In the past twenty years, the Western world has seen a dramatic paradigm shift in the way we look at our personal image. With the advent of television, computers and ultimately social media, society has been flooded with images of men and women who are “ideal-looking”.
This process has slowly conditioned our minds to believe in certain “standards of beauty” that have been imposed on us by advertising companies, marketing agenices and the movie industry. It is proven that we judge a person in less than seven seconds from purely visual criterias. No wonder people can feel inadequate and depressed when they look in the mirror!
The fitness industry has been trying to solve this problem in the past ten years by flooding the net with a sea of information about the best diet plan and the best training programme.
The end result of this is mass confusion in the general population on how to change their bodies and improve their health. Professions like Personal Trainer and Fitness Coach have been growing dramatically in number, because people found themselves in need for a guide.
But a big part of the process has been missed. The industry has put too much focus on nutrition and exercise and totally forgot about the human mind.
In my past years of work as a Personal Trainer I have seen a common trend: even by prescribing the best diet and training program (totally backed up by cutting edge science), I could achieve great results, but only with certain clients. Some were applying by the book and others seemed to just find it too hard or fell back down the dark tunnel of booze and junk food.
I was becoming incredibly frustrated, because I always treated clients like I would myself and I expected from them and from myself the best possible results: their ‘failure’ was a personal failure for me.
So I’ve decided to go and talk to the best people in the industry, those who could deliver incredible results consistently to any sort of client, and charge great money for that too! What came out was shocking and I will explain to you here what the true science of success in changing one’s body is.
With a new confidence and drive, I took the advice of my mentors and started studying and applying the science of “why people do what they do”, called NLP: neuro linguistic programming.
It all comes down to a simple principle that drives any human behaviour: “Humans tend to run away from pain and look for pleasure”.
Let me give you an example: a kid sees for the first time a fire and tries to touch it. Obviously it burns and he instantly links pain to touching the fire. He won’t do it again, unless he’s forced to.
An adolescent tries a cigarette for the first time. It doesn’t like the taste and it links pain to it, but the fact that many of his friends are doing it links more pain to not being part of the group and he slowly forgets about the bad taste. In no time he links pleasure to smoking with friends and he forgets about the bad taste.
Therefore, what we call “mental health” is the sum of all the negative and positive associations we develop during our life.
But what does it have to do with diet? The answer is simple: people who associate pain to dieting will always and continuously fail to stick on it.
It is in fact proven that 95% of people who go on a diet will be 6 pounds heavier and more disappointed with their body over the next two years. Not much of a diet!
Think about it, have you ever tried this radical diet where you just eat “food X” for a certain amount of days? Maybe you are able to gather enough mental strength to stick to it before your holiday, but as soon as you take the plane, you instantly reach for a glass of wine and hear yourself utter something like “Aaahhhhh finally”.
You just linked great pain to the diet and incredible pleasure to break it. You can be sure that you will get back all the pounds lost with interest in no time. End result: you now hate dieting.
Breaking the pattern
But it is possible to change that? The answer is yes and it is easier than you think!
The main problem is that our neuro associations are deeply embedded in our subconscious mind.
Imagine your brain as an iceberg and see your conscious behaviours (the ones you have to think about and decide upon) as the top 5% of the iceberg, when the subconscious is the other 95% that is resting under water. A good 95% of your daily actions and decisions are dictated by your subconscious.
If you subconsciously relate great pain to exercise because, for example, you were really bad at it in school, your brain will try to stop you consistently to get dressed and hit the gym or go for a run. And this is also valid for every other kind of behaviour or activity in your life.
Rewriting the program
There are many techniques to change our negative associations and link healthy behaviours to great pleasure. Obviously I can’t write them all in this article and that’s why I am writing a diet book that shapes your neuro associations, before prescribing any change in your eating patterns.
But I still want to give you a useful four step exercise that can have a profound effect on your eating patterns and can dramatically change your neuro associations.
Step 1: Create leverage
Why, once upon a time, have you decided to go on a diet? The answer is: because you had enough leverage. That means you’ve reached the point where your brain shouted at you “you are getting fat and gross! You need to do something about it!”
