Too many of us let "brain propaganda" highjack our lives. You know what I am talking about: "Who cares if I hit the snooze button and miss my workout just this once?" Or, "I can eat this cake -- what does it matter?" Or, "Why even try to lose weight... I am just going to fail. I can't do anything right."
We are all human and thus to some degree will always struggle against unproductive brain propaganda, but it is a matter of what actions you take to counter that propaganda.
To paraphrase what Snape said to Harry Potter, "We all have dark and light inside of us. It is what we DO that defines us."
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Apply that same theory to your health. We all have the potential to produce propaganda (unproductive thoughts) and news (productive thoughts): it is how you manage your thoughts that matters. STOP talking about how you want to improve your health while simultaneously berating yourself for your choices -- that just leads to an unproductive toxic loop of inaction, shame, self-doubt and more inaction.
An attitude toward something is different than a practice. Stop saying you will work out and start actually being someone who DOES work out.
How? Deal with the propaganda in your head. Shift your mindset.
Stop resenting the "have to" nature of health.
First, embrace that the act of making a choice is an inherent privilege of being alive. Stop feeling forced into better health. "Adulting" involves making choices -- including health choices. Embrace and find joy in that. Own your choices. When you want to make an unhealthy choice, ask yourself "why?" Who are you trying to impress? Who are you trying to rebel against? Too often we give into social food pressures to be part of something, or to protect someone's feelings. Or we react to health with something akin to adolescent rebellion. Get over that. You are an adult. Make healthy choices FOR YOURSELF.
Stop resenting the "have to" nature of health -- resentment is like ingesting poison to kill the person you hate. You are only damaging yourself.
Second, normalize the desire to make unhealthy choices -- that just makes you human. Some amount of negative brain propaganda will always exist. Find ways to counter it. For example, often when my alarm goes off for 6 a.m. bootcamp, my brain propaganda works overtime -- "You need sleep...Your friends won't mind if you don't show..."
Now, if I really did need the sleep, that would be another thing, but somewhere deep down -- even at 5:30 a.m. -- I know that my brain is trying to trick me. That if I really needed sleep I would have decided that the night before. To fight my brain propaganda, I use my tried and true coping mechanisms. I turn on ALL the lights and go to the bathroom to wake myself up. Then I say, "Your future self will be happier if you work out. Skipping your workout will make your whole day worse. Plus, you want to see your friends." I always go, and I always feel like a million bucks after.
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How to kick that brain propaganda to the curb
Live by the Kathleenism that unrealistic expectations are the seeds of discontent and realistic expectations are the seeds of happiness. Set realistic body and lifestyle expectations. Brain propaganda will ALWAYS win if what you are trying to accomplish is unrealistic for your genetics or current lifestyle.
Have an end goal, but be flexible on execution. "Plot your destination, but if you experience traffic, re-route." Don't allow brain propaganda to stop the journey -- find alternative ways to arrive at your destination. For example, if you planned to run after work and your fitness buddy cancels, instead of using it as an excuse to skip, embrace some solo time or use it as an opportunity to get quality time with your significant other by going for a walk or a workout. There are SO many ways to get to the same place. If one strategy doesn't work, use another one.
Stop focusing on all the ways you might fail or on all the negative things that could happen. That is 100 per cent simply brain propaganda. At the very least, when you imagine possible bad outcomes ALSO imagine scenarios in which you succeed.
Just do it. Think "activation before motivation."
List the times in your life when you have been the healthiest. What actions did you take at that time? Do them. List what makes you happy. Find ways to do those things. List the things and attitudes that "get in your way" -- your unique forms of brain propaganda. Strategize ways to get rid of those thoughts and actions. Memorize helpful mantras you can say to yourself when assaulted by unproductive propaganda.
Don't engineer such detailed "plans" for starting that you never actually start.
Embrace the reality that most of us never actually feel like starting or doing anything; a secret truth of adulting is that finding the activation energy to start something is hard.
So, just do it. Think "activation before motivation." Think "doing will change mood." Act with the attitude you want to have. Do something for 10 minutes. You will always feel better once you start.
Create a life in which you are loyal to yourself. Become your compassionate best friend -- someone who wants you to become the best version of yourself that you can be. Someone who encourages you to learn from your experiences, but also does not fan feelings of body shame, self-hate, and brain propaganda.
Parent and love yourself -- do the crap you don't want to do in order to be the person you do want to be. Love yourself enough to demand more of yourself without conflating demanding more with self-criticism and shame.
If you don't build loyalty to yourself... who will?
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