The following is for informational purposes only. The reader is advised to always check with his or her doctor, nutritionist or other healthcare provider before starting any weight loss program or diet. The principles and ideas below are brief over views and contains the opinion of the author in some instances. Many of the principles below may not be applicable to you and that is why it is always advisable to seek professional guidance if implementing any of the psychological principles below.
Day one of my guest speaking engagement at:
The Cal-a-Vie Health Spa, in Vista, CA.
The Psychological Keys to Success:
Lets face it, most people take better care of their cars than their own bodies. Our body is a ferarri and should be treated as such! I am amazed at how many people ask for my advise about losing weight or obtaining better health and when I start to explain what needs to be done and it doesn’t involve some “magic pill”, they immediately lose their focus and move on to another subject. Anything in life worth striving for takes work and if aging gracefully or being in shape was easy, the health & fitness industry wouldn’t be a billion dollar business. I look at life this way. It’s like a plane, when we are born our plane is taking off and continues to climb until it reaches altitude, which is about 30 years old. After 30 our bodies age about 1% a year and faster for those who abuse their “plane”. How we take care of ourselves will determine how that plane is going to land. Do you want a nice smooth landing into old age? or do you want to come crashing down, going in and out of the hospital and doctors offices until your “plane” falls out of the sky because of severe turbulence? The choice is your and the answer is not in a pill.
The mind is so powerful that the mere thought of our favorite foods can make our mouths salivate and trigger a ravenous urge to “go for it”. Look at Sigmond Freud’s work with animals, more specifically the salivating dog. That is why I firmly believe that if you “Change the mind and the body will follow”. This has been my company slogan for many years. Most people look to science to help us with our fitness and health challenges. Science definitely helps but I firmly believe success can’t be achieved unless we change the way we look at not only our diet and exercise but life as well. We can’t be healthy and live a long life if we are stressed out and overworked. One day I realized – I came into this world with nothing and I leave with nothing. So take a moment, relax and smell the roses.
When I realized this mindset, I felt a sense of relief almost like the meaning of life was revealed to me. Things are nice to have but love and relationships are what we all strive for whether we know it or not. When I stopped worrying about being successful and focused on thinking more about helping people than impressing them, I became more relaxed, my relationships improved and so did my health. A key part of that process is to be slow to anger and quick to forgive. A funny thing happened, once I lived this way I became more successful as well.
Love is the most important ingredient in life. If someone makes you mad or angry find a reason to love them- no matter how hard it is. Forgiveness is actually for you and not the other person who betrayed you or cut you off in traffic. This mentality is not easy and takes practice.
Love will never escalate a situation in a bad direction. Anger will and with anger comes stress and with stress comes bad health no matter how good you eat and how much exercise you do.
Below are my top 20 ways I try to live a healthy longer life by applying certain psychological concepts to how I think in many tempting situations relating to diet and exercise. Keep in mind most of these principles have worked for a countless number of people. Some people rely on all of them and some choose three or four of them. The key is to figure out which rule of psychology works best for you and practice it daily. Most of all remember, it’s never too late to start. My dad was 75 when he started to exercise and I know for a fact it extended his life!
1) What motivated you too start?
Everyone has a story about what motivated him or her to achieve success. Whether you wanted to start a company, get a degree in school, pursue a job or title. We all have financial goals and many of you have achieved them. For fitness it’s the same. People start for different reasons. I have had clients start for what seems like to most as a ridiculous reasons, like wanting to be able to place their luggage in overhead bin or run a marathon and even as simple as picking up their baby or grandchild without pain or a struggle.
The bottom line is, it started with a thought. Hold onto that idea or what your motivator was and stay focused on it for success!!!! Never lose focus of your goals! For example, I always keep an image of a video I saw of an 80-year-old man doing 20 pull-ups. That is amazing. So when I go into the gym my mindset is that I need to stay focused so I can beat that when I am 80. Nothing impresses me more than someone who defies age with an incredible fitness feat. That’s my motivator. Yours most likely is different.
2) Don’t compare yourself to others especially someone a lot younger.
