The subconscious part of your brain wants you to do what feels good. That’s why exercise stinks.
We’re usually making ourselves do things that should be considered medevial torture when we exercise. (I’m looking at you, burpees).
If your brain likes to feel good, let’s give it what it wants.
Let’s feel good when we exercise.
It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but you can harness that “feel good”power to help you reach your health and weight loss goals.
You just need to eat more healthy foods that happen to taste delicious too or choose exercise that’s happens to be fun as well.
Eating right or exercising becomes a treat you give yourself rather than a chore if you focus on how good it makes you feel in the moment.
It’s hard to believe, but getting healthy and losing weight can and should be enjoyable (if you want to make it last).
This is #1 in The 15 Brainy Ways to Put Your Health and Weight Loss on Autopilot series.
Does your kids’ school do this too?
My daughter’s elementary school has theme weeks where kids dress up every day in special outfits.
Sometimes the kids are supposed to dress up by color— today is blue day, tomorrow is green day, Wednesday is camo day, and so on. Yes, in Alabama camo is a color.
Another regular on the dress up day rotation is Opposite Day. This is where the kids have to wear their clothes backwards.
Who thought up that crazy idea? Backwards clothes don’t feel good. My kids usually go switch their pants around as soon as they get to school.
The first shift in the Brainy Health and Weight Loss series is like Opposite Day.
When it comes to exercise, most of us think of stinky, sweaty hard work.
But what if you could do the opposite?
No Willpower Needed
Instead of using willpower to make yourself do hard things, you could use the power of enjoying yourself and having fun to make changes that just flow.
The key to this habit magic is to sync up your health and weight loss habits with your idea of fun.
Unlike Opposite Day, you won’t have trouble keeping these habits on because they’ll feel comfortable.
No awkward fit.
You’ll truly enjoy them.
Move Towards the Positive
So how do you do that?
How do you make a habit that is based on Enjoying Yourself More instead of making it hard work?
Glad you asked;-).
I found a great example of how to set up your habits when reading a blog post by one of my favorite habit gurus, Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen was interviewing Michelle Gielan, a national CBS News anchor who has switched gears to be a positive psychologist. Michelle explained to Gretchen how she made a new habit and had harnessed the power of Enjoying Herself More. She used that idea to make an exercise habit that worked for her.
“I recently wanted to exercise more, and instead of trying to remind myself about all the health benefits and designing an effective (but boring) workout routine, I thought of the moments in my life when getting a workout has been the most fun.
For me, I love dancing! So I signed up for an aerobics style dance jam class, and I’ve never had more fun! And wouldn’t you know it—I am there twice-a-week (religiously!) anytime I’m not traveling for work. Fun can be a great motivator, and positive reasons like that help me stick to a new habit.”
Michelle explained this concept beautifully as, “Instead of running from the negative, I’ve started running towards the positive.”
I think it all comes down to how we set up the habit to begin with. We need to think from the onset about how we can make the habit positive, make it enjoyable.
Make it something we want to do, instead of something we make ourselves do.
When we set up our habits in a positive way, it feels like we are running forward instead of dragging ourselves toward it.
Enjoy Exercise? It's possible.
The simple but powerful concept of Enjoying Yourself More applies to all areas of your life.
But, exercise is a particularly good place to talk about this concept. We have so many negative associations with exercise.
In her book, No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, Michelle Segar, PhD reveals how to make an exercise habit that lasts. She says that choosing the right motivation and activity can make exercise go from a “should do” or a chore into a “want to do” or a gift we treat ourselves with.
When you try to make yourself exercise in a way that doesn’t feel joyful, it feels like a chore— like washing the dishes or sweeping the floor. One more thing to add to the to-do list. But, if it’s movement that you love to do or with someone you enjoy, then it becomes a treat.
It’s now something to look forward to, or as Michelle describes it, "A gift we give ourselves.”
It’s amazing how Michelle's simple reframe of exercise from “a chore” to a “gift you give yourself” has changed many of my clients' lives.
They have found by enjoying how they move their body, they also have been able to do their essential roles in life better.
They have more energy and more positivity and just function better as mothers, wives, or professionals.
But, they had to set up the activity habit right in order for this to happen.
But I Hate to Exercise!
As I said, many people have very negative associations with exercise. Many of my clients are adamant that they don’t like to exercise.
Exercise is a four letter word that happens to be spelled with eight letters.
Most of the time I don’t even use the word “exercise.” I usually call it “activity” or “movement.” But even so, many people are still resistant to the idea of moving more.
This is where I employ the power of Enjoying Yourself More. I ask my clients a simple, but powerful question.
What did you do for fun to move your body when you were 10 years old?
This question gives them permission to think about physical activity in a whole new way-- because it actually isn’t new to them after all.
When they were 10, they just liked to move. They didn’t do it to tone their inner thighs, or because their doctor told them to, or to lose ten pounds.
They just did it for fun.
They enjoyed themselves.
Many of my clients realize that they do like to move their bodies. They just have to think back and remember loving to jump on the trampoline, ride their bikes, or dance.
For me, it’s all about roller skating. I get positively gleeful when my daughter’s invited to a birthday party at the local roller rink. I leave all the other moms to talk rink side. I’m out there with my skates on, lapping all the girls, wind whipping my hair, and pretending to chaperone.
So, if you want to make an exercise habit that you love, ask yourself,
“What did I do for fun to move my body when I was 10 years old?”
Enjoying Yourself More Works with Food and Exercise
In my blog post Eat What You Love, I talk about making sure to eat lots of (healthy) foods that you love. Because when it comes down to it, that's what you will end up eating anyway.
It's important to include the Enjoy Yourself More mentality in both the way you approach food and activity when it comes to health and weight loss.
Making New Year’s Resolutions or Goals
When it’s the beginning of January, I love the promise of a big, wide open year in front of me. I love the season of New Year’s resolutions and goals. It’s a time where anything seems possible. I love dreaming big dreams and moving towards them.
I know I am not alone in this. There are 323,999,999 other Americans making weight loss and fitness resolutions this time of year. (Yes, that leaves one American who has it all figured out. We won’t hate. We won’t hate--Just keep repeating that.)
For those of you who worry about your follow-through on your health and weight loss resolutions, Making Small Habits and Enjoying Yourself More can make all the difference in achieving your goals.
Remember to set up your goals so that you “run towards the positive” rather than forcing yourself to do them. This year you may finally achieve your exercise resolution.
Until next time,
— Get the Guide —
The Brainy roadmap to put your health and weight on autopilot
“Why is getting healthy and losing weight so hard?”
After coaching hundreds of people (and losing 40 pounds myself), I found that it’s all about working with your brain (instead of struggling against it) and then putting it all on automatic.
Here are the 15 mindset shifts that I teach my clients for health and weight loss that lasts.
Now I'm sharing this transformative guide with you.
I'm a dietitian, personal trainer, and health coach who started asking all the tough health and weight loss questions-- like how do we get more willpower, why can’t we stay motivated, and why is getting healthy and losing weight so tough?
I discovered that the answer to all these questions is simply--Your Brain.
I help you stop the health and weight loss struggles by understanding your brain and then working with it—instead of against it. Then, I teach you how to put your personalized healthy habits on autopilot for results that last.
I believe that you deserve the health and energy to live your best life.