Before You Start Working Out to Lose Weight, Read This

POPSUGAR Photography | Kat Borchart
POPSUGAR Photography | Kat Borchart

When it comes to health and fitness, words matter. What do you tell yourself when you work out? I believe that the more we shift the focus to feeling good vs. a number on a scale, the more success we'll achieve, the more joy we will experience, and the more likely we are to commit to a healthy journey.

Just the other day, I got a massive reminder of this, glaring at me in what would otherwise be subtle, unnoticeable comments — it's the power of words, people!

I left my office to try a new class at a new studio, excited to add a new type of fitness to my repertoire. I headed to the locker room area at the studio to set down my gym bag, where I overheard two women chatting. They had just finished their class, and they were heading out to happy hour. "We deserve those drinks now!" said one of them.

Look, I know that was probably an innocuous comment. But my brain started racing with thoughts and reactions to these words. "You totally do deserve a drink! But you don't deserve it because you worked out. Exercise doesn't make you more deserving. You could have a drink without working out, and it would be OK . . ."

I could go on and on. But I brushed off those thoughts — I was ready to kick ass in my new class! This workout was going to make my body feel so sore and amazing; I could already tell. I told myself those words as I started to stave off any fear I had of trying a new style of exercise — "you're going to feel amazing."

"You need to start associating movement with something other than a number on the scale, with something other than a number on the inside of your jeans."

The instructor was awesome. As a beginner, I could totally follow every word of her instructions, and I never once was intimidated. As she reminded us to slow down (the workout is rooted in slow movements), she said, "The slower you go, the more fat you burn — and that's the best thing you can get out of a class!"

I paused — not because my muscles were burning, but because once again, I was hit with words that didn't settle well with me.

Burning fat is the best thing I can get out of a class?

Maybe I'm the outlier here, but my sole purpose for working out isn't burning fat, nor do I think that's THE BEST thing you can get out of a workout.

Despite those words, I still left my class feeling awesome — I was sore as could be, but I was confident; I'd just completed a really challenging workout and spent the first part of my Friday night doing something great for my body.

A few days later, I had a totally different experience. I headed to a weekend SoulCycle class with Jenny, who said some things that also really stuck with me . . . but this time, it was because they were so positive. She kept encouraging everyone in class to have fun and to enjoy their workout.

"You need to start associating movement with something other than a number on the scale, with something other than a number on the inside of your jeans," she said as "Ms. New Booty" pulsed through the sound system. She is as skilled with inspirational words as she is playlist making.

She's right. This is about more than a scale, more than "flat abs" or a waistline. This is about feeling good. Look, fat loss, muscle building, cardiovascular health — these are all incredible side effects of working out. When you're healthy, you feel good! And I think that nearly everyone feels great when they think they look good, too. There's no denying that toning up the body is a huge confidence booster. But the point is, if your intention is all about looking a certain way, you're opening yourself to endless frustration and damaging words that can harm you emotionally and mentally.

When you focus your fitness on feeling good, the rest will come, and the effects will be much longer lasting. Feeling happy and healthy long term is much better than "deserving" a margarita, right?

Remember the power of words. Remember your intention. Be good to yourself. The rest will follow.