Everyone wants to change their health and fitness habits. So why is taking the first step so hard?
What stops us?
Mostly our brains. One problem is a fundamental law of physics: simple inertia. A body at rest tends to remain at rest unless and until acted upon by an outside force. Overcoming inertia takes energy. But brains hoard energy. They need that whack from an outside force like a mean dog bearing down on us, or an upcoming family reunion or vacation, or bad news from the doctor to make us move.
Another problem is our brains love stories. Sometimes stories are useful like when they help us understand events or motivate us. But from what clients tell me, their health and fitness stories are more often full of scary questions about the unknown: If I get in better shape, will I lose my friends who didn’t? Do I deserve to be successful? What if I improve my health but my partner doesn’t? How can I eat better if my partner won’t? My family isn’t going to want to eat what I eat. How will I manage? If I change my appearance, I’ll get a lot of attention-how will that make me feel? What kind of people are these new admirers? Why didn’t they pay attention to me before? And the biggest one: What if I fail?
Every time we fail, believe me, the brain remembers. Part of your brain that protects you from dark alleys and poison berries will fire up and search the data base for previous failures. If it finds any, it will fight hard to get you to stop before you start-even if it means holding onto those extra 40 pounds and a pre-diabetes diagnosis. The brain doesn’t care. It will relentlessly remind you of your previous failures (ever had buyer’s remorse?) until you sit back down. Or never get up.
What can we do to get past our brain’s force-field? Perhaps the best thing we can do for ourselves is to remember that we invent most of our fears. Fear = False Expectations Appearing Real. We start telling ourselves imaginary stories full of potential problems and therefore inevitable failures. And we keep re-writing the stories with each new fearful situation.
What can we do about this?
Try telling yourself a different story. Self-talk is real and it’s important. So is having support. As my clients tell me 6 months after starting out with us, “What was I thinking?? This is actually fun!” Your brain loves stories. So why not use that knowledge to create success. Ask yourself, “What would life look like if I aced this?” And start writing from there…