Tag Archives: Physical fitness

Loving Myself and Conquering The Brain

No external change can happen without a true internal change, and as most of us know, that is the biggest challenge. It’s not really a matter of whether or not you can run a mile (trust me, you can) or 10 miles (you will, if you train) or if you can lift 5 pounds or 50, or if you can finish a 5k or a marathon or an Iron Man. It’s not even if your body is capable of losing 5 pounds or having abs or having a firm butt. All of that is possible. All of our bodies, more or less are built quite the same. If all those people filling up your Pinterest “Fitness” board have achieved those incredible bodies, honestly there isn’t any reason why our bodies aren’t capable of our own versions of the same. After all, we all do have a six pack somewhere in there and glutes and biceps and thighs and all the same muscles as all of those people. So, really, why not me? Why not you?

[Anecdote/afterthought: You may know I like running. I recently ran a 10k, and I’ve run several before. I’m hoping to run a half marathon this year, and maybe a marathon next year. Running has become a huge part of my life. But, fun fact: I used to hate, hate, HATE running. I couldn’t run a mile 3 years ago. Couldn’t and wouldn’t. I’d rather die. But I had a personal trainer for a while in college and she forced me to run a mile with her once or twice a week, and slowly but surely, running became a part of my life. IT IS POSSIBLE. The end. Back to regularly scheduled programming.]

Thats the easy part. Getting your body to look like that is easy when you look at it factually: Eat lean, clean, natural foods, lower your calorie intake, and exercise. Its a simple equation. To lose one pound of fat in one week, you must lower your calorie intake by 3,500 calories in that week. That means that you need to lessen your calorie intake by 500 calories a day through a combination of exercise and healthy eating (perhaps you burn 200 calories in exercise and you cut out 100 calories from breakfast, 100 from lunch, and 100 from dinner). Honestly, that doesn’t sound too bad, right? All of us are capable of achieving the body and the health that we desire. It is in our genetic makeup to be able to achieve that.

So… why in the hell is it so goddamn hard??!

If I really try hard, I can do enough bicep curls to have killer lady guns. No biggie, right? My body is capable of doing exactly what I want it to do. But my brain is the hardest muscle to reshape. The struggle for self control and stronger willpower seems to be so much more challenging than the 80 burpees I did on Monday (more on that later). And even doing the burpees isn’t even the real issue… I know my body will do them. My legs can jump and my arms can do push ups and my lungs can breathe and my heart can pump blood. I’ll be exhausted, but I can do it, eventually. But why is it that after doing 5 of those burpees, my brain says, “No, don’t do it, don’t do it! Noooo!” It requires turning off those thoughts (so hard to do) and forcing your body to do things that your brain doesn’t want to adjust to. Whether its burpees, 10 miles of running, weight lifting, or not eating the tempting food or choosing to eat salad instead of whatever you normally eat, it’s entirely a mental choice and our brains are so, so resistant to change.

Not only that, but I feel my brain being swarmed daily with conflicting ideas and advice about how to achieve the change I really want, and I’m constantly torn between different ways in which to get started. Should I focus on building healthy habits outside of health and exercise, and maybe I’ll get fit along the way? Should I focus on becoming vegan and then it’ll just be so much easier to lose weight? Should I focus on just exercising more, that way I’ll be happier and have more energy and be more motivated to make changes? Should I focus on writing more about how I feel about my current state so I can start to analyze my thoughts and behaviors from a basic, psychological level? Should I focus on doing more yoga and meditation to be centered and strong at my core? Should I focus on self love before changing anything about my lifestyle so that my heart is in the right place? Should I maybe just start with one thing and not overwhelm myself, and let everything else in my life stay the same for a bit so the change isn’t so striking?… AM I OVER THINKING THIS?

These are the things that go through my head constantly. And I haven’t quite found a balance between any of these thoughts, but the best answer to myself is… maybe its just a little bit of everything? I’m too distracted and ADD to be able to just do one thing. I need variety. Or at least variety is what has sustained me up until now, and I think it would be foolish of me to try to change that part of my personality. I need to learn to work within my own personal “constraints” in order to find the answers that are right for me. So taking a little from each of those thoughts and I suppose just patching it all together and “making it work” is the best, maybe the only way for me.

