Confessions of a Diet Breaker

Can I get a hallelujah and an amen from all my sisters who are on the diet breaker struggle bus? It’s Monday – our favorite day of the week! I’ve just recommitted to my goals, like I so often do on Mondays, and this time, I’m ready to REALLY stick to the plan.

Over the years, Monday has become my start-fresh-day as I typically spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday letting my reserve lapse and reminding myself that all will be just fine, because on Monday, I’m going to start to dig in and really hit some goals. 

This happens Monday…after Monday…after Monday (Inserting a big ol’ LOL here).

I’ll be straight up honest with you, my friend. I struggle with the eating thing… I struggle with the exercise thing…and I struggle with the whole self-care thing. Life is insanely busy, and I can often get so tired and overwhelmed that the last thing I want to do is exercise. What I do   want to do is grab a glass of wine, paired with cheese and crackers, or have that extra helping of mashed potatoes with the baked chicken (Yes, please!!).

The struggle is real, y’all.

For those of you who have known me for awhile, you might find this surprising as I used to run fitness groups and create clean eating meal plans and challenges all the time. For years, this was my life. But the truth of the matter is, I always struggled with eating right, and I never loved following an exercise program.

So, if this describes you, I’m here to share two things:

  1. You’re not alone.
  2. There’s HOPE!

That’s great news, right? We can become fit and healthy and not have to be perfect – insert the diet-breaker. Here, I share with you some of the things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me to stay on track, get back on track, and kick myself in the petutie when needed.

1. Decide What Success Looks Like For You

I’ll readily admit that when looking at old photos of when I was in the Mrs. Virginia Pageant or watching movies of women my age who look absolutely fantastic, I can have a moment of longing to be back in that place or to hit certain goals while enjoying my 40s. At the same time, I’ve also learned to stop and think – am I willing to do what it takes to get there and stay there? To be honest, – no, I’m not. 

We have to be honest with ourselves about what it is we really want, and then set our goals accordingly. Do we want to be at our healthiest level of thin? Do we want to be strong? Do we just want to be healthier? Or a mix of all of it?

When we step away from the entrapment of having to live up to the world’s expectations of healthy and fit, and we set our expectations based on our own goals, we find that it’s easier to step away from comparison and lean into what really matters in our own lives.

michelle hillaert

The good news is that we can be healthy and fit without being super thin. God blessed most of us women with curves; that’s the truth of it. Unlike the message often sent from Hollywood, magazines, and our local instafeed that we need to look a certain way to be our best version of beautiful, our biggest goals should be geared towards eating healthy, getting our heart-rate moving, and our body strong.

So the first thing we need to do is ask ourselves, “What does success look like for me? What am I willing to give up to reach it, and what is simply not a priority for me right now?”

When we step away from the entrapment of having to live up to the world’s expectations of healthy and fit, and we set our expectations based on our own goals, we find that it’s easier to step away from comparison and lean into what really matters in our own lives.

2. Create a Plan

Have you ever heard that quote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish” or “Failing to plan is planning to fail”? There’s so much truth in that. If we wish to be stronger and healthier, or if we would like to drop a couple of pounds, we absolutely have to have a plan on how we’re going to get there.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are about a million different meal plans and diets out there, with just as many philosophies as to how or why they work. If you stick to one of them, you will more than likely lose weight.

I’ve tried a handful of them… portion control, keto, plating, Whole30, etc. And frankly, as much as I’ve tried various diets and had success with some of them, I’m not a fan of dieting. Over the years, I’ve learned so much about food and what it means to eat clean, and about how much food affects our bodies, that I prefer to simply eat clean. 

For me, that looks like reading labels, eliminating sugar and gluten, recognizing all ingredients, and incorporating more veggies into my diet. It also looks like eliminating most starchy carbs on a regular basis. Does that mean I think carbs are bad? Not necessarily, but it does mean that I know I don’t feel very good after I eat them, so for my body, they aren’t the best.

So I would encourage you to figure out what plan works best with your body. What foods make you feel good? What foods leave you feeling sluggish or moody or give you hot flashes?

Then think about what you’ll do to start moving. Whether it’s dance parties in the kitchen, lunges while folding the laundry, hitting the gym, running, or following an at-home exercise program. Fitness programs are readily available everywhere – Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube.

Finally, get your calendar out and set an appointment with yourself to – as I like to say – “get ‘er done.” If you’re like me and not very fond of pushing play, yet love the benefits of exercising on a regular basis, creating that appointment with yourself is crucial to hitting some of those all-important goals.

