Pop quiz. Which of these do you agree with?
- Healthy food is boring.
- Losing weight is painful.
- My friends want me to fail.
- A successful diet has to be maintained forever.
- Diets don’t work on me anyway.
If you agreed with any of the above, then your mindset is limiting your ability to reach your health goals.
Nothing boosts your likelihood of success more than a healthy mindset. It determines the strength of your willpower in moments of temptation, and dictates how you feel in the times when you give in.
Forcing your behaviour in a way that’s contrary to your beliefs is like swimming against a current. You work twice as hard and make half the progress.
What if you changed the direction of the current?
How to Master Your Mind
Changing mindsets is natural.
There are thousands of research papers written on the subject, and many experts out there that will happily tell you every detail of the science.
For me, I’ve seen hundreds of people come through my practice, and I’ve begun to notice patterns. It has become easy to predict who will succeed and who will throw in the towel before success is reached.
If you want to be one of those that pulls through and succeeds, you’d best know a thing or two about how and why people “change their minds”.
Take the example of having kids.
I’ve never come across someone who hasn’t had kids, doesn’t want to have kids, and yet still claims to be ready for them. “Yeah, I could handle a little tyke if one pops up.” It never happens.
Anyone who hasn’t had kids finds the prospect daunting. If you wait until you feel ready before having children, you’ll be waiting a long time. When one does “pop up”, however, a dramatic shift occurs. Priorities change. Time is found where there didn’t seem to be any before. Everything becomes less important than that little person, and the behaviours of the parents drastically change.
If 9pm seemed like the curfew of a care home before, that soon changes.
And if the belief that “early bedtimes are lame” can be changed, what do you think we can do to the belief that “healthy diets are lame”?
If the belief that “I could never be responsible for a child” can be flipped on its head, what do you think about “I could never keep to a clean lifestyle”?
The thing with all beliefs like these is that they are neither true nor false. Whatever you believe ends up being the case.
As an example, healthy diets can be dull, but they can be absolutely delicious, and way more varied and interesting than the Standard American Diet could ever hope to be. Whether your choice of foods make healthy eating interesting or not depends on what you do, what you make of it, what you learn to cook and whether you put in the time to find out about interesting new varieties of foods.
We can all see this logically, but our actions can only be one way or the other.
This is why limiting beliefs can occur. If something is believed, it is acted out, and in many cases, this can make it true, which then reinforces the belief.
It is also why beliefs can be changed and designed to push us towards our goals, as if we were being carried calmly downstream.
The method for changing limiting beliefs:
- Write down the belief. It can be anything you think is true, and which you recognise is holding you back.
- Ask yourself, is this always true? Is there anyone on this planet that might be proving this wrong?
- Research. Find real life examples that contradict the limiting belief. Find as many examples as you can and to fill your mind with them all day long. It’s tough to change a mindset without any real-world evidence, so go find some!
- Talk to people who disagree with this belief, and open yourself to their point of view.
When I counsel people one-on-one it’s a little easier to encourage a change, because getting pushed in the right direction by someone you trust is immensely powerful. If you choose not to get consultation, you’d better put pen to paper and work through this stuff as thoroughly as you feel is necessary.
To help you on the path to a more positive mindset, I’ve listed the 5 beliefs from above, and broken them down to show why they’re not true.
1) Healthy Diets Are Boring
Variation: I can’t “miss out” on all those lovely treats!
A word on missing out… What do you think you’re doing right now, if not missing out?
I see you’re not dosed up with a narcotic. Aren’t you missing out on the chemical rush?
I assume you’re not cheating on your spouse. Aren’t you missing out on all that adventure?
I’m sure you’ve been tempted to hit/slap/shove someone important, like your boss or in-law. Don’t tell me you missed out on that, too!
There are plenty of things that we don’t do, even though we feel some temptation. What holds us back are the negative consequences. The more immediate, the more effective they are at keeping us in check.
Punching your boss in the face, for example, has very immediate negative consequences, and so we don’t generally beat ourselves up about “missing out” on doing that. Sleeping around, however, can be kept secret, delaying the outward consequences for a little while, making it a little more tempting for some people.
Eating wheat, however, has no social stigma (in most circles), and the damage to your body usually takes time to manifest, which means there are few immediate negative consequences.
Suddenly, turning down a bagel becomes “missing out”.
The argument of “missing out” doesn’t make sense. There are a lot of things that we find tempting but we avoid because they are damaging to our career, or marriage, or our health. Whether the right decision feels like “missing out” or not depends largely on how immediate the negative consequences are.
But none of this will help you stop feeling like you’re missing out, right?
You can solve that by filling the void left by unhealthy food with a terrific variety of gorgeous healthy food.
Peruse some fun recipe boards on Pinterest, and watch the video below if you’re in any doubt that the healthier the produce, the more delicious the food.
Healthy diets, far from being restrictive, can actually be more varied and delicious than the Standard American Diet.
2) Losing Weight is Painful
Variation: I’m going to have to work really hard and be hungry for the rest of my life if I’m going to be slim.
If you agree that to lose weight we must simply eat two calories per day and exercise more than The Rock then yes, indeed it will be painful. You’ll be hungry, tired, grumpy, and you’ll be damaging your body.
