Why do some people succeed where so many others fail? Because successfully developing a healthy lifestyle is mostly about mindset and so many of us have one that's holding us back.
One of the biggest psychological hurdles you must overcome if you want to finally have a body and life you love is black-and-white thinking. Here are seven false beliefs that will destroy every health and fitness goal you have, along with suggestions on how to get your mind right.
1. "I can't lose weight and achieve health because I hate feeling deprived."
In other words: Either I restrict myself to be healthy or I throw in the towel, eat everything I enjoy and doom myself to being unhealthy.
Why it's bogus: Committing to real food, functional movement and mastering your psychology changes your relationship with food. As your relationship with food improves, the shame and guilt you normally experience disappears and you find yourself free of triggers, totally in control.
Action plan: Ditch superficial goals and short-term plans. Work to change your relationship with food. Work diligently on the psychological aspect of the process.
2. "Either I abuse myself with exercise or I stay overweight and out of shape."
In other words: Long exercise sessions or dedicating many days of the week to exercise that's not enjoyable is required to achieve a healthy weight and physical fitness.
Why it's bogus: Exercise is absolutely a factor in health and body composition, but the foundation of any truly healthy lifestyle comes down to what you eat. Making changes in the kitchen is the best way to sustainably lose weight when paired with a non-sedentary lifestyle.
What to do instead: Walking and general physical movement is essential. Start there and make yourself less sedentary. Then, branch out into other physical activities you enjoy. Just because it seems like everyone is doing CrossFit doesn't mean you have to also. Find what works for you, find what you enjoy and can do without cringing, commit to moving your body and you'll begin to see changes.
3. "I need stronger willpower, otherwise I cave and eat destructively."
In other words: Either I find a way to have rock-solid willpower or I'm doomed to be out of control with food.
Why it's bogus: Willpower can be useful for a short period of time, but when people are led to believe that willpower is a useful long-term tool, it becomes problematic. In that context, willpower actually becomes an unhealthy eating trigger that agitates your inner rebel.
What to do instead: When you do the work to change your relationship with food and achieve important psychological and physiological perspective shifts, willpower is no longer necessary.
4. "I'm going to do P90X. This will finally be my ticket to success."
In other words: I'll succeed or fail based on my ability to consistently use the latest fitness product or fad.
Why it's bogus: First, it plays on the notion that exercise is where the majority of your progress comes from. The truth is that food is where most of your progress comes from and these fitness products rarely talk about food in a healthy way (if they talk about food at all). Second, boxing yourself in with this black-and-white thinking distracts you from what you should be doing: improving your mindset, simplifying the process, rejecting what's unsustainable and working to heal your body, not punish it.
What to do instead: Ditch your laser-like focus on finding the "latest and greatest" tools and supplements. Success lives in a return to simplicity, not in the addition of new things.
5. "I don't have enough money to be healthy."
In other words: Either you're wealthy and healthy or poor and sore.
Why it's bogus: There is almost always a way to find success within your personal situation, sometimes it just takes a little creative thinking.
What to do instead: Everyone is faced with varying obstacles and hurdles. Rather than declare healthy eating isn't a possibility on your budget, change your perspective and try thinking of "expensive" healthy food as inexpensive health care. Instead of giving up on fitness because joining a gym is too much money, focus on free modes of exercise.
6. "That's not 'on plan' so I can't have it."
In other words: I have to be perfect or there's no point in doing this.
Why it's bogus: It's perfectionism, moralism and pseudo-orthorexia all molded into one. Perfectionism is strongly linked to disordered eating. Moralism causes an emotional tug-of-war that blocks a healthy relationship with food. And pseudo-orthorexia is just plain unhelpful.
What to do instead: Ditch the "plan" mentality if you interpret it as "unbreakable rules." Focus instead on healing broken thinking, healing your body and healing your relationship with food. Focus on the constructive, not the destructive.
7. "I'll feel better when I cross the finish line."
In other words: I'll be happy/worthy/healthy/confident when I reach my goal weight.
Why it's bogus: When you reach whatever physical goal you've set, nothing will be different about your life. If you're unhappy now, you'll be unhappy then. If you're stressed now, you'll be stressed then. This isn't to say that you shouldn't strive for things — you absolutely should — but it does mean that if you want to change your life, there's more to it than just changing the shape and size of your body.
What to do instead: Address the root cause of why you're unhappy, feel unworthy or lack confidence. Excess weight, disordered eating and addiction are not causes, they're symptoms.
Have you experienced any of these examples of black and white thinking? Or, have you identified any others that have held you back in the past?