Substance abuse, degenerative disc disease, and occasionally my job prevented me from being physically fit, sometimes for months or years at a time. In some cases, I gained weight, in others, I lost weight. (Having to gain weight is indeed easier.) However, through my physical trials and tribulations, I learned how enjoy the pursuit of fitness. Here are my three biggest takeaways:

1. Patience

Set realistic goals for yourself. I was in a job for a while that required long hours in the office, and I found myself soothing with food in a way I hadn’t in years. 15 pounds later, I felt so bad about myself I was willing to start a boot camp. One just happened to open up down the street from me. It was impossible to ignore.

I’m a petite woman so trying to lose 15 pounds wasn’t going to happen in a couple of months, and I knew that from experience. I started three times a week, and I was so weak at the beginning. The gorgeous instructors clapped and smiled along with me just to make sure I didn’t get discouraged. I love them for that. Love goes further than yelling in my book.

It took a full nine months for me to lose all the weight, but I never got disappointed in myself because I knew I was doing everything I could.

I gave myself a full year to get it done. Much better to exceed your expectations then constantly be pushing that date back because everything takes longer than you expect.

2. Food Matters

It doesn’t matter how much I work out if I put really bad food in my body. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat sweets and carbs and every other delicious thing, but I try not to eat processed foods. That makes a big difference. I also had to learn to love vegetables and cuisines that favor healthier ingredients, like a Mediterranean diet. The big surprise here was a healthy diet also made me feel better in every way. My digestion improved, my mood improved, and my self-care improved. This took years for me to sort out, but this is one of my major takeaways regarding being healthy and maintaining a healthy weight.

3. Get Professional Guidance

I’m not saying hire an expensive trainer, but talk to someone who is educated on fitness. Make sure to discuss:

  • Your physical issues
  • Your goals
  • Which exercises are best for you based on those parameters

For years, I was doing one kind of exercise religiously, almost compulsively, only to find out it was hurting my back and not strengthening the correct parts of my body. All of that exercise was making me worse, not better!!! After my spinal surgery four years ago, I worked with several trainers and PT specialists who helped me devise an exercise program.  Finally I knew what was safe, what was unsafe, and what to look out for in terms of improvement or red flags. That guidance built a foundation for me to feel good about working out again.

Whether you’re considering exercise for mood stability, want to get back into shape as part of a recovery, or you just enjoy it, take the time to set goals. Get informed on how to reach those goals, and figure out a diet that will help as well. It’s so worth it.

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Lindsey Glass

Lindsey Glass is the co-founder of Reach Out Recovery. Her 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World Of Recovery, has helped to lift the stigma from addiction and recovery and is used in recovery programs nationwide to show what life is like on the other side of addiction. Lindsey's teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, was distributed to PBS stations nationwide by American Public Television in 2014-15. Lindsey has written dozens of popular articles on recovery. She is a recovery advocate and frequent keynote speaker. Lindsey is the author of 100 Tips for Growing Up, My 20 Years of Recovery, 2019. Before focusing on recovery, Lindsey was a TV and screenwriter. She has worked in publishing, web development, and marketing.

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