However, with the right information, losing weight becomes safe and almost easy.
Many of my patients think I’m mad when I tell them to eat fat with every meal and lift weights twice a week, and then a month later they come back to me with a new success story!
All it takes is the right information, and the willingness to put it into action.
3) My Friends Expect Me to Fail
Variation: My friends/family won’t like that I’m trying to be better than them.
Research into this one actually does show it to be true in a lot of cases. But this is still a limiting belief that we can tear down. All we need to do is look at it in a new light.
Oprah has gone on record saying that when she lost the majority of her weight, she also lost some friends that found it challenging to their own choice to remain fat. To drift apart is painful at first, but wouldn’t a true friend want you to solve your health issues and enjoy life to the full?
No one would choose to do this to a loved one. It happens subconsciously, and is only possible if you keep hesitating.
Give your friends and family the opportunity to prove to you just how supportive they can be.
You can affect the dynamic yourself. Involve your closest friends in what you’re doing. Ask them to be “in on it”, and to hold you accountable. They’re likely to be delighted that you’re including them, and will hopefully be happy for you, and for the positive change you’re about to make in your life.
4) A Diet Has to Be Forever to Be Successful
Variation: Once I start this diet, I’m going to have to be on it forever, or else I’m a failure.
Nothing is forever.
And a diet certainly doesn’t need to be long-term to benefit you.
I often put my patients on a very strict diet for a matter of one or two months, after which I’ll put them on a more relaxed protocol. The first will be for rapid weight loss and healing, and the second will be for maintenance.
Dr Atkins, the infamous inventor of the extreme low-carb diet known as the Atkins Diet, openly admitted that his diet was not intended as a long-term protocol. Rather, it was intended to wrench the body out of the vicious cycle of blood sugar instability, and prime it for fat burning. It was only meant to kickstart the healing process, not to provide balanced long-term sustenance.
The fear of committing to a new behaviour comes from a subconscious mind that naturally resists change, at least a little bit, until it’s sure the new behaviour will be a good thing.
A diet might only be temporary, but getting yourself out of your current bad diet does need to be permanent if you want to truly change. That is the kernel of truth that this particular limiting belief hangs on to.
There’s something else that gives strength to this belief.
Many people try to lose weight by simply eating less and exercising more. Regular readers of this blog will know that this almost never works long-term, and what’s worse is that when you go back to eating enough calories, your starved body will have become primed to store that energy rather than burn it, and these poor calorie-counters usually wind up adding more weight than they had before they started the diet. This sends a message to anyone thinking on going on a “diet” themselves, that the diet is horrible while it lasts, and when you stop it, you’ll shoot up to an even higher weight than you were before.
My protocols focus heavily on healing the body, not starving it. Moderating intake is helpful with some protocols, but it’s always done in such a way that the body can easily access fat stores, and when a low body fat percentage is reached, the protocol is ended and a new one is introduced that focuses on maintaining body weight while continuing to heal the body.
Once your body is fully healed, you will have to go on a very long binge to get it back to the weight it was before, let alone higher.
Not only that, but by focussing on nutrient density and healthy fats for calories, this can all be done without hunger or “dull” food.
Most diets are supposed to be temporary.
It’s the healthy habits can stick with you for the duration.
5) Diets Don’t Work on Me Anyway
Variation: This just isn’t me. I’m a fat person.
This one is an identity issue.
If we associate something with ourselves for long enough, it eventually becomes something we incorporate into our identity, our sense of who we are.
Of course, to say you’re an unhealthy person is like saying you’re a coat-wearer, and as such you must never remove your coat. Being healthy is a choice – the result of a set of habits and actions. Nothing more.
You used to be an illiterate person. That didn’t last.
You used to be a person who couldn’t walk. Then you learned how.
Maybe unhealthy eating habits are all you’ve ever known. Your subconscious has only ever been given evidence that this is what you are, and that this is what you do.
So give it some evidence to the contrary.
Spend one day, just one single day eating healthily. Make sure the meals look lovely, have enough calories to satisfy you, and take pictures of them before you eat them. That will be your long-term evidence that you can, in fact, be healthy if you so choose.
Once you’ve spent one day eating healthily, you can eat for two days, then three, then four, and so on.
It doesn’t matter how many times you “give up” or “slip back to your old ways”. Any day where you make an improvement is a success, so don’t stop trying! Eventually you will see that healthy eating can be a part of your new identity, if you’re willing to have it.
Change Your Mind
What you believe about the behaviour you want to adopt can either hold you back, or spur you on.
Writing down the problem areas in a journal is powerful. Getting it onto paper makes it easier to objectify.
Then find all the examples you need that support a better way of thinking. Fill your mind with knowledge that weaken the bad mindset, and strengthen the good.
Finally, start changing your behaviours to strengthen a better way of thinking. Act as if you already think healthy diets are interesting, and that your friends want you to succeed, and that healthy eating is going to have a tremendous effect on you.
Act as if it’s already true, and you’ll start to make it so.
Have you used techniques to help you improve your mindset and get results? Share them in the comment section below.