There is a powerful body of research that has connected your mental state to your overall health. Scientists in several different related fields have proven over and over that the “mind-body connection” exists, which means that in order for us to have a healthy body we also need to have a healthy mind. The following are seven common mental hurdles that might be preventing you from actually achieving your health goals. These are lies we tell ourselves or others. They are often excuses or just myths we have accepted as truth. But at the end of the day, they are only lies and excuses. In all honesty, I have listed some here that I have been stuck on at various times along my own health journey. So while I understand the struggle, I also know that there is such freedom when you break free of these mental hurdles that are keeping you from success! Overall I have found the best way to overcome a mental hurdle is to recognize the lie or excuse for what it is, confront it with the truth. And let’s be honest, the truth sometimes hurts so I might step on a few toes in this post… but it’s also a great way to be set free! So if you find yourself facing one of these hurdles right now, I just want to encourage you to remind yourself often of the truth, especially with the truth doesn’t feel true at all. Did that just get a little too deep? Let’s review the hurdles and then I will give you an example at the end of exactly what I mean.
Hurdle #1: I have ___ (Diagnosis) _____
You might have a diagnosis, but you choose what defines you. If you live within the confines of a diagnosis you have no freedom to excel beyond that diagnosis. I want to be clear that I’m not saying you should live as if your diagnosis was not real. If you have a diagnosible disease or illness, you should learn about it and you should be proactive in managing its effects on your body. But the truth is your experience of life from the point of your diagnosis does not have to be defined by a label from a medical professional. If you stay blocked at this hurdle your quality of life will go down faster. And what little recovery you do experience will be temporary or incomplete. Or, if you choose to believe the truth and pursue optimizing your function despite your diagnosis, you can drastically improve your quality of life and potentially “beat” your diagnosis. The only thing a diagnosis does is label your symptoms… it’s not supposed to label you!
Hurdle #2: I have always been overweight and it’s just in my genes.
You might have always been overweight and your genetic code might actually make you more likely to stay chubby… BUT there is tons of research coming out about how your daily lifestyle choices greatly impact what genetic codes are turned on or off within your body! (It’s the new field of “epigenetics” if you want to learn more.) Even if your genes predispose you to being overweight, it is possible to lose weight when you change some basic lifestyle choices. You know the old adage “if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten”… yep, it applies to our weight also. But if you are willing to step out and try something new, even something small, you might get different results! At the end of the day, you are in control of the things that influence your genes – the food you eat, your reaction to stressful situations, your thoughts and the choices you make within your immediate environment.
Hurdle #3: I would love to exercise but I just hurt all the time
Okay, I hope this doesn’t sound mean because that isn’t my intention… but if you are going to hurt all the time anyway how about see if increasing your movement even just a little bit could decrease your pain over time? (Of course if you have a medical condition like a broken limb please don’t go against your Dr’s instruction for healing.) Many people believe they have to run 5 miles to have a proper exercise session… this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are a runner, go ahead. But if not, try something small several times throughout the day. It could be lunges on your way to the bathroom or squats while you are waiting for your coffee to brew. It could be putting on a fun song several times throughout the day and dancing along as excitedly as you can handle. As we say in therapy “move it or lose it”… it really does come down to your choice!
Hurdle #4: I can’t ___
By saying “I can’t” you have already decided what you are capable of… and what you are not. But the truth is you are usually capable of more than you believe if you are willing to try. Is it scary to try something new? Yep. Can it be overwhelming and confusing? Of course! But is your health worth trying to eat better, get more sleep, move just a bit more or just try towards whatever goal you secretly want to achieve? That’s the true question… is your health worth it to just try? If you try and fail you might feel frustrated or determined to try again. If you try and succeed you will prove to yourself that you can do more than you thought! But if you never bother to try you will stay convinced that you can’t because you chose to never try.
Hurdle #5: I don’t have time to improve my health
Making your health a priority shouldn’t have to take a lot of time. You can absolutely find small wins that you can implement over time. A healthier alternative to your morning cereal would be some oatmeal and doesn’t take that much longer to cook. While it’s cooking you can use that time to do 10 squats and you already have a better morning habit for mere minutes of your time! If you refuse to make your health a priority today, you will one day realize that it should have been your top priority all along. You also don’t have time for a heart attack, or to have such low energy you can barely work, etc. But you choose today when you will focus on your health- now when you can prevent or delay further problems or later when you will be trying to correct them.
Hurdle #6: It costs too much to be healthy
It costs much more to be unhealthy including the quality of your life. Imagine how you want to spend not just your money but your time… would you rather be pursuing activities you enjoy or marking the days by what pills to take and what doctor visits you have scheduled? Also, there are tons of free and low cost ways to make healthy lifestyle choices right now! You will spend money and time in the coming years… do you want to invest in your health now or spend it later when your quality of life has plummeted?
Hurdle #7: This food tastes too good to give up! I don’t want to eat salads the rest of my life
When you believe that a healthy life must mean deprivation, of course you don’t want to make healthy choices… but thankfully that just isn’t the truth! You can “have your cake and eat it too” if it’s made with real foods that won’t spike your blood sugar or increase inflammation in your body! And honestly as you begin to nourish your body with great food that is enjoyable but also has the nutrients your body needs, your cravings for the processed and empty calorie foods goes down tremendously! Remember the old addage “you are what you eat”? Well, it’s kinda true. Within a 7 year cycle every single cell in your body from head to toe gets replaced. And it’s replaced with the building blocks you give it- the food you nourish it with, the items you place on your skin to be absorbed and the lifestyle experiences you expose it to (sunlight, stress, positive or negative thoughts, and so on!). This means that you get to choose what you are going to build your body out of. In 7 years time, what do you want your body to feel like? Can you find a way to give your body great building blocks while not giving up the pleasure of food? Yes, absolutely! And you can even do it without eating salads everyday!
Putting it into Practice
Here’s the example I promised you: A few years ago when I started THM, I was convinced of the science behind it. I knew mentally it could work. But I kept falling off plan. I was telling myself that it was because I didn’t have enough time to cook or because co-workers kept bringing in treats or because I just couldn’t give up sugar forever. The truth under all those excuses was that I had not yet chosen to make my own health a priority. I “didn’t have time to cook” because I choose not to make time. I “was being nice” to co-workers bringing in treats because I wanted to, not because they were forcing me or because anyone would truly be offended if I didn’t. (Although yes there are times this could be considered rude.) And I was convinced I couldn’t give up sugar because I had such a huge addiction to it. Facing the truth behind all of my excuses helped me slowly break free of those mental hurdles. I won’t claim that I don’t have anything holding me back now because of course we all struggle with believing lies and making excuses for ourselves. But the process of overcoming these lies in my own life has helped me feel better now than I did at 22!
Share Your Thoughts and Experience
I hope this post encourages you to identify mental hurdles in your own life and find a way to break free from them. If you have a story like mine or if one of these mental hurdles resonates and you just want to share your struggle, please leave a comment below or contact me if you would rather share privately.
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