Why Your Mindset is The Biggest Thing Keeping You from Losing Weight & How to Change It
Your mind is your biggest power. I don’t mean to sound all guru zen spiritual vibes, but I can’t say this enough. After struggling with my relationship with exercise and food throughout all of my teenage years, trying out whatever there is to try on the market, nothing had actually helped to get to the root cause of my crazy obsessions. Quite the opposite happened actually. Every time I reached out for something to get out of the cycle, it just created new obsessions and new rules, like starting new diets, cleanses, over-exercising and so on. Instead of making it easier, it became harder and harder to fit into boundaries. At the end of the day, it always came down to willpower, which essentially is a fight against yourself.
If you’re someone like me, who is naturally stubborn and determined, will power is sort of a natural ability. It doesn’t take too much to just get over yourself and stick to whatever challenge you set for yourself. Where it goes wrong is when your willpower is your best friend in helping you get what you want out of life, but there is this one area where you keep losing and losing and losing and losing until you start questioning yourself, your ability to achieve, your confidence in yourself and your self-trust. You begin fighting against yourself and that’s where achieving anything becomes difficult. You can’t win a battle by fighting your own army.
So what do you do?
Learning from my experience and hearing my clients’ stories and struggles, and subsequent wins and results, it has become clear that the following three mindset shift steps play a huge role in the process of stepping into your power, owning your lyfe and breaking free from binging and purging forever, so that you can FINALLY be more free, more confident, more excited about life, while also looking your best.
1. UNDERSTANDING & DEFINING THE ROOT CAUSE(S)
I have learned that you can’t fully move on and grow if you don’t let yourself go through a situation fully immersed in it and feeling all the feelings that come with it. During hard times, we are tempted to increase the pace of our lives, to always be busy, so that there is no time for us to be left alone with our thoughts and feelings. The truth is that sooner or later, you will go through it and be forced to feel it all. That’s the reason why life gives us lessons - to learn and not to run away from them. Have you ever experienced it when a certain situation seems to happen again and again and you wonder why? Probably because life keeps giving you another chance to learn and grow.
I have also learned that some things that may seem completely unrelated can cause problems and leave you wondering how did that happen. I’m an example of it. A lot happened during my teenage years, but I never allowed myself to feel it, accept it and move on. I felt like everyone else has their own problems and I never spoke to anyone about anything. I moved to Ireland, where I realised that school is not as fun as what I was used to and that I actually had to put in time and effort to keep up the good grades. It was perfect though, because it kept me busy all the time and I had no time to worry.
Fast forward to graduating from university, my relationship with food and exercise was terrible and I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. I was no longer a mad dieter, I no longer over-exercised to make up for cheat meals, but something was still not right. Very often I found myself anxious and stressed out when a situation had anything to do with food. My anxiety began showing in other areas of life, to the point where from loving being alone and feeling completely comfortable with myself and my own thoughts, I could no longer spend too much time by myself, because I couldn’t handle my own thoughts. I couldn’t sleep at night and didn’t see the point of getting up in the mornings. Everything else seemed to be going downhill.
After months of feeling depressed but not knowing what was wrong with me, I decided to do what made me uncomfortable - be alone and let all my thoughts come to me. I went away by myself, cried heaps for all the tears I was avoiding all my life, and gave myself space by not allowing any opinions and suggestions to affect my choices. I had no clue what I was doing, and what it would come to, but what I understood and learned after that miserable period was one of the biggest steps of growth I have ever experienced.
One of the things I understood was that my insane obsessions related with food and exercise were only a disguise of a problem I hadn’t solved. My conscious wanted me to be in control of my life and my behaviour and not let life affect me, but my subconscious kept disappointing me by testing my control, which showed up as disordered eating. Once I allowed my thoughts in and let myself feel, I was able to define my own personal root cause that was keeping me stuck in the cycle of fad dieting and binging, and finally break free from my own mental prison. The results of breaking free showed up in the most positive ways - my mind felt light and free, my thoughts were no longer my enemy, and my body followed the positive energy of my mind in a sense that I no longer had to punish myself with crazy ways of eating and overly exhausting workout routines to look and feel good in my own skin. As I became much happier on the inside, it projected through to the outside and everything began to flow naturally.
