The Mental Game

 
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More, more, more, and more. We live in a world of more! More is better, harder is better, longer is better, etc. What’s left in the back seat is what seems to be an old age mantra of finding balance, whether in life or in the pursuit towards health and wellness. In the realm of more, it is important to highlight that fitness is not just about packing on the weights and clocking in more hours. Fitness is as much a mental game as it is physical. I believe the way to optimize the value of the journey towards a healthier self is to first outline a mental framework in which to operate from.

# 1 - The Give & Take Mentality.

The combination of life, humans, the world, the universe, and all else in it equals to a concoction of imperfection, but that’s what’s beautiful about my day to day. What I am sure of is that in my pursuit towards health and wellness, I can’t and never will be 100% perfect; nor am I trying or saying I am close to perfect. The only thing I hold myself responsible to is in being honest in my approach. How much am I willing to give and how much can I take?

The give and take mentality is like a pros and cons list for my journey towards health and wellness. This is where I outline (in my head-- but if writing down a list helps you, then go for it) the wins and compromises in my journey. For example, I know alcohol (as much as I wish I can)  is something that’s unrealistic for me to give up forever, but in contrast, something like sugary drinks is more realistic for me to give up forever. I almost never drink sodas (unless it’s the only drink available), I never add sugar to tea or coffee,  I never add sweetener to my morning smoothies and whenever I have a choice, I’ll go for the non-sugary mixer (like a vodka soda instead of a cranberry vodka). But, there are those out there, who will find giving up alcohol comes much more naturally. The point I am making here is, there’s no one solution fits all. It’s about being realistic with my choices because after all I still need to enjoy my life. What I keep asking myself is, what am I willing to give and how much can I take? There’s no point in going through life with an endless list of restrictions because that will drive anyone crazy.

# 2 -  Restrictions aren’t a way to live.

When we think of losing weight or getting fit a lot of people (I admit I was one of these people), gravitate towards rules and restrictions: “I have to cut sugar out completely,” “I have to work out at high intensities at least 5 days a week,” “I can only eat low sodium foods,” and let’s be honest the list goes on and on. If there are so many new rules to follow, then do I need to add, “remember to enjoy life,” as part of the guide to a better me? But, I hope to never get to a point where I need to be reminded to appreciate my life.

The bombardment of misleading messaging of more equals to better which is so prevalent in the diet and the fitness industries does leave a lot of confusion! The truth of the matter is, health and wellness is not about temporary unrealistic rules (that will only be kept for a couple months at best), rather health and wellness is about creating long-term parameters that will help steer life in a different direction forever. There’s a huge difference between saying, “I have to cut sugar out completely,” to “I will have less sugar by avoiding sugary drinks and sugary treats.” The difference is in the words and the specificity on how to frame the behavior.

Let’s dive into this a little more. “Cut out” versus “less” and “avoid” are similar, but very different words. The former is a strict command that leaves no room for error, while the latter two words allow for imperfection (i.e. allows us to be more human in our approach). It might seem like a small difference, but it completely changed how I responded to slip ups. Rather than feeling guilt and blaming myself for not sticking to my rule, I respond with a lot more understanding and an attitude that’s more forgiving like, “do better next time.” The unexpected reality was how once I alleviated the restrictive mentality, it was much easier to make better choices for myself.

What’s ironic about how my mind operated was that the more I had a hard no and restricted myself, the more I thought about it and the more chances I relapsed. But, when I shifted my thinking to a more forgiving space, it was much easier for me to follow the ‘rule’.

# 3 - Listen to your body

This might seem obvious, but working at a gym and also going through overtraining syndrome myself woke me up to how difficult it actually is to listen to my body. The prevalent culture in today’s fitness world encourages us to work harder than ever before, this is why the phrase “no days off” has become so popular; with over 4.5 million hashtags on Instagram. The truth of the matter is, rest days are so important to our fitness journey because at rest are when muscles grow and regenerate. Without rest, muscles will be fatigued and development will either be slowed or halted.

What I need to remember to do is to ask myself: how am I doing? If the answer is, I am tired because I didn’t get enough sleep or I am a lot sorer today than I usually am. That’s a good indication that it’s time to listen and take a step back. The integrity of this decision really lies in me and is there a point to cheating myself? What’s important is to be reflective and honest about how I feel and decide what is the appropriate level of activity for that day. Whether it’s to reduce the intensity of the workout, opt for a more low-impact exercise like yoga or pilates, or to actually take a day off and maybe even get a massage. There are plenty of appropriate ways to take it easy. Again, it’s about an individual choice, you’ll know what’s right!

# 4 - Health & wellness is a lifestyle choice.

The theme of all the above is health and wellness is in my hands. There’s no one that’s going to make the hard decisions for me. It’s about looking at my life and deciding what are the realistic changes to make. It’s about understanding that this is a long-term commitment versus a couple months before my beach getaway. There’s no one that’s really going to monitor how I choose to live. It’s about taking charge of my own health, wellness and destiny!