Quick Bite: A Basic Introduction to Behavior Change

If you have dabbled in the world of health, fitness, weight loss, etc, you’ve most likely heard of the following:

  • I haven’t worked out in ___ days, I need to push myself during next workout.
  • I ate ___ yesterday, so I need to fast/eat less today.
  • I haven’t reached ___ goal, I’m failing at this.
  • I wish I looked like them, I don’t like my ___.
  • I’ve been doing ____, why am I not ___?

None of these thoughts are healthy. They will not get you to the goal that you want. These ideas are toxic and are borderline disordered. If you do struggle with thoughts like the above and its affecting your quality of life, please seek a professional. These ideas are rooted in our love of instant gratification and comparing ourselves to others. It’s not intentional, it is human nature. These are two of many examples of behavior patterns that helped us survive, thus evolve. Today, humans have access to everything. Shelter, food, water, technology, anything you can think of. We no longer need to spend the majority of our time searching for these resources, we are now living comfortably with “nothing to do,” other than work, raising a family, school, hobbies, etc. We are living in an advanced world, stuck with the thought processes carved into our neural pathways by millions of years worth of successful evolution. What does any of this have to do with health? We’re in 2021???? It is helpful to identify the thoughts and behavior patterns of the primitive brain and use the modern brain to overcome these barriers.

What is this *~secret~*?? It all boils down to switching our mindset to that of self-love before making changes to our behavior. Take the phrases from above and ask or say them to the next person you see. It is not what people say to those they love. We can change our behavior, which stem from our thoughts, once we love every inch of ourselves. Our aspirations are the end result, it takes behavior changes that turn into habit to “set them in stone.” When it comes to implementing a new behavior, motivation is a flake and most of the time there are no “overnight” results.

Before implementing a new behavior, keep these concepts in mind:

  • Bodily processes move much slower than psychological processes; You can think about what your health goals are while not seeing results over time. Change takes time. Pay attention to more subtle changes within the body and mind.
  • The human body is not a machine. The body is a living, breathing entity to house the soul. It cannot push through workouts every day, it cannot function without sleep, it won’t malfunction after two or three “unhealthy” meals in a row, and it won’t follow through with what you want it do to without showing it love and respect.
  • A healthy life is not a sentencing. Most people turn their health around because they would like to have a better quality and quantity of life. It is a permanent lifestyle change. It is not a punishment. It should be sustainable and fun. Thinking of it as a punishment or restriction will not make someone want to do it. Make it fun. Eat plants you like, move in ways you enjoy. Do these things because you love your body and want to take good care of it.
  • Cancel out negative thoughts. It may feel awkward at first. You may need to “fake it till you make it.” Any negative thought that comes up, say the opposite back.
    • “What if it doesn’t work out?” What if it does?
    • “____ is unhealthy.” ____ is a treat.

When you start to think of healthy habits as self-care, it makes them less daunting. Feels less like chores. It’s easier to change our behavior when we are happy! Now that we’re aware that our goals will take some time, let’s change our behavior. A behavior occurs when Motivation, Ability, and Prompt converge at the same time! Motivation refers to how much we want to reach our goals and prompts refers to “setting the stage” to complete the desired behavior. We need to make sure that we can easily access the tools needed to complete the behavior, are physically capable of completing it, and want to complete it. If someone has a goal of working out, but the nearest gym is 30 miles away from home, this person may consider getting some home equipment. Going to the gym in this case will lack ability and prompt. If the same person works in close proximity to this gym that’s 30 miles from home, they may consider going to the gym before or after work. In this scenario, going to the gym will have all three requirements to go through with a behavior. The ability to go to the gym comes from being close by. The prompt is the fact that this person already has a daily habit of going to work. This is a very basic example, I recommend reading “Tiny Habits” by Bj Fogg. He is great at breaking down this process.

Did you enjoy this snack-sized chat? Would you like to see more in the future? Let me know if you want to know more about psychology!

