Do you sometimes wish you could just rewire your brain, or replace it with someone else’s?
Weight loss can be such a mental battle.
In our modern day world there are always temptations to deal with. Cakes in every coffee shop. Chocolate at the petrol station. Kids not eating their God damn food and leaving you nibbling on the leftovers. Great restaurants, fine wines, cheap beers, massive bars of chocolate for the same price as a single courgette (I know which I’d rather choose!). The list is endless!
Couple this with the fact that we’re busier than ever before, stressed out and living in a society where we expect things to happen NOW, and it’s no wonder we often sacrifice our long-term health and happiness for short-term fattening pleasure.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had more willpower?
There are reasons why we struggle with this, and that’s what I’m going to guide you through in this article.
The great thing is, you can learn to harness your mind to create a permanent shift in your thoughts, feelings and attitude.
We can teach ourselves to resist stress, stay motivated, and make the right choices so we can see the results we really want.
If you understand how your brain works, you can CREATE motivation when you need it most.
The thing is, you are already motivated.
You’re just more motivated by the thought of fun nights drinking alcohol, indulging on unhealthy foods, and eating chocolate, than you are by having a salad and sweating it out at the gym.
And when you think about it like that, who wouldn’t be?
When you analyse human behaviour, you realise that every decision we make and action we take is designed to move us either towards pleasure or away from pain. I’ll say that again, because it’s really important to realise.
Every decision we make and action we take is designed to move us either towards pleasure or away from pain.
That bar of chocolate makes you feel better when you’re upset.
That evening glass of wine relaxes you and reduces stress.
Staying in the warm feels better than going out in the cold for a walk.
Sitting on the sofa is much more pleasureable than puffing and panting at the gym.
On the other hand…
Eating healthy can seem boring and restrictive.
Exercise conjures up images of aching mucsles, and feeling uncomfortable, sweaty and out of breath.
You feel like you’re missing out on your favourite foods.
Going to the gym or out for a walk takes up valuable time in your day, and you’re busy enough as it is.
If you’re thinking about it like that, then it’s not fun or pleasurable. So why would you keep doing it?
It all comes down to how we perceive things.
Those irritating people who just LOVE going to the gym, effortlessly say no to junk foods, and seem to actually enjoy healthy foods…they just have a difference perspective.
Exercise can become something you really want to do if you link it to the right things.
The trouble is we often don’t link to these positives enough.
Feeling stronger, fitter, having more energy.
Living a longer, healthier life to be there for your children and grandchildren.
Being a role model.
These are amazing reasons for wanting to change, but written down like that they are just words.
Motivation and desire comes from emotion, and the best way for our brain to generate emotion is through images.
We need to create a really clear vision of just how great life will be when we follow through and make this happen.
Picture your ideal life in detail, to the point where you can really feel it. It should stir up emotion for you – that deep pull of desire in your heart.
If you think about this often, you solidify the image in your mind, and make it easier to recreate the feeling too. Link that feeling to making healthy choices, and conjure up the image when faced with temptation that you really want to resist.
Likewise, it is much easier to say no to cake, pastries and junk foods if you link them to negative feelings.
Your clothes getting tighter.
Setting a bad example to your kids.
Your body feeling lethargic, flabby, unhealthy, out of shape.
Even illness and disease, to really make a strong connection.
When you want to, you can view eating junk as a miserable experience rather than a pleasurable one.
And eating healthy can fill you with happiness, pride and vitality. It could even have you gleefully screaming ‘YES, please give me more vegetables!’ (ok maybe that’s a step too far).
Note that you don’t always need to do this – sometimes you might really want a piece of cake and that’s fine. No food should be completely off limits. But it’s when you want to have more control over your decisions and shift the balance so you’re at least 80% on track with healthy foods that this can help. On occasions when you know you should probably make a healthy choice, that’s when to bring up the images in your mind that will help that decision.
Most of our daily actions come from habits.
Whenever we try to lose weight, we tend to think that all we need is willpower.
But willpower alone won‘t cut the mustard – we only have a limited amount, and there’s usually plenty of other things going on that deplete it. Eventually after a tough day, we get home, find there’s no food in the house and order a takeaway.
Willpower officially gone. We’ll start again on Monday.
To lose weight, we need to form new habits and learn new skills.
New skills require a lot of effort in the beginning.
Think about learning to drive. At first all your senses are on high alert. You have to follow each part of the process step by step, consciously in your mind. You’re thinking about which pedal is the clutch, where to look, how much pressure to apply to the pedals, when to change gear. It needs a lot of attention and willpower to keep focused. But eventually it becomes second nature, and now you frequently arrive at your destination with no idea how you got there.
Where many people go wrong is that they try to start too many habits all at once.
‘I haven’t really exercised for the last few years and eat a lot of junk. But from Monday I’m going to start juicing for breakfast, eating salad for lunch, going to the gym 3 times a week, cutting out sugar, preparing all my dinners from scratch and give up alcohol.’
Ok, you might not be this extreme all in one go, but hopefully you get my point.
Forming SUCCESSFUL new habits takes time.
The best way you can form a new habit that sticks is to just pick one or two things to focus on each month.
Think of it like a 30 day challenge for yourself.
What can you master this month?
It’s important to pick something that’s not too difficult to achieve either. Getting small wins at the beginnin
g is crucial and will really help spur you on.
- Walking for 20 minutes each day.
- Drinking 2 litres of water each day.
- Going to the gym twice a week.
- Replacing your daily bar of chocolate with a piece of fruit.
- Doing 5 minutes of stretching.
- Doing a 15-minute home workout 3 times each week
- Joining a new class and going to at least 1 session each week.
- Focusing on getting three sources of protein each day, or filling half of each dinner plate with veggies.
Make it easy for yourself.
Getting started is usually the hardest part. If the first targets are achievable enough you’ll be able to convince yourself to do it each day. Once you start you might end up doing more, and that’s great.
Maybe you get out for 20 minutes and realise you could probably do another 10 on some days. Awesome. Every time you hit your target it’s a win. Every time you exceed it, double win. You’re creating momentum.
After 2-4 weeks, if you feel ready, raise the bar. Walk for longer. Add in an extra weekly gym session. Or pick another habit from the list and focus on mastering that, while maintaining what you’re doing already.
If you keep this going at an appropriate pace for you, things never feel too difficult. With a bit of effort, you can always achieve the targets you set. This makes you feel great, so you carry on. And you also enjoy the fact you can still eat out with friends, relax a little at times, and enjoy your life.
You notice your clothes fitting better. People start asking if you’ve lost weight. You feel healthier, more energetic. You discover new foods you never knew you liked. The taste for sugar begins to wane. You realise you actually enjoy working out. And you love the feeling of just doing a little more each week.
Of course this method will be, initially, slower than most quick fix diets. But slow means SUSTAINABLE. And sustainable means it will LAST. You’ll find the process so much easier, achieve results, and actually keep them for life.
Meanwhile those who jumped on the quick fix diet will be back to where they started.
Trying to do it super-fast and then losing all the results because you can’t keep it up…it makes no sense, but that’s what many people do over and over again.
It really is all about creating habits. Don’t miss a day. Even if you can’t do the whole thing, do SOMETHING.
Consistency is more important than quantity.
If you can’t do a 20 minute walk, do 10 minutes, even 5 minutes. Just don’t break the chain.
You need to keep going so that you train your mind to accept this behaviour is a DAILY habit.
This is what leads to permanent results.