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New Year’s Resolution season can be a little overly positive for me. Getting fit is hard, eating right is hard – and sometimes I need a little snark to ease the fitness pain. My go-to girl? E.J. over at The Snarky Fit Project!
Hands down, my favorite part of my work is the awesome people that I meet in the process and E.J. is a perfect example. A member of my Mil-Blogging group for military affiliated bloggers, E.J. has done some spectacular non-profit work in the military world. Then, I had the opportunity to meet her in person when I was the chapter leader for The Milspo Project’s Killeen, Texas chapter. When she contacted me about helping her launch her new venture, The Snarky Fit Project, I knew I needed to share it with you.
Weight loss, getting fit, eating healthy – none of it is particularly easy. At least in my house, it looks more like me opening and shutting the fridge four times before deciding to just drink water instead of giving into cravings. E.J. gets that, so I asked her come on over to If The Saddle Fits and tell us all about what she’s building.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is E.J. Smith. I’m a Marine wife, professional counselor and general health nut. I’m also the owner/founder of SimplyEJ.com and The Snarky Fit Project.
Q: Why did you feel a need to help women struggling with the mental aspect of lifestyle change?
The Snarky Fit Project has been almost a decade in the making – a compilation of my own life experiences and struggles with making changes, coupled by professional studies in learning behaviors, as well as mental health. I see a lot of interest being generated around physical health — this workout routine or that diet plan. It’s not as if there isn’t enough information out there or enough options — in fact, the number of options can be overwhelming.
What I’ve observed, however, is that many of us who struggle to create lifestyle changes get beaten down by the voice inside our heads. And that just is not okay with me. If you’re actually going to put forth the effort to eat healthier or move more — you do not deserve to get sabotaged by your own brain!
Q: Many of the women in my audience struggle with figuring out how to set goals that are both realistic and effective. Any strategies to suggest?
Yes! First is to make S.M.A.R.T. goals for yourself that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. I have a short slide video that I created that explains more about each of those elements in more detail. In addition to that, whenever I’m working with someone on goal setting, I add on what I believe to be the most critical piece in any goal setting endeavor.
After you set that S.M.A.R.T. goal, I want you to tell on yourself! Rat yourself out!
- What are the things/events/people that are going to get in your way?
- What are the excuses you will make to justify why you can’t do that thing you just said you were going to do?
- Who are the people who will validate your excuses?
List them out. Every. Single. One.
Next, identify your support network — the people who’re supportive of you in person and on social media. Identify the podcasts, blogs, youtube channels and books that keep you in that motivated mindset.
And then when you’re done, use your problem-solving skills to find solutions and ways to deal with these barriers. If you get stuck on one, enlist the help of one of your support people (friend, coach, mentor, doctor, therapist…)
When you plan around your human moments, you’re planning for your growth.
Q: Even when we know we do it, many of us struggle to prevent self sabotage like stress or emotional eating in difficult times? What kind of strategies should we have in our toolbox?
Ugh! I’m a self-confessed emotional eater so I hear you on this one. The thing that has worked best for me in overcoming self-sabotage is making sure that my goals are meaningful for me. I know myself. If it’s something I REALLY want — I will do just about anything to get it. I have a track record to prove it. (Cabbage Soup Diet anyone? – ugh I still get waves of nausea just thinking about it).
I remind myself with notes to myself or visual images that my goal is bigger than this stressful moment. And bigger than that delicious morsel I’m about to eat. I remind myself that feelings are flakey and bound to change. I also actively try to cultivate other self-care strategies that can support my emotional well-being, alleviate stress AND honor my goals.
Some times it’s not nearly that dignified.
Sometimes I resort to good ol’ distraction. Have you ever called your best friend and said, “I am calling you because I’m about to dive headfirst into a pint of ice cream and eat my way back out and I need you to talk me off the ledge”? Because I sure as heck have!
Also, I remind myself that “There is no shame in this game.” I think a BIG part of this one has to do with the telling on yourself piece that I mentioned above. You keep doing it. Every time you do something in opposition of your goals, you frame it as a learning experience — take the lesson, not the guilt. Click To Tweet And put it to use going forward.
Q: Why after significant weight loss do you still see the same person and struggle to acknowledge your weight loss visually, despite mentally understanding you’ve lost that much?
This is actually really interesting and, to the best of my knowledge, scientists are still learning how exactly this phenomenon works.
