Last week one of my clients referred to me as a “NO BULLSHIT” kind of person. It really got me thinking about how I present myself to these people that I encounter every day. Furthermore, I started thinking about the differences between EMPATHY vs SYMPATHY.

It all started when I was repeatedly listening to the reasons why people DIDN’T stick to their plan.

“It was my niece’s birthday party and I had to have cake”
“We were at a baseball tournament all day”
“I ran out of eggs”
“I was tired and didn’t want to cook”

Am I empathetic towards a person stuck in these situations? Absolutely. Am I sympathetic? NO! It all boils down to YOU. Are YOU making the best decisions that will allow you to achieve YOUR purpose? If you can’t answer this question with a “yes”, then maybe you need to reassess the WHY. Why are you trying to lose weight? Why do you feel cake is a better option on your journey to the body of your dreams? I have been in each one of the situations and felt the temptation that each and every one of you have felt before. So, yes, I know how you feel. Have I let these situations control me, NO!

I’m pretty sure I lost my ability to sympathize when I started my very first competition prep. I was in the second year of my Master’s program at Iowa State University and working as a staffed athletic trainer for the cross country and track teams. Athletic training is a very stressful, time consuming job that leaves room for absolutely no social life. The team practiced 6 days per week. If you know anything about track and field, you know the multiple areas of specialization in distance, middle distance, sprinters, throwers, jumpers and decathlon/ heptathlon. Most of my day was spent aiding one group or another. Injury treatments were 1-2 hours pre-practice and 1-2 hours post-practice. My work day would usually start around 7am and end around 6pm. At that time, I’d have to go to class until 8 or 9pm most days of the week. Weekends were spent at track or cross country meets. From July to July, I would get a few random weekends off, but not many. And if you think having 2-3 kids is hard, try having 108!!!

How on earth did I find the time to train, eat, sleep, study, or even stick to my meal plan? I’m so glad you asked! Planning and preparing were the 2 keys to success during that entire year. Food preparation always happened on Sundays and Wednesdays. I made sure to pack EVERYTHING I needed in containers so all I needed to do in the morning was throw them in my cooler. Workouts happened on my 2 hour lunch break. Any cardio happened at 5:30am. Homework snuck in whenever possible.

Travel was a whole different monster, but I never failed. I knew I would be stuck ALL DAY at a meet, so preparation was tremendously important. I would receive an itinerary for the entire weekend. I made it my mission to know EVERYTHING I needed to know about the area we were staying. I knew the closest grocery store, gym, if there was a taxi service, if the hotel had a gym, if the rooms came with refrigerator/microwave combos, if the restaurants near the hotels were conducive to my goals, EVERYTHING! If we were flying, I would FREEZE my chicken to keep all my other food cold on the flight. I had a mini table top griddle that fit in my suitcase so I could have my eggs fresh in the mornings. I refused to fail!

Temptation was everywhere! You’d think a Division 1 Track team would have a super perfect diet and I wouldn’t have to worry about any junk sitting around. WRONG! There were many times we would stop at fast food restaurants during bus rides. There was a bottomless supply of granola bars around at all times. Italian restaurants were a must the night before a meet. But, you can ask any athlete or coach on that entire team if they ever saw me veer off track. Not even once! And trust me, they would question and attempt to pressure me into eating what they were eating. I would always hold strong.

By the end of the year, I graduated and competed in my first figure competition on the same weekend. I had accomplished everything I set out to do that year successfully. I won my division at my competition! I had my Master’s degree. I did it. Why? Because I constantly and consistently stuck to my guns. I remembered my purpose. I wanted this for me. I never let the excitement fade. The pride and greatness I felt that entire weekend were unlike any other time in my life. I often tell my clients, “If you don’t plan and prepare, then you are preparing to fail.” Even seven years later, I still look back at that year and smile! 

My advice: Don’t stand in your own way. Remember your purpose and don’t let ANYONE or ANYTHING throw you off your path. Remember your purpose. And most importantly, that cake will only fulfill a temporary feeling of need. Accomplishment will mean so much more, even years down the road.


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