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Why We Should Appreciate Our Bodies As They Are

Why We Should Appreciate Our Bodies As They Are

Oh, don’t mind me. Just sitting here, desperately looking out for the next best thing.
Photo by Dmitry Bayer on Unsplash

I will bet my left knee cap that as you’re reading this, there is something about your body that you’d like to change. That you don’t feel completely satisfied with how something in your body looks (belly fat), feels (spongy) or moves (tight, or constipated).

We often think of this lack of satisfaction as a good thing. It provides the motivation to switch into our training gear. That little voice that urges us to make healthier decisions during meal times. The soft whisper that tells us to eat more fibre.

So if these collective negative feelings about who we are now are driving us to be better for tomorrow, shouldn’t we embrace them with a shriek?

Then, once we reach our goals, we can finally feel content about ourselves.

But, alas, this is not the case. Let’s have my friend Emma prove it. She looks amazing. It’s clear that she cares for her body. Without looking like she has redirected her mailing address to the gym and diligently counts each gram of fibre in her diet.

Naturally my conversations with Emma often turn to training, fitness and health. And time and time again I come away from these conversations baffled by how unhappy she is about her appearance. Be it too much arm fat, back fat or ankle fat. Never satisfied with her present-self, there is always something she wants and needs to work on next.

That’s because Emma is a human. Which makes her notoriously incompetent at predicting what will make her happy and content.

Most of us are no different to Emma. We base the images of our future goals on how we would feel if we’d achieve those things today. We ignore the fact that who we are now is not the same as who we will be.

In Stumbling on Happiness Daniel Gilbert uses the example of a heterosexual teenage boy to illustrate this. Asking him to imagine how he would feel if a bikini wearing Budweiser babe (“if she’d be a president she’d be called Baberaham Lincoln”) would show up at his door in a desperate need for a massage.

Thrilled. That’s how he’d feel. But what if this same guy imagines how he’d feel if a bikini babe (still Baberaham Lincoln) would show up at his door in 50 years’ time?

Again, thrilled. He thinks he would feel as thrilled as he would today. But while blinded by these present thrills, he ignores that in 50 years he’ll be in his mid-, to late-sixties and will have a different level of hormones, life experience and whatnot running through him. All of which would alter his future experience.

The point? We are terrible at predicting what will make us content and happy. Yet we keep setting these lofty goals and expecting to feel euphoria once we reach them.

And even if our predictions of our future happiness are accurate, our insatiability keeps us from feeling content for the long-term.

This phenomenon has a catchy name: hedonic adaptation. We feel unfulfilled with what we achieve because we get easily bored with what we already have. The things we worked hard to get lose their appeal and we will take them for granted. And so we come up with new goals and targets. And on and on we go without ever feeling fully content in the present.

Although we typically associate hedonic adaptation with tangible things like new iPhones and fancy leather pants, it is prevalent in our careers, relationships, and yes, in our self-image.

Unless we “cure” our insatiability, we can never jump off the demonic rat wheel of desiring what we don’t have. There will always be the next thing that becomes the burning focus of our whimsical appetite.

The alternative is to find contentment in how we look, feel, and move as we are today.

Instead of using a negative verbal lashing to push ourselves forward, we can learn to appreciate what we already have. A one way to do this is by practicing an ancient stoic technique called negative visualisation. The thick-bearded Roman stoics were the masters at finding tranquillity in the present.

They regularly contemplated how their life would be if they’d lose the things they valued. Whether it was visualising losing the annual pass to their favourite bathhouse, not having enough food on the table, or worse, being exiled to a remote island.

And it’ll work just as well in our fast-paced modern world. We can visualise losing our physical resiliency, our career, family or our favorite coffee mug.

Negative visualisation works, even if we think there really isn’t a way things could get any worse.

If you’re unhappy with that ankle fat you could think how sad you would feel if you’d break your ankle and couldn’t walk at all. Imaging your life navigating the word as an ankless being.

If you are already dealing with a broken ankle and can’t walk, you can visualise how much it would suck if your leg would be cast up to the groin. Got that going for you already? You can visualise how life would be if you’d break your dominant arm.

This might sound extreme, but the Roman stoics believed that regardless of how bad the situation might seem, it could always be worse. Meaning that there is always something to be grateful for.