Here is what we do know: the disconnect between what your brain sees and what you body actually looks like has a name — they call it “phantom fat”. Much like phantom limb syndrome, phantom fat refers to the feeling/belief and even the behaviors that someone experiences as if they were larger than what they currently are. For example, turning sideways to shimmy through a space that you could actually quite easily walk through.
The causes can vary, although, a report published by NBC News noted that the faster one loses the weight or the longer someone was overweight prior to losing may impact the degree to which someone may experience “phantom fat”. Sometimes it has to do with the fact that a person has been successful on their weight loss journey and they have no idea what to do with the concept of being in “maintenance”. Or there is overwhelming fear/anxiety about regaining the weight.
Here is what we know about how to help your brain see yourself as your “new normal”:
- Be a little kind to yourself. You didn’t gain the weight overnight, and you probably didn’t lose it over night either. You’re basically in a new relationship with yourself in this new normal. It’s going to take some time to adjust. You might even feel unsure of yourself or scared. That’s okay. It’s actually pretty normal.
- Take pictures. Or keep a pair of pants, or a dress or something and notice how it used to fit compared to now. Take measurements.
- Get new lab work done by your doctor and ask them to explain the difference in health between where you were when you started compared to now.
- Practice mindfulness — take note of the positive feelings and experiences you have at your new weight, or with your new lifestyle.
- Remind yourself that you are so much more than the size of your pants or the number on the scale. You are a dynamic, interesting person with unique life experiences, interests, skills and flavor of quirkiness. (Quirkiness is my favorite!) Your new lifestyle or body may allow you to better express those aspects of yourself.
- Do not beat yourself up for past behaviors, choices or circumstances. All it does is make you feel like crap. And steals joy from your present.
Over time, if these strategies aren’t working, sometimes it’s good to enlist the help of a professional who can help you one-on-one to dive into some of the emotional reasons. Body image issues can be serious challenges to one’s mental and emotional health. If you’ve worked this hard, you deserve to enjoy the end result!
Q: When we continually doubting ourselves and our abilities despite achieving goals, how do we start to take steps towards a more confident outlook?
This is a pretty common question in my line of work. And you know what is always so amazing to me? How some of the kindest people most giving and selfless people I’ve ever met can be complete jerks to themselves! The things they say to themselves — for real — they would absolutely never ever ever in a million years say to another human being!!!
“Oh you lost 10 lbs? Big deal. Should’ve never gained it in the first place. Have another cookie, loser.”
So #1 is stop being such a mean-spirited witch to yourself. People always laugh when I say that, but I’m 100% serious. Treat yourself like a stranger if you must. You’ll probably be more kind.
Another big piece is to consider redefining success. When we’re talking about long term goals like living a healthier lifestyle, we’ve got to set ourselves up for success by having our goals work for us so we don’t become servants to them. Our goals are supposed to serve us. So what does that look like? That means that while having a goal and having a plan — you also make room for detours. Just remember that detours eventually lead you back to your original route…unless you live in Houston.the kindest, most giving and selfless people I’ve ever met can be complete jerks to themselves #fit2ride #wellnessjourney Click To Tweet
Q: What is The Snarky Fit Project? Who is it for? How does someone participate?
The Snarky Fit Project is my special project dedicated to fitness — with an emphasis on the mental/emotional component that often derails our goals before we even really get started.
It actually came out of me being the longstanding health nut in my friends’ circles and realizing that I was having the same conversation with so many people (mostly women between ages 28-40) who are trying to balance a career, family, relationships and health. The way they used to do things just doesn’t work or isn’t practical for their lifestyle anymore. Ever try doing the so-called “Master Cleanse” while still needing to cook dinner for your family? It should be called “How to Go from Loving to Hating Your Spouse in 48 Hours…”
All snarkiness aside, it’s about going after your goals in a way that allows you to be present for and roll with the punches that come with real life. And having a platform to share the tools and techniques — the ones that work for the everyday stressors —that I’ve used with many of my paying clients, as well as the ones I personally use and bringing them to a greater audience.
If you want to follow along, go to The Snarky Fit Project on facebook, and subscribe to my YouTube Channel. Lastly, you can also follow me on Instagram @JerseyHippieDiva. And I’d love to have you come workout with me at The Snarky Fit Project Challenge.