How are these myths are holding you back?
“I can’t do that!” she exclaimed when we first met. Six month later she said, “I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner.”
In my career as a Personal Trainer, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Coach, I've heard many reasons that people struggle to take care of their health. I've also listened to some wildly untrue assumptions about why people are healthy and why they're unhealthy.
Here are the top 5 myths I hear all the time and how you can use them to propel you forward.
1. Healthy people love to exercise and go to the gym. Most healthy people I know do NOT love going to the gym, and most don't love to exercise. What they love are the results they get from moving their bodies frequently. Some don't do formal workouts at all. But they are active throughout the day. One of my favorite quotes from Jack LaLanne, the godfather of the modern fitness movement, is, "I hate exercise, but I love the results." I remember the first time I read an interview with him. I was dumbfounded when I read that he hated exercise. How could he hate exercise? What he hated was getting up at 5am to do what he had to do. He did it because doing so gave him the body and health that he so deeply treasured. This belief holds you back: If you don't love exercise, you will never get your body moving. You will believe you're hopeless and will never lose weight or be healthy because you don't enjoy exercise. Use this to propel you forward: Experiment. Know that there is no single way to do things. You can't be right or wrong in your choice of activity to get your body moving. The important thing is to move, whether walking, cycling, weights, Zumba, housework, gardening, or working in a physically demanding job. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you move consistently. Yes, that means every day.
2. We eat boring food. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here's the thing, when you understand what your body craves to be healthy, you can't help but make it delicious. I eat anything I want. What's different between you and me is that what I want is also good for me. If what you crave is fatty, highly processed, sugary foods, then it's time to change. It's also understandable that for right now, that's where you are. Remember, just because you crave bad-for-you items right now doesn't mean you'll want them forever, even if you've always craved them. Highly processed, high fat, high sugar foods appeal to our body chemistry.
Back when we hunted and gathered, sweet foods were fruit. We didn't find fruit often. Fruit is sweet and packed with nutrition. We evolved to crave sweet tastes because sweet became associated with nutrients. When we found fruit, our sweet craving kicked in, and we ate a lot of it. High-fat foods were nuts and seeds, also extremely valuable to our health. Today's processed foods keep us stuck because these natural instincts are overly satisfied with Twinkies and pizza.
This belief holds you back: If you believe you will hate all healthy foods, you won't try new foods that are healthier for you. You will also try healthier foods, and you will hate them. Your taste buds are accustomed to overly exaggerated flavors, so healthy foods taste sour or bland. You'll then throw your hands up, say, "I just don't like that healthy stuff," and stay stuck where you are.
Use this to propel you forward: There are two options:
- Make a hard-core, cold-turkey switch from what you're eating now to a diet of all unprocessed, whole fruits, veggies, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. (Forksoverknives.com is a great place to find healthy, easy, delicious recipes to help you with the switch.
- Make a gradual change: limit processed foods to once or twice a week, reduce added sugar in drinks, find one fruit you like and make sure you have at least one serving of it daily, increasing the variety and number of servings of fruit, veggies, etc. over time. Look for ways to substitute whole, plant foods for the meat, dairy, or processed foods you currently eat.
3. We're uptight/controlled. The healthier you are, the more relaxed you are. When we're eating foods that cause inflammation, pain, and an over-active immune response, we are in a constant state of stress and anxiety. We don't recognize it (because it's how we're used to feeling). This constant state of anxiety influences every interaction we have, whether on Twitter or in person. When you work out your stress and emotions by moving your body and feed it what it really wants (anti-oxidants, fiber, vitamins & minerals, water), your body hums along, you are more relaxed. That comfortable feeling shows up in all of your other interactions. When your body is happy, you also know that if you occasionally eat something unhealthy or miss a workout, it's not the end of the world. You understand that life can get in the way, you just prioritize your health, and it doesn't derail you.
This belief holds you back: You don't want to be "that guy" or "that gal," who obsesses over her weight and workout. You don't want your friends to think you're overly disciplined. You want to be seen as flexible and "go with the flow." You never even start to make a change because of your fear of becoming someone you don't want to be. Our beliefs dictate our behavior. Your mind says, "Being healthy = being uptight = unpopular = lonely/alone." This underlying belief will have you joining a gym and not going or going occasionally but not enough to make a difference. This belief will have you ordering hot wings when you know you could make a healthier choice.
