As Eric mentioned in one of his recent posts, one of the biggest hurdles for people to overcome when seeking motivation to get in shape is realizing that “nothing tastes as good as fit feels.” This is a mantra that I actually am not particularly fond of, but it makes a valid point. No, I don’t believe that in the moment fit feels better than a Baconator tastes, but that’s the whole point, isn’t it – the bad decision is just for a moment. That is the key to overcoming your compulsions, whether that’s eating, smoking, drinking, or something else. You need to weigh the immediate pleasure gained from giving in and making the bad decision against the long term happiness and satisfaction you can achieve by kicking the bad habits.
I recently found a really fantastic article on Cracked.com titled 5 Ways Your Brain is Tricking You into Being Miserable. While it is a comedy site (fair warning – there’s some coarse language), the article makes some solid points. One of the most important ones is item 2 – that most people would rather be unhappy than uncertain. This applies to the food and exercise situation just as well as anything else. I know part of my personal struggle is the idea that, yes, I can give up junk food and start being more healthy with my diet, but then what if I fail? What if I make these changes and give up these things that bring me pleasure – however fleeting – and I don’t get the results I want?? What if I do everything right for awhile and then screw up anyway and I’ve missed out on the pleasure I could have had from my vices in the meantime? It’s a weird thing, but I find myself torn between the small and negative satisfaction I can definitely get now and the long-term happiness that I might get if I change.
It’s not that people don’t want to change, it’s that fear of change and fear of the unknown that holds people back. It’s worsened if there are other factors at play, such as depression, anxiety, or even just being bullied growing up (in any form). These things can lead people to exclude themselves from success stories. If that’s where your head is at, it’s incredibly easy to look at someone who has made a drastic transformation in their body, health, and fitness and say “Yeah, but that’s them. I could never do that, and even if I did, I probably wouldn’t get the same results.”
What’s worse is that, when you’re in that type of mindset, it becomes easy to compare yourself to others and feel inferior or unwelcome in places like a gym. I’ve certainly been there. Hearing conversations among regulars about all of the New-Years-Resolutioners in January and how they don’t deserve to be taking up all of the space and machines and other similar complaints can have a very negative impact on people’s willingness to stick with it.
By now, you’re probably thinking “Okay, Mike, when is this supposed to turn into a motivational article to get me to the gym?” Well…it sort of already is. What I’m trying to do is help all of the people out there starting or considering a journey to a healthier lifestyle that you’re not alone. Starting it is never easy, and it’s usually full of doubt and uncertainty. But there is one thing that you can be certain of: it will get better. You will notice changes starting to happen. They will be small at first, but once you see that first new cut in one of your muscles or you don’t get winded going up the stairs, that’s when you know it’s working. That’s what you have to cling to and use for support. Everyone is different. Everyone has a different optimal level of fitness and different abilities. Be the best you that you can be. Find a way to get into the zone when you’re exercising so that you ignore those around you. Find what you like and do it. You want to get fit? Don’t let anyone else get in your way.
Another thing that I struggle with, also mentioned in the Cracked article, seems completely unrelated – I sometimes hate my day job. It’s boring, I do stuff with little reward, and I don’t like my boss (note: my day job is not writing for GameNTrain). When you spend all day doing what you don’t like, it’s easy to get off-track on how you want to spend your free time. I get lost in simply not doing things that I find unpleasant. Yeah, I’ll read and play games and whatnot at home, but I’m not really doing anything. The gym is a chore for me. It’s not my top priority because there are all of those other factors that I was describing before. I don’t know what the payoff will be when I go to the gym. I do know that if I stay at home and do any number of things there that I’ll get a short burst of happiness out of it. So how can I break the cycle?
It’s about control. I don’t mean willpower. I mean when I think about how much I dislike various activities from my daily life, it’s largely because I don’t control them, or I don’t have control of the situation that I’m required to do them. Going to the gym and watching what I eat gives me that control back. What’s more, I’m controlling what goes into my body and how my body should react to those stimuli. When I eat garbage, stuff just happens to my body. When I eat well and exercise, I’m controlling my body to grow and develop in certain ways.
Regardless of your hurdles, it all comes back to the fact that everyone is different. What I do and how my mind works may not be the best solution for you, but hopefully you will take some time to think critically about why you’re still giving into your vices and why you would want to change them. Look at yourself, your own limits, your own potential, your own goals. Once you understand where you want to be, it’s a lot easier to figure out how to get there.