When we first jump into the chaos of getting in shape or just improving our level of fitness, it can be appear to be a daunting and intimidating journey. To be a healthier version of yourself you generally need to change what you eat, how much your move and how you make a lot of different decisions. Physical transformation is exceptionally difficult because first, you must sacrifice things you are accustomed to and enjoy in some way (usually less than healthy lifestyles and foods) while initially gaining very little discernable benefits. I will be writing on this specific challenge next month; however, for this month’s article, I’ll be focussing on the bigger challenge. The reality that most people have few examples in their social circle or family of significant lasting and healthy change in health and wellbeing. This is why testimonials or before and after pictures are used so heavily in the billion-dollar weight loss industry. Look at person X, they are just like you and they did this 5 minutes work out or took a miracle pill/shake and now they are exactly like you want to be and it was easy. Except it’s not and almost all of these examples are less than honest. However, it is not a lost cause. But it might require a mindset change and the ability to look outside of the experiences you and your network of friends and family have had with health and fitness. If you are fortunate enough to know people that have succeeded in the kind of fitness and lifestyle changes you want to make, look closely at all the things you have in common (both good and bad) and recognise that they probably started out very similar to you with the same challenges and opportunities. Then model what you can on their experience and lean on them for help because they have walked the same path as you and achieved what you are working towards.
Now we come to the heart of the problem for many. What to do if you feel alone in this battle? What if making all the changes and sacrifices are just too difficult and you do not feel up to the challenge? To start with, you are going to have to find ammunition, but of a different kind of calibre than some of you might be used to. For psychologist Alfred Bandura, “the most effective way of developing a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences.” Performing any task successfully strengthens our sense of self-efficacy and the bigger the success the more we are emboldened by it. Succeeding at difficult, daunting and challenging tasks is like a power up or boost to our own personal sense of efficacy (the idea that we can be successful in creating change), even if it is in a different avenue. The first reaction when you feel intimidated or that you are failing to meet the challenge of your new fitness and health regime, should be to make a mental list of the big things you have accomplished in your life. The bigger, more bad ass and hard earned the result, the better. These don’t have to be fitness related and frankly for those starting out, they probably aren’t going to be. Start with your proudest accomplishments, military or civil service, past sports success, charitable work or community involvement, with successfully raising children an often neglected source of awesomeness. Stack all of those great things you’ve done on top of each other and by the time you are done, you should hopefully have built up a large arsenal of difficult and challenging things you are proud of. Use this list as a touchstone for when things get tough. Say to yourself, “I did x, y and z which were incredibly difficult, and they didn’t stop me, break me or defeat me.” Then, when you struggle to eat breakfast, exercise regularly or plan your eating, recognise that these things can’t beat you either. They are not much of a challenge compared to what you have already achieved. If you build up this ammunition as you slowly work towards improvement, physical or otherwise, there is nothing you won’t be able to take down.
James McDonald is a certified Athletic Therapist and Strength and Conditioning coach, experienced in working with wide variety of clientele. From recreation level runners and MMA fighters, and from Pro Hockey players to amateur Quidditch players, he loves to work with anyone and everyone he can help. So, if you need to get healthy or be better at what you love to do, FREE individual consultation sessions as well as one on one treatment sessions can be booked online with Remedy Wellness.