Ep #92: How to Make Fitness a Way of Life

Strong as a Working Mom with Carrie Holland | How to Make Fitness a Way of Life
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When you think of people who take their health, fitness, and wellness seriously, who comes to mind? And more importantly, why do you think they’re able to maintain a high level of fitness? Well, they’ve made fitness part of their lifestyle. Eating healthy and exercising have become a way of life for them.

So, how do you make eating healthier, more exercise, and increased fitness a way of life for yourself? When you make fitness your lifestyle, those habits that support you become automatic, and I’m showing you how to start making this a reality in your own life.

Tune in this week to discover how to make fitness a way of life. I’m sharing why fitness isn’t created by fad diets and 30-day challenges, and instead, I’m showing you how to make the kinds of decisions every day that make fitness, exercise, and healthy eating a part of your everyday life, and giving you a plan for creating systems that will make fitness your default.


Are you ready to eat, move, and think in a way that gets you strong both physically and mentally? You deserve to have both no matter how busy you are, and I can help. I’m opening up my one-on-one coaching program for new clients, and I would love to work with you. Click here to learn more about working with me.


What You Will Discover:

  • The unhelpful, short-term nature of fad diets and fitness challenges.
  • How fitness becoming a way of life makes staying fit simpler than ever.
  • My perspective as someone who has made fitness a lifestyle, and coached others to do the same.
  • Why, if you want fitness to become your way of life, you need to think of yourself as a fit person.
  • One question to ask yourself if you’re not sure how to make the healthiest choice in any given moment.
  • Why adaptability is a non-negotiable for making fitness a way of life.
  • How to create systems that make a healthy lifestyle a simple reality.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast, Episode #92. How do you make fitness your way of life? Let me help you do that.

Welcome to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. If you’re balancing career, family, wellness, and some days sanity, you are in the right place. This is where high-achieving, busy, working moms get the tools they need to eat, move, and think. I’m your host, physician, personal trainer, and certified life coach, Carrie Holland. Let’s do this.

Hey, how are you? What’s new, what’s good? So what’s good here, today, we’re going to talk about how to make fitness your way of life. I’m going to share some insights as to how you make eating healthy, exercise and fitness your lifestyle.

Okay, so think about it. When you think of fit people in your life, or when you think of people who take their health, fitness, and wellness seriously, who do you think of? And more importantly, why do you think that is? What do you think makes these people this way?

Maybe they talk about fitness often. But beyond simply talking about it, they also walk their talk and they live it. These are the people who you know are going to find something healthy on the menu if you’re out to dinner together. Or, these are the people you know are going to exercise while they’re on vacation. And when you think of these people you think “fit”.

And no, it is not in an obnoxious, in-your-face kind of wait. This is not about smearing your level of fitness everywhere. All right? And I say this because when I suggest fitness as a way of life, I don’t mean it to be something that you brag about or make a big deal about. Sort of like there’s this running joke about vegans, and you may have heard it. So how do you know someone is vegan? Because she’ll tell you.

I don’t think that’s fair and that’s not what we’re aiming for here. We’re not aiming to make fitness your way of life so you can be holier-than-thou and tell everyone about it. That is not the idea, I’m not aiming to make you fit so you can brag about it. That is not the point here at all. Instead, the point here is to help you make fitness your lifestyle so that it’s automatic.

That’s what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to dive in and talk about how to make fitness your way of life. And when I say that, what I mean is that your fitness operates in the background. It’s not something you have to think so hard about because it’s always there. It’s part of who you are. It’s how you do. It’s your lifestyle.

And this is instead of something like trying an extreme, overly restrictive diet or a 90-day over-the-top exercise challenge, mustering the willpower to get through it, and then abandoning it all together. We’re talking about the opposite of that.

What we’re going to talk about instead is how to create a life that results in fitness. We’re making this your lifestyle instead of a hobby or a 90-day challenge. Because that is a huge difference right there. So, go back to what I was just saying.

Just as you can probably think of someone who has made fitness a way of life, you can probably also think of someone you know who has jumped from diet to diet with periods of eating anything and everything in between. Or they go from exercise challenge to challenge with periods of zero activity in between. But nothing ever really seems to stick.

And this person has done everything; 75 Hard, Whole 30, low fat, Keto, 12-3-30. You name it, he or she has tried everything. They’re always on the latest exercise or fitness trend or fad diet, and it seems like nothing ever really lasts or takes hold. I would argue that’s because fitness is not a way of life for her.

