Back in 2012, I was writing a lot of fitness blogs about my struggles and temptations with my diet changes, and sweets in particular.
It struck me because I haven’t written a blog about those struggles all year, and it got me wondering why. Have I finally scared people off enough that they stop bringing in donuts and goodies to my office? Definitely not. The difference is: I am finding avoiding those temptations is much less of a struggle today than it was in 2012, and even just a few months ago.
That is when I began to recognize my own mental conditioning. I have always said that willpower is like a muscle in itself. At first, it is going to be weak and every day will be a struggle to stick to your goals, but over time, just as my physical muscles have grown, so have my willpower muscles.
A perfect example was yesterday, it was a co-workers birthday and they bought the most delicious looking caramel cake. I mean this thing looked phenomenal! I was the one who carried it to the celebration, and while the pieces were cut up and everyone around me enjoyed their piece, I did not feel an ounce of temptation. And I’m not exaggerating!
Everyone told me it was the best cake they had ever had, and I felt happy for them, and happy for myself too! As I enjoyed my sinfully good Greek yogurt in their company, I felt a sense of pride and joy from my new found strength when it comes to temptation. I haven’t had a treat of any kind since mid-January and I have no urge to have them in the near future either. I do not feel deprived, or that I am missing out. Quite the contrary, I feel happier than ever that I am NOT eating those foods!
This new found willpower couldn’t have come at a better time, with my contest prep fully engaged, and I wanted to share what I have learned over the years in hopes I can help other people break the cycle of their struggles when making changes in their life.
Diet and exercise go hand in hand obviously, with diet (in my opinion) being about 80% responsible for your fitness results. Without your diet being on point, you’re never going to shed the fat that is hiding that fit physique of yours. They both require discipline, and there are simple ways to increase your discipline and make these changes stick.
The first step I took in making these disciplined changes is to become aware and educated on how the body works. I read “The Women’s Health Diet” which I have promoted again and again, and that is because understanding the facts about processed foods, and its effects on your body was a huge eye-opener for me. Taking away the “Ignorance is Bliss” mindset is an easy way to suck the Bliss from those wasteful calories. Yes they taste good, but they wreak havoc on your body and any fitness goals you might have. So when you commit to eating something WAY off your diet plan, you not only have to betray your diet plan, but also your knowledge of what this food is doing to you internally. That knowledge added extra discipline to my daily routine. If I am PMSing and do feel tempted by something, I quickly remember what happens to my body via insulin level spikes, etc and that is normally enough to turn that craving down for good. Then I will sub it with a healthy alternative!
When you become more knowledgeable about food and your body, you begin to treat your “temple” differently. Your body is a one of a kind, and the only body you get in this life, so you begin to feel much more responsible for its well-being. Your standards for your health change. Just as I explained in the MOMENTUM blog when you begin investing a little into your health, it is only natural for you to slowly continue down that road and begin adding little commitments along the way.
Consistency is one of our basic human needs, and if you begin setting your priorities around your own health, you will naturally begin making choices consistent with that priority. It’s just deciding to change your priorities as that first step!
So if you get a gym membership, you’re naturally going to have less desire to be a couch potato all day, or eat meals that completely undo all that hard work you just put into your workout. When you begin to see results, you’re going to want to see more results, so you will further clean up your diet to ensure those gym efforts aren’t going to waste. It’s all about capturing this momentum and to keep moving in that direction until the ball literally begins rolling without any effort at all.
I never imagined I would be getting up at 5am, rolling out of bed, and heading straight to the gym. I never ever imagined I’d be capable of working out twice a day with full intensity. I never thought I’d be able to keep my diet in check for longer than three days. And yet I am doing all three things effortlessly now, and the idea of me NOT doing them makes me feel dissatisfaction!
That’s the thing with these changes: At first these adjustments seemed like the biggest deal, I bragged to everyone and I felt so proud of my commitments. But over time, the longer I’ve done them, the less extravagant they appear in my mind, and they become more of an expectation or standard that I have set for myself. Now if I skip a morning workout, I almost feel a sense of loss, because I expect that I will complete that. Heaven forbid if I ate a treat right now, I would feel a horrid sense of disappointment, because I expect much more from myself now.
We all try to live up to our own standards for ourselves, so if you raise your standards, you will try to meet and exceed those new standards. If you want to make a change, but never raise your standards for yourself – it is going to be an uphill battle the whole way and you’ll self-sabotage your results.