Did it ever happened? If you are reading this article this far it probably did. You simply gained enough leverage to take some sort of action and lose those extra pounds.What I want you to do here is to recreate that feeling with a quick leverage-boosting exercise. So follow the instructions.
1 – Take a piece of paper and a pen: it’s essential, in order to trigger any subconscious change, to put your thoughts down on paper or it simply won’t work. So please do so.
2 – Write down the following:
– Losing a stone will improve my social life by…(write 10 reasons)
– Losing a stone will improve my family life by…(write down 10 reasons)
– Losing a stone will improve my work life by…(write down 10 reasons)
– Losing a stone will improve my sex life by…(write down 10 reasons)
– Losing a stone will improve my financial life by…(write down 10 reasons)
Attention: it doesn’t matter if the reasons repeat or look alike. To reprogram your brain you need to fill it with good reasons why a change has to be made NOW. Never stop writing until you write all the fifty reasons.
3 – Read out loud what you just wrote.
What you just did created massive leverage and you are now sick and tired of your belly and ready to take some serious actions to create a change.
Step 2: break the pattern
In Step 1 we’ve created massive pleasure to the idea of changing our body, now we are going to do the reverse and deliberately inflict some pain on ourselves…don’t worry, it’s going to be fun! Do the following:
1 – Turn around your piece of paper.
2 – Do the exact same exercise you did before, but this time ask yourself “How not changing my eating and exercise habits will deteriorate my ______ (again the same five areas of your life you have used for the previous exercise).
3 – Read out loud what you just wrote.
By doing this, you may have broken the mental associations you had about dieting and linked more pain to non dieting. But that is not the end.
Step 3: take action now!
This is crucial, now that you are in an empowered state for changing things, you need to take one action that will get you closer to your new healthy patterns. Allow me to suggest a few options:
1 – Check your fridge and bin all the sugary food and drinks.
2 – Check your drawer and bin all the sugary processed foods.
3 – Go out for lunch and look for high protein/low carbs options.
4 – Check your bag and bin all the processed snacks.
5 – Check your fridge and flush the wine in the toilet.
6 – Book an appointment to check out a new gym.
7 – Say no to drinks with mates tonight, or even better go and enjoy the time without drinking.
8 – Eat at a restaurant and leave 30% of the food in the plate.
9 – Buy a 1,5l bottle of still water and drink it in three hours.
I could go on forever really but you get the idea, don’t you?
It is essential that you do this right now. Do not wait and create momentum!
Step 4: associate pleasure!
This is fundamental and without this the change will never last. If you don’t do this, you will inevitably fall back into the fat-trap!
Think of a moment in your life when you were truly happy, healthy, beautiful, powerful and victorious. Now repeat that image in your mind over and over up to twenty times, while you are taking the action. Deeply link that empowering thought to the healthy action you are about to take and feel truly grateful and joyous in taking the same action over and over again.
How does it feel? Great right? Congratulations, you just imprinted in your subconscious mind great pleasure in taking healthy action. But now don’t get too excited and take some time to digest what you just did. Here is some advice on how to implement this technique into your daily life:
1 – Implement a maximum of two healthy habits per week. No more than that. You will see that by the end of the month your energy levels will raise to the sky and some concrete weight loss will manifest. And the best part is that you will actually love it and get addicted to being healthy…isn’t that great?
2 – Do not try to implement drastic approaches like starving yourself, training for more than two hours or eating only one type of food. Keep it simple.
3 – Make a list of unhealthy habits that you want to replace with healthy ones and write down a goal setting list with a timeline.
4 – Enjoy the ride and share it with your friends. The more they accept and follow your example, the easier it will be for you to be surrounded by healthy people and maintain good habits.
There are indeed many more techniques that work very well, especially if under the guidance of a coach like me, but the process itself is not so hard to recreate by yourself. If you are interested in more deep science about human behaviour, do not hesitate to contact me through my WatchFit profile page.
Enjoy a happy and healthy life!
To read more from David Alfonsi, visit his Expert Profile.