The Best Version of Ourselves 2016

The post below was originally published in 2011, and it’s been updated each year to reflect where I am in my life and the new things I’ve learned in the previous 12 months. For 2016, I remain committed to the philosophy it outlines. This year, more than I ever, I’ve really internalized that eating well and exercising wisely make me feel so good, it hardly makes sense to stray from my path. The real treat isn’t holiday cookies or french fries (although they are delicious treats). The real treat is waking up feeling ready to embrace the day and feeling like an adventure would be a very good thing, indeed.

Thank you for all of your support, funny comments, and friendship over the years. Wishing you and yours a lovely 2016 during which you live as the best version of yourself—every day, every hour, every breath.

 

crossroad1

I’ve had a weight loss goal since I was 13 years old.

That’s more than 30 years of living with a number hanging over my head. From Weight Watchers summer camp to the rice diet to Kathy Smith’s Fat Burning Plan to Weight Watchers to the Zone to Paleo… with aerobics videos and step aerobics and triathlons and boxing and Roller Derby and half marathons and CrossFit along the way.

My motivations have been many.

Fear of being fat. Health concerns. Peer pressure to conquer the 200-pound deadlift. A personal sense of pride. Unadulterated vanity.

Those motivations shaped my behavior. I ate “right” so I would reach my Weight Watchers goal weight. I set my alarm for 5:00 a.m. so I would some day see my name on the RX or PR board at my CrossFit gym. I was driven by a sometimes-debilitating fear that I would never be “better.”

Then a thought began to flicker in my subconscious. It started on holiday in Prague when I realized I liked exploring narrow, winding stairways. I was starting to loosen my grip on “destination” and reveling in “getting there.” That idea tickled me again when I was I was upside down during a handstand at the gym and during a fun, stopwatch-free run around the lake: What if I’ve been looking at this from the wrong direction?

My underlying motivation for all of it – the weight loss, the physical challenges, the healthy eating – has always been that I wanted to be the best version of myself. Happy, healthy, fit, strong, attractive. But that pure motivation was poorly translated into external measures that separated what I wanted from what I did.

So I got the notion to try something different. For the first time in more than three decades, what if I didn’t set a physical goal? No weight loss, no “leaning out,” no target time on the clock or weight on the bar.

Instead, what if I simply behaved like the best version of myself?

Then I would become her.

The best me eats clean and sleeps well and trains hard and smiles a lot. She’s free of worrying about what number might appear on a scale or a measuring tape. Instead of being intimidated or threatened by stronger, faster, leaner athletes at the gym, she delights in their capabilities. And she remembers to encourage the people around her to be their best versions.

Finally, the best version of me knows that she’s not required to eat clean or meditate or practice yoga or lift heavy or get solid sleep. There is no accounting ledger keeping track of exemplary behavior for a reward later. There is no opportunity to earn a metaphorical gold star.

The clean eating and training, meditation and lifting, the sound sleeping are the reward. They are the thing.

So I’ve banished my “concrete” fitness goals. I know that “Be the best version of me” doesn’t follow the traditional goal format. I don’t care. I’ve done it the conventional way; now I do it my way.

The best version of me refuses to be measured by some external yardstick.

The best version of me happily goes to bed early, wakes up refreshed, eats paleo, trains wisely, lifts heavy things, remembers to take a fun run and to play a little every day, spreads love, looks up, leads with the chin, makes up new recipes, and sings out loud.

Not because I must.

Because I want to. Because that’s me. The best me.

What’s the best version of you?

Not the one you think other people want to see, or the one the media tells you to be. The one you desire to be, deep down. Can you work toward being the best version of you? Without judgment? Without punishment? Without reward? Can you revel in being you?

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Comments

  • Megan says:

    Thank you for posting this, it was exactly what I needed to hear tonight. Best wishes for a healthy and HAPPY new year!

  • Dana says:

    “F” yeah! Thank you!!!

  • Stuart Young says:

    Very inspiring! I agree that, particularly at this time of year, people are too hung up on specific goals. Setting goals and working towards them is a great way to learn, but there’s always something else to work towards once you achieve them. Learning to enjoy the process is the key to success and happiness. Hope the new year is great for you!

  • Teri says:

    I read this and now I’m crying. This feels right. And I’ve been looking for right for a long time. Thank you doesn’t start to cover it. But thank you. Teri

  • Angharad says:

    I needed to read this. I finished a Whole 30 before Christmas, and since then have completely fallen off the wagon – it almost feels like I am punishing myself. I am getting married in May 2016 and I am putting so much pressure on myself as to how I must look – when in fact all I want to do is be healthy and I know my goals would take me further than May 2016. I find it very hard to get a balance with Paleo/W30 and having some wine/a cheat when I want, and then I feel very guilty.

    I need to think good thoughts and not put the pressure I put on myself!

    Thank you 🙂

    Happy new year!

    Angharad

    • Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! The most helpful mental trick I learned over the years is to look at eating well and exercising as self care, rather than rules. For me, it changed everything. You want to feel, look, and be your best at your wedding, so every self kindness between now and then — an extra 30 minutes sleep, a meal without sugar, a leisurely walk — will contribute to your magical day. Weddings can be SO stressful. I know you can make it a beautiful day by being kind to yourself and the people around you. Wishing you all the best! (P.S. No guilt! Eat paleo most of the time, enjoy a glass of wine or a treat, and move on. Food is neither punishment nor reward… it’s just food. And you’re a good person, no matter what you eat 😉

  • Karen says:

    This is such a great post – I feel like it really reflects where my own thoughts have been going over this last year. Thanks for this!

  • Donna says:

    Thank you! I’ve been struggling with goals and this is what I really needed to hear. Happy Healthy New Year!

    • Whenever my dad and I have a serious discussion, he almost always ends it with, “Just enjoy yourself, honey.” I always think of that when I’m getting too SMART GOAL-y… be nice to yourself. Do good things. It will all be awesome. Happy new year!

  • Julie says:

    Wow. Your email today was just what I needed. So much so that I came here to thank you.

  • Petra says:

    I LOVE this!
    Wishing you the BEST 2016!

  • Linda says:

    This really resonates with me. Thank you for being you- and sharing yourself with all of us. Happy New Year! May 2016 be the best year ever!

  • Laura says:

    Melyssa,

    Like everyone else, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post. I have always had a weight loss goal. I am transitioning to a “be the best me I can be” goal. It is so much better than having some number out there. Thank you for all of your hard work. One of my best me things is to make sure I tell the people I appreciate, love and trust know that they are appreciated, loved and trusted. YOU ARE LOVED, APPRECIATED, TRUSTED. RESPECTED and most of all NEEDED SO MUCH by all of us. Thank you for everything you do. And I see that 2016 will be the best year ever for all of us, I know it.

    Happy New Year.

  • Laura says:

    So sorry for spelling your name wrong… I am a dummy, but I unfortunately know way too many people who have put the y in there instead of the traditional spelling. Mea culpa….

  • Katrine says:

    Happy New Year!
    What an awesome New Year resolution. I’ll probably focus on cleaning up my food – and generally be more nice to myself. I’ve been wanting to get started on meditation, a new workout routine with kettlebells, and getting back to eating paleo for a long time now. 2016 seems like such a good excuse to get started on this.
    Thanks for your brilliant books and web site. All my best wishes for your 2016!

  • Nicole says:

    Wise woman! I had a similar epiphany this past year. Mine came during a New Year’s Day yoga class in which I started sobbing from the stress of not achieving “my numbers” the previous year. Life is too short. I want to make the most of it. Clean eating + solid sleep + challenging, fun workouts = healthier, happier me. Happy New Year, Melissa! I’m excited to see what adventures await you this year.

    • Oh, man! When I started doing kundalini yoga a few years ago, I cried at every class for about two months… from life stress, mostly. I love your new perspective. Have a wonderful 2016 and keep me posted on how you’re doing!

  • Rachel says:

    One of the more profound New Year’s goals/write-ups I’ve ever seen. “Then I would become her…” I’ve been a fan of yours for years. Thanks for your work. HNY.

  • Michele says:

    Thank you. Sums up the thoughts rattling around in my head this year.

  • Erin says:

    Thank you for what you have written. This “puts in words” my current thoughts for myself. I want to keep taking steps to make a better me. No specific “numbers” just a life long journey to a healthier me. I may not do “everything” every day but that’s okay. I will do my best and and enjoy getting there.

  • Pauline Ely says:

    This is the first year I’m actually going to work through setting goals. Your post though will help me to focus on the balance that is needed when I get frustrated with not meeting my goals or losing sight of them. Thank you again for all you do.

  • Dana Zia says:

    I love this post! I have been experimenting with this idea since reading Geneen Roth’s book, “feedign the hurgry heart” . I get it sometimes, then it slides away, then comes back after a Whole 30 or a cleanse. ( Which I’m in right now) I’d love to figure out how to make it stick. Excellent thoughts. Thank you♥