So, that’s what we’re going to talk about today. I want you to be someone who doesn’t have to jump from trend to trend in order to lose weight or be fit, because it’s not necessary. And not only is it unnecessary, but the mental and physical toll of the on-again off-again fitness cycle is exhausting.

And this observation comes from years of witnessing clients do exactly this. I’ve had clients come to me after they have been on every diet under the sun; Weight Watchers, Noom, Keto, intermittent fasting; you name it. Many of them have repeated these diets numerous times, but no one diet ever stocks for the long term.

I had one client, she did Whole 30 every January with their partner but it never lasted. Once the challenge was over, she ultimately went back to her previous habits and regained whatever weight she lost on Whole 30. And the net change was zero, year after year.

I’ve had other clients who strongarm themselves into exercise challenges and couch-to-5k’s. And while they may have completed the challenge or finished the race, once it was over they stopped exercising altogether. I have seen this happen often. And the up and down nature of this on-again off-again cycle is not only exhausting, but it can be totally defeating too.

So, instead of looking at fitness as something you take on for a defined period, or instead of looking at it as something you’re trying to force or insert into your life, imagine what it would be like if fitness was something you adopted as a way of life. Imagine what that would feel like for you.

Okay, so as someone who did just that, I will tell you it feels awesome. It most definitely took time and work, but now I can safely say that fitness is a way of life for me and it feels simple. And in all honesty, there is very little brain space I have to devote to eating and moving anymore because I’ve made it my way of life. I don’t have to think so hard about it because fitness truly does operate in the background for me.

Having fitness as my way of life clears up loads of mental time and energy so I can work on other more important things in my life. And if you want this, it is totally possible for you too. If you want to free up more of your brain space for other things, and if you want fitness to be your lifestyle, it is 100% possible for you.

So, let’s talk about how this works. I’m going to give you my perspective, not only as someone who has coached people to make fitness their lifestyle, but also as someone who has done it herself. So, let’s talk about how you make fitness your way of life. All right? Let’s go. First, go back to your identity. I really, really love thinking about it in this way because it is just so powerful. If fitness is going to be your way of life, it’s going to start by identifying as a fit person. Remember, you are a human, humans like to be right about people. And we especially love to be right about ourselves.

So, let’s take this and use it to our advantage and practice believing that you are a fit person. Because whatever you believe about yourself, you will then go out into the world and seek evidence to prove true. And that is so essential to understand. Let me say it again. Whatever you believe about yourself, you will go into the world and prove true.

For example, let’s take the opposite. If you believe that you are lazy, which some of you have told me straight up that when it comes to your health and fitness you believe you’re lazy. Okay, so then what happens? If that is what you believe about yourself, you will then go and find the evidence to prove it correct.

Because how does it feel to think that you’re lazy? Probably not very good, right? It’s going to feel super disempowering. And from that place of feeling disempowered, you’re going to skip your workouts, you’ll sleep through your alarm, you’ll skip grocery shopping and meal planning and get takeout instead. And as a result, you prove yourself correct. You prove that you’re lazy to yourself, and you will be right about yourself.

So, now let’s flip that. Let’s decide right here now that you’re going to be a fit person, and you practice thinking like one. What if you decide to believe that it is possible for you to get fit? And I don’t mean faking it here. I don’t mean saying it while rolling your eyes and being all sarcastic. I don’t want you to b.s. yourself here.

I mean, you say it to yourself and you really, really feel it, like to your core. You feel it in your bones that it is possible to get fit. Now, how does it feel to think that way? I’m guessing that feels a lot better. Maybe thinking that way makes you feel motivated, determined, empowered. Whatever that feeling is, let it sink into your core.

And then from there, what do you do? When you think that it is possible for you to be fit, and you feel determined, and you really, truly feel it, then what happens? You do the work, that’s what happens. Meaning, you get your workouts done, you show up to exercise, even on the days when you don’t feel like it.

You make a plan for your meals and you follow it. You go grocery shopping and you buy enough food to eat your meals at home during the week. You get less takeout or restaurant food. You stop snacking on packaged, highly processed stuff in exchange for more fruit and vegetables.

And then what happens? You proved yourself right. You proved that you are a fit person. So, this is key, because in order to make fitness your way of life you have to believe that it is possible for you to be a fit person. You identify as a fit person. And add to this further, you can use your identity as a fit person to guide your choices.

So, if this idea is hard for you, if you find it hard to believe that you could be a fit person, let me offer you this. In any situation where you find yourself questioning what to do, you can come at it from this perspective: What would a fit person do? Again, I really, really love this idea, because it helps you get clear on what qualifies the identity that you’re aiming for.

If you aim to be a fit person, how does that person think? What does she think when it’s 5am, her alarm is going off, but it’s cold outside? Does she think, “Hey, it’s too cold for me to run.” Or does she think, “It’s cold, but I can put on another layer and get this done.” You decide. Or you can also ask: What would a fit person do in this situation? If you’re at a restaurant and everyone is eating appetizers and drinks and bread and it’s all being offered to you, you get to decide what would a fit person do in this situation? Would she eat whatever she wanted? Or would she choose to indulge in a really good dessert and skip all the extras, even though her friends are eating them? You decide.

What you’re doing here is thinking about the characteristics of the person you want to be and then you act accordingly. You’re thinking about how a fit person would think, feel and act in any given situation. And then you act in a way that aligns with it. And in that process, the more you think, feel and act like a fit person, the more you become that person.

This is so, so cool. Your identity, and how you see yourself, is essential. If you want fitness to become your way of life, it is only going to happen and it’s only going to stick if you truly believe that you are capable of being a fit person. Remember, when we’re talking about fitness as a way of life, it’s not a thing you do, it’s who you are. Fitness is not just a state of doing, it’s a state of being, okay? There’s a huge difference.

That’s the difference between doing Whole 30 For the month of January and reverting at the end of it, versus adopting healthy eating as a way of life that operates year-round. The difference is in who you are as a person.

Alright, so now that we’ve talked about identity, the next thing you can do to make fitness your way of life is to create systems that make it possible. And not just possible, but simple. So, if this is starting to smell like code for “habit”, then you are most definitely onto something. Because really, that’s exactly what it is.

People who adopt fitness as a lifestyle made it that way by making their fitness behaviors a habit. They’ve put in the time and energy, and they’ve done it for long enough, that eating and moving operate on autopilot.

I’ll use myself as an example here. I set up my life so that I get up at the crack of dawn and get my workout done first thing. I go to bed early, I get up early, and I get it done. That’s my system and it works for me. And this is not to say that you have to get up early and be a morning exerciser, I don’t care when you get it done. I care more that you set up a system that works for you so that you can consistently get your exercise in.

The takeaway here is that when you set up a system of behaviors for yourself and repeat it consistently, it becomes a habit. So, I’ve been doing this long enough, and have held myself accountable to my morning schedule and workout routine for long enough, then now it’s a nonnegotiable, it’s a no brainer. There is literally zero thinking involved. I get up, I put on my gear, and I do my workout.

I’ve created that time in my day and I made it part of my rhythm. No one gave that time to me; I could be sleeping in an extra few hours. But I created that system for myself, I created that habit. And you can do the same for yourself. And you can do the same with your nutrition, too. Again, I’ve created a system, along with my husband, so that eating healthy, like our workouts, it’s automatic. We don’t have to think about it anymore. The grocery list, it’s easy. We don’t have to put a lot of thought into it because it’s how we’ve been eating for years. We keep our meals simple.

They consist of protein, veggies, and whole grains. The meals are not complicated, there are a few ingredients, and they don’t take a lot of time to pull together. We meal prep on weekends so we don’t have to spend time getting food ready during the school week, which tends to be total chaos. We eat salads with dinner every day. And all of these are systems we’ve put in place so that fitness is automatic.

The end result is that eating healthy and moving our bodies has been made simple. Fitness operates in the background. Neither of us has to expend much mental energy because we’ve automated it. And that is pure habit.

Remember, how do you make something a habit? Consistency. And when I think of consistency, I think of three components: Behavior, repetition, and frequency. So to practice consistency, you have to actually do the behavior. You have to do your morning workout. Then you repeat it, and you repeat it with enough frequency that it becomes automatic. That’s your system. That’s how you make it a habit.

It’s the combination of the behavior, repetition, and frequency. And you can do this with both your exercise and your nutrition by putting systems in place to make it simple and seamless. Alright?

So, the next thing you can do to make fitness your way of life is to remember that this is not a zero-sum game here. All-or-nothing thinking isn’t going to help you if you want fitness to be your lifestyle. So, let’s get rid of that. Okay?

Here’s what I mean by this. When fitness is your way of life, you don’t let one miss workout deter you. You don’t let one missed workout mean you’re a failure and that there’s no way you can be fit. And you don’t let that one missed workout turn into two, three, or seven days of missed workouts.

Or you don’t let one meal of pizza and fries throw you off. You don’t let that one meal be the start of a food bender, where you eat anything and everything, and go totally off the chain with your diet only to start over again on Monday. You make those pizza and fries mean nothing about you or your fitness.