It’s not realistic and it undermines your motivation. Why? Because it becomes a mindset that predestines us for failure every time. Never compare yourself to anyone. You never know what they did to achieve success. They could be taking steroids or ephedrine or other drugs to achieve success. For example; my wife is constantly comparing herself to women 20 years younger than her. Then she gets depressed and feels inadequate and hates the way she looks. I remember on one occasion she was depressed because she saw a picture of herself from 10 years ago and admired how she looked. I remember her stating. “Oh my gosh, look how good I looked there, I hate getting older”. I quickly reminded her how at the time of that photo she was crying about how bad she looked. I told her that she should love the way she looks now because in 10 years you will admire the body you once had. Am I trying to depress you, no just remind us all to live in the moment and enjoy every second.
3) Change the way you see exercise.
Don’t exercise because you want better arms, abs or legs. Why? Because if you don’t like your results you may get discouraged and quit. Exercise to be healthy and live a long life, free of disease. Exercising for vanity reasons many times leaves us feeling hungry, hurting, deprived and depressed. If you exercise to be healthy and live a long life, you will automatically look good. Focusing too much on diet or exercise can set you up for failure or cause under lying psychological issues like body dismorphia. So have a balance and a positive mindset each and every day. For Example; the strict life style of bodybuilding and fitness modeling caused me to be a “binge eater”. Anyone who knows me has seen my struggles first hand. A constant focus on vanity instead of vitality caused a love hate relationship with food that has continued to this day. I don’t struggle with it as much as I did before but that demon is still there, waiting to manifest and rear it’s ugly head in the form of a cheesecake, donut or chocolate chip cookie. Approach diet and exercise because you want to not because you have to. Then and only then will success be a life style instead of a passing fad.
4) Focus on your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses.
Many times our negative body image or lack of physical attributes turns into self-fulfilling prophecies of failure and lack of motivation. It’s by the manner in which we see ourselves or better yet talk to ourselves that many times will make or break our success. Always find the positives in your appearance and life. Acknowledge your weakness and do your best to make them better, however those weaknesses do not define you. Remember how your negative talk affected you? Your positive talk can do the same. There are several key phrases I always say to myself when exercising and when I am not. When I am in the gym and it feels like I can’t take it anymore, I tell myself that the pain I feel is weakness leaving my body. I also repeat over and over how thankful I am to be able to do what I love. Sure I can dwell on the fact there are guys in better shape, better looking and stronger, but how will that mindset benefit me? It will not, so I get rid of it and many times use it as a motivator. “I’m going to look like that one day”.
5) Always visualize yourself attaining your goals.
Many people are afraid of failure so they set themselves up to fail by not practicing, studying or not doing what is needed to be done to win. Psychiatrists say it’s a way for the individual to have an excuse or an “out” when they do in fact fail. I would rather give my best and lose so I can live to compete another day, subsequently learning from my previous mistakes. Many highly successful people use visualization. For example, I remember Michael Jordan in an interview explaining his mindset while playing during games especially high-pressure ones like the playoffs. He would envision that the basket was three times the size it was and the game winning shot would be easy. He said this helped him cope with the pressure of making the game winning shot. The actor Jim Carey had another well-known visualization story as well. He wrote himself a check for 10 million dollars for “Acting services rendered” and dated it for 1994 and carried it in his wallet as a constant reminder. In 1994 he earned 10 million dollars for the sequel to Dumb and Dumber. The opposite of this is the fear of failure.
6) Agree to help a friend get fit or become healthier.
There is a saying when a dog is rescued from a kennel- “Who saved who.” Many people that have been depressed have rescued dogs or other pets. As time goes on, the person realized the dog or cat has ended up saving them from depression and loneliness. Deciding to help someone in need many times forces us to focus on someone else instead of our own problems. Are we subconsciously realizing we have become a role model which requires an entirely different mindset?. All the aid you’re providing to your friend will help you to stay motivated as well. In essence we are subconsciously “practicing what we preach”. For example– I had one client that decided she was going to help a friend who had no support from her spouse. They both had success, but as it turned out, the helper had far more. Go figure!
7) Have a plan:
Another familiar saying is: “A dream without a plan is only a wish”. If we have a plan for our health and fitness that is similar to a business plan, studies show success is almost inevitable. Be sure to write it out and clearly state the process you plan on following. For example, in preparation for my bodybuilding Contest diet, I would start my plan 12 weeks in advance with clear goals for each phase. This helped me make corrections and changes as time went on so I wasn’t just shooting from the hip. I can always predict which clients will succeed based on this one simple step. It provides accountability, structure and checks and balances along the way to help assess progress or lack of.
