Did you know over two-thirds of American adults are considered overweight? Our country is bloated. Our waistlines are bulging. Hell, even the name of the institute that provides the weight statistic (The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) could use some trimming. We are living in excess.
How do you reverse the trend? How can you get back to a healthy lifestyle, one enabling you to live as your best self at a comfortable and healthy weight?
You could alter your eating habits. You could hit the gym more often. You could change your physical life in countless ways, but I’m willing to
“I don’t deserve to be in shape.”
“I don’t like change.”
“I have bad joints, so I can’t exercise.”
Whether explicit or subliminal, thoughts like these are more of an obstacle to a healthy body than any bag of food you could get from a drive-thru window. Your conscious mind overflows with thoughts, both positive and negative. The negative thoughts—those that will never serve you as you attempt to better yourself—will weigh you down. Your subconscious mind is programmed with countless habits and rituals that can either help or hurt you. While your subconscious mind is on cruise control, mindlessly allowing poor eating and exercise habits, the conscious mind is beating itself up. The tandem of a negative conscious mind and a subconscious mind steering you blindly into obesity can be a dangerous combination. It will never allow you to improve. That dangerous pair won’t allow you to create the change you seek.
The aim of this post is to teach you how to lighten the load. If you’re among the two-thirds of the population that is overweight, chances are your mind plays a larger role than you know. This post will teach you how to shift your mindset, raise your standards, and change your psychology to promote a healthy lifestyle.
I’m not here to give you information; I want to help you create the healthy lifestyle you desire.
You deserve a healthy body. You are worth it. It’s time for you to prove it to yourself!
80% Psychology, 20% Mechanics:
“A healthy outside starts from the inside.”
Eat fewer calories. Exercise five days a week. Eat less sugar. Eat more vegetables. Mix cardiovascular training with weight training. Balance your macronutrient intake.
Sound advice, but it’s all mechanics. Each statement is valuable and should be implemented as you strive to achieve a healthy body, but relying solely on mechanical habits won’t create lasting and permanent change in your lifestyle.
Mechanical changes to your lifestyle like the ones listed above are important, but not nearly as important as any psychological or mental shifts you make. In fact, when it comes to the breakdown of a permanent, happy, and healthy lifestyle, I’d argue mechanics make up about 20% of it. That’s right, 80% of your health and wellness depends on your psychology or mindset.
I can sense some of you may still be on the fence about this ratio favoring your mental state, so let’s consider some familiar examples to paint the picture. Have you ever seen The Biggest Loser? Even if you haven’t watched a season from beginning to end, I’m sure you’ve at least read an article about some of the amazing transformations. Or maybe you’ve tuned in for a season finale where triple-digit weight losses are the norm. Watching these contestants work their asses off and lose so much weight is inspiring. The incredible transformations are the reason the show has stayed on the air for so long.
We’d all love to think these contestants step off the stage after the final show and go on to live happy and healthy lives with their friends and families. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for some of the most successful contestants. Ali Vincent, the first woman to win The Biggest Loser, sat down with Oprah after her big win and discussed her huge weight loss. On the show, Ali had lost 112 pounds. What she told Oprah was that when she got home from the Biggest Loser ranch, she didn’t know what to do with herself. All of the structure, exercise regimens, and changes in diet were no longer present in her daily life. She didn’t have a coach screaming in her ear to keep pushing it on the treadmill. Essentially, the mechanics of her weight-loss journey broke down.
So, what happened? Her meal plans became less strict, she didn’t exercise as much, and she had the liberty to go out and have drinks with friends whenever she pleased. She ended up gaining nearly all of the weight back.
Ali is not alone. She is only one example of a long list of Biggest Loser contestants who had a tough time keeping the weight off. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases followed season-eight contestants and found thirteen of fourteen contestants gained weight back after the bright lights of TV had dimmed. This study also disclosed that the contestants endured a significant slowing of their metabolisms during their rapid transformations, making it even harder for their bodies to keep up with the demand to burn calories. Their slower metabolisms (coupled with a weight-loss plan far too focused on extreme diet and exercise) created a recipe that left the contestants closer to where they started than where they finished.
We don’t have to look far for more health transformations skewing the focus towards mechanics than psychology and mindset. Consider people who opt for bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery shrinks your stomach (either by using a gastric band to minimize it or by removing a part of it). Individuals undergoing the procedure are likely obese and have the best intentions. They want to live healthier. They don’t want to die young. They want to shed the emotional baggage accompanying their excessive weight.
