The other day, when I was walking out the door for a workout class, my brain decided to try and trip me. “We haven’t gone in forever—it’s going to hurt so bad!” “Eh, we can go tomorrow.” “You know, there are a lot of shows we could be catching up with on TV.” The same thing happened a few days later, over the weekend, when my alarm went off for a Saturday morning class. My brain kicked in again, urging me to hit the snooze button. “Ugh, it’s so early! We never get to sleep in.” “Nobody will notice if we’re not there.” “We have all day! All those things we planned to do right after class can totally wait until later on.”
Losing weight and getting healthy isn’t just about the physical—for many (and for me), it’s by and large a mental game. It has been hard to get my brain on board. No matter how established my schedule, no matter how others encourage me about my good eating and exercise choices, ultimately the commitment is mine to keep or break. And, in the past, in the face of anything that would bring me instant gratification (Donuts … beer … the chance to go out to eat), I’d fold like a house of cards. But I feel stronger now, because, along with support from my chapter, family and friends, I also am learning better ways to take care of myself. Sometimes, this self-care is at odds with what my brain wants to do at any given moment. I’ve had to learn how to reason with myself.
I’m happy to say that, despite my brain’s best attempts, I made it to class both days. In response to the first set of excuses, I said, “Brain, you’re right. We haven’t gone in forever and the first time really is going to hurt. But the second time will hurt less, and the third will hurt even less than that.” On Saturday morning, I said, “Brain, we never, ever regret it when we go to the gym. Let’s just get in the door—that’s a victory in and of itself.” It turns out that I was absolutely right. The second time hurt less and I had a ton of energy to run the errands I needed to after class.
When we plan ahead with food, we make better choices. When we make sure to work movement into our day, we feel good and have more energy. There is no excuse for us not to do this, yet our brains seem to provide us with every excuse in the world. Self-discipline is a muscle, truly, and it gets stronger every time we exercise it. What do you say to your brain when it’s making excuses for you?