Could you think yourself younger? In this post I’m exploring the question why can’t you lose weight from an angle I bring up from time to time. It’s popping up now because of several recent conversations I’ve had. I’m an exercise psychology expert in addition to a movement specialist and hormone-balancing exercise expert. A recent program, observations of students, and the interpretations of results prompted this episode.
Work In vs. Work Out
We mindfully create instances where we’ll exercise.
Then we mindlessly go about it.
We tack words on to it that are counter to making it fun, have to, should, ought to.
We call them workouts.
There’s little joy in them.
Yet they’ve become mandatory because the movement in our lives has dwindled to nothingness for many of us.
We don’t do chores in the morning, we don’t shovel (we use a snow blower), we don’t wash dishes we use a dishwasher. We don’t make food we use blenders or microwave pre-prepared meals or eat out. We don’t walk or ride bikes we commute and complain about the parking lot being too far from our building.
People put washer and dryers in the master bedrooms so we don’t have to go up and downstairs.
We’ve made everything so convenient that we don’t have to move very much unless we choose it.
If you didn’t experience joy in movement early in your life, or you are self-conscious or in pain during movement now, you have some obstacles.
Those obstacles are already there before you reach a starting point.
Then you question, what do I do?
You have a limited amount of time, or limited window of willpower or discipline. If you’re stuck with incongruent, conflicting messages about what works, the moment will pass without you having done anything.
Mindless vs. Mindful
Mindless exercise happens when you’re listening to music, you’re not even noticing the things along a path or you’re staring at a screen on a piece of cardio equipment. You’re purposefully dissociating from the moment. You finish without having ever really having connected any joy with the movement.
You may experience some endorphins and even some serotonin but you won’t enjoy the same benefits as a vacation as when you work-in.
This is not yoga. Because yoga has become a brief pit-stop on a mat in Lululemons where we’re still comparing our poses to the next person or judging our own inability to balance in a pose. We go because we know we should. We don’t practice yoga, we do yoga. It’s so very different. It’s a means to an end. It’s a physical pursuit or task. Yes, it may be motivated by the need for flexibility, which is a means to an end, yet, yoga is so much more or can be.
Noticing is what we’re talking about. Noticing while you’re exercising for instance the difference between the way each repetition feels, or the way your right compared to your left side feels.
Say you are a nightshift nurse on your feet caring for individuals. You’re suffering from adrenal exhaustion yet beating yourself up about not exercising regularly to help you get weight off, you have an opportunity.
That is an active job. You’re doing what we call Non-Exercise Activity Time or N.E.A.T. There is a possibility that if you shifted your thoughts from calling it work to calling it exercise you can physiologically change the results of the same activity. If you think of it as “work” rather than exercise it has a different physiological effect on you. It’s been proven.
It’s called the mind/body unity theory. Changing the way you think – the language you use- will change you physiologically.
You may not have decided you want to think yourself younger, or gone looking for ways to do that, but really isn’t that a little what losing weight, not identifying with wrinkles or sagging skin is about? We don’t really accept this place we’re in. We want to feel and look equally young as we ARE thinking. That reflection in the mirror, who is that?
I named Flipping 50’s newest program STRONGER not by accident.
It is meant to from the moment you register instill a feeling that you will become stronger, that you are already stronger, and make you think of yourself as stronger. Not, thinner, fitter, curvier, but stronger. Which serves you so well in every area of your life. Will it create a more thin, fit, healthy you? Likely, yes. But striving for thin is not necessarily going to make you strong. In fact, it’s likely to make you weak and obsessed.
Changing the way you think and what you want – that’s what I’m talking about.
That serves you so much better than trying to exercise while your circadian rhythms are already causing fatigue. Learning to sleep when you can sleep, and to eat foods that serve you best on those days is a wise decision toward health and optimal weight.
If you’re pretending and you know you’re pretending, your body is going to be where your mind is.
Once you start something to improve yourself, you start weight training because you are going to get stronger, and improve your health and longevity, or you start drinking smoothies with protein and vegetables, and you believe you are healthier, you are.
It is called, and we know it works, the placebo effect. A lengthy article in Prevention Magazine last year shared emerging research about it.
In so many trials the placebo effect in fact works as well as the drug. What is called the control group can do as well as the key subjects.
Dozens of ways to exercise will improve health. There is no one right way. Cross fit, and I choose this one because of it’s controversy, but if you prefer you can choose long endurance running or Ironman distance triathlon. So many scientists, doctors, strength & conditioning experts and others who believe that these or one of these extreme types of exercise is not healthy. Yet, there are athletes in each and every one of them that are thriving examples of health and wellness. Not obsessed but love their activity and thrive with energy, strength, endurance, and fully function well – in fact so much better – than many who do far less.
Work vs. Play
I call this the “joy factor.” It’s the difference between work and play. And it’s the difference between sticking with it no matter what and having an obstacle, life event, or stress interrupt you in such a devastating way you fall off the bandwagon and get run over by it.
Why can someone do Tabata intervals and someone else endurance running and both be in optimal shape? Or why can someone eat a plant-based diet and someone else eat animal protein and both seemingly thrive?
How can someone whose had bacon and eggs for breakfast for decades and someone who has fasted regularly both be centenarians who still live independently?
In part, due to a commitment to what they believe is healthy.
