10 Ways Your Brain Messes Up Your Fitness Goals
The benefits of exercise are numerous. It lowers stress and gives you more energy as you trim and tone your body. Unfortunately, stress levels create physical and mental barriers that can interfere with or even sabotage the easiest of fitness goals. Here are 10 ways the brain can interfere with our fitness goals and some tips on how to overcome them.
#1 I’ll start tomorrow. This is your brain procrastinating, and is often used as an excuse to over-indulge today; not a bad thing if you actually do begin tomorrow, but for most of us, this is a pattern. Starting tomorrow is a mentality that can be shifted with a little mental discipline. First, ask yourself what is the reason for your fitness goals? Is it to have more energy, be thinner or to win a race? Once you have decided what it is, picture the outcome of reaching your goal. Then each time you hear yourself say, “I’ll start tomorrow,” replace “tomorrow” with “today,” and go for it.
#2 Genetics won’t let me lose/gain weight. It’s hard to be motivated when this type of self-talk takes place. The belief that genetics is responsible for one’s weight may hold some value, but how our genes work is dependent on lifestyle factors like diet and exercise. The reality is that genes can be dormant or active, and what you do influences which genes are active or not. This is another situation in which persistence pays off. You can overcome the genetic obstacle with a trained nutritional counselor to help balance your hormones or eat a diet packed with fruits and vegetables which activates the healthier genes. And remember, even small amounts of exercise help with overall mental and physical health.
#3 I can’t do that! Many people stop before they begin because they are too busy comparing themselves to others. Maybe we think we cannot look like professional athletes or models, so what’s the point? Or we believe we are not strong enough or rich enough. But the reality is that you can reap the benefits of exercise. The trick is to strive to reach your personal goals and be your best. Write down your goals for physical and mental fitness and keep those in your sight. And the gym isn’t the only option for exercise. You can work out to a DVD or online program at home or hit the sidewalk or park for a walk or run. The benefits of exercise are abundant, and not only can you do it, but you deserve to just like anyone else.
#4 Lack of self-confidence stops us before we begin. It can also interfere with progress. Self-confidence often doesn’t happen overnight, but as you follow your fitness path with a healthy diet and exercise plan, it will grow. Setting small goals and reaching them will increase self-confidence, even more, leading to a cycle of health. After just a week or two, you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel about yourself, which can help you stick with it and keep moving forward.
#5 No time for fitness. In our busy culture, many people believe this is their fate. But, if you make health and fitness a priority, you will find the time. And the healthier you get, the more energy you have, which helps you find even more time. The reality is that life is full of stress and it may be difficult to fit in all the things we need to do, let alone exercise. But the trick is to make fitness a priority and commit to small increments of time. If you are busy, commit to 15 minutes of exercise each day, as persistence is key. As Bruce Lee once said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
#6 An over-worked brain impairs working memory. Working memory is your decision-making skills; it is the process of thinking and evaluating. But if your brain is already busy and struggling to process background information, like problems at work, you become fatigued more easily. Fatigue can stop you from working out and eating healthy as you don’t want to make the tough decisions to eat healthily. If this sounds like you, try meditating for 5-10 minutes a day. Learning to clear your mind does get easier and teaches your brain to focus on the task at hand.
#7 A stressed brain hampers fitness progress. In fact, a Finnish study monitored 44 people for VO2 max, which is a measure of how much oxygen the body uses during a workout, which is an indication of fitness. In the study, those who reported the lowest stress scores showed the most VO2 max improvement while those who reported high-stress levels had the least improvement over a two-week period, in spite of doing the same workout routine. If you tend to be stressed, try using brain-wave meditation or another form of stress management. Once you are able to get into a fitness routine, your health will improve, which is a natural way to combat stress.
#8 A stressed brain hampers with weight loss efforts. Feeling relaxed or stressed may be due to external factors, but we can also train our brain to handle stress better. Unfortunately, stress causes too much of the hormone cortisol to flow through our bloodstream, and excess cortisol can cause excess weight gain or make it harder to lose weight. The fix for this is to incorporate a stress-management technique and stick with it.
#9 Stress kills motivation. In fact, stress can cause something called chronic inflammation, which inhibits the flow of the feel-good chemical, dopamine. But besides making you feel happy, dopamine keeps your brain fresh and helps it re-calibrate motivation. This is yet another argument in favor of finding stress-busting techniques, so your brain doesn’t interfere with your fitness goals.
#10 Negative thinking can interfere with healthy weight loss and healthy eating goals. Negative thinking causes the brain to filter out accomplishments and is overly critical of success. Begin to combat this by keeping a journal of all your wins and accomplishments. Focus on your good aspects while remembering that we all have negative aspects because nobody is perfect. Try to fit in a short, 15-minute workout in spite of any negative self-talk. Keep track of your progress and celebrate your wins with a new pair of workout shoes or clothing; choose something that goes along with your fitness goals and makes you happy.
Overcoming obstacles is the beginning of physical and mental fitness. But the benefits of exercise are numerous, from increasing self-confidence to reducing stress levels. So, begin with baby steps, be kind to yourself and keep trying. As we always say at Yes.fit, you have to walk before you run, and persistence always pays off.