As is true for so many of us, my first step into working out and dieting began from a place of fear.
I didn’t realize this at first because everything I was doing was shrouded in the glossy packaging of “health.” And so I embarked on years of oft-contradictory wellness philosophies that many of us have probably dabbled in. Raw vegan! Paleo! Carb-free! Only slow carbs! Fruit-free! Only fruit!
But if I was being honest with myself, much of this came from needing to control something in my life.
In my mind’s eye, my body was something that I needed to rope in, to mold to what I saw as being healthy and reach some health ideal. I was drawn to anything that promised me a feeling of success, peace and wholeness. I either feared the outcome of a particular “health” decision or the results from a lack of decision.
We’ve all experienced this same journey in some way. Maybe we fear seeing too little or too much when we get onto the bathroom scale. Maybe we fear all those eyes on us when we’re at the pool, or maybe we fear just our own eyes when we’re alone and naked in front of our hallway mirror. Maybe we fear not measuring up to the latest Hollywood or Instagram trend that will undoubtedly tell us how much we lack, how inadequate we are.
When we operate from this common place of fear, we’re often driven to make all the wrong choices when it comes to eating and exercising. I know I did—leaping from one dieting plan to another and from one ridiculous exercise idea to another. All without feeling whole, satisfied and healthy.
But then, “A Course in Miracles” reminded me that nothing real can be threatened.
What this means is that the world we see around us is a projection of our mind that reflects our internal belief system. This isn’t religion. This is psychology. And it holds true for how we relate to friends, the kind of job we seek, the type of person we’re attracted to—and yes, especially what we see in the mirror and how we treat our body, our physical incarnation of our spirit.
All we need to do is return to a place of love. This fear we have is not a concrete thing in and of itself. Fear is just an absence of love, just like how darkness is simply a lack of light. And when we approach exercise and diet from a place of love, the way we treat our bodies changes and the results that we see also change.
What does this mean in practice? It’s not easy, but it’s simple.
1. Recognize, then release, our triggers
Multiple studies have shown that we typically make unhealthy choices when we’re triggered by stress, worry, anxiety and other fear-based emotions. Instead of trying to tackle the physical symptoms—sugar cravings or late-night snacking—we can take a step back and look at the actual underlying situation. Maybe it’s a toxic relationship we haven’t dealt with, or a job that doesn’t align with where we want to be in life. Self-love and self-forgiveness means having the courage to look at the root scenario.
2. Practice an abundance mentality
Real talk: having six-pack abs or finally seeing a certain number on the scale will not make us whole—because we’re already whole. It’s only in our perception that we’re lacking. Psychological studies have shown how positive self-talk can motivate us to stick to our goals because now we’re embracing our workout or fitness because we want to add to our already abundant lives—not because we’re trying to fix an inner emptiness. When I walk into the gym with a mindset of abundant success instead of a lack mentality, it changes everything about my workout motivation, endurance and results. Give yourself permission to love yourself and send yourself positive thoughts.
3. Create love-based health and wellness goals
When done in true love instead of out of fear, the very same action can have a different outcome in our lives. As a personal trainer, I have seen how changing our internal motivation and thought systems is what actually changes bodies, not the other way around. For example, a common fear-based motivator might be, “I want to look skinny for the beach this summer.” This type of fear-based dieting motivation draws us to negative, unhealthy fad diets. In this example, the underlying spiritual or emotional fear might be fearing people’s judgments, or feeling like we’re not enough until we fit the world’s definition of skinny beauty.
In contrast, a love-based motivator might be, “I want to be stronger so I can keep up with my kids as they get older.” Or, “I want to increase my endurance so I can go hiking and play outdoors more.” Love-based motivators connected to positive life experiences and goals last longer and propel us forward better. Instead of doing something or eating something because you fear your body, you can instead lavish it with love: lots of sleep, fun movement and delicious, nourishing food.
The more we stay centered on love, the more we will see love radiating back to us from the bathroom scale and from behind the mirror.
If you truly loved yourself and wanted only the best for yourself, what would you change today to feel that way in your body?
Author: Joshua Duvauchelle
Apprentice Editor: Rachel Leber/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Milo McDowell/Unsplash