That may be a moving target during your life. You may determine that the way your body is responding now to something that once you have sworn by isn’t working. So you go about finding a new fit… if you’re listening right now that may be exactly the case.
In fact, you believed so hard for so long that something was the right thing that it can be hard to let go of. That, not your body, can be the biggest obstacle for finding your best fitness and energy after 50. Our science and the way we were conditioned and socialized was so very different than what will be true for today’s 20-somethings. At least that is my hope.
No one magic bullet exists for all of us. There is not necessarily one magic bullet the same for each of us our entire lives.
There is a sense of conviction and then mindful and conscious awareness about doing it, following it, and believing it that has to exist as we create health paths.
The College Experience
Between 1998 and approximately 2008 I was teaching a 200 level course for Kinesiology students. It consisted of a lab and lecture and the purpose was to teach them the physiology of exercise by having them self-test and experience the effects of conditioning. During both semesters for that decade I often taught two sections with about 25 students in each, or about 1000 students collectively.
This phenomena of work vs. play or workout vs. joy was evident in two ways among these primarily 19-to-22-year-olds.
First, they would show up and might have a two-mile walk/run in class, outdoors when weather permitted. These were students who wanted to be personal trainers, coaches, physical therapists, or athletic trainers and many of them had been high school athletes or exercised on their own. But they usually gave about 50% effort during the workouts. It was a chore, a have to, a satisfaction of the required course. Many of them would leave after class and head to the rec center for their “real workout.”
They weren’t lazy. But when it was for a requirement, a course, an imposition, it was work.
The second thing I learned after about eight years of teaching without allowing any use of ipods (before phones had music) was how very devastating that was for them. Many of them were so used to using music to motivate –or to distract them – that they couldn’t perform the 1.5 mile run for pre and post assessments at the same level as they could if they were allowed the music.
They’d never learned to enjoy the activity. Instead, they had learned to avoid paying attention to their body and to distract themselves from the unpleasant task of breathing harder, and increasing circulation. A few of them, the collegiate athletes in my courses, were used to the no-music rule. They were the high performers. The handful of those students I still hear from or connect with on social media are still active today.
You can begin choosing something that is a means to an end. But you’ll potentially not stick with that thing unless you love the thing.
Collegiate gymnasts, swimmers, basketball and football players were among the student athletes that populated my courses. Beyond college many of those athletes don’t continue participation in their sport (and logically gymnastics or football are not conducive to it) – they also don’t participate in the conditioning activities that they were put through during college.
Running or lifting for athletes was work. Unless an athlete truly falls in love with the activity, the means to an end is not enough to encourage them to continue.
Group fitness instructors are similar. Many of them started as students in the front row of classes. Once they begin teaching their own joy of the activity changes. Group fitness instructors often seek something else for their own pleasure. They become runners or practice yoga as a student to satisfy their own missing mindful way of exercising that disappears when you do it for someone else (or something else like a paycheck).
The Midlife Experience
Back to you… and midlife exercise and hormones. Up until a point what you think will work, will work. Up until a point, because physiological actions or inaction will affect your body and health. But your psychology – the way you think and believe about something will also change your physiology.
So if you believe in me for instance, if you believe that I have done my research and you can trust me or any fitness professional to have filtered information specific to you, then you will go through a program more fully believing that you feel stronger, more energy, that you will sleep better.
If you believe that eating less animal protein and eating plants primarily will improve your health, physiologically it will. At least to a point. Your physiological body will show you the specific results in the amount of lean muscle and fat you have. The incidence of frequent illness or injury will tell you that you’ve over or under done it eventually.
How you feel never lies. It is always feedback for you.
If your belief about aging is that it is natural to gain weight, get fat, and the likelihood of disease is most related to genetics and not to epigenetics (or what you do and your environment) then you will age in that way.
However, if your belief about aging is that we are in a time when we have the power to change how we age by the application of how we move, what we eat, how we think and who we spend our time with, then you will age very differently.
Are you interested in applying the power of your thoughts in combination with exercise and want to learn more about Flipping 50’s newest program, STRONGER? Join us at flippingfifty.com/any-age and that’s where you’ll be first to know about the early, early bird registration within the next two weeks.
Wayne Dyer Knew It
This is really about creating what we want to be. What we want to be true.
Do you want to think yourself younger? or healthier? or leaner?
If you’re more interested in asking, “how can I” do it, than asking, “can I” do it, then you’re a perfect candidate.
How we think about things changes things. I went – just this last weekend – home for a funeral. I threw the trip together in a day and wasn’t even there for 16 hours. I had so many expressions of sorrow and people sending condolences but it wasn’t that. Your thoughts change everything. Mine were gratitude for the ability to drop everything and go, for the time however short it was to be with family and express their importance in my life by being there. I felt good, not sadness after being there. The warmth of your thoughts and perspective around an event shapes the event.
There have been awful and tragic events happen in the last few years to my family members and I. But in the frame we put on things comes the way we deal with them.
Hormones and stress may have robbed you of the energy, the body, you had but some of the reasons have been good – family, career you’ve loved, choices you might not change – and it’s your belief about whether you can change the outcome that really will determine whether a program will work for you.
Even a program based on the physiology of hormone balance along with psychology of aging better, has to be something you are not pretending to believe but truly believe can help you. Ready to think yourself younger?
For more details about STRONGER, join me here: