These days everyone is so focused on the latest fitness trend or fad diet that they overlook the fact that it’s not about what you do but who you must become to achieve and maintain your desired result.
That’s because if you change your behaviours without changing your identity, as soon as the diet is over or you have lost the weight you seek to lose, you will likely revert to your previous behaviours and put the weight back on.
Many people never achieve their desired goal because as soon as they start making some progress towards their goal, they begin to feel an incongruence with their old identity and end up sabotaging themselves so they can go back to the familiar known.
Yep, that’s right!
People would rather go back to the familiar known, even if they are unhappy there than experience the uncertainty of the unknown.
That is why the need to stay congruent with our identity is the strongest driver of human behaviour.
You must become a new person if you are serious about getting lasting results. You need to start identifying as being lean and healthy rather than going on a diet. Diets are only temporary, and the results are only short-lived.
Permanent change requires shifting your identity!
So, whether you are reading this as a qualified personal trainer or a health and fitness enthusiast, it is vital to understand this topic.
Our identity is shaped by the complex interaction of genetic and environmental factors such as age, gender, family, cultural background, personality, values, and life experiences.
A person’s identity is intricately linked to their family system and the need to belong to their family .
As the old saying goes, “In a family of thieves, the one who doesn’t steal feels guilty”.
Studies have shown a strong correlation between parental weight status and childhood/adolescent obesity . In other words, after adjusting for confounders, overweight and/or obesity in children and adolescents of both genders were significantly associated with parental overweight and obesity .
Many people will self-sabotage their weight loss efforts because they subconsciously fear reaching their goal. After all, doing so would mean they no longer fit in and belong within their family system.
Simply teaching someone new habits and behaviours may not necessarily cut it.
Someone may know what to do, but their new habits and behaviours may not be congruent with their current identity and, therefore, will not stick.
That then begs the question – can we shift our identity?
Neuroplasticity refers to the capacity of the brain to remodel itself through the formation and reorganization of new neuronal networks in response to intrinsic and extrinsic stimuli. This can positively or negatively influence our habits and behaviours at any age across our entire lifespan.
The phrase “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” was first coined by neuropsychologist Donald Hebb in 1949 to describe how pathways in the brain are formed and reinforced through constant repetition.
That is why it is often said that we become what we repeatedly think about. Our thoughts lead to our actions, and our actions lead to our results.
We cover this topic extensively in our Performance Nutrition Coach certification, an example of which you can find below.
When someone is highly motivated in something and puts all their focus on how they can succeed, they strengthen and reinforce those synaptic connections in the brain that reinforce those behaviours and beliefs.
In essence, they reinforce the identity of the person they are trying to become and drive neuroplasticity in a positive direction.
On the other hand, when someone keeps focusing on all the obstacles, constantly doubts themselves, continues making excuses, and doesn’t follow through on the actions they need to take, they further reinforce those negative thoughts and behaviours and drive neuroplasticity in a negative direction.
That is why one of the reasons why every time someone has a failed weight loss attempt, it is going to be that much harder for them to succeed the next time around. They will have to undo all the negative wiring by pruning apart those synaptic connections in the brain which reinforce the negative thoughts and behaviours before they can rewire the brain more positively.
Structural and functional brain changes have been demonstrated in the brains of people that practice meditation and mindfulness . Mindfulness can be defined as nonjudgmental attention to the present moment .
Studies have shown that practising mindfulness can increase happiness and satisfaction, reduce anxiety and depression, promote feelings of calmness, weaken addiction disorders, and improve health [3-6]. Practising mindfulness also improves emotional regulation, which refers to the ability of a person to regulate their emotions consciously or unconsciously .
For example, how often have you seen someone become reactive to the scale when they haven’t lost weight, which in essence, reinforces the negative associations they have with losing weight, making it much harder to lose weight.
If a person can just look at the scale objectively for what it is and not react to it emotionally, they can just make the adjustments they need to make, and it won’t derail them from their long-term game plan. That is why emotional mastery plays a crucial role in achieving any goal.
There are several mindfulness practice techniques, including meditation, body scanning, walking meditation, breathing, and mindfulness yoga.
We like to use a type of focused meditation called guided imagery. Guided imagery is similar to visualization, but instead of just closing your eyes and focusing on the outcome or behaviour you are trying to achieve, it is preceded by a relaxation phase to slow down your brain waves.
When we slow our brain waves down and enter a hypnotic state, where we are not quite awake but not quite asleep, so we are more suggestible. That means we are more likely to accept something without questioning it.
That is because, in this state, we can penetrate past the conscious mind to the subconscious mind, where we can reprogram our subconscious habits, thoughts, and beliefs.
Once you get to that hypnotic state, spend a few minutes visualizing yourself, taking the actions you need to take to achieve your goal, and after that, spend a few minutes visualizing yourself as having already achieved your goal and focusing on how that would feel.
For most people, we recommend starting with a guided audio meditation, where someone walks you through the process.
Dr Joe Dispenza has many good ones on his website if you want an excellent resource to get you started. You can also look at some hypnosis audios for weight loss or achieving optimal health.
Hopefully, you can appreciate now that creating lasting change requires more than someone just changing their habits and behaviours. It requires changing your whole way of being and shifting your identity. It requires becoming the new you!
Enjoy this article and want to learn more about mindset, lifestyle and nutrition?