Instead, when fitness is your way of life you know that you will always come back to it. You know that any outliers, like a missed workout or a restaurant meal that’s super greasy, are exactly that, they’re outliers. And you get back to your routine without it being an ordeal. You always come back to fitness.

So, when you miss one workout you get back to it the next day. You don’t make a big deal out of missing a workout. You don’t beat yourself up about it, and you make it mean nothing about you. You get back to your workout the next day, or as soon as you’re able. It’s not a big deal.

The same is true for your nutrition. If you have a meal out that wasn’t in line with your goals, you don’t make it mean you’re a failure and you make your next meal one that you feel good about. There’s no getting down on yourself. There’s no punishing or restricting yourself after that one meal because you know there are loads and loads more meals ahead of you, and the next one is going to be a different choice. It’s going to be a choice that you feel good about.

So, when you make fitness your way of life, there’s less worry and there’s less anxiety because you know fitness is always there for you. It’s something you can always come back to. It’s not going anywhere because it’s part of who you are. And one choice does not take that away from you. We’re not looking for 100% perfection here because that’s impossible, we’re looking for a majority.

We’re looking for the majority of your choices to align with what a fit person would do. But this is not all or nothing, okay? And with that comes adaptability. If fitness is going to be your way of life you practice adaptability. Meaning, if the conditions are not absolutely perfect for your exercise or nutrition you make the best of it, adapt, and do what you can.

Again, this is thinking in terms of possibility; you’re looking for what is possible given your circumstances. Okay, for example, say you’re on vacation, and normally you go to the gym but you’re in the middle of nowhere and there is no gym to be found.

Kind of like we were when we were traveling this summer. Instead of giving up on a workout all together, which we totally could have done, Adam and I did bodyweight workouts instead. We cleared out some space at the rental, turned on some music, and we got it done. And no, it was not the same as getting under a barbell and squatting but it was something, and it felt a lot better than doing nothing at all. You adapt.

And you can do this with your nutrition, too. Say you’re at dinner and the only option is pizza, like literally nothing but pizza; no salad, no veggies to be seen, just pizza. Well, you have a choice. If you’re hungry, then you eat; you adapt and eat the pizza. And you don’t make a big deal about it. Or you can decide to hold off and wait until you are somewhere where there are more options available to you.

The key, you don’t make either choice a big deal. Either way, you adapt, and you get back to your routine when the circumstances allow for it. So, you get back to your regular workout routine when you get home from vacation. Or you make your next meal, after the pizza, something that is more in line with your goals.

Because when fitness is your way of life you practice adapting to whatever circumstances you encounter. And you create safety and peace of mind for yourself by knowing that you will always come back to fitness, and that no one decision can undo it. No one choice will undo your fitness. Okay? Next, if you want to make fitness your lifestyle, recognize that there is no hurry. There is no rush here. A few weeks ago I released a podcast about what to do if you find yourself in a hurry to lose weight, and there’s a similar principle from that episode that applies here. When you make fitness your way of life there really is no rush, because there is no finish line.

We’re talking about your lifestyle here, keyword “life”, as in for as long as you’re here on this earth, okay? So, when you’re looking to make fitness your way of life there’s no need to rush the process or be in a hurry, because we’re really talking about the rest of your life here. And hopefully that’s a really long time for all of us.

Being in a hurry is a key difference that separates those who succeed from those who don’t succeed at making fitness a lifestyle. When you’re in a rush or feeling impatient, that’s often when you start to take on extreme measures. That’s when restricted diets and super intense exercise regimens or challenges start to sound appealing.

But the restrictive diets and extreme workouts, they’re not sustainable. They’re hard to keep up and they don’t give you long term results. Often, they’re so taxing both mentally and physically that you stop, you revert, and you find yourself right back where you started. When, instead you can adopt a slow and steady approach and look for the habits that make sense, fit into your life, and that you can sustain for the long haul. All the while you can ask yourself if the habits you’re taking on, if the exercise and nutrition that you are taking on, if those make sense.

Are they sustainable? Are they behaviors that you can keep up with six months, 12 months, or even two years from now? There’s no hurry in this process. There is a different energy around someone who has adopted fitness as a lifestyle, versus someone who is in a rush and chasing a finish line.

After coaching loads and loads of clients around this, you can feel it. You can see it in their expression. You can hear it in their voice and in the words they choose. There is an urgency that drains you when you’re in a hurry to make fitness a way of life. And it’s usually because you’re in a hurry to lose weight.

