3 Ways to Keep Your Mind Strong Through the 9 Week Fitness Challenge*

Monday, 24 February 2020, By Evonne Englezos

3 Ways to Keep Your Mind Strong Through the 9 Week Fitness Challenge
If you are a Vision Personal Training Member, you know that February 17th, 2020 marked the start of the 9 Week Fitness Challenge. 
You may have put your hand up voluntarily, your trainer may have suggested it, nominated you, or even given you no choice but to join the challenge. Regardless of what got you to join, staying mentally strong and focused through the 9 weeks may pose some challenges. 
I will be writing a short article each week, during the 9 week challenge to support you along the way. But why listen to me? 
In the past this challenge would have been easy for me. My all or nothing, addictive personality was designed for such challenges. You see for 14 years of my life, I struggled with a variety of eating disorders (binge eating, bulimia), anxiety, depression and yes, a fully-fledged exercise addiction. My experience to overcome all of these challenges took me down the road of training as a psychotherapist and opening up the very first Intensive Outpatient Program for Women with Eating Disorders in Australia. I can happily say I have overcome all of my previous challenges. However, losing weight due to a medical condition is still something I battle with. I have since moved on to combine Executive coaching with Integrative Psychotherapy for business owners, entrepreneurs, business leaders and their teams. But when it was suggested I write an article to support others on this 9 week challenge, I jumped at the chance. 
So, back to staying Mentally Strong through this challenge. 
You may have set weight loss goals, you may be eager to get your own before and after pics, maybe you've set a goal like me to stay alcohol free for 9 weeks, whatever your goal, we can all agree that staying on track for your goal is much easier in week one, than it is in the latter weeks. Here are three ways to stay mentally tough through this challenge. 
1. Remember why you started the Challenge in the first place
Beginning with the end in mind is really important. Most people give up one, two or a few things (alcohol, bread, carbs, coffee, sugar) to get their desired results. It is highly likely that there will be days you feel challenged to stay committed to the goals you set in the first place. There may be days, when you feel more stressed at work or home, you may be under the pump for a project, perhaps even feel overwhelmed after an argument with a loved one or team member. It's in these moments when you may really crave that wine/beer, pasta, or cake, that remembering why you even committed to this challenge in the first place can really prove difficult. Eating to deal with an emotion will usually result in some negative self talk, but keeping your eyes on your prize and your desired result is key. Keeping them visible is a great way to keep them front of mind. 
2. Strengthen your ability to Pause
What does this mean? In the moments when we are stressed and over-tired the reality is we make bad decisions. We particularly make bad decisions when it comes to how we feed ourselves and our sleeping habits (think about all the times you know you're tired but end up
bingeing on your favourite series on Netflix). When tired, you are much more likely to make choices about what you eat, that you will inevitably regret. If we have had a stressful day at work and convince ourselves on the way home that we deserve that beer, wine, or pizza, the ability to pause is seriously important. Pausing means not being reactive, it means slowing down, it means breathing, it means making sure you don't allow overwhelming feelings, or feelings of fatigue lead to destructive emotional behaviours. When you pause, you increase your chance to completely refrain from those decisions. But the other thing that pausing can do, minimise the fallout and contain the damage. So this means that you won't completely avoid having the beer, or pizza, but it might mean that rather than needing three beers and half a pizza in an hour to calm down, that you stop at one beer or have a piece of pizza with some salad. Pausing is a superpower that allows you to make decisions that align with your goals, rather than your immediate impulses. 
3. Think 50 shades of grey (or rainbows) - whichever works for you
I get it, you may be thinking blind folds and S & M, however minds out of the bedroom. Whilst activity in the bedroom might help you burn calories, I'm talking using shades of grey in your thinking; and moving away from extreme, all or nothing, black and white thinking. One of the sure fire ways to fail fast, to give up fast, is to think that one decision that takes you (off track) is the reason to throw in the towel. Having worked through my own crappy relationship with food and exercise and helped hundreds of others reclaim their freedom in this space, extreme thinking won't see you stick to this in the long run. You may think, it's only 9 weeks. Well, 9 weeks can be a long time, particularly if you have set the no sugar, no carb, no alcohol goals. If you have a day where you have a bit of bread, a wine, go easy on yourself. Rather than, I f&*ed it up anyway, so I may as well have the 6 pack of beer or I may as well finish the block of chocolate now that I had one bit. This is only a moment in time. It's not the end of your goal or the world.  You may want to write off your efforts and say something like, "I'll start again on Monday" (this one is a classic). But don't allow this minor deviation be an excuse for overeating and missing exercise until next Monday, just keep at it. 
Make sure you stay connected in the Facebook group to receive encouragement to push through no matter how much of a failure you may think you are. Thoughts are just thoughts. They come and go and can be replaced by new ones.  
Who am I Evonne Englezos: Co-Founder & CEO at Mindstrong Global Evonne Englezos is the Co-Founder of Mindstrong Global. A training and development company, which equips business owners and busy professionals with the skills required to strengthen their ability to process psychological stress and the confidence to know how to respond to whatever challenge they face. Our approach is a fusion of executive coaching and integrative psychotherapy.
I am passionate about bringing my professional training together (Psychotherapy & Human Resources) with my personal experience (entrepreneur/corporate/overcoming mental health struggles) to encourage people to pay more attention to their internal world, To know that pathology is not weakness, but rather armour used to protect ourselves and that at some point, our armour no longer serves us. Evonne helps others embrace the messiness of life, through curiosity, which helps develop self awareness and behaviour change.


*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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