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What Will Be Your Turning Point?

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about a frustrating obstacle to losing weight that he just can’t seem to beat for good.

I wanted to share that topic of our discussion along with a personal story as a way to hopefully shed some light on this subject while also providing encouragement.

The obstacle my friend was referring to is his temptation to eat a particular fast food meal when he gets stressed out or feels depressed. I know that he’s working really hard with his diet and exercise so it’s not like he isn’t focused on his goals or doesn’t want to lose weight.

But the reality is he’s only human and this is simply an old habit or “fix” that keeps rearing its ugly head. My friend is not alone in thinking his problem is basically a matter of willpower and that he simply needs to be more disciplined.

I used to think this same EXACT thing myself.   

Truth be told, I believe it’s NOT a matter of lacking willpower but rather an issue with subconscious thoughts (my story will reveal why in a minute).

Consciously my friend knows that eating fast food will sabotage his weight loss but for some reason he’s subconsciously drawn to it with certain emotional triggers.

Here’s what I know doesn’t work with all this…beating yourself up, feeling like a failure, or trying to will your way into different behaviors.

There’s nothing in this response that shifts your thoughts at the subconscious level. In other words, if willpower doesn’t get it done (conscious thoughts) it must be something else.

So how do you stop doing something that you know isn’t beneficial in your life?

I don’t know that I have a simple answer for you but I think I have some clues. We’ve all had something in our lives that we’ve struggled to change. You may be going through something right now. Maybe it’s not fast food binges, it could be anything.

Here’s the humbling story that I shared with my friend…

It’s one of the first lessons in my life where I learned willpower simply couldn’t be the answer.

When I was a kid for as long as I can remember I always had a very nervous stomach. I would literally get sick before every football game, every track meet, before going out on a date, you name it.

8prom

(think I’m not nervous at the 8th grade prom? Mr. “I’m too cool to smile”…I’m sweating bullets here people! That’s real nice huh…or maybe it was the Jams shorts! Dont’ laugh those were cool back in 1986…ha..ha).

I know that being nervous isn’t that big of a deal but I would physically get ill and throw up at the drop of a hat. I’m not kidding you…it was absolutely terrible.

I can’t even begin to tell you about the embarrassment. Can you imagine ALWAYS getting sick within the first five minutes of being on a date and hoping you could hide it?

Over time I became pretty good at making my “problem” seem unnoticeable with the help of some Visine and a stick of gum that I kept in my pocket at all times. But it was still a very big problem none-the-less.

While in social situations it was just a matter of trying to hide it and deal with the embarrassment, in other areas it was a much bigger deal.

Not just a problem with the ladies…

For example in high school I was pretty good at track. Believe it or not I actually was pretty fast for being a big guy. While I obviously didn’t weigh as much as I do today, I was still around 200 lbs. But with the help of being blessed with some good genetics I was able to perform pretty well in the sprints.

My best event was the 300 meter intermediate hurdles. In regular league meets I wouldn’t have much of a problem even though I would get sick before the race. It was just one race and I would still have enough gas in the tank to pull off a good performance.

The problem was with the big meets where I would have to run several heats (preliminaries, semi-final’s, and finals) all in one day. By the time I would get to the finals at night I would have absolutely nothing left in the tank after getting sick before every race. Ugh!

It’s pretty fair to say that to some degree it had an impact on my life socially, athletically, you name it. Now don’t get me wrong I “dealt” with it the best I could but it sure as heck wasn’t positive.

I would get mad at myself for being such a “wuss” since I couldn’t control not getting sick. In my mind it was simply a matter of willpower and I needed to “toughen up.”

As you can imagine, no matter how much I would beat myself up the problem only continued.

This is where it gets real interesting…

When I left for summer football camp at Bowling Green my freshman year in college I was still battling this problem. I can distinctly remember my first few days at training camp. We stayed at the dorms and would eat breakfast (training table they call it) as a team at the university.

The stadium was about a five minute walk from campus and the players that didn’t have cars (mostly freshmen) would simply walk from the university to the stadium after breakfast.

bg_stadium

Of course I would always try to eat a good breakfast but by the time I would walk halfway across this big long field that led to the stadium I would get sick.

Same old story and I just told myself it would be ok. But by the third day of training camp I was in real trouble. Not being able to “hold my breakfast down” was becoming a serious problem.