6.5 Things I Wish I Knew About the Gym!

Do you struggle with gym anxiety or not sure what to do when you’re there? I used to be terrified of going to the gym. I knew nothing about equipment or how to structure workouts (which I’m still new to). I was worried about what the gym rats would think about a fresh, clueless member, especially during the new year. I hired a personal trainer in December so I could learn all of these things and not be so lost. I wanted to be ready to be released into the wild by the time my contract was over. Here are some things I have learned so far about the gym. These are things I wish I knew years ago, I may have walked into a gym much sooner.

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com
  • Are people watching me? What will they think? In my experience, people will see and acknowledge you, but no one is staring at you. They don’t care, they just want to work out and go home. People at the gym typically mind their own business, and are sometimes willing to help when asked. There may be communication in situations where you and someone else need the same piece of equipment, just be polite like you would in any other situation; they will be polite back.
  • Weight machines are your friend. I used to be intimidated by the weight machines. I had no idea how to use them, and what if I had bad form while using them? I was told by a personal trainer to not worry about form, because a machine is supposed to assist you with proper form (as long as the settings are proportionate for your height).
  • Plan accordingly. If you have a strength and cardio regimen, you may want to look into the cardio classes at your local gym and plan do to them both in one trip. I have a spin class that I go to three times a week, and I will do my strength training before the class. Its easier for me to go to the gym three times than four or five. I like cardio after strength because you use up glycogen (fuel) stored in the muscles while strength training; after glycogen is used up, your body will burn fat as energy when you do the cardio. So, when you put these two together, you’re getting more bang for your buck.
    • Getting to the gym on time and early enough to get my full workout in required some changes. It’s not simply “Go to gym, workout, go home,” there’s a couple more steps. The night before my gym session, I will pack my necessities. The contents of my bag depend on what I’m doing at the gym the next day. I will always pack two 32oz water bottles, a protein shake or BCAAs, earbuds, a pack of LastTissues (perfect for the stationary bike), and a sweat towel. If I am going to yoga or doing cardio that’s not cycling, I will bring my big gym bag that can hold a yoga mat and a spare pair of shoes. Speaking of shoes, you’re going to want to use different shoes for different activities. For strength training, or exercises that your feet need to feel grounded, go for shoes with a more flat sole. Think of skate shoes. For cardio, you will need a shoe that has arch support and some type of shock absorption. I use running shoes because that’s the only other cardio I do. For something like Zumba, there are special shoes for it with an anatomy that can withstand the dance-like moves. You make lateral movements (side to side), pivot on the ball of your foot, etc. Please look into the equipment needed before starting a workout to avoid injury!
    • After my bag is packed and everything is ready to go, I will go to bed early so I make it there on time in the morning. When I have a 1/2 hour workout planned, I try to get there an hour before cycle class starts. I take into account the time it takes to get there, warm up, complete each set, time between sets, cleaning off equipment when I’m done and be there early for class so I can adjust my bike to my preferred settings. It is always a good idea to show up early to a cardio class, especially if its your first time. You can get to know the instructor, the equipment being used, and get a quick rundown of what you’ll be doing.
  • Check out the classes they offer, if any! Fitness classes are great because they are a welcoming and supportive environment. They are a fun way to get a great workout in, the instructor may have a bangin’ playlist and a variety of challenging sequences! They also go by faster than doing cardio by yourself. 50 minutes in cycle class does not feel like a long time compared to 30 minutes on a treadmill by yourself.
Not only do you need to look into shoes for Zumba, but there are also special cycling shoes. They attach to the pedal of a spin bike! They’re not mandatory, but they’re pretty cool.Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com
  • Your strength workout does not to be a complicated one hour event. I used to think that I had to perform 32 exercises that worked exactly 47 muscles all the way to failure for two hours to get a good strength building workout. A workout doesn’t have to take forever, and you can do anything from eight to ten exercises with 10-12 reps per workout. An effective workout is one that helps you get to your goal, and it doesn’t take that much to build muscle when you’re brand new to the game. When I started to workout “properly,” I felt a bit of culture shock because I was used to doing 30 reps of something per set. When I work out now, I feel like it goes by fast and like I’m not doing much, but I will feel just as sore as when I would overdo it. I have noticed that I’m getting stronger, and I’m doing less reps than before! If you want a little extra in your workout, you can always do the move slowly and increase the amount of time muscles spend under tension. “Pulsing” is also an option.
  • Your split does not have to be complicated. Your split is how you split up your exercises for the week. I used to guess, I would plan out 4-5 days to workout and made a YouTube playlist for that day. I collected so many videos and I was so overwhelmed. I would get sore, rest for two days and get confused on which workout to do next. If I did an arm and ab workout two days ago, should I do the full body scheduled for today, or the leg workout I had planned right after? I would get decision fatigue and fall off the wagon. Now, I typically do a push day, pull day, and body weight day. You can keep it this simple without much guesswork because of push and pull. Each muscle has one job, to flex and move your bone in the direction you need it to. Your “pushing” and “pulling” muscles are usually opposing on the same ligament (biceps pull, triceps push). This method has been effective for me so far.
  • If possible, get a personal trainer. They are very helpful for not only learning how to use the equipment, but some may offer nutrition advice. When working out by myself at home, I never pushed myself as hard as my trainer has, which is why I never saw results on my own. They can also act as a “gym buddy” if you’re scared to go to the gym alone, its make a great training wheel for others who are scared to go. A personal trainer will have the tools to help you expedite your results. If you can’t get a personal trainer, YouTube has a lot of videos showing how to use equipment and example workouts. Some gyms will have employees who are qualified to show you how to use equipment too!

