Week three is here! I’m so glad you’ve come back, and I hope that you continue to find value in these pages. This week we’re talking about one of the areas of life in which there are the most negative messages, and thus the greatest opportunity for powerful self-talk.
Every corner of life is plastered with messages about physical health from what to think and not to think, how to look, what not to wear or eat or say, how to get fit and how fit you should be, to whether or not being fit should even matter… I’m not going to attempt to unpack that all at once, these chats are long enough already 😉 Today let’s specifically talk about the messages about your body, health, fitness, and what you can do if you’re kind of tired the current messaging. What thoughts do you currently have about physical health in general as well as your own wellness? Think about your body, your diet, your activity level. Specifically focus on how you feel and what you think about yourself.
First things first. I want to differentiate between messages from your body, and messages from your brain about your body. Listening to your body is a very positive practice. The human body was designed to give messages to the brain about what’s going on. Hungry, tired, full, overwhelmed, sore; these are all messages that the body communicates to the brain that should be evaluated. Research has proven that even our often frustrating cravings are communicating with us. Depriving your body when it’s hungry leads to greater binges in the future. Pressing on when your body is telling you that it has had more than enough can have long term negative effects. Please, listen to your body!
However, for most of the population, the messages that we receive from our brains about our bodies are often damaging and inaccurate. Whether looking in the mirror, interacting with others, shopping for clothing, or just sitting around at home, the mind is all too quick to communicate with us about our bodies, right? Whether from years of messaging from family and friends, TV and movies, magazines, or society at large, our minds are usually jam packed with all kinds of messages about our bodies. Expectations, judgements, criticism, evaluation, comparison- all less than helpful programming being communicated in our brains. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that you’ve experienced some less than empowering messages from the mind about your body. I call it the mind, here, on purpose. Like I said in our intro to this topic, the mind was designed to keep you safe and alive, not thriving. Thus, the mind will spout all kinds of misinformation in an attempt to keep you safe. It may tell you things like “You shouldn’t try that because you aren’t fit” in order to keep you from the potential of others making fun of you. If you’ve ever thought “I can’t stop myself from eating too much. It always happens, that’s just the way it is”, it sounds like the mind trying to keep you overeating because of what may happen if you don’t. These messages may feel like they are a part of you, and permanent, but just like all the others, limiting beliefs about your physical health and your body are able to be assessed and replaced.
BELIVE THAT YOU ARE CAPABLE
Believe that you have the ability to change your mindset, your feelings, and your outlook on your physical health and your body. This is not just about believing that you are capable of having your ideal level of health. While that is definitely a component, for most of us it’s kind of impossible to imagine even having a solid mindset around physical health and wellness. With all of those harmful messages bombarding me every day, even from within my own head, it can feel like there isn’t another way to think about health and wellness than the one pushed by society or echoing in my brain. But I want to encourage you, if you find yourself in that place, commit to developing a mindset of acceptance, appreciation, forgiveness, and peace around your body and health.
Believe that the messages that have informed your decisions in the past do not have to have any impact on your future. Believe that even if everyone else in your life is choosing harmful habits that you don’t have to. Believe that your family’s health issues do not have to be yours. Decide that the negative messages about your health are not going to be the only messages or the loudest ones.
CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT OF EMPOWERMENT
Start to notice and evaluate the messages that your brain sends up and attempts to pass off as truth. Is your mind usually telling you that you are powerless in your body? That you will always be skinny and weak? That you are doomed to a life of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity because every person in your family has struggled with these things? Start to evaluate that junk. Do you choose what you do and eat every day? Excellent, you aren’t powerless. Do you have muscles covering your bones that get stronger when you work them? Great, then you have the potential to grow them. Has anyone ever overcome their genes, environment and upbringing to change health diagnoses and prognoses? Well then hallelujah, you can continue a trend and avoid becoming another statistic.
When you find yourself thinking something that flies in the face of your goals and makes you question your capability, rip that thing open. For the longest time, when I would start to get into a pattern of limiting beliefs, my whole health paradigm would fall apart. I’d have a weekend in which I indulged a bit more than I intended and wouldn’t feel great because of it, and ye olde mind would flare up telling me all sorts of gory stories about how I had messed up and ruined everything, my progress was gone, I had let myself down and I would never achieve my goals, I should probably not workout because it wouldn’t overcome the overeating I had done, I should probably dive right into a carb and cheese sandwich with a side of ice cream because the damage was already done. Familiar? Yeah. My usual reply was to rapidly shake my head, as if to clear it, and decide that I wasn’t going to think about it. You know how effective that is? About as helpful as seeing that your stove is on fire and just shaking your head, “Not gonna look at it. Won’t think about it. Bad fire!”.
When you start having these thoughts my most effective strategy has been to dive into them. Lean as close to them as you dare, look them in the eye and stick out your tongue. Think about those beliefs, “You’ve had a cake too many and now you’re toast”, really look at what it is communicating “you have eaten something that you know is not particularly healthy for you and now you will never achieve your long-term goal of feeling healthy, being confident, and knowing that you are strong”. Umm, no. Forget that. Laugh at it. It’s ridiculous, like most of our limiting beliefs! Now replace it. “I made a choice to eat something that doesn’t fully line up with my goals.” “I ate something that made me feel good for a minute but now I feel sleepy and bloated.” “I’m gonna remember this next time I’m tempted to have this kind of indulgence.” “I will continue to make decisions that move me toward my goals.”
Every time you start believing a limiting thought about yourself, look at it, acknowledge what it’s trying to do, then replace it with a belief that frees you and moves you toward your goal. I find that the most effective way to do this is with action, and while directly facing a manifestation of the belief that you are addressing. Get mindful with what’s happening and face it in the moment. When I start to feel like all of my workouts have been for naught because of what I see in the mirror, I take that moment to really look at my body and appreciate all that it is. The wandering thought of “Man. I eat healthy, I work out every day, and look at this body. Not at all as chiseled as I was hoping it would be by now…” becomes “I eat nutritious foods to fuel this powerful body. I exercise to keep me healthy and strong. I love this body!”. While I’m still looking in the mirror I start this monologue. I flex my biceps and do a power stance, I look myself in the eye and tell that mind the whole truth.
Choosing what to believe and think about your body is the most powerful way to change it. It’s also the most powerful way to change how you feel about your body. It’s so hard to navigate the line between accepting your body for the amazing masterpiece that it is, carrying your magnificent soul around this earth, allowing you to experience all the wonders you can find; and being honest with yourself about your physical health and wellness, admitting the decisions that you make and habits that you have that are harmful and hindering you from your best life, and being responsible for creating wellness. It’s a continuum that I spend time thinking about and moving back and forth along every day. The best advice I can give is the best advice I’ve curated which is:
work to love your body for the vehicle that it is, and treat it with the respect and care that it deserves.
Sending this to you with love, hope and encouragement for a more peaceful mind, and a healthier self ❤