It is our sabotaging thoughts that get us stuck and block our willingness to engage in a lifelong process of healthy eating and ongoing physical fitness.
Thoughts such as, “I will not be successful at it,” “It’s too hard,” “I don’t have the time,” etc. keeps us stagnant and blocked.
When we have these thoughts, it impacts our feelings and directly affects our health and fitness behavior. As Nike’s famous slogan correctly states, “Just Do It.” We cannot wait to be motivated. We become motivated when we do. We feel better, have more energy, and our health improves. Taking action compels us to want to do more and stay invested.
There are many thoughts that pass through our minds daily. Our thinking is not easily understood. It is complicated, confusing, and often doesn’t make sense because it changes so often due to our mood, how we physically feel, a given situation, and our experience and history.
We want so badly to control our thoughts and feelings, especially our uncomfortable ones. As much as we try, we can distract ourselves only temporarily, our uncomfortable thoughts and feelings return, often layered with shame, guilt, and disappointment.
An example of this is when you’re out to eat for dinner. The basket of bread approaches the table. You’re triggered. You’re hungry and the bread looks so appetizing, and you expect it will take approximately ten minutes until you receive your first course. You think, “I’m hungry,” “I’ll just have one piece,” and “I just can’t hold out.”
You feel frustrated and disappointed in yourself and ask, “What’s wrong with me?” “Why do I have to have these thoughts at all?” and “Why can’t I have some discipline and self-control?” To quiet those voices and avoid sitting with the discomfort, you give into your thoughts and end up having three pieces of bread. You’re left feeling even more disappointed, shameful, and hopeless, and the cycle prevails.
This cycle probably sounds all too familiar not only with weight loss and weight management quandaries but with other sticking points as well. These skills are applicable and pertain to varied points of stuckness. They can be utilized throughout your day, and provide you with a repertoire of skills to help guide behavior.
Tips To Help You Better Manage Your Health:
- When your mind leads you down the sabotaging path thank it for letting you know that you’re particularly vulnerable or unsettled in the moment and you may need to put in a bit of additional effort to act in accordance with your value of health. Say, “Thank you mind for trying to protect me and for making me aware that I need to step it up now.” Note it and think about how you want to act. You get to decide, not your mind. Remember that our mind has a mind of its own.
- Re-organize your schedule to include time for healthful eating and exercise. Identify what you need to remain organized and scheduled. There is greater chance for success when it is part of your routine and you know to expect it.
- Look up the menu of a restaurant before you go. Be sure that there are healthy alternatives and if you need to, call ahead to see if there is flexibility in adjusting menu items. Make it a point to assert your healthful needs.
- Mindless snacking can add up to 300 extra calories a day or more. It takes approximately 30 or more minutes of running to burn off these calories. Be mindful when you’re picking at, nibbling on, and dipping into foods. Be prepared for snack emergencies. Keep small healthful snacks handy that are fiber and protein-rich.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself based on what you know about yourself. Get a sense of what the real challenges are (i.e., you can’t stop at just one bite, you crave foods rich in fat and calories, and/or are prone to eat more than you intend to) and problem solve from that place of acceptance.
- Explore barriers and positive influences that affected your ability to exercise, lose weight, or maintain weight loss in the past. Be aware and conscious of what your stuckness was and put mechanisms in place to decrease the chances that this will reoccur for you. For example, if going to a buffet is challenging, decide how you will handle it the next time you decide to go or if need be, decide not to go at all and choose to sit for a meal where you can order from an a la carte menu.
- Integrate healthful eating and exercise into family time. An example of this is engaging in physical activities/exercise with your children and/or partner. This will provide you with a method to bond with them, relieve stress, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. You and your children/partner will learn invaluable lifelong skills for staying fit and healthy, and will enjoy doing so in the process. Activities can include hiking, skiing, roller blading, ice skating, speed walking, biking, etc. You can also cook low-fat creative healthy meals together (e.g., substitute spaghetti squash for pasta and save 180 calories per portion).
- Many individuals express that they do not enjoy exercising. They express that if they did not have to, they would opt not to, and if they could purchase the results of exercise in a bottle, they would elect to instead of having to go through the process. Finding alternative, non-traditional, inexpensive, less time consuming, and more comfortable ways to exercise will increase the chances that you will agree to engage in it and stick to it for the long term. This could include taking Zumba, HIT, spinning, ballroom dancing, yoga, or kick boxing classes. You could also consider using well-known at home DVD’s such as “Insanity,”” P90X,” or “T25.” You can also choose from a list of highly rated fitness DVD’s or stream workouts from your home. Most are relatively inexpensive, and you could get an array of choices without having to invest in purchasing.
- You won’t see the progress you want by working out or eating mindfully once every week or couple of weeks. Consistency and perseverance is essential.
- Treat exercise like an important meeting. You cannot cancel at the last minute or blow it off.
- If you want to be inspired, surround yourself with inspiring people. You will increase the chances in engaging in healthy habits and behaviors because people around you are doing so. In a study that followed 309 people for 2 years, those who had a weight loss support group lost 30 percent more weight than those who dieted alone. Consider online support groups as a valuable source of inspiration and emotional support.
- Your body is an extension of you. Each body part and its functionality are equally important. If your leg was broken would you neglect going to an orthopedist? Why is it okay to neglect your vital organs including the heart, lungs, etc.?
- Think of a mantra that you say to yourself, particularly when you are experiencing those sabotaging thoughts, such as “I can’t,” “I’m too busy,” and “I’m too tired to work out.” Try one on that fits for you such as, “I’m strong. I’m powerful and giving up is not an option.”
- Appreciate, savor and acknowledge the small steps and accomplishments. Inherent in every practice is a process. You have committed to the process and deserve recognition.
- If you slip, get right back up. There’s a substantial difference between a slip and a fall. If you avoid exercising and engage in unplanned eating for several days, that’s far different and less impactful than doing it for several weeks or months.
You wouldn’t deprive your car of an oil change or tune up because of the risk that it will not function well, or even worse, it will break down when you need to travel somewhere. Let’s fully honor our bodies for all that they miraculously do for us. Our bodies undoubtedly deserve our full attention and relentless effort.
* To read more about the psychological barriers to weight loss and weight management, see my book “Free Your Child From Overeating: 53 Mind-Body Strategies For Lifelong Health.” It’s helpful for adults, adolescents and teens, and practitioners who work with kids.