8) Identify your inner and outer demons (Critics & Bullies).
Carefully take into account all the things you criticize yourself about each day. How long have you had this critical attitude? Where did it come from? Think of the first time you were ever criticized. Imagine that you really didn’t deserve that criticism. How would you have liked to be treated? What would you say to that person in hindsight if you had a second? Now think about this- Are you failing because you are taking a stand against your own self-criticism, because it’s mean spirited? Subconsciously you may be acting out against yourself for being “mean”!
(Try this compliment scenario). Most of us usually want to strike out against a bully right?
Try this: Compliment someone about one physical characteristic….they could have more but only name one. Then ask them to write down their first thought that comes to mind, their first inner thought or reaction to what you said. Then ask them to see how they responding by looking at what they wrote down. Was it negative? or positive? What if I said something mean to that person? You would think I am a bully and strike out at me, right? Well that is what self-criticism is. You are striking out against yourself and that mentality may be setting you up to fail.
9) Who’s the boss?
It’s funny how something that doesn’t walk, talk, have emotion, money or power can exert such control over some of the worlds most successful people. What is it- FOOD. For example, Oprah Winfrey; Here is a woman that is extremely successful in almost everything she does except in one area, what she eats. It’s been a constant struggle for her for years. Remember, we give food it’s power, not the other way around. You are in control…not the food!!!! Take your power back and realize you make the decisions not the fresh baked goods or the fried chicken!
10) Think of how you feel before, during and after eating.
One the biggest reasons diets or meal plans fail is because we become impulsive in our eating or rationalize why we “should” eat. Many times we can be eating out of pure emotions. I know I do many times. For example- In the past when I would get stuck in traffic, I would get angry and I would exit and go to a gas station where I would find myself getting pretzels and diet soda pop as a means of calming myself down. After eating it I found myself more aggravated because now I’m pissed that I went off my diet. Ask yourself before eating- “What am I feeling right now and what will solve the real issue this moment?” Many times it’s anger, depression, frustration or we just plain waited to long to eat. Sometimes, what you may need is to talk to someone about your bad day or to take a few minutes to yourself and de-stress or decompress. Keep in mind, that if hunger isn’t the issue, food isn’t the solution.
11) Focus on what you can eat and not what you can’t.
I find myself having a pity party sometimes about not being able to eat whatever I want anymore or certain foods. So instead when that little devil whispers in my ear how bad I got it passing up that pizza, I remind him how I will live longer and happier avoiding it. For example– if you are watching what you eat, always focus on all the things you like and not what you can’t have. You can have anything, but you CHOOSE not too. Never tell yourself “You can’t have it”!! It will cause you to want it more.
12) Use your non-dominant hand when you eat.
This one is actually good for those people who eat really fast- i.e. myself. By doing this it slows you down. It takes the brain 5-10 minutes to realize you are eating. That’s how long it takes for your blood sugar to reach the brain so it knows to shut off your appetite. Many of us over eat simply because we eat too fast and consumed far more than we needed. By slowing down you give your body enough time to register the food in its satiety centers and put the brakes on over indulgence. For example– while growing up my brother and I were very big eaters and many times my mother would make dinner and when it came time to eat she would tell us- “Dig in because I’m not making any more, you both eat way too much.” Well then the race was on and I usually ended up winning. Wow, can’t believe I sound proud of that.
13) Don’t shoot for perfection. You will fail every time.
This is something that a type A personality must come to grips with. When it comes to diet, we will never be perfect. You have to live once in a while and enjoy celebrations and gatherings. If not, you more than likely will become frustrated and angry especially if you are not seeing the results you expected for all your efforts. So allow yourself a little wiggle room to indulge once in a while. For example, I indulge on two meals a week. I will eat something I crave and one day it may be a sugary favorite and another meal it will be a salty fatty craving. Just remember during that time not to over indulge. A good rule of thumb to follow is to watch your quantity if the quality is bad. I vividly remember how strict my diet was for my bodybuilding contests. It was so strict that many times I would completely lose control and eat ridiculous amounts of food. After one of my contest, I was so out of control that in one week I gained 40lbs!!! One time when my contest was finished ,we stopped at olive Garden and I ate 23 sticks of their garlic bread. I ate so much I could actually feel the dough expanding in my stomach. Man did that hurt.
