Human beings are the only animals on the planet who have the ability to think about thinking.
This ability to analyze meta-cognition (or go “meta” as the kids like to call it) separates us from all other animals.
- When a gorilla decides he wants to eat, he goes out looking for something to eat.
- When a lion decides he wants to sleep, he finds the nearest shade on the savanna and sprawls.
- When a bear decides he wants to mate…..well……..you know the rest.
Although these animals don’t have the ability to self-reflect on their situation, they don’t necessarily need to.
Their world exists purely in one dimension: the dimension of survival.
These animals are in a dog-eat-dog world. Their ability to act on their swift impulses will separate those who live from those who die.
Luckily, the natural instincts which are ever present within these animals are regulated by years of evolution.
The lion doesn’t think about “meal time”. He just eats.
The gorilla doesn’t think about nap time. He just sleeps.
The bear doesn’t think about “mating time”. He just fucks.
This is what wild animals do. No recourse, no thought, no emotion, and no self-reflection after the deed is done.
The beauty of their self-regulation lies in its accuracy. There is rarely a wild animal who is obese. If a wild animal is obese, natural selection will prevail, and the animal will be dead.
Humans have evolved past this point. We are the only animals with morals and/or ethics. We have a system of honor that we (usually) live by.
We have deemed certain activities as “right” and other activities as “wrong”. It doesn’t matter if the “wrongness” or “rightness” is correct or not. All that matters is that the perception is there.
We often “feel” things we don’t want to feel.
We feel things that other living creatures don’t feel, by the virtue of not being able to think about their thoughts – and go “meta”.
This makes use feel emotion where there should be no emotion.
We feel tense. We feel anxious. We feel depressed. We feel worthless.
And we use the comforts of our modern society to sweep those feelings right under the rug.
Food is one of the most common sources of placation in our civilized world.
With good reason, too.
It’s so readily available and so in our faces, it would be impossible not to be tempted to pacify your emotions with food.
My God, how can you even navigate the terrain?
I live in the suburbs of Southeast Michigan in a small town called Canton. It’s halfway between Detroit and Ann Arbor.
The above picture isn’t Canton, but it’s pretty much representative of anyone who is in my situation. A large portion of this country lives in areas just like this.
The life of the suburbs is a life of safety. With safety often comes complacency.
We shuffle off to work in our safe SUV’s, our kids take the safe, yellow school bus to school, we live in the relative safety of our McMansions, and we don’t have the same worries of the bear, the lion, and the gorilla.
But chronic stresses often trump acute stresses when it comes to our well being.
We are faced with stress, but not the same stresses of the wild.
Our bosses give us deadlines which must be met, and we “have” to stay late.
Our kids throw temper tantrums when it’s bathtime (a common occurrence in my home).
Our bank accounts dwindle, and we wonder how we will be able to afford that Disneyworld vacation we promised the kids.
The acute stresses – the predators, the natural disasters, and the struggle for survival – have all but vanished as a result of our “safety”.
But the chronic stresses remain.
How we decide to deal with those chronic stresses often will dictate our standing.
Will we find positive outlets and venues for our emotions and anxieties?
Will we stay active, and shun the comforts of Western civilization that are obviously a detriment to our well being?
Or will we succumb, and placate our feels?
We all have stresses to deal with in our lives.
How we deal with those stresses will make all the difference in the world.
Fitness coaches often have to play psychologist.
There are some online clients who get their plan, crush it, and go about their merry ways.
We have had many emails from random readers who have received our free online fat-loss course and lost dozens of pounds and inches.
There are others who aren’t so lucky. Life happens, things get in the way, and true change must take place in order to continue on the path to improvement.
It’s not uncommon when you are dieting to feel…………..”weird”. “Down”. “Stressed”. “Anxious”.
Food is a pacifier for many.
It makes you feel “good”, if only temporarily. Perhaps more importantly than feeling “good”, it numbs the stresses that plague your every day life.
Work is just crushing you.
You’ve been getting into the office by 8 am every morning.
From the second you sit down at your cubicle, you’ve barely had a sip of your coffee before there are 3 people at your desk, frantically worried about the new project your team is working on.
It’s the same project that is due in 48 hours.
You’ve been working on this project for a month.
You haven’t gotten home for dinner in the last two weeks, often staying at the office 12 hours or longer.
For the past 3 weekends, you’ve taken your laptop home and worked remotely – and your normal responsibilities (of course) haven’t let up.
Your kids. Your house. Groceries. Laundry. Your spouse.
They’re all there. Begging for your attention.
You begin to dig into your work, guiding your team, and doing everything in your power to ensure the “big project” gets taken care of efficiently.
Your job depends on it.
You crush another 13 hour day. You get home at 9 pm.
You can barely stand up you’re so damn tired.
And you need to hit your macros.
What do you do?
Some would just “suck it up”. But most wouldn’t.
Most would decide to hit up the drive through on the way home, or call Pizza Hut on your commute.
