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Let’s Stop “Shoulding” Ourselves As 2021 Approaches

When I think ahead to what I hope 2021 will bring us I cannot wait to once again hug each other in greeting, to not worry about every single place we go, and to not always wear the ever dreaded mask (I wear one all day and I promise you do get used to it).  I am not entirely sure things will ever go back to exactly how they were prior to Covid and in some ways I do not think that’s a bad thing.  One thing that I do not think will change is the New Year New Me mentality.  And 2020, of all the years I’ve lived, has been raising my hand and asking to be given a new me.  I am going to suggest that we all slow the instinct to jump on the bandwagon of listing all the things we need to change about ourselves and all the many things we’ll do different once we hit a new year.  The resolutions?  The promises?  Pfft…Shelve them for another year and try something new with me.  You can call me crazy but I think this year needs to end with every single one of us looking in the mirror and saying “thank you” and “I love you” no matter what we see looking back.  

I know a few months ago the joke was “the Covid 15” but I’m wondering now if we’ve upgraded to “the Covid 30”.  If my pants had a say in the matter, they would give an overwhelming vote for the latter.  The first few months I don’t believe I gained weight (I tend to shy away from the scale), but I absolutely did lose muscle mass.  Why and how could that have happened, you ask?  You’re a personal trainer with all the time in the world, your gym was closed and your kids were home with no activities. I’ll bet you worked out all day every day.  We’d both have a really good laugh at that assumption.  And then a few hours later as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep I would absolutely ruminate over what was said.  ‘I should have worked out everyday!  I should have put together a workout plan and put the kids on it too!  I should have rehabbed my shoulder and gained back some of the muscle mass I lost while recovering!’  I’d regret my decisions and debate how much further ahead if I had done what I “should” have done. 

 Oddly enough, I wrote a blog about “shoulding ourselves” during that exact time.  I’m of the opinion that it’s no better to should myself to death now than it was to do it then.  I have no right to treat myself that way now and I had no right to in March either.  We were in constant survival and stress mode.  My entire world was revolving around the pandemic, my business being closed, and my four children being out of school and having no idea when things would go back to “normal”.  Should I have worked out during this time?  I don’t know but the reality is I did not.  I did play volleyball in the street with my family, I took many walks and bike rides, I played basketball, and I gave my body and shoulder the rest it needed to heal.  Even as I lament the extra body weight I now carry, I do not regret how I spent my time.  I will never be ashamed for how I survived the pandemic because I took care of my kids and I took care of my business.  

And now onto the second part of the 2020 when we were able to go back to work.   So, this must be the part where I start losing the weight and gaining the muscle back, right?   How is it possible I have gained weight?!?  I spend my days in the gym and I cook 90% of our meals.  That is the perfect recipe for me to uncover those muscles and look fabulous.  Well let me tell you, stress and wine have been holding hands very tightly on this journey with me.  I have less time to exercise at the gym because my schedule is quite full since I am unable to be there every day.  Are these excuses?  Yes, yes they are and along comes the inner dialogue and I start “shoulding” myself all over again.  I “should” be writing workouts to do on the days I am home for distance learning with the kiddos.  I “should” only be cooking low calorie meals and I “should absolutely not” have that glass of wine while I am making dinner.   But guess what.  I did not.  I do not.  And I do.  And I am forgiving myself for it and embracing what a freaking amazing job I’m doing right now, excuses and all.  

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a trainer and I love when I feel and look fit; however, 2020 has inspired me to expand my view of self and let go of who I “should” be.  It has helped me look at who I am and appreciate my body for what it has done and not for what it looks like.  We all focus so much on the number on the scale or what size we fit into.  So much of our society equates being a certain type of fit as being successful or finally getting where we are going.  Our identity is wrapped up within the narrow view we have of ourselves and too often that view is heavily influenced by our appearance 

My fear is that as we finally reach the light at the end of this long tunnel, we are going to start turning on ourselves.  I can see the marketing now “Lose the Covid weight!” from gyms to supplement companies to weight loss programs.  I am here suggesting that we hold strong and allow no shame in regard to weight gain within the last year.  If you want to lose weight and a program will help you do so, then absolutely go for it.  Just remember, we have been surviving and a few extra pounds does not negate the triumph of overcoming the difficulties of the last year.  We are not out of the dark yet but I beg of you when January 1, 2021 does hit do not allow yourself to fall into the shame trap.  Please do not look at yourself and be angry that your clothes are snug or that your biceps are not popping quite like they were. 

 I challenge you to wake up and look at yourself and say “Hey Badass!  Great job surviving 2020.  Let’s focus on being healthy.”.  I can assure you this will not be an easy task as Nick, and I have decided to try and do this now.  I had a bit of a moment when we took our holiday themed clothes, and I realized my tank tops and leggings from last year may have me looking like a sausage.  See, like that right there-not ok and while funny, unkind towards myself.  I am not suggesting using this year as an excuse to not be healthy or to make choices that are not good for you mentally, emotionally, or physically.  I am asking for you to give yourself some grace and acceptance.  And then to make the changes you need to make but with love and support for yourself.  

Let’s not “should” ourselves in 2021 regretting the actions we took to survive 2020. Let’s change the dialogue and be our own biggest cheerleader.  

Lissa Pietrykowski

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