San Diego Fitness Psychology
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
On March 16th, at 10:00 a.m., I’m giving a presentation on the psychology behind eating. No, don’t worry, if you know me at all, it won’t be filled with any nonsense psychobabble…well, mmm maybe just a tad bit. But it’ll be down to user-friendly earth.
For a taste of what I’ll be talking about—and I do hope you’ll join in, I thought I’d share some interesting and novel takes on weight management here. Simply put, research has shown that people who use the approach I’ll be describing in my presentation, along with lifestyle change, lose more weight than those who only make changes in their daily habits. The link is what you think.
Typically, folks who want to lose weight have negative views of themselves, are self-conscious and perhaps even embarrassed to be around others who are trimmer, toner and more “in-shape.” Self-esteem and self-confidence trip these people up since they erroneously believe that the ONLY way to increase self-worth is to lose weight. Of course, becoming healthier is a key factor in motivation to reaching a normal weight goal, along with wanting to be more active and maybe even seeing their grandchildren grow up.
Identifying and modifying thinking patterns and negative mood states that undermine healthy eating approaches is a critical factor in understanding successful weight loss. Cognitive behavioral coaching for weight loss helps you to identify your unhelpful patterns of thinking that are maintaining your current weight problems. Thinking patterns tend to be over-learned and occur almost “automatically” – they just pop into your head without you noticing. This is because they are so familiar that you don’t even recognize they are there – it’s like you’ve tuned out the ‘background noise’ of your thoughts. The first step learning how to ‘tune in’ and recognize your patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving in relation to weight.
Otherwise, your self-esteem, body image, stress that affects problem-solving, social anxiety and other similar issues will continuously get in your way of successful weight loss regardless of the diet and exercise program you adhere to—if you do adhere to one.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you think what are called, “sabotaging thoughts” about exercise. “If I don’t have enough time for a long workout, it’s not worth doing.” Unless you catch that erroneous thought and have a ready more accurate response in your head, you are likely to avoid exercise that day. Thus, “ANY amount of time spent exercising is better than no amount of time. It’s important to sometimes work out for smaller amounts of time so that I prove to myself that exercising doesn’t have to be ALL or NOTHING, it’s somewhere in the middle.”
When it comes to the overall success of your weight loss, you might have a sabotaging thought, “Well, I did lose a bit of weight this week but I’m really upset and disappointed that it wasn’t more.” Instead, a rational counter would be, “C’mon, real life weight loss has nothing to do with being the “biggest loser.” Losing a half pound or up to two pounds a week is the normal range. While I WISH and would PREFER to lose more, every pound I lose is a victory and adds up to serious weight loss.”
What about dealing with a craving? The sabotaging thought might be, “I need to eat to make this craving go away—it won’t go away any other way.” The rational response is, “Cravings are just like an itch. The more I think about it, the worse it gets. It’s just a craving and when I distract myself from it, it’ll start to go away.” How about this familiar one? The sabotaging thought is, “Since I didn’t lose any weight this week, I’m a failure and this is not working. I give up. The rational response is, “Hey, nothing is perfect, and it’s absolutely normal to not lose any weight some weeks. I need to stay at it and I will succeed.”
While exercise is important, what, when and how you eat are most important. Some say the balance is 70% diet and 30% exercise. But it’s all based on 100% in your mind. You need to learn to create healthy responses to those sabotaging thoughts, choose a healthy diet plan, get involved in proper exercise with a trainer ideally, give yourself lots of credit, eat slowly and mindfully, consider getting a diet/health coach, arrange your environment, make time for proper nutrition preparation, differentiate between hunger, desire and cravings, practice hunger tolerance, monitor your eating, prevent unplanned eating, and stop fooling yourself.
The link is what you think…even more than simply dieting and exercising. Remember that DIEt has the word “die” in it.
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
Recent research has discovered that February 7th is a date in history that goes typically unnoticed by most, but is also “celebrated” by most as well. Huh? What’s that mean? It means that research on when most people stop honoring their New Year’s resolution to participate regularly in exercise at the gym, says that it happens 38 days after January 1, thus, February 7th.
1. Don’t wait to feel like it. Do it, and then you’ll feel like it. When your blood begins pumping all of those feel-good chemicals including endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, to name a few, usually in less than 30 minutes, you’re on the way to being happy you showed up.
2. Remind yourself of your specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, timely, enthusiastically set and rewardable goals, your SMARTER goals. What? You didn’t set any that clearly? Ahhh, maybe that’s the problem. Wanting to “lose some weight,” “get in shape,” “tone up,” “get active,” “feel less stressed,” “look better,” are so vague that nobody would ever know if they are achieving these or not. So quickly set ONE GOAL using the language above and you’re on the road to success—and staying motivated in the gym.
3. Pack a friend in your gym bag. That’s right, a real-live, human being. Not an app on your cell phone, a page torn from your favorite fitness magazine, or a picture from Pinterest. The research is clear: commitments to others keep you showing up. Sign up with a friend for a group ex class, arrange to have a workout buddy exercise with you alone, plan a power-shake after workout date—you’ll be amazed how difficult it is to let another down with an excuse. “It’s so boring,” “I don’t have the time,” and “I’m too tired,” give way to the commitment you’ve made. (For more on overcoming excuses, see my interview in the March issue of Women’s Health Magazine)
4. Your personal fitness trainer is calling. Are you answering? That’s right, a definite way to get past the “I’m done with the gym” feeling past February 7th is to have a trainer who will help keep you motivated, insure you don’t injure yourself, and help you see the progress you are making under his/her watchful eyes.
5. Visualize how you feel after you exercise and how you feel if you decide NOT to exercise. That thing you feel after you exercise is called happy. It’s because you’ve boosted your brainpower, connected with others, you are looking healthier, you feel sexier and you are even sleeping better.
Bye-bye February 7th blues and hellllooooo to the newly re-motivated you!
San Diego Fitness Psychology
“Happiness depends upon ourselves,” proclaimed Aristotle. And I would add, happiness also depends on our fitness. From enjoying physical and mental health, improved coping skills and increased satisfaction at work and in personal relationships, having a stronger immune system and increased longevity, the benefits of happiness continue to fill the pages of scientific journals, the lecterns of medical schools, newspapers and magazines, and the Internet.
University-based researchers have discovered that our overall circumstances at any given time make a small contribution to our happiness—about 10%. This includes our jobs, financial situation, where we live, and so on. Our personality and genes contribute about 50% to our overall level of happiness. The remaining 40% of our happiness is due to our choices, decisions, intentional factors and are fully within our control.
Science tells us that regular, consistent and vigorous exercise contributes to our feelings of happiness and joy and can generally boost our mood. That’s right, we can use exercise to increase our happiness—and thus, the fitness we build at The Sporting Club can help us derive real life benefits as described above.
Sure you can practice gratitude, cultivate an optimistic attitude, avoid comparing yourself to others, add to your social connections, practice kindness and forgiveness, develop healthier coping strategies, find hobbies and activities in which you can “flow,” savor joy in daily living, increase meaning and spirituality in life and work towards positive goals in life. These will all build happiness.
But when you are stressed out or frustrated, your body is busy producing cortisol that damages your organs. Exercise will decrease the amount of cortisol in your body creating…you guessed it, happiness.
Exercise also releases the feel good chemicals. endorphins and endocannabinoids, which also lower your stress level and…you guessed it, increases happiness.
The American Psychological Association analyzed 80 studies of exercise and depression and concluded that all types of exercise reduced depression. The Mayo Clinic reported that to significantly improve depression symptoms people might need to do at least 30 minutes of exercise a day at least three to five days a week.
Resistance training and cardiorespiratory exercise lead to greater happiness. After only two weeks of regular exercise, you will begin to feel the benefit of these chemical changes and your motivation for more exercise will naturally increase.
The value of group exercise in building happiness cannot be overlooked. The social connections that come with small group training are important for physiological and emotional wellbeing, leading to increased happiness as well.
Fitness activities in all of its various combinations can be an effective strategy in insuring more happiness in your life. It’s not only about sweat and muscle. The more variety, it seems, the better. Make it fun and sweat your way to more smiles!
Sure, 87% of Americans are busy crafting their, largely unworkable, resolutions to insure a healthier and financially better 2013, and some are even turning to world-class apps to help them.
From new apps such as 5K Runner, Nike+ Running, and RunKeeper, to Fooducate, DietBet, and to Mint, and a host of others, you can set yourself up to eat healthier, exercise more regularly, drink less, learn something new, quite smoking, achieve a better work/life balance, volunteer more, save money, get organized, read more and finish your “to-do” lists. Those are the most common resolutions facing Americans for 2013.
Want to create a sound fitness plan for the coming year, one that pays off in real achievement app-free? Follow these tried and tested suggestions and you’ll see that by February, when your friends have thrown up their hands in sheer frustration, you’ll still be systematically executing your plan, with everyone wondering, “How’d she/he do it?”
