Some of you read my blogs each week and know what I do and some of you may be reading for the first time. Let me introduce myself, I’m Amber Thiel. I’m a mommy to Berlyn (2 ½) and Founder and CEO of The Healthy Edge. I also am a personal trainer and fitness instructor and spent some years as a high school teacher (biology and anatomy & physiology) and as a college professor of Human Nutrition and Wellness. My passion is to set women free from themselves (you know, the need to be perfect, the obsession with the scale, the bad habit of emotionally coping with food and the awful way we talk and think about ourselves.) Because only when we are set free from that which weighs us down can we reach and live from our peak potential. We all have a peak potential that can be unleashed, but life has a way of beating us up with disappointments, failures, setbacks and losses that keep us distracted and fearful. Before we know it, we are living less than our best life and wondering what happened.
I have been there. My story may or may not be like yours, but I think all of us can relate to pain, loss and disappointment, no matter what the details are. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 16 and she died when I was 23. I spent years trying to escape dealing with my feelings by numbing the pain of the void left inside and trying to control whatever I could to compensate how out of control I felt inside. I did this in a variety of ways. Maybe you can relate? I got into unhealthy relationships searching for validation that I was enough. I engaged in bulimia, sometimes purging up to three times a day to allow myself to numb the pain with food and then control the situation by throwing up. I excessively exercised and weighed myself multiple times a day searching for validation and success in the number on the scale (that I never reached). You get the point. Add in laxative abuse, alcohol, diet pills, counting calories, promiscuous behavior and you get the picture.
I was nowhere near my God given potential. I was not thriving, I was barely surviving. My emotional, mental and physical unhealthiness affected every area of my life. That’s the thing with not paying attention to certain areas of our lives screaming for it - there is no way that we can isolate one part of our life from another - they all intermingle, not matter how hard we try to separate them.
I would like to share with you three key principles that were fundamental for me going from a hot mess striving to appear to have it all together to where I am now - healthy, whole, at peace and full of joy. Let me clarify something before I give you the goods, what I am about to share is not designed to change your circumstances and it will not protect you from ever experiencing future trials and tribulations. No friends, that is not why we go on the journey to health and wholeness. We go on the journey to health and wholeness because from that place we are equipped to handle the battles of life.
You see, I got on the path of healthy - emotionally, physically and spiritually and have been committed for over ten years now. But that didn’t shield me from having to walk through the pain of betrayal in my marriage, or being a single mom raising and providing for a baby girl or dealing with loss of friends who went radio silent as soon as things got tough. All that still happened. However, when you are reaching your potential there is going to be opposition, tests and opportunities in order to grow in strength of wisdom, faith and patience. This journey I am going to share is not about isolating ourselves from the fires of life, but rather being able to withstand the heat and pressure so it refines us and takes us to our next level of our potential.
So here’s the first principle that changed my life because it gave me permission to release the incredible societal pressure to be perfect. The mantra of my life is progress, not perfection. I remember reading somewhere, “Perfection is the lowest standard you can hold yourself to, because perfection is impossible.” The heavens opened up and angels sang. It was an epiphany.
I had always held my standards to being perfect and yes, I always failed - every single stinkin time. But if we are not striving to be perfect, then what’s the point, right? WRONG! I’m not really looking for perfection, what I really want is progress. I want to SEE and FEEL that my efforts are making a difference. I want to feel BETTER, sleep BETTER, lead BETTER, deal with conflict BETTER, love BETTER, forgive BETTER, look BETTER - than what I did before.
Ladies, this is the only way to reach our potential - not by taking mighty leaps off of mountains, but by taking it one step at a time, pacing ourselves, breathing through it, taking breaks when we need to regain our strength and then continuing on the journey again. Most of our life is about the process, not the victory. The victories of our life are fleeting. Think about it. You hit the number on the scale and you celebrate with a piece of chocolate cake and bottle of wine. YAY! Now what? You get the promotion and you celebrate by throwing yourself a little “go me party”. Then what? You find the love of your life and you spend a day called a wedding, celebrating. Then reality sets it that this is the face I am going to have to look at for the rest of my life Um, all of those victories or celebrations are mere flickers in our lives. The real work and the real story is in the journey because every victory is followed by another summit calling out to us to reach.
I share this concept of progress, not perfection and women immediately want my top health tip to make progress. Oh, trust me, I have my tips and I love to share. But my tips aren’t going to change anything if you don’t change your mindset around food, your body, your potential and your past. That’s why I work with women intensively for 8 weeks because breakthrough doesn’t often just happen - it has to be pursued and it usually follows a breakdown. I have a comprehensive lifestyle program that leads women through the process I went through to claim my own freedom, and it is a journey within. If we don’t address why we don’t do what’s best for us (aka self-sabotage), then tips are motivational in the moment, but useless for real and lasting transformation.
