While the subjects of fitness, health, and wellness are usually understood in terms of physical activity, bodily movements, and strenuous exertion, what is often missing from these conversations is how much mental activity is also taking place, and how it is part and parcel of one’s fitness and wellness journey.
I am not talking about the benefits to our brain when we exercise, even though those are well established and documented. What I am referring to is how mental preparation should be considered when one decides to get on the fitness train—it is as much about your mind as it is about your body, and we need not look further than the starting point.
Making healthier changes in your life is a decision. It may not need belaboring, but one decides when and how to embark on a journey to health and wellness. Especially in our world today, where we have instant messaging, apps, and conferences, where we have the word “fast” added into everything for our convenience (food, service, delivery), it is no wonder that the effects of a more sedentary lifestyle have resulted in catastrophic obesity levels in many countries.
You decided before you acted.
Making schedule changes is a decision. A common excuse I hear when clients cannot make it to their appointed exercise session is “My day is too full,” which is perfectly fine when it happens once in a while, but not when it occurs every other session. Most new clients in fitness centers will have had pre-counseling with a fitness trainer and a nutritionist, who will both recommend a number of days in a week to engage in the physical aspects of the program (lift weights, do cardio, stretch) and for certain durations and configurations—but this only works if you are present. Physical exercise is one of the few things in our “I want it now!” world that still requires the old-school route; you can’t file exercise away with a phone application (though I won’t be surprised if someone does try).
You decide to make time for it.
Making food choices, by definition, is a decision. When you go to a restaurant, no one tells you what to order. When you shop for your weekly groceries, you decide how to fill your basket. Even in a buffet situation, ultimately you decide what to put on your plate.
Oh, how the simplest things can sometimes be the most complicated.
When you step back and see the bigger picture, the best time to decide on food is when we aren’t hungry. I liken this situation to the concept of life insurance: the best time to get it is when you don’t need it (you have the funds for it, you are healthy), because once you have a cancer diagnosis, for example, you become ineligible for it, and that’s when most people decide they need to purchase it.
You decide what goes in your body.
Staying on your healthy journey is a decision. If you have been working out for some time now, you know that the results aren’t always the proverbial bed of roses. This can be especially hard to accept for those who are new to an exercise program, are doing the recommended program and exercises religiously, and find that, after a couple of months, the pounds aren’t “melting” or the muscles aren’t building, and frustration begins to set in. (Followed usually by a bingeing session.)
In a similar vein, your journey to health and fitness should focus on the big picture. Realize early on that there will be days or weeks when minimal progress will be seen, and this is likely because your body likes stasis and naturally fights off any attempt to be changed, or where there is uncertainty about food intake or energy expenditure.
Instead of focusing on what you can’t or won’t do, you need to view things proactively: what can I do? What will I do? What can be done? Wallowing in frustration is only good for a few seconds (if even that), but once that’s over, you have to make a decision.
You decide if your journey to health and fitness is worth continuing.
Illustrations by Mitzi Villavecer