Eating right is 80% of any fitness goal, whether you're bodybuilding or wanting to just lose a couple of pounds. Essentially, this means that you can stay faithful to your exercise routine but still fail to meet your goals if you are not giving enough importance to your diet. So there is considerable pressure to eat right or suffer the consequences. Anyone who has run the gamut of several diets knows this, and knows that the pressure of eating right can create considerable stress during the process.
Stress of Breaking the Habit
When the subconscious mind does things repetitively, even bad things like eating badly, that action becomes a 'known' to the mind, and in doing it, we feel comfortable. Doing something 'known' in psychological terms translates as 'good.' If you are trying to create a new habit of eating well, especially if you have previously not eaten well, then the brain detects this new activity as an 'unknown' and uncomfortable. Inevitably you could feel out of sorts or even still hungry after a sensible healthy meal.
You may have associated certain foods with certain positive results - like a bowl of pasta after a tough day. When you begin to train yourself out of that habit, your body is going to complain and your brain is going to try and persuade you to keep your old habits. This results in considerable stress to you.
Stress of Saying No
Stress can come from a family, partner, or social group that offers food or doesn't understand the importance of your new lifestyle. No one likes to turn down food offered but this is something you are going to have to do on a regular basis from now on if you want to stick to your new plan.
Many of us are culturally programmed to show our love and celebrate with others by sharing food. Turning down food traditionally indicates not wishing to share the occasion or defining yourself as different. Sometimes refusing food can lead to anger or upset in the other person - perhaps because they don’t understand your goals and sometimes perhaps because your control and discipline has just triggered a bout of introspective analysis. A common response from others might be to encourage you to ‘just have one’ or perhaps to refer to your decisions as a ‘fad’ - expecting you to be back to your old self eventually.
This quick fire insult is not aimed at you. This comment reflects their own insecurities about dealing with a new you as well as their feelings of rejection tied to the food. Once you have spent more time around these people as the new you, they will begin to figure out a way to address your new lifestyle. Just give them time.
Stress of Rejection
You might go out to happy hour with your friends and turn down the usually margarita (which often contains over 700 calories) in exchange for a glass of wine or a light beer. Changes like these may have your friends teasing you. They may not mean anything by their jokes, but the truth is, these kind of reactions negatively impact our choices. Making us want to give in in order to feel like one of the group again. Feelings of displacement and rejection can all take their toll.
However, in order to combat this, the key is to see your life change not just as a complete change, overwhelming you with a sense of eternity. Rather when it comes to eating, use focus on the overall goal. Eventually, others will admire you and see clearly why you have made certain decisions. Some of them might even come to you for advice or join you in your new habits.
Stress of Your Body Throwing a Tantrum
It is common to feel slightly depressed or saddened after a week or two into a new fitness plan (when the honeymoon period is over). When you have made changes suddenly without gradually stepping into new life choices, your brain and body become overwhelmed. However, in the first week or two, enthusiasm is high and your energy stores are plentiful. But trying to manage the stresses of new decisions (both internally and externally with your friends and family) together with muscle soreness, exhaustion, and hunger (all things you'll experience in the first few weeks), can start to feel like too much to handle.
How does you overcome this? Remember that you are dealing with brain chemistry and the first thing you need to do is to restore a sense of balance and control in your life. First start with reevaluating your diet. Make sure you're eating enough. You may want to up your vegetable intake to get you feeling fuller. Maybe a couple hundred more calories may help you through this difficult period so that you can return later back to your routine. Don't overdo it, but get your hunger under control with something satisfying.
Second, give your brain something else to focus on. Take those pounds you've already lost or inches that are gone and celebrate their departure with a new shirt or pants, then take the new you out on the town. It often just takes one person to comment on a slimmer, fitter you to make you feel MUCH better. Additionally, it will start cementing this new image in your mind as not just the "new" you but the "real" you.
Redefine Your Motivators and Stressors
If you’re the kind of person that needs to move away from pain to be motivated, then find joy in the fact you’re not likely to have a heart attack or stroke or diabetes as you are eating as best you can. If you need to move towards pleasure to motivate yourself, imagine how good you will feel and continue to feel when it’s easy to eat what you want and you no longer have any cravings for junk food. Make health issues the stress and a strong body the joy.
Here’s a simple 5 point plan to avoiding the blues and being emotionally intelligent about the positive changes you are making.
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