Here’s an example. Right now, on a piece of paper, I want you to write down 10 changes or shifts you could implement today, tomorrow or next week that would initiate progress in your spiritual, emotional, relational, work or physical health. Take a minute. Take a deep breath. Don’t let this be random. Think about an area of your life that you have been neglecting and an area that you have not seen progress in for a while. Focus on that area. Now write down 10 things you could DO to make progress in that area. Oh, and it cannot involve changing other people, changing circumstances or waiting for something in the future to happen. The only thing we have control over is ourselves (reactions, thoughts and choices). We don’t control people, circumstances or even outcomes often times. But we always have a control over ourselves and what choices we make.
So you may decide you can drink more water, shut off electronics two hours before bed, eat a salad a day, workout at least 3 times a week, join a bible study, share more with your spouse, go out to week only one time a week instead of three, get up earlier so you can eat a healthy breakfast, cut back from 4-5 coffees a day to 1 or 2, drink wine one or two times a week instead of seven, schedule a romantic date night at least once a month, write your kids small notes and put them in their lunches, have a family game night once a week, cook one new healthy recipe a week, etc.
Now is you time to identify your 10 changes.
Now, I want you to look at this list. Congrats to those overachievers who put down more than 10! I love it! Now, I want you to circle the top 5 most powerful and realistic changes you can implement. Ask yourself, am I committed to focusing on making progress in my life by doing this? As you circle your top 5, I would encourage them to all be related to the area of your life that you most want to make progress in. We cannot change everything in our lives at one time - that is a direct path to overwhelm, exhausting, frustration and quitting. So focus on one area and circle your five.
Now ask yourself, how would I KNOW that I was making progress with that change? Let me give you a hint - it is NOT based on the physical results. This is a hard concept, so stick with me. So many times we hinge our 100% (I’m all in) commitment on whether or not we see results. We are committed, as long as we see change. That my sweet sister, is not how this works. This is the part of your journey that requires faith. Faith that if I do my part, there will be progress and sometimes the progress is so minute (because we are so close to the situation) that we can’t see it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
For example, I had to throw my scale away. Yep, I could not weigh myself multiple times a day and allow a number to dictate my mood when my commitment was to be healthy on the inside, despite the number reflected on the outside. Healthy isn’t a number ladies. Healthy is an attitude. Healthy is a state of being. Healthy starts on the inside and oozes out in so many wonderful ways, you won’t even think about the scale. So, if you say I need to eat healthier. What exactly does “eating healthier” mean for you right now in the season of life you are in?
My favorite “healthier eating” commitment is to eat a salad a day and enjoy a green smoothie a day. It changed my skin, my bowels and therefore my life.
What if you said eat out less. What does that mean? What would making progress look like in terms of eating out?
Take a look at your five changes. Get specific. Make them measureable. Make them reasonable and doable. It’s progress, it’s not torture, restriction or rules. That’s a diet, this is a lifestyle approach to reaching your peak potential.
Now look at your list. Give yourself a pat on the back. This list represents progress. It represents going somewhere different than where you are now. Excuses are going to want to pull you back into your comfort zone. Voices in your head are going to want to tell you that you’ve tried this before. This is where the mental progress has to happen. When excuses come into my head, I ask myself, “Amber, would you do this for a million dollars?” Do you know how many excuses dissipate when you ask yourself if you would do it for a million dollars? That my friend is the power of doing what is best - even if you don’t feel like it.
Which brings me to another key principle to my health and happiness. I don’t wait to feel like doing it. I don’t wait to catch a feeling in order to do what is best for my health. Feelings are fickle. They come and go. I do not depend on them being present to do what I am committed to doing. We have been sold that lie that we should just, “do what we feel”. If I only did what I felt, I would probably be in jail. Just kidding. But I definitely would not look and feel like way I do. As I walked through my separation from my husband, I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, leaving the house, talking to people, showering, nothing. And some days I gave into those feelings. It felt okay. Sometimes it felt comforting and safe. But eventually I had to do some things - even though I didn’t feel like it so I could progress in my healing and get on with it. And once I do what I got to do - BAAM I find that the good feelings I am searching for always follow! So ladies, do not wait for the presence of feelings to reach for your potential.
Where are you waiting to “feel” like doing something?
What feelings are holding you back from taking risks, committing to big goals and being in action?
What feelings do you believe you will feel if you actually “did what you needed to do?”
The next fundamental principle is what I refer to as “living 80/20”. I am going to speak directly in terms of healthy eating, because this is where I believe all of us can improve. When I would go on a diet, it was all about what I couldn’t eat. My belief was if I didn’t feel restricted, miserable and as if I wanted to die, it couldn’t possibly be working, right? Oh, this is so not the truth when it comes to true health. What if you could reach your healthiest potential by not depriving yourself of the foods and drinks you love the most, but actually allowing them into your lifestyle? What if by embracing them and accepting them, you take away the power they have over you?
