You know a lot of people automatically assume because I'm a fitness trainer that it's easy for me to stay on track with healthy eating and exercise habits.
The reality of it is though, I struggle at times just like everyone else does. There was a particular time I remember several years back now when the stress of trying to run three personal training studios in three different cities started taking a significant toll on my mental, emotional, and physical health.
I was putting in over 60 hours a week running back and forth between Mt. Pleasant, Bluffton and Myrtle Beach on a regular basis. When you're stressed out and not setting priority-based boundaries on your time it's easy to get out of balance...and that's exactly what happened to me!
It was like a domino effect. First, I started losing sleep from the stress which just made me sluggish all day. Next, since I was tired most the time, I didn't have energy to workout. And since I wasn't working out, I was feeling lousy, to put it mildly.
It didn't take long before I started making bad choices with my diet next. When you feel bad you eat bad and vice versa.
Imagine though, me as this fitness trainer and entrepreneur, the same guy who is teaching people how to be fit and healthy going through a drive through several times a week and making poor choices.
Talk about incongruency! Sad, but I’m humble enough to admit this was true.
I can distinctly remember having feelings of guilt and embarrassed as I would pull through to get my order, hoping no one would see me. I beat myself up mentally with these negative emotions and then beat myself up some more physically by eating garbage that wasn’t serving my health.
I was caught up in a viscous cycle and spiraling downhill fast.
Before long I had gained about twenty pounds and slumped into sluggishness.
The turning point for me was a day when I remember seeing a picture of myself taken with a client at one of my gyms. It was embarrassing, seriously, I don’t know what other word to use. I was like “what the heck Shane, that ain’t you!” Truth be told, there was another emotion that kicked in at that moment, one that I believe made all the difference. What was it?
I was ticked off. Not at something, someone, or anything else externally. It was just directed at the man in the mirror. He was the only one to blame. I remember going home that evening and taking a picture of myself with my shirt off and printed a copy out to place on my bathroom mirror.
Having to visually face this image every day, at least once in the morning and once at night was extremely powerful for me. I used the emotions of anger and embarrassment to kick me out of the rut and begin taking positive ACTION.
I can't stress to you enough just how powerful and important the EMOTIONAL component is for change.
I started focusing every day on what I wanted my body to look like (also through visualization) and I restructured the priorities in my life around it.
There’s a couple of really important points I want you to get here...
First is the power of EMOTION!
If you want to make a change in your life, something has got to fire you up. We tend to get in comfort zones and like having a steady thermostat. This is far from a good thing. When you’re on the wrong path it doesn’t matter how familiar you are with it, you’re going the wrong way! You’ve got to find something that serves as a trigger. Use emotion to power a different direction, we don’t have to let emotions affect us negatively.
I can honestly tell you that some of the most successful body transformations I’ve seen over the past twenty years have at times included individuals coming out of difficult periods of their life. Maybe it was a break up, a divorce, an illness, injury, etc.
There’s a choice that happens when you go through something that throws you off course. You can either get negative and let negative emotions lead to negative behaviors OR you can use these same emotions to trigger positive change.
That’s point number two. Listen, I want you to really grasp hold of this truth as it can and does make all the difference.
Every action (behavior, habit, words spoken, etc) starts with a thought. If your thoughts are negative, what do you expect your actions to look like?
As a man of faith, I truly believe that from “the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Now let me be clear about something.
Emotions are not beliefs, they are feelings. They can change like the weather.
We don’t want to chart our course in life based on feelings. However, emotions have a purpose and we can certainly use them to serve us and others or we can choose to let them bring hurt.
We want our course in life per say to be set by beliefs, not feelings. You want to establish the identify (belief) about yourself that aligns with where you want to go.
Let’s go back to my story about getting a belly and being out of shape. There were strong emotions there right? Yes, anger and embarrassment. Now I could have used these emotions to trigger negative thoughts (feelings) about how I was flabby and out of shape. After all that was reality, correct?
Yes, that was the current reality at that moment, but I elected NOT to make it my identity.
In other words, I didn’t see myself as the guy with a dadbod. Heck no, that wasn’t me, I was having none of it. I repositioned my identity (belief) in who I saw myself being (a man who is lean, muscular, and healthy).
These thoughts (purposively programmed by the way with the visualization and affirmations) led to changes in actions and behaviors, which low and behold led to me changing my shape.
The thoughts (beliefs – aka my identity) were the catalyst for new priorities and new habits.
Far too often I see people trying to work this equation backwards….and it fails miserably.
If you keep telling yourself that you’re fat (even if you have gained some weight), what do you think your actions and behaviors will reflect?
Ah hello, you’re telling your brain that you’re fat, it’s going to do as you say!
Again, I’m not telling you to ignore reality. Use the reality to get you “mad as heck so you don’t want to take it anymore,” then set out with a different mindset. The reality can trigger powerful emotions. Just use the emotions to trigger a different set of intentional thoughts instead of a negative identity.
Rule number one if you’re starting a weight loss program.
Stop telling yourself and others about how you’re fat! Stop it! That may be your current state, but don’t make it your identity. There’s little chance of making a new reality with an old identity.
Well, what happened after I had my “get mad” moment and put the picture on the mirror then started the practice of visualization and reading my affirmation?
Obviously the first thing that changed was my thoughts. With that came new priorities. With that came new habits and decisions. Before long I was getting back a healthy balance of eating supportive nutrition foods, working out regularly, reducing stress, managing my time better, and overall just making better choices.
A few months of the above and the belly was gone and I was back in shape. Do you see the way in which this didn’t happen? It wasn’t because of my jedi like mental discipline and iron-willed determination. Yeah right. No seriously, these things come about due to our beliefs and the identity we have for ourselves.
Discipline is a result of a habit, which is the result of a thought, which is the result of a belief or identity.
See that order and then work it backwards. There’s your recipe for changing your shape and your life.
No matter where you're at right now I assure you there is HOPE.
You can make a change. I believe in your ability to make it happen. Sometimes we just get stuck on the wrong path repeating the wrong things.
I understand it can be hard going it all alone, so I encourage you to get the support and accountability from a coach, accountability partner, or mentor.
If myself and my team of coaches at Shaping Concepts can ever be of assistance, please don't hesitate to contact me. Be blessed.
Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a fitness professional and expert on exercise and body transformation for middle age and mature adults. He seeks to make a difference in the lives of others by providing instruction and coaching with a servant-based attitude. Since 2004 his Charleston personal training programs have helped over 3,000 Lowcountry residents.
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