In my presentations and lectures on health and weight management, I reference not only the ‘what and how to’ of any particular subject I am speaking on, but also the emotional and mental states that one must implement in order to follow through on necessary and desirable lifestyle changes, whether it’s reversing cardiovascular disease or losing 20 pounds.
Behavioral change must always precede attainment of long-lasing results
Lifestyle change requires courage and positive thinking. But positive thinking is not enough. Your best intentions for yourself must turn into positive ‘doing.’ Therefore, positive thinking must be taken to the next level.
Most people want to become healthy and slimmer. They really do. However, most people do not stick with a program long enough to get the results they desire. They give up, get discouraged and return to the original habits that made them sick and overweight in the first place.
What do we all want? To change. “Something must change”, we say to ourselves.
But what’s one of the the hardest things to do in life? To change our behavior.
First, understand that the major reason anyone does anything is to change the way they feel. That’s the bottom line.
If you lose weight and keep it off it’s because you FEEL more confident, or loved or happier. If you have reversed a serious lifestyle-induced disease it’s because you didn’t want to FEEL the insecurity and fear associated with premature death lurking just around the corner. If you analyze any past success you have enjoyed you will probably find that an emotional component played the biggest part in getting you to follow through – the drive to get ‘there’ was fueled by your emotional state, whether positive or negative.
How you feel at any given moment is determined by:
1. How you move or hold your body
Every emotion you experience is first felt in your body. If you want to feel passionate, start by speaking more quickly and louder, moving more rapidly, and take on the ‘physiology’ of enthusiasm: stand tall, shoulders back and breathe fully. In the same way if you want to feel depressed, slump your shoulders, look at the ground, breathe shallowly, frown and speak in a whisper. The way you use your body biochemically changes how you feel.
2. What you focus on or pay attention to
The next thing that determines how you feel is what you decide to focus on. To feel happy, focus on things in your life that make you feel happy. Ask yourself questions like, “What am I happy about in my life right now?” or remember happy moments from the past, like a fun birthday, a promotion or a child’s graduation. By changing what you focus on can change your emotional state quickly.
Whatever you focus on, you feel. Whatever you pay attention to consistently, you get more of.
To feel depressed you have to focus on things entirely differently. You need to be deleting all the good that’s going on in any given moment, remaining focused on the negative. If you asked yourself, “What really sucks in my life right now?”, I’m sure you’d be able to find something and end up feeling lousy. Or if I said to you, ‘Remember a time when you felt depressed, like when your dog died or you got fired’ – you’d feel those same emotions you felt back then, perhaps with less intensity.
Many people relive the misery of their past every day and wonder why they constantly feel down. Alternatively, if they chose to focus instead on future goals that gets them really excited, this would turn around negative feelings in an instant. Or better still, if they were to ask themselves what they could be grateful for in their lives at this very moment, their emotional state would rise immediately into the positive zone.
If you say things like, ‘I feel really tired’ or ‘This is too hard’, you will literally feel tired and frustrated.
3. Your choice of words, tone and voice timbre as you express yourself
The words you choose to express yourself and the tone and timbre of your voice can change how you feel immediately. Notice the subtleties of your speech when you are happy and when you are angry. I’ll bet you use two entirely different language patterns!
If you say things like, ‘I feel really tired’ or ‘This is too hard’, you will literally feel tired and frustrated. Word patterns like that are not empowering. You can change this instantly by instead saying to yourself, ‘I feel incredibly energetic right now’ and ‘It may be hard, but I have done hard things before and have gotten through it.’ Try to reverse your disempowering phrases and observe how it works. It is magical.
Different words have different emotional states associated to them and some more than others. Being aware of your vocabulary, statements, phrases, and metaphors are crucial to how you feel moment to moment.
The truth is, you can feel any emotion you want by DECIDING to feel it.
Emotions can be chosen. No one makes you feel ‘happy’ or ‘angry’; emotions are based on how you’re interpreting each situation in your life and the meaning you associate to it.
Why you must be concerned with taking charge of your emotions.
Because your behavior is determined by how you feel.
You will do whatever makes you feel good and avoid doing things that make you feel bad.
It’s simply a fusion of physiology and psychology. For example, if you have associated happy thoughts and good feelings to eating lots of chocolate, you will eat it no matter what logic you try to dissuade yourself with such as, ‘It’s not good for me because it makes me fat.’ Your feelings about chocolate override your decision not to eat it. Feelings are that powerful.
If you have associated eating veggies and exercising to negative thoughts and yucky feelings, you won’t eat them or go for a walk despite your best intentions.
I remember as a little boy being told to eat spinach. I hated spinach. I wasn’t going to eat it no matter what. But my grandmother said to me, “What does Popeye eat to make him strong?”
“Spinach”, I said.
I used to watch Popeye cartoons every day and thought it was great how he was able to defend his friend Olive Oil from much bigger guys than he. So, I began to eat spinach and eventually liked it. My grandmother shifted my perception and feelings about spinach with that one little question. I began to associate spinach to feeling stronger, powerful and heroic.
You change what you focus on by asking yourself different questions.
Learn how to ask yourself better questions in order to get more effective results. Your brain is always asking and answering questions of itself. If you want better answers, ask better questions by taking conscious control of this automatic question and answer process. Ask yourself more empowering questions.
For example, don’t ask “Why do I always fail when trying to lose weight?” because the brain will answer, “Because you are a weak-willed dingbat!” And that response does not make you feel good. Ask better or more inspiring questions such as “What can I do next time to succeed that I missed out on before?” And then you visualize yourself doing those things in your imagination successfully. Notice how you feel as you visualize yourself losing weight by effectively accomplishing each previously missed step.
Make positive emotions a habit. Try and not let other people push your buttons. If you don’t attempt to manage your emotions, they’ll run you. Instead, if you do develop a higher measure of control, the lifestyle changes you desire will become a reality instead of a fantasy or worse – believing that you will never achieve lasting health and effective weight loss.
Past failures are never permanent if you understand how to powerfully link up feelings of emotional pleasure to healthy habits and intense emotional pain to unhealthy habits, the ones that lead to disease and obesity. You do this by telling yourself how great your life will be as a thinner healthier person and conversely the consequences of not changing your behavior. If you link up ‘pleasure’ and ‘pain’ in your brain to these 2 scenarios, you will be putting your brain into a more resourceful state to help you follow through.
In my next post I will discuss ‘Babalui’, the seductive saboteur inside each one of us that tries to derail us from our chosen health goals. There are effective ways to deal with him/her and they are very important to understand and master. If you don’t learn to recognize Babalui, you will always succumb to the charms of this seducer within. How do you recognize Babalui’s ‘voice?’ You know it when you hear a whisper that says, “One won’t hurt”, knowing full well that by eating or drinking ‘one’ will inevitably lead to ‘two’ which will result in a whole bottle of booze or the entire box of chocolates being consumed.