Every year it’s the same thing: you wake up Jan. 1 with the best of intentions that this year, you’re going to finally jumpstart your healthy lifestyle. And for many of us, those good intentions evaporate into nothing after a day, a week, a month … year after year.
But it doesn’t have to be that way this year. In BODY BY DESIGN, trainer and editor in chief of the fitness social networking site BodySpace Kris Gethin explains that the idea of “willpower” is a myth. You’re not going to stick to your resolutions by just “wanting it more” or “trying harder.” You need to know how to replace your negative, self-defeating beliefs with positive beliefs about your body and your health. Read on for a 4-step plan to help you stick to your fitness resolutions throughout 2011 … and beyond.
The first step involves recognizing your self-defeating statements, so I want you to think of all the words and phrases you most often use to describe yourself. These can be single words such as “fat” or “lazy” that float around you in little word bubbles, or statements. Like “I’m never going to get fit,” “I hate my body,” “losing weight is for other people, not me,” or “I won’t ever be able to create healthy habits.”
Dig deep and be specific – what are the patterns or ruts of thinking that have you trapped? Even if you are already fit, this applies to you. We all create an imaginary ceiling on our own potential – do you look at your butt or your arms and feel as though as fit as you may get, you’ll never look the way you want to? If you tell yourself that you have a “trouble spot,” or if you believe that you’re going to be too busy this week to make it to your workout – well, guess what, your body is going to believe it.
You’ve probably found people to inactively validate your doubts, too (even though they don’t know it) – it’s pretty easy to find them. And letting them distract you from your goals is part of the destructive pattern in which so many of us unconsciously get stuck.
You’ve identified the negative thoughts and phrases that are holding you back, so for step two, I want you to consider the circumstances and scenarios that allow this pattern to perpetuate in your life. For example, once upon a time I had already convinced myself that I was incapable of achieving my ultimate body. This created a weakness in my commitment – and weakness, like misery, loves company. Then, when I came up against my ultimate weakness of fattening breakfast foods, that subconscious part of me that had already undercut my expectations was more than happy to encourage me to dig in. This kind up slip completely sabotaged my promise to honor my body … until I got it all under control (read on).
The problem in this underlying cycle of self-defeat is that it slowly eats away at your goals until you’ve surrendered them entirely; it’s a slippery slope that all starts with a simple thought.
Step three is about creating the shift; changing the thoughts in your head from the ones that keep you stuck in a negative cycle to ones that perpetuate positive change. This can be as simple as turning the word ‘can’t” into “can” – it’s all about converting self-defeating statements into productive ones. If we look at some of the phrases I previously mentioned, we can see how easily they can be converted: “I won’t ever be able to create healthy habits” becomes “I can create healthy habits”; “I’m never going to get fit” shifts to “I’m going to get fit,” “I hate my body” becomes “I love my body.”
If you don’t think it’s possible that such a simple step can have great power, I challenge you to try and discover the outcome for yourself. Remember: if you don’t truly commit to it, you are only cheating yourself, so genuinely practice a new thought pattern and witness the changes it brings about for you. Research shows that words and phrases plant themselves in our subconscious and drive action; I challenge you to take control and refuse to let your potential life rest on the back burner – let’s fire it up!
The final step will take us out of your head and into your physical environment. I want you to give your beliefs or “primers” a prominent presence in your daily life. Consider the words or phrases that inspire you and write them down on a sheet of paper. Researchers have shown that exposure to single words such as “strive” and “success” can subconsciously encourage perseverance and fuel motivation, so feel free to pick individual words or sayings.
Your primers can include sticky notes you leave for yourself in specific places that say “Go work out” or “I am an athlete” or “Skip the chips” – whatever statements you decide will support your new positive thought patterns. I’ve seen plenty of people put these kinds of notes on their refrigerator or on their computer at work – somewhere or something they pass by often. You can also tear out inspiring photos of beaches you want to visit while looking ripped in your trunks or toned in your bikini; or maybe of someone whose body you want to emulate.
Will these pictures and words motivate you forever? No. What they will do is prep your brain and, through repetition, drive your body to the point of action. To ensure that action is everlasting, you have to set goals strategically – which involves more than just you and your refrigerator.