Use this to propel you forward: Make healthy choices a habit, not a restriction. When you focus on what you're giving up or what you can't have, life can feel restricted, and you will feel like you are punishing yourself all the time. Instead, focus on all new foods (fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes, seeds) that you may never have tried before and be excited about experimenting. When going out to eat with friends, explore new options on the menu. Try exotic fresh fruits and veggies (you only have to buy one to try something new). Think about all of the things you will be able to do when your body is healthy. What will you do when you move well and without restriction? Life becomes exciting and new. It's easier to be relaxed and excited about all of the new things you are doing.
4. We live and die by the scale. Most of the healthy people I know don't ever step on the scale. Many don't even own a bathroom scale. A scale is a tool for checking in on your body, but it should not rule your life. Here's what you want to remember about the scale…it's a measure of gravity's pull on your body. Doesn't seem so scary when we think of it that way, does it? You can have drastically different bodies at the same weight, depending on how much of your weight is muscle vs. fat. At the same weight, I've been a size 8 and a size 12. If I had been focused entirely on the scale, I would have been devastated that I hadn't lost any weight. What I lost was body fat. I replaced it with muscle. Plus your weight can fluctuate 5 pounds in a week. This can leave you elated on Monday and emotionally wrecked on Friday.
This belief holds you back: If you weigh yourself every day and beat yourself up for what it says, you have to break the cycle. Living by the scale can wreck your emotions and your eating habits. On "heavy" days may eat more calories or more unhealthy foods because you're trying to soothe the hurt and disappointment you feel. Alternatively, you may be super-restrictive on "heavy" days to make up for your bad behavior. Either scenario distracts you from focusing on your long-term goals.
Use this to propel you forward: Break up with your scale. It's time to throw it out. There are many other ways to track your progress, especially if you are focused on building a healthy life and body for the long term. You can use body measurements, clothing sizes, feats of strength and endurance. For this last one, that could mean getting to the top of the stairs without feeling like you just ran a marathon. It could mean picking up grandkids or getting on the floor to play with them. You can also use photos to see your progress. Yes, we all hate the before pics, but sometimes a photo can show changes that you don't notice when looking in a mirror day after day.
5. We're born this way. We all have different body types and metabolism burn rates, correct. These are the genetic cards we are dealt. The question is, what do you do with your cards? You can trade up and make the best of the hand you have, or you can stick with what you have and lose the game. No matter what genetic hand you've been dealt, you can use fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle habits to be your healthiest. One of my clients lost just 10 pounds and by changing her lifestyle habits eliminated "pre-diabetes." I had another client who had been on blood pressure medication for his entire adult life. He thought he was doomed to be on these meds forever because his dad, his grandad and his brother all died young of heart disease. By changing his eating habits, losing weight, and exercising, he came off all of his blood pressure medications and is now completing "century rides" (cycling events of 100+ miles).
This belief holds you back: If you believe genetics is the dividing line between healthy, fit, or slim, you will do nothing to change your health. This belief is the most crippling belief I come across when speaking with potential clients. This belief removes all power from your hands and puts it in the hands of medical institutions and pharmaceutical companies.
Use this to propel you forward: Take action and notice the small stuff. The only way to prove this belief is false to yourself is to take action and recognize when little things are getting better. When we start making changes, we expect "The Biggest Loser" types of changes. That's great for TV, but not how it works in real life. Start a journal. Start making a change and then tune in to your body and notice what is changing. The changes are the truth that will stack up over time and prove to you that this is a false belief. When this happens, and you recognize the control you have over your own life and health, your world will change. This is also where a friend, accountability partner or coach can have a tremendous impact. We don't often notice small changes for ourselves, or if we do, we think they somehow don't count. The power is in the seemingly small stuff.
Time for some more storytelling. I had a client in her 60s who used to sit down in the shower to shave her legs. She wasn't strong enough to stand balanced on one leg to accomplish this task. After a few weeks of strength and balance training, she shyly told me about this seemingly insignificant improvement. I was over-the-moon excited for her. Why? Think about it. If you sit to shave your legs every day because you're not strong enough to stand safely on one leg in the shower, how will that influence your other activities? You will stop walking on trails…they're uneven footing. You'll spend more of your day seated because you're unsure of yourself. Your entire world will begin to shrink, and you'll get weaker every day. You'll be defeated and stop trying to make changes.
If, on the other hand, you celebrate a small win like this, your life will expand. You will recognize that you can make changes and get stronger. You will want to do more.
What else is holding you back? What other myths do you believe about healthy people? How are they preventing you from taking control of your health, your body, and your life? Comment here.