In Week 1 we began with the theme of Awareness, which helped me to be mindful and better understand my cues, routines and rewards.
I’m going through Selph’s Coaching Programme and recording my journey as I go!
My name’s Sarah-Lizzie, and you might have seen my other articles on our Learn page! Like everyone, I have my own goals and challenges to overcome. I can admit my health needs improving. Holistic health coaching sounded like the right place to start. A few weeks later here I am - looking back on the first week of my Selph coaching journey.
Like many, I’ve struggled with common things that felt impossible to get away from - the online, filtered world, constant comparisons, inactivity, fitness regimes that didn’t suit me, restricting what I was eating, unrealistic fad diets, binge eating and ending up worse than where I started.
Throughout most of my teenage and young adult years, I had body dysmorphia - I hyper-focused on things I perceived as flaws and thought that everyone else did, too. In reality I was imagining them or blowing them out of proportion while nobody else even noticed them.
It took time, self-love and realistic thinking to train myself out of that mindset. But I went too far in the other direction - I was too lenient with myself. “I shouldn’t blame myself for not getting out of bed today, I never have to exercise if I don’t want to, I’ve been worse in the past so this is fine, I deserve a reward, I can eat whatever I want… and what I want is crisps!”
I knew it wasn’t good for me. I knew that “when I was a real adult” I wanted to be on top of my health. But as I approached 25, I realised wait… I’m half-way to 50! I am an adult. Even if I were younger, you grow up to be the person you choose every day. And I was choosing an unhealthy, unfit version of myself.
I wanted to go outside more, enjoy exercising, eat food to nourish my body and cut back on the snacks. I’d put in some of the mental work to get myself to appreciate and love my body unconditionally. But I wasn’t looking after my body the way I would my own child or someone I cared about.
That’s when health coaching came in…
I began my first week with a lot of enthusiasm! I was finally making a choice to put my health first and facing up to the fact that I can do better.
I was paired with my coach and we had an initial meeting, talking all about my health goals and where I was at right now and in the past. She asked thought-provoking questions, created space to listen while I mulled things over, and gave thoughtful insights. I left the session feeling heard, understood and having someone to hold me accountable. Hopefully by the end of the program, I can do that last one for myself.
Every morning I would receive a message from my coach, reminding me of my decision to do the coaching programme in my first thoughts of the day. I would complete my Daily Checklist, using it to record any thoughts that came up after reading the daily email. Anything about the previous day that I was feeling about events, obstacles, wins or experiences. Recording openly and without judgement set me up to approach each day with deeper awareness.
The more I chose to put into these check-in’s, the more growth I found I could take away. It became a few reflective minutes which I looked forward to each morning.
The next day’s daily message would comment on interesting points I disclosed from my coach’s perspective, highlighting them once again for me and allowing me more time to sit in those feelings. There were suggestions of ways I could proceed forwards, deepening my awareness and further extracting my daily habits, cues, usual routines and rewards.
Mindful eating was something we focused on, trying to enjoy every bite of my meals and stopping when I felt comfortably full. When I had the urge to eat something unhealthy, I focused on why I wanted it. Amazingly, I found myself picking up an apple or banana instead of crisps and chocolate. When I did the shopping, I didn’t get tempted by the aisles of packaged treats. I swapped in other things I enjoyed eating, like olives and nuts. All the while thinking “this is unheard of for me!”
Selph gave me a quote by James Clear that really resonated with me: “Every action I take is a vote for the person I wish to become.”
Exercise was a daunting one for me. I’ve had times in the past where I took it too far and went for a cycle or run every day. Of course, it never lasted. Now, I hadn’t consistently exercised in the last 3 years. I was scared that I’d be jumping right in at the deep end.
But my coach reassured me and said to start small. I was up for trying new things. I wanted it to be fun. I remembered liking exercise in the past. I love to cycle in the countryside, but now I’m living in a city without my bike, so I can’t. I began searching for alternatives.
The dumbbells gathering dust in our flat constantly reminded me of failed intentions and how I hadn’t touched them since we moved in. So I chose to do a weights session. Suddenly they were something I could use to improve my strength. I went out for walks every day, because it’s better than doing nothing. Slowly, adding more in seemed like it would be manageable and I looked forward to doing more in the weeks ahead.
The biggest things that impacted me in the first week of coaching were unexpected. The first was a gratitude journal practice every evening. The second was a daily meditation practice.
I’ve never been good at keeping a diary, but there’s something special about writing down 10 things I’m grateful for each day before I fall asleep. I was given directions on how I could begin this practice, and now it’s an easy decision I make every night.
Knowing that I don’t have to recount everything that happened that day - just 10 things (if I can) that I was grateful for. Things as simple as the sunshine on my face, having a cup of warm tea, speaking with a loved one. I drift off thinking about the positive things that happened. It even helps me feel more energised when I wake up the next morning.
This week’s guided meditation made me feel safe, accepted and looked after, fully directing me through each moment of awareness. I was even gently guided out of the meditation once the practice was complete, setting me up for the day.
I found it easier than I expected to integrate meditation into my daily routine, despite never being able to before. Having a moment of stillness for myself each morning became a ritual.
The distracting thoughts which kept fluttering across my mind were to be celebrated, not judged. It helped me realise what was bothering me that morning, what tasks did I need to do that day? Meditating helped me to prioritise.
I found that some of the rewards I seek out are feelings of escapism and child-like curiosity. I love watching films and becoming fully engrossed in other fictional worlds. When I am out on my walks, I enjoy looking at the world with wonder. It makes me feel fulfilled and happy, like I’m nurturing my inner child who has always loved noticing nature and all the little things going on outside of my phone screen.
When considering the rewards I gain from various acts, I had a breakthrough about doing things for my future self. You know when the dishes stack up and it just gets increasingly daunting, until you have to force yourself because you’ve completely run out of plates and cutlery?
Would I leave my dishes to stack up in the sink for a loved one to do? And expect them to never complain? When you put things off, as when you worry, you suffer twice.
I finally cracked how to make delayed gratification work for me. If I do the dishes now, I can enjoy seeing the empty sink, having clean bowls and doing whatever I want - instead of thinking “I should really do those dishes”. As an added bonus, I feel grateful to myself. I feel like I owe my past self thanks and I’m actually more likely to do the dishes sooner. It’s like a positive feedback loop.
Knowing my past self did the dishes, cleaned the flat or replied to that email so I don’t have to makes me feel loved and cared for. I highly recommend doing things in the present moment for your future self. You’ll get to be “future you” soon enough and you’ll be happier when you get there.