Have you been trying to lose stubborn weight for years, but can’t seem to create meaningful change in your lifestyle? The way we think about our bodies, our food and the world can have a powerful influence on how we eat, move, live and interact with ourselves.
It’s no hocus-pocus. Our bodies do respond magnificently to our firmly-held beliefs about the world, and it’s because we consistently act out these core convictions and create the results that we unconsciously expect. In fact, we have the potential to self-sabotage in the middle of all our hard work, by focusing on the wrong parts of a lifestyle makeover.
Give calorie-counting, stair-stepping, and goal-setting a break for a minute, and consider instead how you interact with your body on a regular basis. Ask yourself these five questions to dig a little deeper into your motivations for changing your lifestyle:
1. What belief systems did your caretakers create around food and body image when you were an adolescent?
When childhood messages become embedded in our emotional operating system, it's difficult as an adult to act outside of these values. Write down some scripts about health that you frequently heard growing up. Then, write an alternate affirmation that celebrates a positive, realistic belief to replace each one.
2. What body part do you focus on when you look in the mirror?
If you find yourself feeling anxious about your appearance, you may be separating your body into out-of-context, flawed sections every time you check your reflection. Healthy, positive action rarely results from this kind of body-obsession and magnification of problem areas.
Instead, when you find yourself analyzing your stomach or thighs, take a moment to gently widen your gaze to include your entire body.
3. Do you categorize foods as “good” and “bad”?
You may, for example, cut out all fats (even plant-based ones) each time you decide to lose weight. No single food group is the enemy, however, and these extreme plans only set you up for getting derailed.
Instead, practice acknowledging all whole foods as part of a nurturing world, and do your best to include a well-rounded palate in your food preparation.
4. What messages about health do you welcome from the media into your house and mind?
What magazines call “health” is often a masquerade for the “perfect body” mystique, and we internalize this perfectionism if it we saturate ourselves with it. Take an inventory of your reading practices, because these are your true daily meditations.
Cultivate broadness in your information diet, as well as variety in your activities (and maybe cancel some subscriptions!).
5. What do you believe about your own willpower as an indicator of character?
If you connect your ability to “just say no” to your self-worth as a person, you are setting yourself up for a repeated cycle of deprivation, binging, and guilt. Next time you’re tempted to berate yourself for not living up to your own standards, don’t blame your willpower. Instead, investigate the rest of your self-care practices to see if your sleep, recreation, and nutrition are setting you up for success.
Nutritious food and fitness are both important, but they are merely factors of true health for the whole body. An authentic experience of wellness starts on the inside with your core beliefs, and the external factors will inevitably mirror what is happening beneath. So before you launch your next lifestyle overhaul, prepare to change your mind as much as you change your body.