Your Self-Discipline is Showing

Look! My self-discipline is showing! At least that’s the message I got from a fitspo image I recently saw, an image of a headless female torso with visible abs and the words ‘Careful, Your Self-Discipline is Showing’. I of course thought of this picture I took of myself 3 months ago, with my self-discipline showing. So I’m posting it, so all of you can see my self-discipline too! Aren’t I self-disciplined? Don’t you like the way my self-discipline looks in that lighting? I especially like the way my sports bra and low rise yoga pants highlight my self-discipline.

Do you want to know what my self-discipline entailed? You can read about it here, but the jist is that I had to be relentlessly diligent with my diet. My nutrition was pristine, but keeping it that way while also maintaining the calorie deficit necessary to shed body fat to this degree and keep it off required an extraordinary degree of mental, and ultimately emotional, energy. We don’t have an unlimited supply of energy, folks. The energy I applied to my diet, and to resisting temptation, cravings and compulsions to eat, had to come from somewhere else, and it came from my creative endeavors, my job performance, my patience for my kids and my sex life (sorry honey).

Maybe if I were filthy rich with a maid and a nanny and a chauffer for my kids, or single and childless, or just devoid of ambition to excel at anything other than having low body fat, it would have been different. But as it was, my ‘self-discipline’ came at the cost of all the things that made life rich and joyful and worth waking up in the morning for.

Today I weigh about 10 pounds more than I did in that picture. My butt is bigger, and while you can see that I have abs, they are not sharply defined. And if I wear tight enough pants and slouch just right, I can even sort of give myself a little muffin top. But I like hanging out with my kids again, and I don’t have to weigh and measure every morsel of food I put in my mouth, and I have mental and emotional energy for taking on new projects at work, and for writing blog posts, and yes, even for my husband.

So lets talk a little bit about ‘self-discipline’. You don’t have an unlimited supply of it. Are visible abs (or whatever aesthetic ideal you hold yourself to) really where you want to spend yours? Do you think that maybe, just maybe, there are more important things in this world you can use your valuable mental and emotional energy to produce? Imagine how powerful we women could be if we freed ourselves from self-loathing and used all that mental energy to produce something tangible that actually benefited…well, anyone.

Eat well, eat for health, eat to nourish your body and fuel your activity. Exercise often and hard, for it makes you stronger and healthier and more confident. And all that ‘self-discipline’ you’ve been focusing on shedding that last few pounds of body fat? Use it to write a book, or move up the ranks at your job, or travel, or teach your kids something new (something other than how to hate their bodies), or start an urban garden, or run for public office, or start a charity, or get to know your neighbors and create a safe community for your children, or tutor kids who need a helping hand, or clean up the local park, or…' Really, there’s no limit to what you can do if you can harness all that energy that’s been funneled into obsessing over your body and your diet. Your life ISN’T going to be better when your abs show. It really isn’t. I can tell you this from experience. The marketers want you to think it will be, so you buy their supplements and diet plans and workout routines and drugs and potions. But it won’t actually be better, and for a lot of you it might even be worse. But your life may be better if you build something worthwhile that makes this a better world to live in. Invest your energy where it can do good, not just look good. People that matter, people who do good things in the world, people who will add richness to your life, those people don’t care about your abs anyway.

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34 thoughts on “Your Self-Discipline is Showing

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I never thought of it that way! (I love when THAT happens… a new way of looking at things :) )

    Thank you so much for your perspective and insight.

    -Jennifer (Land O’ Lakes, FL)

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  4. You’re my new hero. I too have spent far too many years of my life obsessing about my weight, diet, and other things that don’t really matter. LIFE is important, not whether your abs show. It’s amazing how messed up our priorities can get.

  5. Thank you! I lost a great deal of weight when I first started eating Paleo and working out consistently. I’ve gained some back (but am still healthy!!) and have been berating myself since. I am a working mom of two sweet girls and sometimes I just run out of energy to eat perfectly and work out. I almost wanted to cry when I read this …. it’s so true! My life won’t change with flat abs…it just won’t. Eating well and going to the gym is still important to me, but this helped me put things in perspective!!

  6. WOW! This is not only a great topic but such great writing about this subject! Thank you for posting this, it is something I struggle with. Although not as much anymore. I think the world would benefit from reading this!

