As we said in Part 1, we have not lost our minds and there are two good reasons for this dare. If you missed the first one, check out our previous post.
The second reason is that positive behaviors related to health and fitness often come from a negative mental state. Two people can be equally meticulous with their diets and exercise regimens, yet one person’s behavior is rooted in love for their body while the other’s behavior is rooted in insecurity, anxiety, or fear.
As you eat a Chicken McNugget (or fries if you’re vegetarian) pay close attention to all thoughts and feelings that arise. Keep in mind that we often experience thoughts and feelings in many layers, with some clearly at the surface and others implied or buried beneath assumptions. Here are some negative thoughts and feelings to watch out for:
- Disgust (If you don’t like the nugget that’s one thing; disgust with yourself is another.)
- Pleasure accompanied by guilt or shame for feeling pleasure
- Thoughts or images of yourself with a disease from eating the nugget
- Perceiving yourself as fatter after eating the nugget
- Urge to weigh or measure yourself to assess the damage
- Plans to “beat” this exercise by compensating for the nugget with extra exercise or dietary restrictions
- Urge to punish yourself somehow
- Rationalizing ways to get out of eating the nugget, such as not wanting to set a bad example for the kids. Of course, if you have a legitimate medical reason you can replace the nugget or fries with a candy bar or other sinful item.
These thoughts and feelings may stem from one or more of these negative mindsets, even if your rational mind rejects them:
- I feel good about myself when I stick to a strict diet and exercise regimen. I feel strong, disciplined and hard-working. A less strict lifestyle would make me feel lazy and weak.
- Uncertainty in life makes me feel fear or anxiety. Hence, I do everything I can to exert control over my life, and live with the false belief that as long as I follow this strict regimen (and carry pepper spray, and disinfect everything I touch, and drive the speed limit, and buy an expensive air purifier…) I will definitely live a long, healthy life.
- I feel inadequate. Improving my body will make me feel confident and worthy of love and respect.
- I feel ashamed if I am not in peak shape, as if others will think and talk badly about me.
- I feel insecure when I am not the strongest/fastest/sexiest in the group, so I approach fitness as a competition.
The truth is that making your life simpler does not make you lazy, and adding unnecessary stress is bad for your health; many aspects of life are beyond your control; and your body does not equal your value as a human being. Chances are your rational mind agrees with these truths. You might even dismiss these negative thoughts and feelings as they rise to the surface. But beneath the surface they continue to influence your emotions and actions; you cannot just will them away.
You will not change negative mindsets overnight, but here is your first step: Seek out, acknowledge, and unpack all of your thoughts and feelings without judging yourself for them. Bringing them to the surface disarms them, preventing them from influencing your behavior beyond your conscious awareness.
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