelangelo
|If only it was this easy!|
For most of my life, success has been equal to nothing less than perfection. Maybe it's the "first child syndrome", but all I know is when I did not live up to my own demanding standards, I felt frustrated, defeated, and just plain "not good enough." As life breaks down my perfectionism bit by bit, my definition has morphed into a more loving one: success simply means doing my best in each moment. And we all know that our best will change according to context. That frosty brew in my fridge might not even phase me on a relaxing Saturday as I'm leaving for a hike, but that same hoppy deliciousness will quickly be bubbling in my tummy after a grueling twelve-hour day of teaching and parent teacher conferences.
When I think about times when I have felt most successful, it is always a time when I dare to attempt something I considered to be totally out of my reach. I've completed a half Ironman race, learned how to climb ropes, do muscle ups, and complete ungodly amounts of pull ups and push ups. I've taught for six years in a high needs school, each year bringing me to many breaking points where I sob on the phone with loved ones, not knowing how I'll have the strength to keep going till June. The strength always comes and I'm rewarded by amazing moments with kids and families. I have pushed past my fear of sucking on stage to have outrageous, gut-busting scenes with my improv teams.
Undoubtedly, one of the hardest struggles and, consequently, one of the greatest successes I've experienced was a nutrition challenge at my gym, Crossfit Verve. For eight weeks, I committed to eating totally clean: no processed foods, no dairy, no grains, no sugar, no alcohol. At one of the nutrition lectures, an incredible owner and trainer at Verve, Cherie Chan, said two things that have stuck with me. First, food is a drug. Fact. Second, that what you put in your piehole is THE most difficult habit to change. (I may have paraphrased that last one, although it's entirely possibly that Cherie said "piehole".) When I started, I had never really "dieted". I ate what I craved, so as you can imagine, the thought of regulating what I put in my body was utterly and devastatingly overwhelming.
Factor 1: Someone needs to believe I can do it...even if it's not me.
As the challenge wore on, I relied more and more on the community at the gym. What a relief it was to talk to people going through the same thing I was, to be validated and encouraged and inspired. Socially, I felt as though I had allies who would also be having lettuce wraps and iced tea instead of burgers and beer. Without others to lean on, I would've been much more likely to give in to temptation. Factor 2: I need a supportive community who understands my purpose and keeps me accountable.
Over those two months, I discovered that eating clean was not as hard as I thought (after the painful two week withdrawal period where your body is screaming, "What the [bleep] are you doing to me, you idiot?!"). I spent my Sundays and Wednesdays doing food prep and was always sure to have a bag of tasty snacks to gnaw on whenever tempting junk food would be around. I found amazing fruit and veggie based replacements for my go-to stress cravings: ice cream and french fries. At the end of the challenge, what I was doing felt normal and, dare I say it...easy. Factor 3: Always be prepared and seek replacements if needed.
Well, long story long, I won the challenge, based on measurements and the before and after pictures below. Did perfection get me this success? Heck no!! When I did slip up, I loved myself by accepting it and moving on, determined to do better next time. Because I didn't give up after a mistake or two, I experienced one of the most rewarding successes of my life. Obviously, my body changed. I was leaner, my clothes fit better, I got more attention from men. Here's what I didn't expect...my mind had changed as well. My moods were stable, my baseline a cheerful, energetic state no matter what my context. I was confident and more open. I thought clearer and I prioritized better. You can literally see the difference in my expression in the photos.
A weird discovery for me was that people constantly questioned and often belittled my choices, asking why I was so strict, why I was depriving myself of so much. I have to say that what others saw as deprivation was an eye opener for what life should feel like. I loved waking up feeling cheerful, refreshed, and walking through my day thinking about life, not about what food item or beverage would get me through the next few hours. Even though I was abstaining from the majority of what I normally would put in my body, it was without a doubt the most "whole" I've ever been.
Well, I guess I have arrived unexpectedly full circle to a point where I have to look at myself, my lifestyle, and my current choices and sternly but gently ask, "Tiffany, why are you depriving yourself of so much?"
|Before the nutrition challenge...after about six months of CrossFit but little attention to diet choices.|
|Me after 8 weeks of clean eating and continued exercise.|