Overcoming the Emotional Barriers of Fat Loss and Exercise
Emotions can be great, I really like a handful of them but others can make goal achievement challenging at times.
Let’s say you and your significant other get in a little fight. Maybe he didn’t do the dishes for the 1 millionth time or maybe she looked at another guy and you have like insecurity problems.
Emotions make it hard for us to act rationally, but you do have your options. For example, you could:
- Scream at him for not doing his dishes
- Act all weird because your jealous but don’t say anything- this will lead to a fight
- Drink copious amounts of alcohol and then fight
- Buy each other presents and avoid the actual ‘talk’
- OR! You could be mature adults and have a conversation
The point is that there are a lot of different things we can do with our emotions. Emotions don’t dictate a strict behavioral response.
One of my favorite concepts is the distinction between fault and responsibility. Just because something bad happened, it doesn’t always mean it is your fault. Emotions fall into this category.
If you told your boyfriend 1 million times to clean the dishes and he still isn’t doing it then it’s not your fault if you get angry. It just happened.
Trying to control or suppress your emotions is just a terrible idea, so just accept that they are there, again not your fault.
But it is your responsibility to deal with your emotions in a mature responsible way.
Fault, Responsibility, Weight Loss and Exercise
Let’s use this same concept for weight loss or exercise. Odds are if you are overweight or obese it actually isn’t your fault.
Our environment sets us up to gain weight, so much so that being overweight or obese is the default state we all will eventually fall victim too unless we make changes. Our environment pushes us to be heavier.
Also in our youth we didn’t have much of a choice on what food we would eat, and even if we did do you think we’d pick salad over candy?
Our parents picked what we would eat, just like how their parents did.
So, if your parents are overweight or obese and didn’t encourage you to exercise, your odds of being overweight or obese are much higher than if you were born to fit parents who encouraged you to do sports.
I say this because it probably isn’t your fault if you are overweight. But if you have made a goal to lose weight it is your responsibility to make changes.
How you Look at ‘Failure’
When you start to make any changes dealing with health or fitness you’re essentially deciding to strap into an emotional roller coaster.
Goal setting in itself is admitting that there is a discrepancy between where you currently are and where you want to be.
You step on the scale and inevitably feel like poopy.
So that in itself doesn’t really feel too great. It’s admitting there is a problem so for some people just setting a goal can make them feel bad about themselves.
But, no one in the history of ever has set a goal and then just smoothly sailed to a better life. It doesn’t happen like that.
Rather, you fail and fail, oh and then you fail again.
But, failure is only a matter of perspective. Depending on how you look at it and depending on how you set yourself up, failing might be a great thing!
“This guy’s crazy” said everyone reading that last sentence.
Hear me out for a second though. We can look at failure in a number of different ways; you might think “wow, I suck, might as well stop trying” or you can think
“That didn’t work so I guess I need to evaluate what I did and make some changes”.
I prefer to look at failure through a different lens, as an “ineffective solution”.
Most people who are successful have failed more times than they can count. The difference is they kept going.
So, no “woe is me” stuff, appreciate the change process. If the scale doesn’t budge think about all the information you just gained on what doesn’t work!
That means next week you change something different and see if it does work.
Dealing with Emotions
When an ugly nasty emotion monster pops up into your brain here is what I recommend you do.
Recognize that you are not the emotion
Here is a fun little exercise that you can do. Let’s all agree on 1 thing, if you can observe something it inherently means that you are not the thing.
Just try this, look around wherever you are. You probably can see lots of things. Maybe you see a chair maybe you see your laptop, or maybe you see a spontaneous animal friendship forming (omg too cute).
Because you can observe it, it means you are not it
Mind blowing, right?
Well, it’s the same thing with emotions. If a super fun thought like “I’m a failure” pops into your head, you are the only one who can give truth to it.
Remember, if you can observe it, you are not it and because we can observe our emotional thoughts we cannot be them.
Is This Emotion Workable?
Here is another interesting concept that goes hand in hand with the last one. Once you observe an emotion ask if it’s workable.
If the thought “I’m a failure” or “I can’t do this” pops into your head ask yourself:
“If I accept this as the truth will it help me reach my goal?” If the answer is no just say
“Hey thanks, ya big dumb brain but I’m just going to keep on being awesome instead”
This concept of workability relates to the original idea that this article began with; there are several behavioral responses for any one emotion.
So, when you are struggling with your weight loss or exercise efforts think of the worst thing you could possible do with your emotions (give up, binge eat, etc) and then think of the best thing you can do with your emotions.
Try to side with the best thing, or at least avoid the worst.
Here are some examples of an internal monologue you might have with yourself:
You walk into the gym and hop on the elliptical. Your brain says “everyone is watching me”
What you feel: anxious
What you should think: “thanks for that thought brain, but if I accept that as true I probably won’t come back and that won’t help me be the person I want to be”
What you should do: keep going on the elliptical and remember that you’re awesome
You get home after a long day at work and all you want to do is pick some candy up on the way home because candy loves you unconditionally.
What you feel: you’re tired, you’re stressed, eating candy will be a quick fix
What you should think “yes, I know I want candy and I know that just the thought of it makes me feel good and bad at the same time but if I do this consistently it won’t help me reach my goal.”
What you should do: you pass by the store and in the long run you feel better about yourself. That being said it is totally fine to treat yourself every once and while without feeling bad about it.
You are Not Your Emotions
Emotions are one of the most challenging barriers to weight loss and exercise. When a nasty emotion or thought pops up try to remember that it doesn’t represent the person you are.
You are the only person who can give truth to a thought or action to an emotion. Finally, don’t feel bad if you do give into an emotion. Remember, there is no such thing as a failure, only a temporary ineffective solution.