3. Drink Water. Drink Water. Drink Water

There’s a reason why I said that THREE times. It’s so important! Our bodies are made up of more than 60% water. When we’re dehydrated, we can’t think straight, we’re tired, we lack motivation, and our metabolism slows down.

When I’m focused, one of my big goals is to chug three 30 ounce cups of water a day. I say chug because I’m not a huge fan of sipping on water throughout the day. I’d prefer to drink coffee, seltzer water, ice tea, or… anything else, but our bodies need water to function properly, to detox, and to keep everything in working order. So water it is.

They say that it’s important to drink half your body weight in ounces of water. I personally think that chugging a few 30oz cups not only hydrates the body but flushes out some extra toxins to boot. So I’d encourage you to add chugging water to your daily routine.

4. Get an Accountability Buddy

Change can be tough. We set goals, have every good intention to follow them, but then when tested at just the right time – we fail. 

In my life, this might look like starting my day off strong, eating healthy snacks, and grabbing a healthy lunch. Then evening hits and the little kids get fussy or need constant attention, or the older kids just want to talk, and there are still a million things to get done. At this point, I’m completely overwhelmed and frazzled, and then buttery potatoes make their way to the dinner table. Suddenly my resolve to say no is gone. I want the comfort food, and I want it now. So I grab a large scoop and happily plop it on my plate.

Sigh. Yup! That’s a pretty good description of how it often goes. Can you relate?

This is where having an accountability partner really helps. Find a friend who also wants to be healthier and stronger and ask her to dig in with you. Knowing that someone else is also following a plan and depending on you for strength to get through is encouraging in and of itself. And then if you really need some extra help, you can text or call your friend for the encouragement you need to avoid the struggle, or to get back up when you fall. 

My accountability buddies are my daughters. My daughter, Brigette, and sometimes my daughter, Nichole, work out with me. They’ll encourage me when I’m tired and get back up with me when we fall. When I’m really on my routine, my daughter Brigette will even get up with me at 5 am to workout and then pray together. It’s a beautiful thing.

So whether it’s your kiddo, your spouse, your friend, whoever is willing to dig in with you, find someone who’s also ready for change and go after your goals together. You’ll have more fun, and when you’re on the struggle-bus, someone will be there to support you, commiserate with you, and  celebrate success!

5. Give Yourself GRACE

You’re only human. Diet-breakers have been on the loose for centuries, constantly falling off the wagon and getting back up. Jesus may have been perfect, but he knows that we are not, and He accepts and loves us regardless of our faults and failures. So if He can give us grace, we should be able to give ourselves grace, too…don’t you think?

If we expect perfection, we are most definitely going to fail. So let’s set our expectations based on our definition of success and do the best we can.

We’re going to have to fight off the excuses, and we’re going to have to keep getting back up, but we’ve got this.

About Author

Michelle Hillaert brings more than 25 years of experience in roles relating to technology and communications to GIVEN. With an undergraduate degree in Communication Arts from Franciscan University of Steubenville, her portfolio includes emergency management, web, application and graphic design, marketing and social media management, podcasting, and online consulting. In her previous employment, Michelle played a major role in the development and improvement of internal systems as well as the development and expansion of the Quality Management System. She also managed processes and communication with stakeholders in major application builds of state-run programs. In addition to this work, Michelle has dedicated herself to helping women live their full potential as a doula, life and fitness coach, motivational speaker and author. Having four daughters, nine sisters, and having journeyed with many women over the years, Michelle has experienced first-hand how as women, we often hesitate to respond with our gifts because we don’t recognize that we are uniquely gifted and that the world – especially those we encounter on a daily basis – needs us to share these gifts. In light of this, she has a passion and proven capacity for flourishing young women in the Church through mentoring and leadership development. Michelle has found that transformation often happens in those quiet moments of prayer and reading the works of the saints, such as the “Dialogue” by St. Catherine of Siena and makes daily reading and continual growth an essential part of her day. Outside of work, Michelle has been married for over 23 years to her husband, Trent. They reside in Front Royal, Virginia and together have six children, 2 in college and four still at home, along with three dogs, a cat and 27 chickens. She is a soccer mom and singer who loves leading praise and worship. “It’s only when we truly know how unspeakably much we are loved by our Father and how He is constantly pursuing us – even in those moments when we’re running in the opposite direction – that we can come to understand that our identity lies in His love. With this knowledge, we are able to step out in confidence and as inspired by St. Pope John Paul II, live fearlessly.”

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