Some patients find success and report weight loss over the long term. Unfortunately, many patients gain the weight back over time. In fact, in a study done by the American Medical Association in 2015, nearly half of the bariatric surgery patients researched reported significant weight gain within five years of their surgery. Why? Mechanics. Reducing the size of the stomach is about as mechanical as you can get in terms of weight loss. You literally wake up with a smaller stomach. Yes, bariatric surgery is paired with counseling, but the counseling isn’t geared towards understanding and shifting a patient’s psychology. It’s aimed at advising him/her about proper food choice, how much food to eat, and what exercise regimen to follow. Sound familiar? More mechanics.
Don’t get me wrong. Changing the food you eat and the way you exercise is essential to achieving a healthy body and lifestyle. But what deserves greater focus and energy for a lasting foundation of health is your mindset. You can’t lose 10, 20, 30 pounds (and keep it off) until you first focus on losing your limiting beliefs, negative thoughts, and emotional baggage.
Think about it. The same person who created the mess you’re in—you—is trying to get you out. The same psychological you, anyway. In order to find some permanence in your weight-loss results, you need to change as a person. You need to change your mindset. Maybe you ate so much because you were stressed. Maybe you drank too much because you were sad. Maybe you didn’t exercise because you convinced yourself you’re not an athlete. The reasons holding us back and perpetuating bad habits are numerous. If you just change the mechanics of your behavior by eating less or exercising more, you still haven’t addressed the underlying psychology that got you out of shape in the first place.
In truth, no matter who you are, the process and mechanics of your health will break down. Even the most elite athletes and top performers have off days. Maybe it’s a birthday party or Thanksgiving dinner or a night out with friends. There is going to come a time when they eat too much and exercise too little. No one is perfect. The difference between these top performers and the average human being, though, is that their mindset and psychology picks them up when they fall. They’ll wake up the next day and get right back to work without blinking an eye.
They won’t spend time telling themselves how terrible they are or how they shouldn’t have had so much food. For them, those moments of indulgence are the exception, not the rule. They feel deserving of a good body, they are willing to put in the work, and they are living a happy and healthy lifestyle. Eating a handful of Christmas cookies, skipping a workout, and drinking one too many glasses of juice are the exceptions. The exceptions will happen, but when they do, elite athletes and top performers have a rulebook—a proper psychology—to get them right back on track.
Your psychology and mindset are crucial for lasting health and wellness. Setbacks happen to everyone. No one gets a free pass. By taking the time to focus on your mental well-being, you will be able to bounce right back when you stumble. Instead of making “the donut in the morning” the rule, it will become the exception. You won’t let one mistake build momentum into another. A proper mindset will stop the bad habit in its tracks and won’t allow it to persist.
“Great, Jay. I get it. My psychology is important! But how do I work on it? How do I make it more positive? Where do I begin?”
In the words of Simon Sinek, Start With Why. Sinek wrote an entire book detailing how important it is to find your “why,” and I couldn’t agree with him more.
“What’s a ‘why’? What does that even mean?”
Well, whyare you doing this? Why do you want to be fitter? Why do you want to change your lifestyle? Why is it important for you to lose weight? Why do you want to eat better?
You need to find out whyyou want things so badly. The deeper and more powerful “why” you have, the stronger and more formidable your mindset will be. I urge you to dig deep on this subject—don’t be willing to hover over the surface. Let me show you what I mean:
Why do you want to get in better shape?
“I hate being overweight.”
Why do you hate being overweight?
“I don’t fit into any of my clothes.”
Why does not fitting into your old clothes bother you?
“I used to feel good in those clothes. I fell in love with my spouse wearing those clothes.”
Why do the clothes have such a strong connection to your spouse?
“I feel there’s a ‘disconnect’ with my partner since I’ve let myself go. I want to get back in shape to feel better about myself, but also to rekindle the fire we once had. I want to get us back.”
What’s going to help create the mindset you need for a healthier lifestyle—the fact that you hate being overweight or your desire to breathe life into your marriage? I would bet big money it’s the latter. With a larger purpose driving you towards a healthy body, you will be less tempted to grab a cookie, skip a workout, or eat a whole pizza by yourself. Those things will become the exceptions. The new rule will be working your butt off to save your marriage.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in seeing with nouveaux yeux. “
It doesn’t have to be marriage that fuels you. It could be anything significant to you. Don’t be discouraged if you feel your “why” isn’t big enough. You’ll find the more you commit to the process, the deeper your “why” will become. You’ll find greater purpose for the things you’re doing, the healthy habits you’re creating, and the hard work you put in along the way. What will begin as something small like, “I want to lose 20 pounds” will eventually blossom into, “I want to lose weight so I can keep up with my grandchildren. I want to run around with them, play with them, and watch them grow up.” What’s important is finding something—ANYTHING—significant enough to get you started. Trust me, you will find deeper meaning and a stronger “why” as you build momentum.
I hope it’s clear your psychology and mindset are going to play a bigger role than you think in your weight-loss journey. It’s a massive but often ignored part of any healthy lifestyle/weight-loss program.