Change Your Mind, Change Your Body

From the Motivated Sista Mail Bag:

A Motivated CEO writes: I’ve been trying to take better care of my body; working out, drinking more water, more sleep, eating better and more often. However, I’ve fallen way short of my goal. I just need to get a good start and develop a lasting routine, but it’s so hard. I have a hard time believing I can actually make that change for the better. I feel hopeless about my physical health and body image. 

What would you say to motivate someone like me?

My answer: Stop Being So Hard On Yourself!!

I know you’re being hard on yourself, because I am the Queen of Being Hard On Oneself. And in this perfectionist country that I rule over, my subjects and I don’t recognize the progress that we’ve already made, are impatient for results and don’t enjoy ourselves along the way. You’re doing well and you’re getting better and better.

Pat Yourself On The Back

The best thing you did for yourself was decide that you wanted to make changes to the way you care for your body. That’s huge! And not only did you make that decision, you’ve stuck to it by implementing changes to your habits. So the first thing I say is recognize how far you’ve come in your mind. Because mindset is the key to reaching any goal.

One thing that you said that stuck out to me:  I have a hard time believing I can actually make that change for the better. Do you see that you’ve already made that change, by deciding to change? And then you followed up that decision with action to make those changes permanent? Now why is it that you don’t believe you can change your habits permanently? Is it that you’ve tried in the past and weren’t successful? So then I ask, what do those previous efforts have to do with this effort (Could it be more of you beating yourself up, for the last time and this time?)?

You’re Already Living In Your New Mindset

Remember that your mind is actually working against you. Its trying to sabotage you, trying to discourage your efforts, so you can go back to teh familiar routines and eating habits it’s used to. The physical pain one experiences when working out is nothing compared to the pain and suffering our minds put us through when faced with change. Willpower will only take you so far – once that runs out (because willpower is a temporary solution), you’re literally battling your own mind for supremacy over your habits and actions.

You listed those actions as: taking better care of your body, working out, drinking more water, getting more sleep, eating better and more frequently. Are these your actual goals? I think you should quantify them, because its hard to hit a moving target. How do you know you aren’t reaching your goals already? Which goals are you currently successful with, and which ones do you need to continue to work toward? Make sure you’re giving yourself credit where credit is due.

I give so much credit to making the decision to change, because we often get stuck in a zone where we know we should be doing certain things, but don’t. “I know I shouldn’t eat this pizza, but….”, “I should go to the gym, but….”, its like an excuse train thats hard to get off (speaking from experience here…). But if you have the intention to get off, and follow up with action when you can, keep following up because the only thing that’s keeping you on that train are the habits that got you on there in the first place.

Lifestyle Change Takes Time

Lastly, it sounds like you’re still operating from a diet mindset – that things have to happen in a certain time. Its so much harder to permanently change your habits than to temporarily suspend them under a diet. Because there is no ‘when the diet is finished’ — the changes you strive to make are permanent — so I wonder why you’re in a hurry? You WILL get there, and its better to fall in love with healthy food, enjoy being active and participating in exercises and activities that you like, rather than do things just to say “I’m taking care of my body”. Care is also enjoyment of the foods you eat and the movements you’re making with that body. And taking mental pleasure from the physical care you’re performing.

By beating yourself up, you’re providing a negative reinforcement for your efforts that is draining the enjoyment of establishing your new, healthy habits. Whats the point of being healthy but being miserable? You want to implement these changes in order to live a better quality of life. That quality also includes your thoughts about how you’re living and the enjoyment you get out of living that way. In order to do so,  you have to take it easier on yourself and know that your changes will come, with more time. Beating yourself up won’t get you closer any faster.

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