Exercise is good for us. Eating healthy is good for us. We all know this. So why do a MAJORITY of Americans continue to struggle with getting enough exercise and eating a healthy diet?
It’s not a lack of knowledge for most, but a mental block of sorts. Our own walls that we put up. Our own imaginary challenges that we often project outward from the depths of our subconscious. As we do this more and more, we can literally create a false reality from our own distorted thoughts.
When it comes to making healthy life changes, often times the biggest changes don’t need to come in the form of our pants fitting better or our mile time getting faster, but changes within – with our mindset and with our mentality towards ourselves, our surroundings, and what we actually can accomplish.
Before even stepping into a gym, starting a nutrition plan, or changing your life – you need to address the mental blocks that you probably created. This is to no fault of your own, but you DID still create them often for protective reasons. Psychologists would call these cognitive distortions.
Research suggests that people develop cognitive distortions as a way of coping with adverse life events. The more prolonged and severe those adverse events are, the more likely it is that one or more cognitive distortions will form.
Most people experience cognitive distortions from time to time. But if they’re reinforced often enough, they can increase anxiety, deepen depression, cause relationship difficulties, and lead to a host of other complications.
I often use an example from high school. I was afraid of dancing because I’m not a good dancer. Like many high school kids, I cared way too much about what people thought of me, and no way in hell was I going to be thought of as a bad dancer. But here’s the twist – I thought that people thought I was a bad dancer. Nobody EVER said, “man, you suck at dancing!” – I created this distortion.
Now, I still will admit I’ve got crappy moves that might match up with a 60-year-old midwestern white guy, but I don’t let that hold me back. I realize that I could go take lessons, I could get better, but that’s not a priority of mine and at the same time I won’t let it hold me back from dancing at the next wedding I go to.
Cognitive distortions come in many forms, but I wanted to highlight a few of the most common that I notice in my space, and how they can be addressed.
This is an “all or nothing” mindset. “I will ALWAYS be fat”. Or “these workouts will always be impossible” or “this exercise is impossible” are common forms of polarized thinking.
Take a step back. If you are overweight, you didn’t get there overnight – and you won’t get a six-pack overnight either. Guess what? You don’t need to have a six-pack to be healthy or see major improvements in your health.
Workouts can be hard. That’s the point. We live in a generally soft society – nothing is physically challenging. Our bodies are made to be physically active, strong, and useful. Flip the script on your thinking about workouts and embrace the challenge – if you get knocked down, get right back up and get back in that fight. It will make you a tougher person, inside and out.
Thinking the WORST will happen. I’ve been guilty of this. I had my first panic attack when my first client decided to stop training with me when I went off on my own. I still remember it. I was working out, and she messaged me that she needed to take a break from training.
I went out in my car and my chest felt heavy. “Oh my God, it’s over. They are ALL going to quit, then I’m going to be broke, my family is going to have to live on the streets…” was my thinking. Well, that never happened, and that client is back to training with me.
This can happen in many situations, and for some people, it comes from a real experience where the worst did happen. But it’s important to separate the two scenarios and realize that that was then, and this is now.
Taking a deep breath, and talking it out can be the first step to overcoming catastrophic thinking.
Will that one donut you just ate make you fat again? Will that one missed workout lead to you losing all your gains and progress? No. But at the same time, tomorrow is another day, the next meal is the next meal – and these all present opportunities to get back on track.
Negative Mental Filtering
Ignoring the positives and only focussing on the negatives. This one can lead to some dark spirals, and honestly is why I am such a big fan of gratitude.
Right now, you are most likely reading this on a $1000 smartphone, or a nice computer. Your life is pretty dang good.
It’s easy to focus on the negatives and ignore all the positive things in our lives. Look at the national news channels. Turn on one, and it’s 100% doom and gloom. Turn on the other, and it’s 100% doom and gloom for totally different reasons. Fear sells – they know this.
Don’t let yourself fall for it. Don’t forget to look at the positives in your life. Even in the darkest times, I guarantee you can find them.
I see this often with people’s obsession with the scale. Do you know how hard it is to make the scale actually go down every single day? I bet you do because you have probably struggled with getting frustrated by it!
How much time and energy have you spent getting pissed at the scale while ignoring all the other positives that you can focus on over the last week/month?
This is where you need to shift your focus to the process or behavior type goals (working out, eating right, getting sleep, etc) and less on the result goals (losing weight, building muscle) and “magically” the result goals will just happen!
I know some of these concepts might be easier said than done, but I urge you to try, try and try again and things will get better. They always get better when you chose to prioritize your health.
If you need help getting started, look no further than online coaching. Training and nutrition! Let me help you find the best plan for you – from anywhere in the world.
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