I needed the energy to get through practice and I simply couldn’t afford (physically) to get sick anymore. I knew this could literally cost me a position on the team and I was really worried.

I’ll never forget that third day of training camp my freshman year at Bowling Green State University as something happened that day that literally changed my life.

I left training table after eating breakfast and headed out by myself for the long walk across the field to the stadium. I had left by myself as usual because I didn’t want to be embarrassed when I would inevitably get sick.

I got halfway across this field and the sweat was just pouring off my forehead. I was telling myself over and over, “Shane, you can’t get sick, you can’t get sick.” I was feeling weak, my stomach was turning, and my heart was racing a hundred miles an hour.

With wobbly legs I walked like a drunk sailor stumbling out of bar. I finally stopped and went down to my knees. This was it, I knew that if I got sick again I might not make it through the day.

There on my knees feeling helpless and without ANY sense of control over the situation I heard someone’s voice and saw this hand come down in front of my face. The voice I heard was that of a fellow incoming freshman, Jermaine Spivey (someone I hadn’t even spoken to up to this point).

All he said to me was “Come on man, get up we’ll make it through this thing together.”

You think I could ever forget those words? And the funny thing is to this day he probably doesn’t even know about this or the impact it had on me.

All I can tell you is this….At that point right then and there I was done getting sick. I got up and walked with Jermaine the rest of the way to the stadium and it was like someone flipped a switch.

So what happened? I don’t know exactly but I do know that it wasn’t me talking myself out of the problem and I certainly didn’t use willpower to fix it.

But something obviously changed on the field that day. As a spiritual man I certainly believe now that the hand of God was at work in all this (interesting side note: Jermaine is a pastor now I hear) but at the root something changed in my thoughts.

Not my conscious thoughts mind you (that was the “Shane, you can’t get sick, you can’t get sick). This wasn’t working at all and I had proved it to myself literally a thousand times.

It was in my subconscious thoughts. Without getting too deep into all this I think there were a couple of game changing things that happened.

Number one there was the infusion of hope and a different message. Someone ELSE told me that it was going to be ok and it sent a different message to my subconscious thoughts.

Compare the ”don’t get sick” rhetoric that I was telling myself to the “it’s ok” message that Jermaine signaled to my brain. See how one is FOCUSED on the problem and the other doesn’t even acknowledge it.

(Re-read that last sentence again twice and think about it for a minute before continuing.)

When you stop dwelling on something you make it lose its power in some weird way. I can’t tell you how but I just know it happened.

There was also this very strong association of pain with my “problem” that took me to a turning point. I guess I was ready to receive a different message because the pain triggered change in my mind.

You know, kind of like people usually don’t change things until their thermostat really gets shifted one way or the other.

Something got to my subconscious thoughts that told my brain you don’t operate this way any more. The signals were changed. I no longer thought about NOT getting sick, I didn’t think about it at all.

Just like that, this problem that had plagued me for years no longer had control over me. Can I tell you exactly what happened? No, not really but here’s what I did…

I stopped fighting my “problem” using willpower and personal pep talks.

I found something that triggered my brain to think differently at the subconscious level. Most importantly there was a belief that found its way in that said “we don’t work this way anymore.”

possible    

No matter where you’re at right now, whatever your “obstacle” is, the lesson in all this is don’t you EVER give up!

Keep focusing on what it is you want and NOT on what you don’t want. Don’t give power to the things you don’t want by beating yourself up and dwelling over them.

Instead look to associate yourself with positive people, those individuals who can provide positive energy and encouraging messages that will seep into your subconscious thoughts.

That’s where the battle occurs (your subconscious thoughts) and it’s where the associations must be changed.

From a weight loss perspective one of the best books I’ve ever read is the “Gabriel Method.” You won’t hear about it on Oprah and the like but it’s an excellent read if you’re struggling with overcoming things that sabotage your weight loss. It gets two thumbs up from me.

Bottom line is this…when the fight isn’t working change your strategy. If you’re skeptical simply try to have an open mind with exploring a different approach.

The human mind is a complex thing and our thoughts ultimately control our behaviors, actions, and our physical well being.

My last piece of advice is this. Look for ways in which you can help provide someone else today with encouragement and inspiration. You might be the surprised that the gift you give to them ends up helping you in the same way.

Fight the good fight and don’t EVER give up my friends! Be blessed- Shane

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston Personal Trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. You can receive a FREE trial of his Charleston personal training programs and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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