Some may look at this and think it sounds extreme, but to me I am so incredibly thankful for this switch in consciousness, because these habits are everything I’ve ever hoped for, and they feel effortless now! When they were a “big deal” they felt like they took a lot of effort to complete. But now they are as expected as brushing my teeth, so there is much less build up in all the effort it’s going to take me to accomplish these tasks.
So if there is something right now that you want to change and the only thing stopping you is the idea that it will be too much, too hard, or too much time; just do it anyways. It takes about 30 days to create a habit, so push through the hard times, and when it has become a habit you will be so incredibly pleased with yourself and this micro transformation in your habits! And when that habit no longer feels like much effort, guess what happens next? You feel free to take on more changes!!! You begin to think how else you can contribute to this goal of yours. It is a never ending cycle!
Momentum will continue in waves, and there is no limit to what you can accomplish when you have momentum on your side.
It all comes down to the patience and discipline you exercise while making these practices a habit. And this is where MENTAL CONDITIONING comes in. Mental conditioning is the process of enduring the hardships to develop the skills and habits you need to succeed. It’s waking up at 5am even when you’d prefer to go back to sleep, because you know the end result will come sooner and will be sweeter if you follow through on this! Mental conditioning is “working out” that willpower muscle, and gaining little bits of strength each day. It will take time, you will slip up, and you will want to quit, but every time you avoid those temptations to give up, you gain a little more strength.
To build a muscle you must first tear it, and then your body repairs the muscle and it becomes even stronger through that healing process. Same thing goes for mental strength. Your willpower gets challenged, feels weak, but you must keep pushing through that pain. You want to quit, but you don’t, and then your willpower grows a little more and a little more. And the next time it’s less of a struggle to get through the situation. Then something bigger comes up that really tests your boundaries, but you keep pushing forward, and your willpower grows yet again. This cycle will continue throughout your days, weeks, and months and you may not see the results daily, but something will happen (like the birthday cake I didn’t eat yesterday) where you recognize how far you’ve come, and you can give yourself a little mental fist-pump and flex those willpower muscles with pride in knowing you earned them!!!
The difference between a successful and non-successful person is but the sum of little decisions being made every day.
Every single decision I make throughout the day either gets me one step closer to (or one step further from) my goals. I’m making little decisions to follow through with my game plan, eating clean foods, and making sure I am putting in the effort need to in order to succeed. Every choice counts!!
So you don’t need to be going to the extremes that I am going, but you could change a few small decisions in your day, just as I do, and let those become good habits! Any bad habit can be turned into a good one; all it takes is the decision that you want to change!
Your health is like an investment: you will only ever get the returns for what you put in.
You wouldn’t expect to make a million dollars by investing $10 right?! So why are you expecting a fitness model body by eating a “so-so” diet and putting in a couple days in the gym? Those girls on the magazine covers are eating clean year-round, training every day (sometimes twice a day) and are conscious of everything they do in their day so they can maintain that physique.
How can you expect massive improvements in your body and health, when you’re not making MASSIVE changes to your routine? If you change a little, you’ll get a little result. If you go big, you’ll receive big results. It’s that simple! How much you want will determine how much you must give to achieve it!
There is no better cause than your health, so take some time and invest something into it. If it’s passing up on a bag of chips for your afternoon snack, great! If it’s telling your boss you don’t want a birthday cake and would prefer a fruit platter (WTG Laura!!!), fantastic! If it’s picking the rice off your sushi in front of your friends, because you don’t want the extra carbs (WTG Kirstie!!!), awesome!
You don’t necessarily need to make huge drastic changes today, but vow to make SOME changes in your life and allow your mental conditioning to evolve, and for your momentum to grow!
Understand that there is a direct connection to the effort you’re putting in, and the results you’re receiving! Take it one step at a time, and gradually you can increase the effort as you go, as your momentum shifts! As you master one commitment, add another, and eventually you will look back and be amazed at how HUGE your commitment has become! This is much easier to stick to rather than trying to take it all on in one move!
Think of moving into a new house, it would be much easier to balance one item at a time rather than trying to stack your entire bedroom set on your shoulders right?! Same goes for change. Yes, it takes a little more time for the desired result, but think of how much stress you’ll be saving yourself by doing it the more manageable way! At the end of the day, the results will come when the work is done! So get to work people!!!
Change begins with a single step in the right direction. What step are you willing to make today?
(Archived March 6, 2014)