But in contrast, the people I’ve worked with who are in it for the long haul, they’re patient. They know there will be trial and error involved. They know that fitness doesn’t happen overnight. But with time, patience, and repetition, they will succeed at making changes to the way they live, so that fitness ultimately becomes the goal. It becomes automatic, it operates in the background, and it becomes their new lifestyle.

And that’s just it, I’ve been touching on it all along, but let me spell it out and make it loud and clear. Fitness is not a means to an end; fitness is the end, in and of itself. Okay? Really think about that for a minute. When fitness is your way of life it is the end, in and of itself. Fitness is the goal.

Here’s why this is so important. Too many people see fitness as a means to an end for weight loss, or looking a certain way, or having a certain size or physique. But that can lead you to have serious resentment towards both exercise and food.

When you see fitness as a means to an end that’s when you run the risk of using fitness as a weapon against yourself. When you take on a transactional relationship with your diet or exercise, and expect an outcome of weight loss or looking a certain way, you may come to resent both when they don’t deliver. Especially when they don’t deliver fast enough. I see this all the time when clients get angry or impatient or frustrated. Or when I see them give up on themselves and declare that things aren’t working. They get frustrated that they’re not losing weight fast enough. And this frustration often comes when you use fitness as a means to an end.

That’s when you’ve made fitness something you pursue in order to get something out of it. But I’m going to offer this idea to you: What if you decided that fitness was the end? What if you pursued fitness for the sake of fitness, without any other expectation put upon it? Then what? Well, okay, so let me offer this to you on top of that: When you accept fitness as the end in itself, eating and moving become less daunting. There’s less pressure to get something out of your exercise and eating healthy other than the act itself. And it is totally liberating. It’s freeing.

When you take this approach, you can turn your focus more on your behaviors or your habits instead of the outcome. When you exercise and eat healthy for the sole purpose of losing weight, you run the risk of being overly focused on your result goal. So remember, weight loss is a result goal. It’s an outcome, and that is very much black and white. You either did or did not lose the weight.

What I see commonly, is that you get so focused on the result or the outcome of weight loss, that you lose sight of the habits and the lifestyle that it will take to get you there. But now, imagine if you decided to focus your energy on the process, or your habits that will get you to that weight loss.

Things like eating healthy, and moving your body in a way that feels good and is sustainable; those are your habit goals. And then, once you’ve decided on those habits, you focus your efforts on being consistent with those. What would happen then? What would happen then is that fitness becomes your way of life.

And that is exactly what I’m talking about. There is a huge difference between inserting fitness into your life and having fitness as your way of life. It will be more of a challenge to sustain fitness when you insert it or squeeze it in where you can or when it’s convenient for you or if you make it an afterthought.

Because again, if you haven’t adopted the identity of a fit person, it will be really easy to overlook it or skip it when life gets busy. When you’re squeezing in eating healthy and exercise, without believing that you’re a fit person, it will be that much easier to let it go when work gets busy, the kids are sick, or you had a bad night of sleep.

When you focus on the process of eating healthy and exercising, and make those your goals, without any caveats or expectations placed upon them, and you make them a habit, that’s when things will really change. That’s when fitness becomes both who you are and what you do. More importantly, fitness becomes who you are because of what you do. And that’s the goal right there. Whatever health or weight loss benefits you see, those are a bonus outcome of the lifestyle you’ve worked so hard to create for yourself. Do you see that? This is so key.

Fitness can be who you are. It can be your state of being by nature of what you do. So remember, your lifestyle is a collection of habits that add up to give you your level of health and fitness. And the goal is to make your lifestyle the outcome. Your fit lifestyle, that is the outcome. All right?

If you want help with this, let’s go. When you coach with me we’ll work to create habits like eating, moving, and thinking, that you can maintain so that fitness becomes your way of life, and you have brain space for other more important things. So, check out my website. Go to www.CarrieHollandMD.com/contact, tell me what’s keeping you from living a fit lifestyle, and let’s get to work. All right?

Thank you again for hanging out with me, and I’ll catch you again next week. If you like what you’ve been hearing, please review the show. I would love to get your feedback and ideas. Your suggestions have inspired episodes and will help me make the show better for you. Share this podcast with a friend, text a show link, share a screenshot, or post a link to the show on your social media.

Be sure to tag me @CarrieHollandMD on either Instagram or Facebook so I can follow along and engage with you. This is how we get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong inside and out. If you know someone who wants to feel better or eat and move differently but she is too tired or too busy, it is time to change things up.

You know making that change starts with how you think, and that is what we do here on the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. I’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening to Strong as a Working Mom. If you want more information on how to eat, move, and think, so you can live in the body you want, with the mind to match, visit me at CarrieHollandMD.com.

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