We’re all concerned about our health in one form or another. Whether our goal is to shed a few pounds, build some muscle, or prepare for a triathlon, we want to be sure our bodies can keep up with our ambitions.
The thing is, science tells us that weight loss (and, by extension, physical fitness) is 80 percent to do with what you eat and 20 percent to do with exercise. But did you know it’s also got 100 percent to do with your mind? If you’re mentally fit, it’s much easier to achieve and maintain fitness.
How do you keep your brain healthy and your body fit? You exercise your mind and feed your body.
Reading (and Writing) is Fundamental
Our brains respond well to varied stimuli. The more ways you’re exposed to something, the more likely you are to remember it. If you can see it, hear it, smell it, touch it, or taste it, you’ll not only remember it, but it will form a huge impression in your mind.
Reading is one way to experience these senses, at least vicariously, both through the descriptions of the writer and through your own imagination. The more vividly you can imagine things, the stronger your brain. It’s like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the better. If you can imagine something you read, you can also imagine yourself as a different person. Thinner, stronger, faster, and fitter.
You can reinforce this even further by writing yourself. Putting your goals into words can help you visualize attaining them. The more you write and read what you write, the more your brain solidifies what you’ve imagined, until it becomes ingrained in your psyche.
Reading and writing are fundamental to exercising your brain.
Share Your Experience
You can also learn by keeping track of your progress on your own or with a journal. And it helps to have someone keep you accountable, to cheer you on when things get hard, and to share your experiences with. Here are some tips for finding a community, one that will be in your corner good or bad:
Join a fitness group: You can find a ton of fitness groups, both online and in person, that provide great support and help you establish new connections.
Start a blog: Yes, you’ll need your own domain, website, and host, and you’ll need to write new posts regularly (see above). But this is a great way to get accountability and support from a community centered around what you do.
Get a personal trainer: A personal trainer can be a good partner in the gym, but they can also recommend good diet choices and keep you accountable. A trainer will be supportive of your journey and help you reach your fitness goals.
The more you share your experiences, the more you’ll feel that others have joined you on your fitness journey and are holding you accountable. This helps exercise your mind and also soothes anxiety and stress.
Self-Control and Willpower
Where do self-control and willpower come from? They come from the front of your brain. But in order for your brain to work properly, you need to feed it the right foods. This means avoiding processed foods and eating certain foods in moderation. Caffeine and red wine are good for your brain in reasonable amounts, along with nuts, kale and other raw veggies, and fruit such as blueberries. However, overeating almost any food could be problematic for digestion, just as too much sugar will hurt your mood rather than improve it. Moderation is the key to nearly any diet plan.
Your supply of willpower is also limited, like gas in a tank. If you must constantly use your willpower throughout the day, it will eventually become depleted to the point where you’ll be more likely to give in to temptation. The healthier lifestyle and habits you have, the less willpower you’ll need to draw on. You’ll be freeing it up so you can concentrate it elsewhere.
The Habit Habit
Speaking of habits, your brain and willpower play a huge role in your ability to replace bad habits with good ones. The more habits you form, the easier it is to set new ones. Some say it takes twenty-one days to establish a new habit, but in his book The One Thing, author Gary Keller cites studies that show it can take sixty days or more.
This means you really need to stick with your plan. The habit of forming good habits comes from a well-exercised, strong, healthy mind. The more often you say no to the donut and yes to the hike, the easier it becomes—until, eventually, it becomes habit.
Mind over Food
As I stated earlier, diet is 80 percent of your fitness. And key to a good diet is cultivating the right mindset and good habits, which are vital to health and success. It’s a matter of mind over food, and your brain can protect the rest of you from making decisions that aren’t in your best interest. Exercise your brain to feed your body.
Want to eat healthier? Want to stick with a program that makes you a better athlete and a stronger person? Start with exercising your mind and feeding your body the right fuel. Only then will you be ready to become the person you truly want to be.