In short, don’t keep in anything that sets you on a low. Go through it and grow from it. Let yourself feel. Remember that you need silence for you mind to speak up. Everything will start flowing so naturally and easily without pushing and forcing, and you’ll wonder why didn’t you know this before. Understanding and defining the root cause(s) of your behaviour around food and exercise and anything else in general is essential for being able to break free from the Greatness & Guilt cycle, and ultimately, look your best because you FEEL your best. Remember, you have to start from within when you want to fix something on the outside.
2. SEPARATING THE CONSCIOUS FROM THE SUBCONSCIOUS
One you understand and define the root cause, the next step is separating your conscious from the subconscious. Here is why:
Your conscious mind is responsible for logical and critical thinking, short-term memory and will power, while your subconscious is where your intuition, emotions, habits, values, creativity, long-term memory, sense of protection and addictions “live”. Usually, your two minds work together. For example, the subconscious gives the conscious mind a sign that you’re feeling hungry and your conscious mind thinks: I’m hungry. I need to eat. When it comes to binge eating, it is common that the habit stems from anxiety, stress or some kind of negative emotions. Your subconscious “feels” the negative feelings, but instead of simply noting the feelings and letting your conscious know that you’re upset or anxious, it provides you with a solution right away and gives a sign to the conscious: “eat everything you see”, without “consulting” with the conscious whether that’s the right solution for the situation and allowing the conscious to assess it in a logical way. The conscious goes and does what it’s told and you go and rage the pantry and the fridge.
Ironically a separation of the two minds is needed to become whole. This is further divided into two steps:
- Calling out on your subconscious
This can be done by asking yourself: what is the real reason why I’m about to do this, e.g. have a night time fridge rage? Is something bothering me? What can I do to change it? Am I actually hungry/thirsty? What exactly am I craving? Is my body giving me a sign that it needs certain nutrients or am I falling for the trick of the subconscious? Asking these questions before giving in has helped me avoid binging and feeling guilty about it so many times.
- Replacing the habit
Another way of tricking your brain is replacing the habit of binging by choosing something you can do instead when the cravings kick in. One of my choices is exercise. It helps release serotonin (a happiness hormone) and that’s a solution in itself, because who binges when they’re feeling all happy and high on life? Another choice that does the trick for me is making myself busy. I have noticed that my journeys to the fridge become more frequent when I’m bored. To avoid these situations, I grab my laptop and go to one of my local coffee shops. For some reason I can work until my laptop dies when I’m away from home and it also keeps my mind off cravings. Two wins in one go!
3. USING YOUR WILL POWER WITHOUT TURNING IT AGAINST YOU
Once you implement all of the two steps of separating your conscious and the subconscious, you can start treating the two brains separately. What I mean is that you can rationally understand whether your brain is trying to trick you and what can you do to avoid falling for its traps. When you think you’ve made friends with your subconscious and it’s not trying to trick you as often, begin to use your conscious mind’s ability of will power without turning it against you. This can be done by embracing all possible triggers.
You probably think I was meant to say avoiding triggers, not embracing. I was meant to say embracing because knowing from my own experience, I don’t believe in avoiding. Avoiding can be as simple as not keeping any junk food at home, but real bingers know that going to the nearest shop when you’re craving is not a problem. So what can you do to stop yourself from falling into the guilt trap? You can’t be avoiding social gatherings all your life just so that you can avoid feeling anxious?
How is it done? Don’t avoid triggering situations, but instead, challenge yourself to “behave” - aka stick to the critical thinking of your conscious, on uncomfortable occasions during one month. Once you reach your target, you will feel so good that you won’t want to fall back into the trap. Also, research has shown that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. Adding an extra week gives your brain a chance to forget about your old habits, so that you are less likely to fall back into the cycle.
My main point of this blog post is that as you may already know, no diet and no killer exercise routine is going to change you unless you change your mindset. Change from within is the only way you’ll be able to sustain your new healthy habits, and actually see and feel the results you want. I feel like I repeat myself so much saying that it all starts from within, but it really does! Just like anything else in life. You can’t fix a tumbling house by painting on a new layer to make it look pretty. You need to work on improving the main building blocks if you want to avoid having to spend more resources on fixing the outer layers once the cracks in the walls appear again. It’s the same with us - we need to clear our thoughts, let things flow and change our mindset, and only then use cosmetic cover ups like exercise and diet to give us the final touches. Otherwise, the stress and the negative thoughts will always be stronger than the cosmetic changes we are trying so hard to stick to and maintain.
Improving our inner building blocks is a huge proportion of the work that I do with my clients. If you’re interested how I do that, book a complimentary Health Goals call and we can discuss what are the best methods and solutions for you personally.