When clients enter our Metabolic Optimization coaching program, there is a distinct presence of motivation. The excitement of starting any new “program” is often palpable. The energy level required for change is also often high and driven by hopes for achieving success. While that excitement and energy is so fun to experience as a coach, I can’t help but also notice the pressure that clients place on themselves to experience success.
Of course when physique change is a primary goal, it is important to establish healthy habits around nutrition and exercise; however, the importance of a healthy mindset is so often overlooked. You can create healthy meals and establish a healthy exercise routine, but if a healthy mindset isn’t also present, success may be short-lived.
It isn’t uncommon to see a small setback infiltrate one’s mindset, creating constant self-doubt or a decrease in self-confidence. Soon these negative thoughts lead to worry.
Going from thinking to worry may progress within a different time frame for everyone. Not all thoughts will turn to worry, and how thoughts versus worries are perceived differs from person to person.
Moving from thinking to worrying may look something like this:
“I’m going to focus on eating protein at every meal, and adding 2 servings of veggies with my dinner” or “I’m going to get to the gym and nail my workouts at least 3 days this week”.
Then things don’t go as planned. Instead of getting in your workout or heading home to fuel up on your salmon with green beans, you take a detour. You end up hitting the closest burger joint on your drive home from work. Soon after, the negative self-talk sets in. You worry that you aren’t ever going to be able to be successful.
Thinking about your lack of goal achievement builds to a higher level of worry, and may look something like this:
“What if I don’t get to the gym tomorrow? What if instead of hitting the burger joint on my way home tomorrow, I hit up my favorite bakery and have donuts for dinner? Will I ever be able to eat healthy and get in my workouts again?”
Worry becomes an ever present force as you go from experiencing real world circumstances or events to more hypothetical ones. You start to fixate on all the things that could go wrong, making it more difficult to achieve your goals. Worrying almost completely takes over.
In a perfect world, set backs would almost always be seen as a learning experience. The challenges we all face would be seen as the motivating force to have a memorable comeback. However, I think it is safe to say that we all know how powerful the mind is. The stories you create about who you are and what you can become have a massive impact on your life. As coaches, it is our job to help you rewrite your internal script.
All of us have an outstanding ability to simulate the future, which can work both ways. Our mind has the capability to paint a beautiful picture of what the future may look like just as it has the capability to fixate on all the things that can go wrong. Your mind allows you to see and feel what it would be like to achieve your goals, whether that is losing a certain amount of weight or hitting a new PR in the gym. Your mind also can easily travel to a place of worry and doubt through over-thinking.
It isn’t a bad thing to think about what may go wrong – until that thinking turns to worry. Living your life as though you are one step away from the “worst case scenario” and allowing that worry to dictate your every step is energy depleting. If you let thinking turn to worry, and that worry changes your belief in yourself and your ability to succeed, then behavior changes.
On the other hand, we can practice staying in the present moment, recognizing when our thoughts are spiralling to worries. We can use our thoughts to help us identify obstacles and challenges that may come up in days and weeks to come. This then gives us an opportunity to formulate a plan for tackling such obstacles and challenges. Thinking ahead, and formulating a plan, can be a very effective way to help you achieve your goals.
The trick is having a strong commitment to yourself to stay mindful. With present moment awareness, you can more easily recognize when thinking ahead turns to worry. While worrying is a form of thinking about the future, it isn’t a very effective piece of your mindset for goal achievement. It often leads to greater feelings of apprehension and anxiety. On the other hand, thinking involves reflection and analysis. It can help to provide clarity and create purposeful action steps.
If you’ve ever fallen into the category of being a “chronic worrier” then join the club, and also know that your membership in that club can come to an end.
The reality is that you can learn to control how often and how extreme your worry periods are. Like any other action or behavior, you can establish patterns and routines for controlling your worries.
Here is an excellent resource that will walk you through how to create a worry period for yourself. Instead of simply telling yourself that you will worry less, you can schedule dedicated “worry time” into your day. Picking a convenient time to allow yourself to worry creates a container for those more negative thoughts.
“The ultimate benefit of worry time is having more time and energy to focus on other important areas of your life that were previously consumed with worries. This frees up mental space to be more present and engaged with other areas of your life.”~ Sabrina Romanoff, PSYD
Not all worries are created equal, so allow yourself some grace here. Worry can be experienced on a continuum of what would be considered “normal” to “excessive”. A very wise individual once told me “worrying won’t change the outcome”, and I remind myself of that every time my mind wanders to a place of fret or panic. This helps me to stay within the “normal” range of worry rather than spiralling, and maybe it will help you too!