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Want to be slim? Don’t give in to negative brain propaganda, says fitness expert

Looking for some new year inspiration to get in shape after a chaotic, anxiety-filled 2020 which involved eating and drinking too much to fend off lockdown demons?

Well, you may be surprised to read that 2020 was the year that Brits went on a fitness drive with millions maintaining their regime for the ENTIRE year – driven by a desire to stay fit during a global pandemic.

A survey of 2,000 UK adults revealed that of the four in 10 who started an exercise regime at the beginning of the year, more than half (56 per cent) have kept it up.

Men (61 per cent) were more likely to carry on with their regime than women (50 per cent).

However, of those who didn’t manage to maintain their exercise drive, the average person quit after 14 weeks.

The study, by health and fitness app Jonple, found 47 per cent used the pandemic as a motivation to get themselves fit or stay in shape.

But for those who haven’t found their mojo this year, but want to, Kathleen Trotter (MSc) – fitness expert, nutrition and life coach and author of two books including Your Fittest Future Self – may be the inspiration you need.

Here’s her advice on how to get started on the road to weight loss and fitness.

She says: “Thoughts are not facts. Thoughts are not acts. Just because you think it, doesn’t make it true. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean you HAVE to follow through.

“We all have cravings and we all sometimes want to skip workouts, but that doesn’t make the craving and the skip unavoidable.

“Too many of us let “brain propaganda” highjack our lives. You know what I am talking about: ‘Who cares if I hit the snooze button and miss my workout just this once?’ Or, ‘I can eat this cake – I deserve it.’ Or, ‘Why even try to lose weight …. I am just going to fail. I can’t do anything right.’

We are all human. Desires are an inherent part of our humanity. It is how we manage our desires and our negative brain propaganda that matters.

“You have to train your ‘say no’ muscle. You have to train your brain not to give in to what I call your ‘negative brain propaganda.’ You have to train your brain to say, ‘My future self will be happier if I don’t give in to this craving and do my workout’.”

Tips on strengthening your “say no” muscle!

Fitness expert Kathleen Trotter

1. Embrace that you are NOT your unhealthy thought!

Just because you have an unhealthy thought – we all do – doesn’t mean you have to act on it.

2. Adopt Kathleen’s NOT protocol of impulse control

N stands for note and no. When having a craving, make yourself first note the unhealthy urge (noting it inherently means you become mindful of your behaviour). Then say, “NO, I will not do X. I am not my unhealthy thought. The craving or urge is not what I do, who I am, or who I want my future self to be.”

O stands for being open to change. Work to understand what is driving the craving — are you sad, bored, tired? Then work to change that why. The trick to changing the why is that you have to be open to modifying your life rhythms, priorities, and mindset. For example, if you are eating for an energy boost because a lack of sleep has left you exhausted, you have to be open to modifying your priorities so you can sleep. You have to be open to actually changing, not just talking about changing. Ask yourself, “Where has my current thinking got me thus far?” If you are not happy with the answer, then ACT to solve. Take small steps if needed, but take steps. Don’t just “wish” for better health. Make a plan. Health is an active process!

stands for time. Make yourself hit the “pause button” on your craving. Distract yourself. Break free of your destructive thought. Play a game, go for a walk, get involved in a fun conversation, or put together a puzzle. Anything that disconnects you from the thought.

Note, when possible, don’t put yourself into situations where you need to use the NOT protocol. For example, don’t keep crap in the house. That way you can’t overindulge when depressed. Keep a healthy snack in your purse so you don’t “need” an unhealthy snack when you get “hangry” out doing errands.

3. Shift your mindset!

Stop resenting the “have to” nature of health – resentment is like ingesting poison to kill the person you hate. You are only damaging yourself.

Embrace that the act of making a choice is an inherent privilege of being alive. Stop feeling forced into better health. “Adulting” involves making choices — including health choices. Embrace and find joy in that. Own your choices. When you want to make an unhealthy choice, ask yourself why? Who are you trying to impress? Who are you trying to rebel against? Too often we give into social food pressures to be part of something or to protect someone’s feelings. Or we react to health with something akin to adolescent rebellion. Get over that. You are an adult. Make healthy choices FOR YOURSELF.

Final thought

Kathleen says: “I am not saying you should never miss a workout and that you can only eat vegetables. If you want a treat, go for it, life is short. Just use my “love it rule” – mindfully consume a small portion of something you love. Don’t eat something just because it’s there. Pick a treat you will really enjoy and savour it. Know that you are human. You have emotions, you are not a robot, and thus will fall off your health horse from time to time. Instead of letting this reality frustrate you, frame your fall as feedback. Learn, through falling, how to make choices that your future self will be proud of. When you fall, get up, learn and grow.”

Connect with Kathleen Trotter on social media at @FitByKathleenT or through her website KathleenTrotter.com

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Diane Cooke
Diane Cooke is a three times award-winning journalist who has worked for UK national/regional newspapers, magazines and websites.

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