14) Don’t get use to eating in different places.
This is a bad one for me. For example, I got into the habit of eating at my computer desk. Before I knew it my PC was turned into a buffet table. Other problem areas can be your car, TV or bed believe it or not (this one is the worst). So it’s best to designate one area for eating and refrain from doing it anywhere else. You don’t want to constantly think about food if almost ever room in your house is a reminder of gnashing on your favorite foods.
15) Look at food as medicine- nature has a cure for everything.
I’m sure many of you heard about the benefits of certain foods and how they can cure disease. Vitamin C for colds, Saw Palmetto for prostate, fish oil for just about everything. What I try to do is look at my food choices as different forms of medicine for my body. Trying to eat as wide a variety as I can to help my body be as strong and healthy as possible. There are many studies showing the benefits of food curing disease over drugs. In fact several studies have concluded that a vegan diet low in sugar, has been shown to cure cancer. Whatever your ailment is, seek out a holistic dietician or other integrative medicine doctor to find out what foods may benefit you and your situation.
16) People are depending on you.
You want to be around for your kids. The thought of them being alone in this world would scare me into eating broccoli and cauliflower every day. So this one is simple, if you want to be around to live a long life and watch your kids grow up and then give you some beautiful grand kids, then taking care of yourself is numero uno.
For example, I remember when I was a little boy and my dad was eating horribly and smoking cigarettes by the packs. One day, my siblings and I saw an American Heart Association commercial talking about how bad smoking and being over weight was. We were so afraid my dad would die that we gathered together and begged him, with tears in our eyes, to quit smoking and eat right. It affected my dad so much he quit smoking cold turkey and lost 40lbs! So next time you want to over indulge, picture that little face that loves you and is relying on your existence.
17) I don’t have time to exercise.
Many times this excuse is psychological because we really don’t want to exercise. However, you will find time if a medical issue presents itself right? Diabetes, heart disease, intestinal issues. So why not start before something bad happens that forces us to spend our retirement years in and out of hospitals and doctors offices. Life is too short. Spend time on yourself NOW so you can enjoy each and everyday as a healthy and fit senior. For example, studies show that working out in the morning will help your cells mitochondria burn more calories throughout the rest of the day. How much exercise? All you need is 20-30 minutes atleast 3 days per week.
Make yourself and your health a priority before it decides to do it one day without your consent! So the next time you’re “too busy” ask yourself, can I find a half hour today to exercise? We all can find the time so look forward to it. That half hour of exercise will actually make you more energetic, productive and functional so you can actually get more done during the day. The other option is to “Ignore your health and it will go away”.
18) We are role models for people and we may not even realize it.
Whether you realize it or not, everyone has a someone that looks up to them as role models. Whether it’s our kids or other people in our lives. Many times we don’t even realize people are watching us and how we lead by example. For instance, I remember my wife’s friend wanted to lose weight and I was helping her do so. One day we were at a party and it happened to be my cheat day. Needless to say my cheat day got ugly and I went overboard. The next day my wife informed me that her friend was shocked how I eat and was watching me the entire night. She went onto say that she was discouraged that I can eat like that and not gain weight. She then began to question the advise I was telling her. I had to explain to her what happened and I felt like a real idiot.
19) Are you really Hungry?
If you feel like eating, check yourself. Think of what your favorite vegetable or health food is. If you feel like eating it, you are probably hungry. If not, you are maybe bored or looking for “comfort in food” or a trigger is involved as previously mentioned. Either way, decide if what your experiencing is real or false hunger. My favorite health foods are the cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. If I do not feel like eating them I know I’m not hungry.
20) Don’t be intimidated by exercise when you start. No matter how daunting your path may be, we all had a beginning, even Arnold Schwarzenegger and many other athletes and fitness enthusiast as well. So don’t be intimidated by the gym. You would be surprised at how many of those over grown men and women are actually really friendly and willing to help. Remember there are stereotypes and bad apples everywhere. I have met so many fit people that are extremely nice and understanding. Many have had countless struggles themselves and feel your pain.
Remember that nothing happens over night so be patient and God bless.