Current Issue

Is it possible for a diet expert to be overweight? I see it every day. In my role as a personal trainer and fat loss coach, I regularly come across people who seem to know everything there is to know about diet and exercise—yet they’re still fat. They know what foods to eat, and they know what exercises they should be doing—but they don’t do it. Put simply, they know what to do, but don’t do what they know. They don’t have the motivation, the focus, the mind-set or the right thinking habits to apply their knowledge and get positive results.

So much is written about diets, celebrity weight loss (and gain), nutrition, and exercise, yet little emphasis is placed on the role of the mind. The way you think has a major impact on your health, weight, and body shape. Excess weight is a symptom of lifestyle choices and learned behavior.

While everyone knows you can change your lifestyle, not much effort goes into modifying and changing your learned thinking habits. In fact, lifestyle choices will seem much easier and more achievable if they are in tune with your mind-set.

Following are eight strategies that show you how to ramp up your mental training and bring out your best.

Examine your beliefs and priorities

Your beliefs and priorities help form the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. They create a framework, or window, that helps determine your vision and thinking when making decisions and contemplating changes. Having a better understanding of yourself and why you want to succeed can help you approach change with confidence and determination.

Prioritizing and improving your health will add value to all other aspects of your life. Although your work, social, spiritual, and family life will still remain a priority, a few adjustments could make all the difference. For example, you could cycle to work, catch up with friends for a walk instead of a meal, and swim at the beach with your family instead of watching TV.

Lifestyle changes have to become a priority if you are to succeed. Identify what stops you from improving your eating habits or activity levels. What aspects of your life could you modify to become healthier?

Accept responsibility for your health

It’s important to acknowledge that you are responsible for what you think, how you feel, and when you act. You choose the foods you eat, how your money is spent, and how you use your time. You are also responsible for inaction. For most people, poor health and excess weight are choices—but so is the ability to change. The choice is yours to change the way you eat, to be more active, or maybe push yourself a little harder when you exercise.

Knowing that you have the power to make those changes and get what you want is a big step in the right direction. You are in control, you are responsible, and you make the decision to change. If you choose action, you will improve your health and get results. The choice is yours.

Adjust your expectations

It’s difficult to stick to lifestyle changes when you don’t get results as fast as you expect. However, it can be your expectations that are the root of your frustration. Fat loss is a slow process. It won’t happen in a few days or a few weeks. It can take months or even years to accumulate fat, and it will take months and even years to reverse the process. Losing body fat can be difficult.

Change is difficult. Expect it to be challenging. If you’re clear about what to expect and when to expect it, losing weight and body fat becomes a lot easier.

Focus on goals and mini-steps

Goal setting gives you direction and motivation, helping you to work systematically and progressively toward an end result. You can have the desire, but without a goal and a plan, you can easily get lost. Setting goals helps focus your attention, linking knowledge and desire to purpose and action. Identify what you want to achieve, and then map out how you are going to achieve it.

Write down your long-term goals, and then write down a series of short-term or mini-goals that can act like stepping-stones to your success. Your long-term goal is usually based on a result, such as losing 10 pounds, while your mini-goals map out the process you will need to follow, such as walking six days each week for the next eight weeks.

Have a plan to overcome the barriers holding you back from succeeding. It also helps to anticipate what barriers may hold you back from taking those mini steps and have some strategies to help you overcome them.

Turn your good intentions into actions

You’ve set goals that help you focus on what’s important and made a plan on how to get there in small achievable steps. Now, go and do it. It’s time to take action and put it all into practice. What days will you exercise, and what healthy food choices will you make?

Without action, all the planning and best intentions in the world will amount to nothing. The choice is yours to make things happen and make a genuine life change. You’ve probably read about other people doing it. Why don’t you? It may help to keep a food diary or activity journal. As you progress, your confidence will grow as you complete the tasks you have set. In time, your actions will become habits, and they will become easier to maintain.

Maintain a positive attitude

A big part of success depends on your attitude. Be positive, and look to find solutions, not excuses. Negativity doesn’t produce change. Pessimists will neglect their health because they don’t feel they’ll be successful at changing it.

Optimists see change as a challenge. The challenge is to make them now. If you have negative thoughts, dispute them. The way you think makes a big difference. You don’t have to love exercise, but it will help you get results, so make the most of it.

Try to remain positive, and look for ways to make it more enjoyable, because you will be much more likely to stick with it.

Live as if you’ve achieved your goal

It really helps to have a mental image or vision of what you want to achieve. Think about the lifestyle you will need to be living to achieve your health and fitness goals. Then, start living that way now. Start to think like someone who has already achieved the results they seek.

Regular exercise and healthy eating are the habits of lean people, so why not make them your own.

Have a motivation make-over

When you are motivated, healthy lifestyle changes are easy. You’re inspired, and you want to live well. The challenge is to keep on going after your initial enthusiasm has died down and stay on track when you are not motivated. Following are some tips that an help you develop thinking habits that are more likely to help you succeed.

  • A valuable lesson. Think about your past, and try to focus on the things that have worked well for you before. It also help to identify, and avoid, the things that de-motivate you.
  • Focus on yourself. Don’t compare your changes or results to others. Stay focused on the things you can control, not your partner or friends.
  • Do it now. Don’t wait till you feel motivated. No matter how much you don’t feel like it, go and do some exercise. Then tomorrow, do some more. Don’t expect to be motivated all the time. Be consistent with the process, and you will feel better about yourself. Don’t wait for motivation to magically appear. When you start to have more energy, and your clothes are a little looser, that’s motivating. Wellness is motivating, while inactivity and ill health are not.

New Thinking, New Body

by Andrew Cate
From the September 2007 Signs  

Healthy habits

  • View holidays as an opportunity to take better care of yourself.
  • View exercise as a pleasure, not a burden.
  • Solve problems without turning to food.
  • Encourage others to be healthy.
  • Always have a water bottle with you.
  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast.
  • Seek out new healthy food ideas and recipes.
  • Have options for cold wet weather days.

Poor thinking

  • Making changes is easy.
  • You can lose weight without exercise.
  • You can lose weight continuously, like losing a couple of pounds a week.
  • You can lose weight quickly.
  • You can keep weight off with short-term changes. I won’t enjoy exercise.