The Journey Never Ends

No matter if your issue is weight loss, addiction, mental health or any other struggle the journey will never end. It is important to remember when you reach that final goal thinking the journey is over, getting careless is your new biggest enemy. It is really easy to backslide. Before you know it you’ve gained 20 pounds or smoked a pack of cigarettes.

For me, as soon as I reached 155 pounds I thought I was in a place were it was OK to eat that extra piece of pizza or have a bowl of ice cream. Skipping a gym day didn’t seem like anything to be concerned about either. I kept telling myself, I’ll pay attention tomorrow. One day won’t hurt. Before I knew it I gained 20 pounds and was still saying the same thing to myself. I’ll start again tomorrow.

We need to never forget how much work it took to reach the summit. Maintaining is hard and it is important not to beat ourselves up when we make an error in judgement. This is one of the biggest reasons I think we all need support from others. We need someone to say it is OK to not be perfect as well as be encouraging when we thrive.

One of my friends, years ago, encouraged me to create a picture journal of my journey thus far. I have to say that was one of the best ideas ever proposed. I look back at the old me and barely recognize myself. It brings back the memory of how I felt physically and emotionally and I find it a great reminder to never forget. I suggest to do the same to everyone that has been through or is working on transformation.

The Weight Loss = Health Misconception

First, I have to be clear that I am not an MD or dietitian. I have studied the sciences; hard, social and psychological so when I read the research I do understand what is being reported. It is crucial that we, as a society, stop accepting something as gospel just because an MD published it. I am not saying that the information they, and others are providing is not correct just that we need to question everything. Nutrition research as a whole is inconclusive so I beg you to not just jump on the most recent plan. I read a lot about nutrition, fitness and health as a whole. Lately, I have run into MDs saying that exercise does not matter for weight loss. If you do not pause once reading or hearing that phrase you will miss how empty this statement is.

Your weight does not define you or your health. It is a factor of health and often weight gain is a result of something else before it turns into a cause of further dysfunction. Weight loss, by itself, is possible without fitness or counseling but what about everything else? You can cut carbs and loose those extra pounds or count calories (something that seems to be going out of fashion) or a combination. The thing is that loosing 10 or even 20 pounds does not mean you are healthy.

People with an acceptable number on the scale can suffer from all sorts of ailments that we generally associate with obesity. Overweight people can have great stamina, strength, bone health and happiness.

I am not saying that weight loss is something to ignore just that it is not the only thing to worry about if you are concerned about holistic health. Exercise strengthens your bodies structural integrity. It also gives you mental and emotional vitality. To top it off focusing on the scale can be discouraging!!!!!! Often, the mental block caused by that focus intern causes failure. If you set performance goals and stick to a plan you will see results. Weight loss then becomes a side effect and you are emotionally/mentally stimulated with your bodies positive feedback mechanism to continue to challenge yourself.

Weight loss does NOT help build strong bones. Your bones need impact and movement to be strong. Weight loss does NOT build cardiovascular wellness (I admit it reduces the stress placed on the system but does not strengthen the system). Weight loss, depending on how it is done, can slow down mental acuity and reduce your emotional coping skills. Movement increases the links made in the brain and quickens the responses. Exercise provides endorphins that provide lasting joy and a feeling of power and peace.

Helping people loose weight as well as become strong mentally and physically is my passion. My point is simply that weight loss does not stand alone and it is time we change the conversation.

“It’s Embarrassing”

Have you ever thought that going to the gym is too embarrassing? I definitely had that same thought hundreds of times. Recently, I have been talking to friends and family. The common theme in almost every conversation is that the gym is an embarrassing place to be. I understand the phrase fully and am at a loss as to how to convince those people I care about that the gym is not a place to fear or feel self conscious. What words could I possibly say to convince you to throw out self doubt?

We use the word “embarrassing” in casual conversation almost daily. What is the real meaning of this casual term and how can we remove it from our vocabulary? Embarrassing in an adjective used to describe something that makes us feel self-conscious. From an athletic conversation “performance anxiety” is a better description of the phenomenon. Performance anxiety is a consequence of fear and cognitive interference which results in withdrawal (Smith, Smoll & Schultz, 1990). We punish ourselves because we are afraid of a self-perceived expectation of our abilities.

Since this is all internal we can make a decision to change it. Let’s work backwards, step by step to see how we can accomplish this intellectual challenge. Once we can understand something from an intellectual perspective we can move on to changing the emotion and the resulting behavior. I found this great article concerning strategies for overcoming embarrassment.

Let’s begin with the self-perceived expectation of our own abilities. I challenge you to write down what you think you should be able to do. PAUSE Was what you wrote down based on what you see others doing? Was it based on what you could do when you were 20 years old? Now write down your current activity level. Somewhere in between these 2 items is a realistic expectation. When I was morbidly obese and stepped into the gym for the first time in years. I looked around and saw people running, jumping lifting heavy weights and my first instinct was to do what they were doing. Because the expectation I had of myself was not realistic I was embarrassed. The first thing I did wrong was to compare myself with others. We ALL MUST STOP this practice. Many say it is human nature I say it is a learned behavior. If I am correct, and it is a learned behavior, then we can can teach ourselves to stop the unhealthy comparison.

Now that your self-perceived expectation has been adjusted then the rest of embarrassment falls apart at the seams. If we shut down the unrealistic expectation then we cannot be afraid anymore of not being able to perform. Hence the cognitive interference that we build for ourselves dissolves and failure is not possible. Every time you catch yourself saying that something is embarrassing investigate the reason you believe this to be true. I bet it is because you are afraid to fail. The only way to fail in life is to not try because all progress is a success even if that progress is simply learning what not to do.