1. You need a clearly stated, passion-filled, motivating mission statement. Use language that is specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. You can add, “enthusiastic and rewarding” to make your SMART goals, even SMARTER.
2. It needs to be “computable” and data oriented. “Lose some weight” will never happen. “Lose 1-2 pounds this week,” is much more likely to be met with success. Before and after photos, heart-rate data, and similar hard evidence is what it takes.
3. Ever say to yourself, “I’m going out for a ride”? You meander all over the place. Very different than having Siri or Google maps direct you from her to there. You need the same focused action plan to achieve any resolution. Be sure to start small and progressively add more appropriate exercise. Every see the plans your trainer has for you? Ever read a progressive routine in one of the fitness magazines? During the first week or two start off slow. In weeks three and four, gradually add more volume and intensity, and in weeks five and six, blast it. Same with your resolution solution action plan.
4. Keep track of everything you do as far as weights lifted, mileage on the treadmill or around the park or bay, food you’ve eaten, the time you spend in the gym or on the running trail and no matter what, write it down.
5. Constantly assess your progress and make any mid-course adjustments necessary to stay in the game. Sick? Take time off while finding a way to be somewhat active at home. Busy time for you with meetings at work? Exercise at the gym for only 15 minutes. Lots of beginning of the year gatherings with food you don’t plan on eating? Find ways to plan ahead and consider a Weight Watchers or other program where you spread your eating plan over the day/week. There you have 5 simple tips to assure success in the resolution game. Follow them carefully and you’ll be pleased you did—try the same with your business resolutions and you’ll find similarly rewarding results.
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
Here’s the latest scientific elixir of happiness—gratitude.
That’s right, gratitude will fill your storehouse of happiness. What’s this have to do with health and fitness? Plenty.
You see the study of positive psychology, specifically the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book, “The How of Happiness,” has uncovered that happiness builds “joy, contentment, love, pride, and awe…improves our energy levels, our immune systems, our engagement with work and with other people, and our physical and mental health.” She adds that building happiness in our lives, “bolsters feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem; we come to believe that we are worthy human beings, deserving of respect.”
That’s a whopping list of positive benefits from being happy—and with no negative side-effects to report. Robert Emmons, in his book, “Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier,” adds that “happy individuals are also more creative, helpful, charitable and self-confident, have better self-control and show greater self-regulatory and coping abilities. Happy people, the facts clearly show, are flourishing and successful people.”
I don’t know about you, but I sure would like massive doses of this stuff! The best part of this wonderful tonic is that it doesn’t take tons of sweating, dozens of sets and reps, jumping onto and off of anything. It doesn’t take a medical examination, there’s no co-pay needed, and you really don’t even need a personal coach. All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil—ok, an iPad will do as well.
Emmons famous research demonstrated that people who kept a personal journal and listed 3 – 5 things they were grateful for every day, “reminded themselves of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things they enjoy,” found a 25% increase in their happiness over other groups who did not complete such a journal. He also found that these increases may be sustained over a period of months, and that in as little as three weeks of keeping such a journal, you can sleep better and find more energy.
Want to feel more “joyful, enthusiastic, interested, attentive, energetic, excited, determined and strong”? Want to sleep better? Want more flourishing relationships? Want to cut down on anxiety, stress and depression? This simple daily exercise is the answer.
One of the foremost teachers of gratitude, David Steindl-Rast, has said that we can decide to live with gratitude even in the face of challenging times. He also points out that when we live with a sense of gratitude we don’t feel, we will begin to feel it.
Here are Emmons’ evidence-based 9 steps for becoming more grateful: 1). Keep a gratitude journal. 2). Remember the bad. If you recall tough times in life, you are more likely to appreciate what your have. 3). Ask yourself three questions every evening. Fill in the blanks with the name of a person (or persons) in your life. “What have I received from ___? What have I given to ___? What troubles and difficulty have I caused ___?” 4). Learn prayers of gratitude. 5). Appreciate your senses. 6). Use visual reminders. 7). Make a vow to practice gratitude. 8). Watch your language: 9).Go through the motions. Research shows that emotions follow behavior.
Happy holidays everyone—be grateful for what you have, and remember, abundance is not what you own, but how much you appreciate.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu legend, Clark Gracie, teaches between four and five classes at week in San Diego at the La Jolla Sports Club. In every class you can expect not only a challenging workout but to learn fighting and self defense techniques from one of the best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters in the United States. Check out this short video on what each class has to offer and feel free to come visit our club to try out a class for yourself!