Changing Your Mind to Change Your Health Habits


Contributed by our good friend, Debra Atkinson

Often times, the biggest obstacle to your happiness is comparing yourself to other people. There is always going to be someone richer, smarter, and thinner. There will be someone driving a better car, with a better house, or a hotter spouse.

We easily get in our own way. We know making the change is a part of getting healthy so we set goals. And yet, that is where we get stuck. Change, even if you choose it, is so very hard. This is what I call habit gravity.

We can logically choose a goal but we can’t necessarily make our heart excited about it. Even if we do want it, we’ll default to our old patterns without something to reroute the GPS in our minds.

Change Your Patterns

It Begins with Thoughts

Your thoughts affect your feelings and if you’re stuck in your goals, that little voice in your head is likely whispering doubt. It amplifies the insecure way you already feel. It’s making you question if you should be taking a brave new step or whether you’re even worthy of it. How do we move past that?

Ask the Right Questions

I credit Marie Forleo for this suggestion. She applies it to business but it works for every detail of our lives that we scrutinize. Do you find yourself asking any of these questions?

Why can’t I stick with it?
Why don’t I have the discipline?
Why can’t I get motivated?
Why am I so lazy?

When you find yourself asking those questions, ask yourself this:

Do I want that to be true?

Marie is onto something. The message you have playing inside your head is perhaps the most powerful hinge to change. You can swing that big bad door open with a shift.

Change Your Message

Science says that we can’t talk about the mind, the body, or the soul in isolation. They’re integrated. Haven’t we known it for years? You didn’t want to go to school the day of the President’s Physical Fitness test so you had a stomachache. You were worried you’d fail the exam and you got a big pimple.

It’s bigger than that though. If you say things like:

This job is going to kill me.
I sit so much for work it’s making me fat.

You might be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Alia Crum, a researcher from Stanford, demonstrated that what you think about your daily habits matters in a study using a pool of hotel maids as subjects. She changed nothing about their daily activity, which included cleaning eight rooms a day, except for the perception of that activity. All the maids were told that physical activity was necessary and provided health benefits like weight loss, improvements in blood pressure, and cholesterol. Half of the maids were also told that what they were already doing qualified as physical activity. Those maids who believed what they were doing counted as physical activity lost weight, and improved their cholesterol and blood pressure.

Can you get fit by sitting and thinking about it? No.

Could you potentially do yourself harm by dwelling on the idea sitting all day at work is bad for your health? Yes.

Could you improve your fitness by believing your housecleaning, walking up and down stairs, and your active life all count? Yes.

I recently did a podcast interview with Dave Smith, a fellow fitness professional. Dave’s suggestion for changing the message you play in your head is a powerful one. After all, it’s your negative voice and whose voice is better to replace it with than your own?

Say you are regularly telling yourself something negative.

I’ve never been able to keep weight off.
I’ll never get this 10lbs off.
I’ve completely messed up my metabolism.

Change these messages.

Make them a positive statement that addresses what you want. Then state it as if you already have it.

I easily release weight with the right habits.
I’m heading to my perfect weight and energy.
Small things I do increase my metabolism all the time.

Create three statements you want to be true right now. Pick up that cell phone you have next to you (or using to read this article) and record those messages, saying each three times. Play the recording to yourself twice a day.

It’s small. You may feel silly doing it but isn’t self-sabotage sillier?

Debra Atkinson, host of Flipping 50 TV and the Flipping 50 podcast, is changing the way thousands of women think about their age. She is a 34-year fitness expert, international fitness presenter, transformational speaker, author, and Subject Matter Expert for leading fitness associations. She helps women make the hormone and exercise connection so that they can have the energy and vitality they want in their second (and better) half.

What is the message you're working on changing? Let us know in the comments below!


Atkinson, Deb. “Time for Habit Change in the New Year with Dave Smith.” FlippingFifty: Health, Exercise & Wellness After 50. FlippingFifty: Health, Exercise & Wellness After 50, 20 Dec. 2016. Web. 04 May 2017.

Crum, Alia J., and Ellen J. Langer. 2007. Mind-set matters: Exercise and the placebo effect. Psychological Science 18, no. 2: 165-171.

Feinberg, Cara. “The Mindfulness Chronicles.” Harvard Magazine. N.p., 03 Mar. 2014. Web. 04 May 2017.

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