If you are still intimidated by going to the gym, keep in mind that it is filled with likeminded individuals who most likely have similar goals. They, too, have faced their worries and doubts about going for the first or second time. Remember to have fun with it! I hope these little tidbits help you feel more prepared for the gym, whether its your first, second, fifth, tenth or hundredth time. [The exercise tips will be the depth of my fitness “advice,” I am not a professional, I am not qualified to assist with working out.]

Photo by Leon Ardho on Pexels.com

What is your experience with gyms? Are you just starting out, pretty experienced? Is there anything that is holding you back after reading this? Let me know!

Defining Health

I throw around the word “health” often. It’s in my title and the foundation of my content. What does it mean, though? There are many different facets of health; physical, mental, spiritual, financial, etc. It is very different for everyone. I won’t go too much into mental and spiritual health. With that being said, mental health is one of the higher priority items and is very individualized. If your mental health is not where it should be, or you suffer from a condition or illness, please seek professional help and treatment. Once mental health is in line, the other types of health will be more achievable. Nothing is impossible, but we must fill our own cup. Filling our cup without taking care of mental health is kind of like filling our “strainer.”

Now, when I’m talking about “health,” I’m mostly referring to physical and financial. These aspects of health are easier to cut and paste into your daily routine. One of the most important topics in physical health is sleep. Your body needs sleep to get all of the “behind the scenes” work done. Muscle repair, digestion, memory building, and many other processes occur during sleep. Professionals will recommend 7-8 hours of sleep. Getting the same amount of sleep every night is a great starting point. Physical health means to eat foods you love to nourish yourself with in the quantities you like it in. Using food for self-love (not emotional eating.) Using food to power through your workouts and work days. Physical health is also being able to move your body to the best of its ability and working on improving. Its not being able to run x miles, or lift x pounds for y reps. Its putting effort into yourself to enhance your abilities. Its believing in yourself and your future. Beginner-level nutrition and fitness are much healthier than continuing negative thought and behavior patterns and doing nothing about them.

Health is putting yourself first. Performing every action as an act of self-love. That’s what I think of when I think of health. Its fertilizing and growing your potential to be able to give yourself the best quality of life. Obviously it gets much more complex when you think about mental, spiritual and financial health, but its easier to break them down and master bits and pieces of them at a time.

What about you? What comes to mind when you think about health? Do you measure health based on statistics or more abstract ideas?