Your System of Beliefs – Is it Fit or Fat?
“In a disordered mind, as in a disordered body, soundness of health is impossible.”
Fitness has many many different variables: sets, reps, load, duration, intensity, frequency and so on. These are all things most of us are very familiar with. What most of us probably overlook is how we perceive ourselves and how vitally important that is to our fitness success and life in general.
I’ll try not to sound like a psychology journal here but it’s relatively clear that people strive to be what they perceive themselves to be. And, if they’re belief of what and who they are is not validated through their choice, actions and lifestyle, they will justify it in order to make themselves feel okay with things. In a more technical world this is called cognitive dissonance.
I’m 240 pounds, I have more body fat than I’ve ever had and I feel like crap. Every now and then I will decide to begin working out and eating right. After a couple of weeks I figure out that eating right is challenging and working out takes a lot of effort. So, I quit both. Now here’s the important part. Instead of simply admitting that I’m unmotivated, need some professional assistance and deeply want people to think of me as physically attractive, I tell myself (and others) that I have to eat a lot because I have low blood sugar instead of recognizing that my blood sugar issues are likely tied to my poor diet and lack of exercise. Of course this low blood sugar issue would most likely be a non-issue (or less of one) if I engaged in regular exercise and quality eating. I tell myself that working out daily exhausts me and doesn’t allow me to have energy to play with my kids, but I really don’t spend much quality time with them anyway. I drink alcohol each night because my life is so stressful – surely you all wouldn’t understand. I tell myself that eating foods I know pack on the pounds doesn’t matter because my weight is directly tied to my genetics and there’s nothing I can do about it because I’ve tried and it never works. Of course I forget to admit that my “tries” usually amount to about two weeks of “doing the machines” and starving myself. Instead of admitting that I’m partially motivated, have very little long-term commitment to my fitness lifestyle and I live in a constant state of self-loathing, I will take on the mask of someone who is perfectly happy with things as they are and justify any and all of my actions that oppose a fitness lifestyle in order to make myself feel better.
Now excuse me, I have to get on Facebook, go manic, and post endless photos, quotes and sayings of how beautiful and amazing I am and how you all are the jerks who need to figure it out because yet again, my body image, my low self-esteem and my own poor choices have ruined another would-be quality relationship.
The hardest part of the whole scenario is that deep down we know our justifications are just that. And, as always, reality sets in for just a moment, we get fed up with everything and decide to do what we truly know will fix the problem forever. So, we start and exercise program, we start to eat fresh, whole and quality foods and inevitably we realize, once again, that this amounts to daily effort and give up only to repeat the whole cycle again and again.
So here’s some technical definitions of the things we are talking about:
1 – anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like, as when one likes a person but disapproves strongly of one of his or her habits.
2 – an uncomfortable mental state resulting from conflicting cognitions; usually resolved by changing some of the cognitions.
1 – the act of process of knowing; perception.
2 – the product of such a process; something thus known, perceived, etc.
In terms of physical fitness and the choices and actions associated with becoming fit, we can look primarily at the definition of cognitive dissonance and honestly connect our own beliefs and actions to instance where this is evident in our own lives. Personally I struggle with this very thing in a number of ways. However, being aware of the situation is a powerful place to be in. As a trainer I often tell myself “I’m fit enough”, “I don’t have to stay in great shape year round because I’m still in better shape than most people”, things like this. And then, when these ideas sink into my psychology I find myself justifying these beliefs by eating things that conflict with a fit lifestyle. Suddenly, two months into a stint of justification I look in the mirror and say, what the hell happened? If you’re like me, this cycle of success and defeat gets old.
So what to do about it? Well, check out the item above I wrote in red. The definitions above tell us that a cognition is something you know, it’s knowledge, it’s perception, a belief. And the red writing above tells us that cognitive dissonance, a stressful and dissatisfying state of holding conflicting beliefs, can be resolved or corrected by changing cognition (beliefs, knowledge).
In other words, if you and I change what we believe and know to be true, we can reduce the negative effects of cognitive dissonance as it relates to our fitness lifestyle. I promise you this can hurt! But in the end it’ll help you put old, negative and limiting behaviors to rest and allow you to happily and confidently adopt new, positive and meaningful habits.
Here’s to changing negative cognition or beliefs about ourselves and turning our new positive, meaningful beliefs about ourselves and our fitness process into reality. Here’s to overcoming our current beliefs that we are genetically disadvantaged, somehow have a harder life than everyone else on earth and are the only people in the world that just can’t live fit with only 24 hours in a day. Horse shit! It’s all crap and let’s embrace that fact because it is a fact. You have genes and they determine a lot – but you determine how fit you can live. Big dangling gobs of fat around our waists comes from eating processed foods, high fat foods, unnecessary sugars and fast food on the regular while sitting on our cans (or asses, whichever you prefer) all day and night. 24 hours is more time than any 10 people need to get and live fit. For starters, exercise, it gives you energy so you don’t oversleep and mope around like a zombie until noon each day. Plan your meals and make them balanced and small, this means eating is a 5-10 minute blip on your 24 hour radar. At this rate you can eat 5-6 meals every single day in less that one hour. Your co-workers that smoke take smoke breaks that add up to at least and hour of lost production each and every day so you can take 8 minutes. And while your life can be hard and so can everyone’s, your challenges aren’t newand aren’t keeping you from making choices to better yourself. If anything, life challenges, if used responsibly can be seen as more reason to structure you life, plan your meals, set aside time to exercise and use your time wisely. If you did 100 jumping jacks every time you checked your email or Facebook each day you would probably be on the cover of a fitness magazine in a month or two.
And let me be clear! Fit people aren’t off the hook here. We hold negative beliefs about aspects of our lives too so figure it out and get to work on bettering yourself if this relates to you. It certainly relates to me so I’m not pointing the finger, I’m just being honest enough to admit that in order to better myself and ourselves, you and I need to get our minds right.
In 2012 let’s identify the beliefs that are holding us back and toss those things out with the trash. Limiting beliefs have no place in the lives of great people like you and I. We are powerful, we are the masters of our own destinies and we can create positive change for ourselves without help from anyone else. So get to it friend, I believe in you and in humanity. Improvement is what we want and the only thing that stands between you and the fitness lifestyle you crave is your beliefs, your choices and your actions.