People who successfully change old habits in order to live a healthier lifestyle seem to have at least two things in common. First, many experienced a clear turning point in life where they finally acknowledged the extent of their poor physical condition. Second, they refused to accept poor health any longer and committed to doing whatever was necessary to correct the situation.
These changes of attitude are critical because the natural tendency of most people is to first deny or minimize how obesity and poor fitness is affecting their long-term health and then to justify or excuse their poor habits as just too difficult to change right now.
A shift of perspective must accompany behavioral changes if they are to stick and eventually become habit.
If you are willing to make three MENTAL SHIFTS, you can more easily change old habits to become lean, strong and healthy:
INSTEAD OF “I must deprive myself of food in order to lose weight.” TRY “I eat well to live well.”
THE PROBLEM is that most people have been taught that food is bad and to view it in terms of calories; cut back on food and thus calories and lose weight. This is technically correct but not the best approach and not a sustainable plan for the long haul.
A SOLUTION is to view food as the source of energy, growth, repair and resistance to disease. If food is of high quality then there is nothing that should be eliminated. Therefore questions about what to eat are answered by choosing foods that are nutrient rich. (Coincidentally, these are also the foods that are not calorie dense and so serving size becomes less important.) View high-quality food as the source of great health and vigor. Choose the best; eat consciously and enjoy. You are a first-class person; why fuel your body with second-rate junk?
INSTEAD OF “Exercise is a painful and unpleasant prescription I must endure to burn calories and get healthy.” TRY “Physical activity is natural to humankind. My ancestors couldn’t avoid it and, as a child, I called it play.”
THE PROBLEM is that many people have been inactive for so long that exercise is difficult and unfamiliar and they view it as a boring and bitter medicine.
A SOLUTION is to seek out a variety of activities you enjoy, that keep you on your feet and physically active. Not all activity has to be “formal” exercise. Make a point to plan your time and include leisure activities that involve being on your feet and in motion: a new hobby, trips to parks, museums, short hikes, time with kids. Don’t overestimate your ability but minimize time spent sitting around. This is as much about a change in attitude and being a “physical person” as it is about exercise. Keep formal exercise simple and start very gradually. Walk. If five or ten minutes is all you can do at first, then do that; it is far more important to create a regular habit than to push too hard too soon. Whatever you do, don’t count calories but set modest goals, enjoy the movement of your body and relish the steady improvement of your physical capabilities.
INSTEAD OF “Circumstances and events make it impossible for me to stick with a healthy lifestyle.” TRY “I take 100% responsibility for the direction of my life, no matter what happens to me.”
THE PROBLEM is that most people make excuses for their situation by blaming circumstances and events that appear beyond their control. After a while their reasoning begins to sound reasonable and they lose the initiative to seek solutions to difficult problems.
A SOLUTION is to make the choice to always accept 100% responsibility for your response to every event, even if the event is beyond your control. Doing this will affect the outcome of that event and you will always make the best of every situation.
This attitude is the underlying mental shift that makes all the others possible. Unfortunately, it is the one that few will embrace even though it is the one that can set them free.
For a start, make a personal commitment to apply these three mental shifts to how you view life. Then when you are faced with a setback or difficult circumstances, stop, evaluate the facts and choose a proactive response. If you set your mind to the task you can always make the best of any situation.