Change Your Identity; Your Body Will Follow

I have been on this kick for a while – talking about the need to change your identity rather than just your habits if you want long lasting, healthy weight loss and a strong, fit body as you age.

The pictures above were taken at very different points in my life. The physical changes you can see that took place between the left picture and the right were precipitated by a fundamental change in how I saw myself – in my identity.

Prior to starting my last transformation journey at age 61, losing weight and keeping it off was the only significant goal I had ever set my sights on and failed to achieve (over and over and over).

I set out to graduate from college at the top of my class with degrees in accounting and finance: ✅
I set out to go to a top tier law school and get a great job upon graduation: ✅
I set out to establish myself professionally and develop a stellar reputation: ✅
I set out to be the very best wife, mother and friend I could be: ✅
I set out to get involved in my business community and sit on boards of nonprofits to give back: ✅

These goals took hard work and effort, but I can now see that the reason I achieved all these milestones was how I identified myself – I was a working wife and mother and a “pit bull in high heels” corporate attorney who represented and protected my clients from anyone and anything. Oh – and I “worked out.” This identity determined the habits I established and followed. Successful, effective attorneys work long hours, often including the weekends and make sure their clients’ needs are met. A person who prides herself on being a good wife and mother and a valued friend puts the needs of all those people before her own to make sure their needs are met. This woman thought she needed to take care of everyone before she took care of herself. The woman she is now knows better.

Prior to this last transformation, seeing myself as an athlete was not part of my identity. I have lifted weights for 30+ years. I have ran and biked and rowed off and on for that same period of time – when it was convenient and when it didn’t get the way of my “real” identity. The awareness that I could change how I identified myself at 61 was a huge “aha” moment for me. Your habits, your actions, your lifestyle, your CHOICES all come from your identity. Until I began to identify as an athlete, along with all the other descriptions above (still a kick ass wife/mom/friend and protector of my now singular client), living as an athlete was not a priority.

It took me a while to get used to the idea of calling myself an athlete. My husband is an Ironman triathlete and will complete his 25th Ironman race this month. In the past, I would look at him and his 20+ hours of training a week while working a full time job and being a hands-on dad and think “he is an athlete. I just work out.” When my first coach insisted my new lifestyle made ME an athlete, I was truly floored. I had to sit with that concept for quite a while before I could even begin to think it could be a possibility. But slowly, the idea grew on me. I lifted weights 5 days a week; I did cardio 7 days a week (at that time); I tracked my macros; I focused on getting quality sleep. I wanted to lose fat, sure, but I also wanted to fuel my body to grow muscle and to be healthy, not skinny. I wanted to be part of the healthy and active aging revolution! It was then that I finally realized I WAS an athlete, which added to my overall identity. It did not detract from it.

Athletes plan out their food and eat healthy balanced meals as part of a nutrient dense diet to fuel their training. They get enough sleep. They take care of their mental health to be in tip top shape to live a healthy, strong, vibrant, joyful, fit life.

This is not about comparative strength or getting on stage or being in a power lifting competition or running a race. It’s about living your life to be the healthiest version of yourself, the woman who achieves her fullest potential every single day of her life. If you WANT to be an athlete and live the lifestyle of an athlete, you ARE an athlete and you will reap the benefits of that lifestyle. And the best part is you are not too old, it is not too late. You can start at any age.

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