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I know, girl. Listen. I know.

You had grand plans. You were going to do everything right. Weight Watchers. P90X. Paleo. Triathlon. Low-carb. Master cleanse. Grapefruit diet. ZUMBA ‘TIL YOU DIED. 

You were going to lose 10 pounds, 50 pounds, 150 pounds! No treats! No rest days! This was the time! A new year! A new you! 

That lasted two weeks. Two days. Two hours?

Now you’re being mean to yourself. You’re saying things like,

“I’m disgusting.”

“I’m so weak.”

“I’m a failure.”

I want you to offer you a couple things now. First and foremost, you didn’t fail because you’re disgusting or weak or a failure. In fact, you didn’t fail at all. You succeeded.

No, really! You did!

You succeeded for two weeks, or two days, or two hours! GREAT JOB, YOU.

Seriously, I want you to consider that what you did was a success. You challenged yourself, and you rose to the challenge, even if it was only a moment. You went for that walk, that run. You did that workout. You ate a vegetable. You drank water instead of soda at lunch. You went all day without dessert. Whatever it was, you did it! 

Maybe it was not for as long as you intended, but you did it.

If you still think you failed, consider that it was because your strategy was way off. No treats? No rest days? Are you serious? You’re a human being. You’re evolutionarily designed to want sugar. You’re evolutionarily designed to need rest. And that weight, which took you a decade to put on – you were going to lose it in three months? Oh man, your strategy was a recipe for total burnout. (By the way, all the disgusting/weak/failure self-talk is making things so much worse, but I’ll get back to that in a sec.)

So here’s an alternative strategy. You ready?

Do something tiny-difficult.

Set a goal. Make it difficult, but make it tiny.

Here’s what I mean:

  • You succeeded for two days? Great. Set another goal for two days and try again. You were going to avoid junk food, but somebody ordered pizza at work on the third day and everything fell apart? Give it another shot, being mindful of the trigger that stopped you last time. And when you make it to two days, set a new goal for three.
  • You succeeded for two weeks? Set a goal for two weeks. You were going to work out four times a week, and on the third week you couldn’t get off the couch? Maybe, at this point in your life, four times a week was asking too much for the long haul. Dial it back, but still make it difficult. Set a goal that you’ll work out twice a week for the next two weeks and see where that takes you.

Whatever it is that will be hard for you, though it may seem minute, try and do that thing. Succeed, or fail (but it’s not really failure, remember?), and repeat.

And that leads us to the second part of the Do Something Tiny-Difficult plan:

Celebrate your efforts. 

If you achieve your goal, you have to celebrate it. If you don’t, you’re not allowed to be mean to yourself. The point is to make the effort.

Imagine if a teacher looked at a terrible essay a student had written, celebrated every itty-bitty thing the kid did right, and pointed out a small thing or two the student could improve. Kid would probably do better next time, right? Right. OK, now imagine the teacher just said, “Whoa, this essay sucks,” and threw it back in the kid’s face. The student would probably stop trying altogether, develop a low opinion of his or her own abilities, and – I don’t know – maybe slash the teacher’s tires. Guess what? You are the student and the teacher in this situation. Quit slashing your own tires, girl!

Seriously, if you hit your tiny-difficult goal, you have to say something like, “Behold! What a badass am I!” and then set another one. If you miss, you tell yourself, “Huh. My goal must have been too big,” and then set a tinier-difficult goal. 

And you will miss. You will fail. Thou shalt not judge thyself about it. We don’t expect toddlers to audition for the Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe. We don’t think that teenagers will win the Indy 500 the first time they sit behind the wheel. Nor should you expect these grandiose outcomes from yourself. You’re a toddler at this; you’re going to bruise your knees. You’re a new driver; you’re going to dent the fender. It’s part of the process.

There are people who will say,

  • “NO, you have to set big goals!”
  • “NO, you have to set the bar high!”
  • “NO, you have to begin with the end in mind!”

To them I say, 

  • No, YOU have to set big goals. For some of us, setting big goals is a recipe for overwhelm.
  • No, YOU have to set the bar high. Some of us need to set it at ankle to mid-shin level or else we’ll never bother to jump.
  • SURE, OK, but some of us need to be able to see the end, or else we get distracted by cake.

 Girl, listen. I believe in you. You got this.

Even if you fail because, remember, that’s OK too. To prove it, I’ll go first.

Here are a couple of my “Tiny-Difficults”:

I eat really fast. I mean, really fast. And mindlessly.  I’ll look around to see where the rest of my dinner is, only to realize I already ate it. People tell me it would help if I sat at the table and lit a candle and put out real silverware and cloth napkins. I know that would help. But it’s too overwhelming for me right now. Instead of trying to do that, failing, and shoveling food down my gullet while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I asked myself what tiny-difficult thing I could do. And it came to me: I could sit at the kitchen counter. It wasn’t the table, but it wasn’t my desk either. So I did. Once I got the hang of that, I started putting my fork down between bites and swallowing the bite I was chewing before picking my utensil back up. That put the difficult in tiny-difficult, but guess what, I started tasting my food more and realizing exactly when I’m full, which is usually well before my food’s gone. 

Now you go. Go do something tiny-difficult. 

And then tell me about it in the comments.

 

Amy is not an expert on anything health or fitness related, but she fights the good fight, fails a lot, and laaaaaaaaaaaughs--boy, does she laugh. Her struggles with food and weight began when she was a wee lass. For decades, she did all the dieting and body hatred and blah blah blah, but sometime in her mid-20s, she just decided to throw out her scale and let that crap go. Since then, she has gone to therapy, read a lot of books, and taught herself to cook healthy meals. Sometimes they’re even edible.

Never before an athlete, she discovered CrossFit in 2010 and fell in love with picking up heavy objects and putting them over her head. Her journey toward health and fitness remains challenging. Her jerk-brain still tells her to eat when she’s not hungry, and those CrossFit coaches make her run, like, all the time. But she has a visible muscle for the first time in her life, and she’s made eleventy fafillion friends in the process.

Amy is a frequent storyteller at and sometimes host of the Monti StorySLAM in Durham, North Carolina.

If you’d like to read about her trials and tiny victories in the gym, you’ll find them at Fat CrossFitter. She also blogs about dogs, dating, and the delightful disaster that is her life at Avid Bruxist. read more about
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  • LadyCrow

    This was going to be a totally possible time for a walk, but yet another storm is about to hit, so… water and I are going to become BFFs to the exclusion of sugary beverages for the duration.

    • http://fatcrossfitter.tumblr.com/ Fat CrossFitter

      Perfect tiny-difficult, LadyCrow! Today, I’m going to sit at the table to eat at least one meal. (!!!!!!!!!!)

  • Lisa Jones

    Here’s a combo both tiny-difficult and seizing the AM.

    I cannot workout consistently in the mornings. Sometimes, I do, other times–it’s like why? why? why? why? Then comes the lazy moves–like jumping without moving my feet off the ground. It’s hilariously stupid.

    So I decided to do the one thing I could enjoy (ie do something that makes you happy) and something tiny-difficult–cooking in the AM!

    Yes, it works darling! It’s usually a small meal, nothing perfectly nutrient dense but it’s a tiny difficult step in the right direction. It also serves to make me feel pretty good about myself as I rush (still! arg) out the door with a bag of several warm containers in tow.

  • Kelly Goles

    Love it! This totally puts things into perspective. My tiny-difficult will be eating healthy food before junk food. It’s a huge step to cut out all junk food, but if I can allow myself to eat it only after I’ve filled up on a healthier option, it won’t be as bad to depraving myself altogether.