Our results are not because of what we do once in a while, but because of what we do consistently over a long period of time. It’s like going out for a twenty mile run and hoping that the twenty mile run is going to burn off your twenty pounds of belly fat. What is more powerful is committing to walking (or running) 3-5 days a week for the next 3 months. The consistency combined with quality is what drives progress. Over the course of the 3 months, you will notice that you are not as out of breath, you can walk or run fast, you can go farther, you feel motivated to actually do it and you find yourself doing even more days a week than what you set out to do. Next thing you know you feel your pants sliding on easier and someone mentions how great you look! WIN! This is progress and this is the principle of 80/20.
Eighty percent of the time, we choose and do healthy for ourselves and twenty percent of the time we choose “other options”. Other options may include spending a Saturday a month in your pajamas watching Netflix movies all day where the only cardio you get is going to the kitchen (healthy food only, lol) and bathroom. Been there, done that. The day of watching Netflix is NOT going to derail your health journey if you have committed to making progress through focusing MOST of the time on moving your body through some form of exercise.
I eat healthy. I do. I also enjoy chocolate, pizza, tortilla chips, Thai food and any time of dip with cream cheese in it...yum. But these are not every day or even every week staples. They are not my go-to when I am hungry. They are not my de-stressors. They are not my “I don’t want to be lonely tonight” companions. I can have them whenever I want (because no one is the boss of me) but I choose to enjoy them in a healthy way. I don’t use them to cope, stuff, numb, escape or feed my hunger.
So once a week, I may have a glass (or 2) of wine on a Friday. I use to have one or two drinks every night. Once a month, I love to enjoy Mexican and I enjoy every single bite. Before I was healthy, I would order the giant burrito with cheese and sour cream and eat two bowls of chips before my meal and a large margarita - weekly. As I have made progress in my health journey, that option doesn’t appeal to me one iota. As I reflect, I know many of my food decisions were not based on actual hunger, but it was more about stuffing “my stuff” down inside of me or proving to myself that I could have it because I wanted it.
Here’s the other cool thing about 80/20. You will swear (like I did) that a lot of your unhealthy food choices will always remain as your 20%. Well, my diet cokes, red bulls, sour cream and chive dip, Ballreich’s potato chips and raw cookie dough all moved off of my 20% list. I literally have ZERO, ZIP, NADA desire because as I have made progress, my healthy body doesn’t like these foods. My taste buds don’t like these foods. My gut and digestive track HATES these foods. I don’t want to be bloated, constipated, puffy, moody, lethargic or have things flowing out of me like hot lava. Just sayin.
What are those indulgences you really enjoy having, but if you are honest with yourself you can admit that they are 20% items? Here’s another quick example because I live in Seattle, the coffee capital of the world. I loved me a chai latte, mocha frappuccino, pumpkin spiced latte, cream with a little coffee, etc. But once I started this journey to maximize my potential and increase the velocity that I was getting and feeling results, I realized that I need to reel it in, woman. It had become an expensive and addictive habit. It had become something I used to cope with my stress with. So I applied the 80/20 principle and progress, not perfection motto and I decided I would have a cup of coffee every morning that I made at home (in a normal sized coffee mug) with a small amount of creamer and once a week I would have a “special drink” of my choice.
This went on for a while and honestly I cannot tell you how it happened or when it happened, but I now drink black coffee and my “special drink” is an Americano (no creamer). The last time I had a latte, it was so sweet that I could barely finish ¼ of it. I threw that expensive, once coveted drink in the trash and I never turned back. I drank diet cokes every day. Four to five of them a day. Then I read about artificial sweeteners and got really serious about making progress. So I told myself I could have 2-3 a week and I only drank water - a ton of water. Again, I don’t know how it happened, but I went so long without one that when I did decide to have one - it TASTED…LIKE…DIRT. My tastebuds had changed to much that it tasted like dirt. I am not joking. I actually drove to the store and bought another one because I thought it had gone bad. Nope, that one was dirt too. I would have thought I would have cried when that happened, but I rejoiced in the promise land of progress!
The ultimate goal is freedom. That nothing controls us. That we don’t feel that we need to have something unhealthy to take the edge off of our lives. Because the only way we are going to reach our potential is to confront ourselves (not hide), extend a little bit of grace to ourselves and those around us (not judge), get curious about what we can learn to take with us on the next leg of our journey (not fearful) and celebrate the small victories along the way!
Now it’s your turn. What does 80/20 look like in your life? This is not an exact science. You know what you overdo. You know where you are using food irresponsibly. Maybe it’s some of the things you had on the list you made about progress or maybe not. But declare 3-5 foods or drinks that are 20% items and set a standard for what they will look like as you begin to shift your healthy food to 80% and your unhealthy foods to 20%.
Just to recap, here are the three points from today’s session:
- Progress, Not Perfection.
- Do What Is Best, Not What You Feel.
- Live 80/20.
These can be applied to many areas of our lives. Perfection would tell us to tackle them all, but we are wiser now and know that progress will give us results while perfection will leave us disappointed. I believe it’s time for us to trust ourselves and tap into our intuition. If you feel this approach is refreshing and speaking right to you, please reach out and schedule a free coaching session so we can chat more and get you on the path to freedom. Schedule here.