Who could blame you?
For a brief 30 minutes, the crunchy crust of the pizza would tantalize your tastebuds. The warm cheese would fill your mouth with fatty, smooth gooiness. The salty pepperoni would add a bit of spice to your life.
For that 30 minutes, your stresses and your anxieties are gone.
That pizza would be the highlight of your day.
If you took it away………………….how could you ever deal with “life”?
Dealing With The “Feels”
Everyone who diets for a long period of time has the “feels” every once in a while.
I’m no exception.
I have the advantage of being a fitness consultant. I can’t be sloppy or else my livelihood is at stake.
Who would hire a “fat online trainer”?
Food isn’t the only pacifier out there.
Some prefer tobacco. Alcohol. Sex. Gambling. Pornography. Drugs.
Anything to take our minds off of the anxieties and hardships of life.
It’s not uncommon for a client to voice their concerns over feeling “down”.
Recently, I had an email exchange from client Denise.
Denise has done a remarkable job. Slow and steady, she has changed her body in awesome ways, and she continues to do so on a weekly basis.
Here is Denise:
Denise recently sent me her progress data.
She was dejected and upset.
She didn’t know why. She had been beating herself up.
She was “down”. A bit depressed.
A look at her data showed a different story.
She had achieved “all-time lows” in a number of different body measurements.
- Her waistline, her chest, and both thighs were the leanest they have EVER been.
- Her biceps were also the BIGGEST they had ever been.
By all means, the checkpoint was an outstanding success.
And she was depressed and upset – without much of a reason.
We talked a bit. Denise has the “lean feels”.
Denise has been dieting a long time. And she has a ways to go.
Her “crutch” has been kicked out from underneath her. She no longer has her pacifier. And we had to discuss her situation before that became clear to her.
There are a few things Denise (and you) can do to combat these feelings and continue to progress in a positive fashion.
Defeating The “Feels”
Here are a few tips you can utilize if this has ever happened to you.
It’s happened to me on a number of occasions, and I can empathize with the struggle.
Tip #1: Accept Your Emotions
Acknowledge that you have emotions and you’re feeling upset.
There is nothing wrong with having emotions.
Self-awareness is key.
If you’re dieting and you’re feeling a bit “blah”, understand what is happening.
You no longer are using food for a crutch, so you need an outlet for your stresses.
Trying to always be “happy” can be a double-edged sword.
Life isn’t meant to be all-bliss-all-the-time.
Understanding that contentment is a doable goal most people can achieve is a groundbreaking realization for many.
Tip #2: Understand That This, Too Shall Pass
Know that this is a part of the process.
Dieting isn’t easy. Fitness isn’t easy. If it were easy, more people would be “doing it”.
There will be amazing times; times where you look in the mirror and realize how far you’ve come.
Times when you’ll feel strong, energetic, and alive.
If you’re feeling down for no reason at all, take comfort and solace in the fact that soon you will snap out of it.
It’s a battle to fight, not with the weights, but with your own well being.
***Note – if you don’t snap out of it within a few days, or the situation worsens, talk to someone before it gets out of your control.
Tip #3: Connect
Getting “out of your own head” is important in situations like this.
When you’re feeling stressed, anxious, and ready to burst, connecting with the world – the REAL world – often is enough to break you out of your funk.
Schedule some time to take a walk and observe.
Sit on your back porch in silence – without your cell phone and without anyone else – and observe closely the world around you.
Watch the birds fly through the air.
Analyze the trees. Observe the leaves, the trunk, the web of branches coming off in every direction.
The real world is all around you. The REAL world – the world with animals, trees, the sun, and the wind in the air.
Our society – the FABRICATED world – is what we have based our personal realities in.
Society is fake.
It’s a creation of our own existence, here to serve a purpose for our continued path in life.
Our jobs, our homes, our cars, and our bank accounts are mere pathways which have been conjured up by those who have come before us.
Two thousand years ago, life would have been much different.
We are lucky to live in this world of comparative ease.
That which stresses us was meant to make our lives simpler.
When the reality is, our lives have become anything but.
Returning to simplicity is a good thing.
Tip #4: Embrace Stoicism
To be stoic means to suffer in silence.
This doesn’t mean to be quiet as you slide into a deep depression.
This means to reflect, to accept your fate, to understand your emotions, and to remain powerful and in control in spite of them.
A stoic will take what life gives them. They remain confident and unaffected by the minutiae of our modern civilization.
A stoic understands that this world isn’t all “peaches-and-cream” and does what it takes to get through the valleys until the next peak arrives.
A stoic lives life on their own terms and doesn’t get caught up in the details.
Not feeling “joyous” happens to all of us. A stoic understands this, accepts it, and lives to fight another day.
There is no one-way ticket to defeating your psychology.
It will be a constant battle for most of us.
Finding methods which work for you will be paramount to your long term success.
Yours in remaining calm and level-headed,