Is it Really Mind Over Matter?
I know we have all heard it before, “It is all in your Mind” or “Mind Over Matter” and “Think You Can and You Will”. These things are said over and over. I know they are true but struggled with how to truly put it into action sometimes.
Weight loss for example is a great deal of a mental battle. We program our minds to feel a certain way or reward with food, then we wonder why we turn to food for comfort. From an early age you were probably taught that food and sweets for example, are rewards or things for celebration to make you feel good. After all, it is a Birthday Cake not a Birthday Apple right!
For me, I am realizing that I need to think and be in the moment when I make poor food choices. When I grab the candy or pizza, why am I doing it? I do not feel better after I eat it. In fact, I feel worse. So what’s the deal, why would I choose to feel worse??? For me it is about control and treating myself for all the restrictions I have during the day. Self imposed or otherwise. I am teaching my clients more and more to not restrict or come from a place of punishment for fitness. You need to come from a place of fitness being the reward.
How can Fitness be a Reward?
Is having more energy rewarding? Is having the strength to do outdoor activities and play rewarding? How about feeling well rested and getting to sleep easy?
Having clothes fit you well? Being comfortable in social environments? Having self confidence and strong self esteem?
I am not going to go through all the mental and physical benefits that have been documented on research over the years. I had to share these simple things with myself and my clients to help keep us on track for what we know is good for us. Having confidence, walking taller, having better skin and hair are benefits of a well nourished and exercised body.
All of these things are benefits of regular exercise, eating well and general fitness. It is not a mystery. Your body is built to be nourished and then to perform. If we do not feed it well, it will not perform well. If we do not work it and test it, it will not grow stronger. That is the physical side.
The struggle is the mental side. We have this weird programming that lets us choose things that we think are what we want but then they turn out to be part of the problem. It is hard to shut that off. there are years of programing and advertising at work here. Food manufactures aim to make things taste good and make you crave more vs. the primary role being nutrition.
Then we have magazines, media and movies that show perfect images of a body and we feel like we failed. It puts us in that cycle of punishment for not being enough or not having “willpower”. I have struggled with this since high school!
What can we do to Overcome this?
One thing that I am working on myself it to identify what is making me choose food that is not good for me. I am becoming more aware of the self talk that I engage in right as I make poor choices or choose to go off my nutrition plan. I know now that I am thinking and saying things like “I deserve the treat” or “Now that I am by myself I can enjoy the whatever”
Digging deeper I now see that because I was treating good nutrition as a punishment for the weight gain I have had over the past year. So in my mind I am saying take it easy and eat the stuff you want or It is OK to skip the exercise because you are so far gone at this point it will not matter. In fact, when I eat poorly or lay around vs. exercising, I get immediate gratification because I get to have something that I am craving like sugar and not have to put the exercise effort.
When we exercise and eat right solely for weight loss or muscle gain, it will never provide short term reward. These things take time. Instead I know I need to focus on the short term benefits like the energy, sense of accomplishment and all the things mentioned earlier. It is not easy but the transition can be made. I can tell I am responding to the focus on the short term benefits. I am still falling to poor eating choices at night but I can feel a difference and know it is something I can overcome.
Add to this the fact that there are also other forces at work in my mind. Things like stress, being a single father and having my time being pulled in many different directions. We all have things that cause us to feel like we want a reward or control over things. If we treat fitness as a punishment or something else that someone is telling us to do, it will fall victim to us repelling it.
The best thing I ever did for my fitness was to get a coach and join an accountability group. Not to have someone pushing me but to see that we all struggle with things. I learn so much from watching how others overcome their challenges. I also find people that have very similar issues and can relate.
There is really no reason not to strive for your personal best fitness level. shift your thinking and it can be that much easier to start to recognize your positive results and motivate you to push farther than you thought you ever could!