BUT ANYWAYS… what I was getting at was this: The body is easy. The mind is the real struggle. And even if I don’t always believe or truly internalize all the things I want to believe, as a friend (who happens to be a therapist) has said to me many times, “In order to achieve those deep-rooted cognitive changes and mental reframing, the trick really is just to fake it until you make it. Ultimately the subconscious doesn’t know the difference.” So, I suppose thats a great place to start. Similarly, a friend recently sent me this intriguing article explaining the effects of positive self affirmation, and how phrases like “I’m awesome” don’t really do much but something like “I am a great runner” are much more effective because they are direct, tangible, and easy to believe and internalize.

So, I want to focus on reminding myself of things that I know I’m good at and things I already like about myself, and I encourage you (whether you prefer privately or better yet, share it in the comments!) to do the same.

A few things I love about me:

I am an excellent dancer. It’s my greatest love, my greatest talent, and my greatest source of joy.

I am a great swimmer. 12 years of competitive swimming has made me a strong little fish, for life.

Thanks to swimming and waterpolo, I have strong shoulders and killer legs. My legs might be my favorite body part.

Hourglass figure! I’ve learned to love it as my love for fashion grew and I realized I could wear so many sexy, feminine pieces, like high-waisted skirts and belted dresses. I have a womanly body, and I like that.

I’ve always loved my hair. Though I have been caught complaining about the frizz (probably because every girl needs to find some aspect of their hair that they hate because its taboo to like your hair), it has always been a lie. I love my hair. Always have. Always will.

I like my eye color. Hazel.

I’m assertive and a natural leader. I love dealing with people, helping people, and teaching people and I love that about my personality.

I’m optimistic.

I speak 3 languages and I’m proud of my ability to learn languages with relative ease.

So there… a few things that I love about myself. I may make another one of these lists later, along with another list of accomplishments from the day. I found that to be a nice reminder to myself that things really are going well, even if I’m inclined to find the reasons for why they are not. Ultimately, things are GOOD. Things are great. I am healthy and strong, even when I have moments of weakness. Must learn to remind myself of this daily. Things really are just fine.

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Doomed

How do some people make it look so easy?? They’re like, “I woke up one morning and was fed up with blah blah blah, and I just decided to make a change! I worked hard for it, and now look at how great I am.”

This is so bullshitty to me. I’ve woken up plenty of mornings and been like, “I’m done with this crap, I’m making a change” and guess what… NOTHING EVER CHANGES.

Is it really that simple? Can regular people with struggles with motivation, willpower, and self control actually achieve the same successful changes that other, more driven, organized, and gritty people can? Do they think about it as much as I do? Do they feel consumed by their struggles, sometimes even doomed by them, as much as I do?  I often feel like I’m forever going to be excluded from the successful people category because of my type-b personality. I’m too lax, too lazy, too disorganized, and too distracted to ever be one of those people that forever changes their life for the better. At least thats what I always end up thinking to myself. Whenever I see a before-and-after picture like this one I recently posted, I am filled with two opposing emotions: an overwhelming sensation of “If she can do it, I can too!” and an equally overwhelming thought, “…but her personality is probably way better suited for change than mine. She’s probably much more intense, much more strict, and much more of a perfectionist than I am. Maybe I’ll never be like her because maybe I can’t. Maybe my personality will never allow me to be.”

And yet, I have had moments of success in my health and fitness… I’ve managed to lose weight and get fit quickly several times, but none of those changes have ever lasted. I just always question if I’m cut out for that type of change, enough to make it last for good, or if maybe I’m destined to be a forever-fluctuator, always wishing, trying, and maybe succeeding momentarily, and then crashing and burning, only to start all over again. Is this my fate?

If not, when will it end? 

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Now I’m Free From French Fries

This video by The Happiness Project, sent to me by a good friend, reminded me of something I have heard repeatedly through my mild obsession with reading health and fitness blogs. Most successful fitness and health people will all live by this particular mentality: instead of saying “I can’t eat cookies,” they say (or think to themselves), “I don’t eat cookies.” This small linguistic change shapes their entire perspective for their health and fitness goals as it frames their actions as choices that they made as free-willed individuals and not as things that they were deprived of by forces beyond their control. Its as if by changing one critical word “cant” to “don’t”, you are taking control over your life and your actions and living by a code of healthier, empowered choices and freedoms.

Personally, I don’t steal, I don’t cheat, I don’t drink soda, and I don’t eat fast food. I’m still working on developing that kind of power towards sugar, but its a work in progress and I think I’ve come a long way over the past few years. I need to start reminding myself that I am strong and empowered and that dessert (or whatever other temptation) does not have control over me, so when I see a dessert, I won’t be so quick to gobble it down.

What are you “free” from? What food/behavior do you just simply not do, for the sake of your health, self esteem, and self control?

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