Independence Day - Embracing Freedom from Limiting Beliefs about Health
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Happy Independence Day, SparkPeople!
Today I’ve been reflecting on the question "What does independence mean to me, in the context of my journey toward health?" I realize that the tyranny I need to break free of is in the kingdom between my ears – it is my own mind's limiting beliefs and assumptions about my health. Here is a sampling of some of the tyrannical thinking that has held me in unhealthy captivity for way too long:
Tyrannical Belief: "I hate exercise."
Declaration of Independence: I may never become an exercise fanatic, but the truth is that while I may not love doing the exercise, I do love the way it makes me feel. I enjoy the boost it gives to my energy and mood, and I’m very happy to know that it’s burning calories and increasing my metabolism. I also embrace the freedom to choose what forms of exercise I will do, and pick only activities that feel a bit fun, not loathsome.
Tyrannical Belief: “Unfortunately, I inherited my dad’s slow metabolism and heavier frame, instead of my mom’s petite and athletic body type, so I’m doomed from the start.”
Declaration of Independence: My genetics are a fact, but they’re merely a challenge, not my fate. I can do things to boost my metabolism. And I can make daily choices that will determine what hangs on my frame, which is far more important than the frame itself.
Tyrannical Belief: “Life without the foods I love would be dull and miserable, so it’s not worth giving them up.”
Declaration of Independence: I can eat any food I love. I just need to eat the less healthy ones in moderation. I can enjoy them in smaller qualities, and along with healthier foods that I also enjoy. Thinking of it as a bank account that I need to balance helps, so if I’ve indulged myself at one meal, I can compensate with healthier choices at the next. I’ve also discovered that when I’m eating healthy, my tastes change a bit over time, and I increasingly appreciate the flavors and textures of healthier foods, and experience fewer cravings for unhealthy foods.
Tyrannical Belief: “I’ve been a night owl all my life, so those rules about not eating after a certain hour don’t really apply to me, because I’m always up really late and the cycle of my ‘day’ is different than for most people.”
Declaration of Independence: I accept the fact that I am not exempt from the laws of biology, physics and addiction. While my alertness may be higher than many people’s at night, my metabolism is still lower then than it is during the day. And the basic physics equation of calories in minus calories out still applies, so if I’m eating later when my basal metabolic rate is dropping, the impact is going to be worse. The other truth is that I have lower mental/emotional resistance later in the day, so the time of day leads to a slippery slope where one bite is more likely to turn into a mindless binge.
Tyrannical Belief: “I’ve had a really bad day, so I deserve to give myself a break and slack off on my plan a bit today.” Or, the equally applicable… “I’ve had a really good day, so I deserve to give myself a break and slack off on my plan a bit today.”
Declaration of Independence: Bad day or good day, I always deserve to love myself enough to be healthy.
Tyrannical Belief: "I really just care about having a life that’s emotionally, intellectually, socially, and creatively robust, so the physical aspect of my being is somewhat irrelevant to me.”
Declaration of Independence: Since brains living disembodied in a bell jar are only an option in science fiction, if I don’t take care of my physical self, my emotional /intellectual/ social/ creative self will too soon find itself without a home. My physical well-being is deeply relevant to me.
Tyrannical Belief: “I don’t like healthy foods very much.”
Declaration of Independence: That’s simply untrue. I started listing all of the healthy foods I like, and there were so many I stopped counting. The truth is, there are just a few healthy foods I don’t particularly like, and I’m free to skip those, while still having many healthy choices that I will thoroughly enjoy.
Tyrannical Belief: “I can’t resist when goodies are calling to me late at night.”
Declaration of Independence: I am in control of my choices and actions. I don’t need to give in to the call of temptation. I can experience some mental discomfort without succumbing to it. I recently observed that on the rare occasions when I have to fast at night due to a medical procedure in the morning (e.g. fasting blood test), then I am able to more easily disregard the call of temptation, because I tell myself that I “must”. That is proof that my mind is fully capable of weighing priorities and making the right choice. To achieve independence from this belief, I need to raise my long term health to at least the same level of mental priority that I assign to a blood test.
Tyrannical Belief: “It’s too hard to be healthy.”
Declaration of Independence: The truth is that it’s much, much harder to be unhealthy. It’s very hard to drag around an extra 100 pounds everywhere I go. It’s hard to have knee and foot problems that are exacerbated by the extra weight they carry. It’s hard to run out of energy. It would be terribly hard to cross the line into a life with diabetes. And it would be tragically hard to leave my wonderful children too soon.
Tyrannical Belief: “It’s all or nothing for me.”
Declaration of Independence: I recognize that I do best at establishing healthy habits when I take a rather fanatical “all or nothing” approach especially at the start, because I’ve experienced that little slips can too easily lead to more and bigger ones. But that “all or nothing” thinking can also grease the slippery slope where one “oops” slides into thinking “I’ve failed, so why bother?” Independence for me means a shift from “all or nothing” to “consistency”. Consistency leaves room for me to be an imperfect human being without labeling anything as failure, while still moving me powerfully forward toward my goals.
Tyrannical Belief: “Just one more bite.”
Declaration of Independence: The truth is that the foods I typically crave most are of the addictive variety (fatty/ salty/ starchy/ sweet). Neurobiology has shown how these types of foods set us up for addictive cycles. They stimulate over production of chemicals that give pleasure, but just as with any other type of addiction, the “high” recedes quickly, and we need more and more to try to get the same level of pleasure as we had with the first bite. That addictive urge to “chase the high” makes a lie of “just one more bite”. Instead, I need to tell myself the truth that the “high” I got from the first bite is as good as it’s going to get, so it’s okay to stop there.
Tyrannical Belief: “It’s wrong to waste it.”
Declaration of Independence: I hereby drop my membership in the “clean plate club”. Despite the peculiar theory asserted by my mother, if I eat everything on my plate it will not help any “starving children around the world.” Likewise, eating my children’s leftovers from their plates when they were small did not save the family any money or improve their nutrition. It is a false economy to eat food that I don’t need, or to keep the foods that don’t support my aspirations to health. My personal bottom line will improve if I put the leftovers in the disposal, and toss out the junk food that’s a trap waiting in my pantry.
Tyrannical Belief: “It’s just one more time, tomorrow I’ll….”
Declaration of Independence: As long as I accept that fib about “tomorrow”, then tomorrow will never really come. The only time that counts is now. I need to be in full, conscious intention about each and every choice point, moment to moment, day to day. That’s what real change is made of.
The United States’ founding fathers were courageous in declaring their truths, and in seizing the opportunity to live in a new way. But they didn’t do it alone – the full, impassioned community is what sustained the revolution. This is my personal declaration of independence. It’s revolutionary new thinking for me, and will require some courage and perseverance, but I’m sure that it will lead to a better life. And I know that I can count on this wonderful SparkPeople community to sustain me in my personal revolution. Thank you all for your vision, passion and encouragement!