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  8. Thank you for this post. I needed it. I have been on a similar journey as you for the last few years and have found myself desperate at times – desperate for a little more calorie reduction, a little lower number on the scale, more time to workout, etc. I have very recently focused on thinking about health, function, joy, pleasure, and care for myself. I spent so much energy worried about food and weight. What a waste of my precious time! I have two boys, a loving partner, a rewarding job, a great fitness outlet, and lots of friends. What the heck!? Shouldn’t I spend time on those things and people that make me happy instead of worrying about some unattainable ideal. I am more fit and healthy than I have ever been. But somehow that wouldn’t ever be enough measured against all the nonsense in our society about the ideal body/life. Thanks for keeping it real. :)

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  10. Love it. Absolutely love it. I’ve had a very similar journey to yours and about to turn 40 myself, I’ve learned that there is no substitute for simple good choices whether its in what I eat or how I plan my workouts/training goals. Great job with this blog. :)

  11. The energy I applied to my diet, and to resisting temptation, cravings and compulsions to eat, had to come from somewhere else, and it came from my creative endeavors, my job performance, my patience for my kids and my sex life (sorry honey).

    WOW! That right there is powerful. Thank you.

  12. I love this article. I am glad to know that other women feel this way. I am part of a tri club and was starting to think there was something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I work 40 hours a week, care and play with my toddler son, and continue to train for another half -ironman? Other women seem to do this so what was my problem? I was miserable until I gave myself “permission” and tell myself it was okay. Now, I am just focusing on my running and I am taking it one event at a time. Thank you!

  13. I just love, love, love everything you’ve said in this blog post. It resonates so true with me and gives incredible perspective. I’ve shared it with several people :) Thanks and keep blogging!!!!

  14. It took years but I’m finally at this point. My life is so much more than my body. I still work hard and pay attention to my eating habits but my energy is spent on the people I love and the people I teach and most importantly playing with my grandchild. Beauty IS NOT determined by our bodies!

  15. Amber, you are my hero! Please don’t ever give up your Facebook page or your blog! You are so dead on with your views and you say what many of us are thinking. THANK YOU!

  16. Thank you very much. I got abs once, slapped them with protan and got on stage. My life was crumbling around me at the time. The cumulative PTSD from the deprivational diet and neglected life has taken a toll on me for over 8 years. And I haven’t been able to shake the same thought you ask here: “Do you think that maybe, just maybe, there are more important things in this world you can use your valuable mental and emotional energy to produce? Imagine how powerful we women could be if we freed ourselves from self-loathing and used all that mental energy to produce something tangible that actually benefited'well, anyone.”…. THANK you for speaking and putting yourself out there. It helps tremendously to see echos of what one feels.

  17. Spot on ….again… Thanks for a reminder of how to live life to it’s fullest….we need to focus on the whole picture, including our head….not just the middle ;)

  18. BEST POST I HAVE EVER READ. EVER! I just wrote a post on Thursday VERY similar to this, but you beat me ;) EXCELLENT JOB!

  19. Great post! I have this thing, I often find myself running my hand across my rib and abs area and loving that I can feel the muscle there and how strong it feels. There is a layer of fat so my six pack isn’t visible but having come from a place of poor core strength and hip problems associated with poor core strength, I love that I have worked hard to get a strong functional core. I don’t care if you can’t see it, it works properly now and that is all that matters!

  20. Wow, u look amazing! Im trying to regain muscle lost from being ill….what is ur daily diet typically like? Any suggestions for me? Are u still vegan?

  21. Well said! Thank you for pointing out all of the sacrifices you had to make to achieve that look. I work in the fitness industry, personal training, yoga and Zumba. My favorite part of my job is the Zumba part. The people who attend my Zumba classes want to work hard, sweat, laugh and feel good about themselves. I think as a group they are the happiest about the way they look and feel. It is very rewarding. Personal training sucks the life out of me, I feel pressured to look a certain way (which I dont) and my clients are often obsessed with the way they look and what they eat. That is not healthy, that is not what I am about. I love reading your posts, you are what I am about…. Being real, being a woman, mother and being as authentic as I can be so maybe others can be too.

  22. Brilliant! Well said Amber. I think people find things \ projects to obsess over to prevent them dealing with their emotions. If you are supressing emotions by eating or pushing weights – it’s the same thing – a compulsion. Once you’ve lost the weight \ got the six pack you’re left with the same emotional baggage or void. I keep my head-space in order by keeping a mental grattitude journal and I use the solitude of exercise to nourish my well being with positive self talk. From a former self-hater, this is huge, this mental shift allows me to live a joyfull life, way better than the alternative.

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