How much happier would we be if we’d set aside few minutes each day for negative visualisation?

Maybe it’s when we’re commuting or before pausing for lunch. When we’re going for a walk or getting ready for sleep. For only few minutes a day.

This doesn’t mean that we should stop trying to reach your goals. But it might make us question which goals are worth pursuing.


If this sparked your interest in stoicism, I highly recommend reading William B. Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy Although the writing could use some heavy-handed editing, the content itself is brilliant. It’s a great introduction to stoicism. Besides, the writing could be a lot worse.

There. Negative visualisation coming right at you.

The Sunk Cost of Believing, Feeling and Behaving

The Sunk Cost of Believing, Feeling and Behaving

“What’s in the box?!”
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

– Hey, I know you were asking for a hammer for your birthday. Here. It’s the top of the line. And because you’re so special, I didn’t want to just wrap it in an ordinary gift paper. Instead, I buried it somewhere in this terrarium along with ten funnel web spiders in it. Because I thought you’d like to have them, too.

– Gee. Thanks.

As Seth Godin puts it so eloquently, sunk costs are gifts from our past selves. They are the results of decisions and actions that our previous selves made with the knowledge they had at the time.

And now the well-meaning, but misinformed past selves want to give our current wiser selves those sunk costs as gifts. But these are gifts that we need not to accept. Especially when they no longer serve who we’ve become, or a want to become.

Sunk cost… of belief.

Forcing ourselves to finish all the food on our plate*. Even if we were full five spoonfuls ago. Only because we don’t want to waste the time and ingredients that went into cooking this dish.

Maybe it’s because of how we grew up. The important values our parents were trying to instil. To never waste. Maybe money was tight. Maybe we feel guilty that we have so much when some people have none.

And so we keep shovelling food in with the goal of cleaning up the last piece of elbow pasta. Reliving our daily moment of gluttony. Hoping that avoiding the garbage bin will somehow make it worth it.

Maybe the more helpful narrative is to acknowledge that whether the rest goes in the bin or into our stretched stomach, it is already wasted. We can’t get it back.

To admit our mistake of making too much. To learn from it. To buy less. To cook less. And as a result, to serve less next time.

…of feeling.

Being angry because we feel mistreated. Maybe it happened five years ago with someone close to us. Or maybe it happened five minutes ago when a driver in a blue Jeep cut us off on the Harbour Bridge. Making us miss the York Street exit.

And so we carry a gift of resentment and anger. Only because we can’t let go. It ruins our day. Maybe the week. And unfortunately for some people, their life.

If the feeling doesn’t serve us, maybe it’s worth asking if we should keep accepting this gift. If we can’t change the past, could we change our thoughts about it?

…of behaviour.

We reach for our phone for comfort. To get distracted. To seek answers. To ask others. Hoping that Google and social media will save us.

Because that’s what we’ve always done. It gives us a relief from the present. Maybe it’s a phone. But it might be a cookie jar. Or that vending machine in the hallway. A glass of wine when we get home. It doesn’t matter. The reason for it stays the same. An ingrained habit to move away from what’s bothering us.

Maybe it would be helpful to learn to change a specific behaviour. To learn what’s triggering us into an unproductive action.

Maybe it all starts by accepting that these gifts of past beliefs, feelings or behaviours are weighing us down.


*Or our kid’s plate. Or our partners. Or those vegan nuggets that a guy three tables over is about to throw in the bin.

Noticing

Noticing

The purpose of training our body at the gym is not to become better at training at the gym. No, we train so we can live a better, more fulfilling life outside of that space of bright lights and soulless pop music.

Similarly, the reason for meditating is not just to get better at being present during the daily 10 minutes of practise. The reason we do it is to have the benefits of the practise spill into the rest of our day.

The positive effect meditating can have to those roughly thousand minutes we spend awake each day is stronger than anything else we could learn. It gives us the power to set the tone for each moment and each interaction we’ll have.

Noticing a mood being present without letting it consume us. Instead of dwelling in a negative feeling for hours, or even days, we can acknowledge it being present and then do the hard part of letting it go. This will have a direct effect on the quality of our life.

Noticing the feelings of anger arising before reacting. That split second we spend noticing between feeling anger and reacting to it can’t be overestimated.

Noticing a cycle of thought keeping us in it’s grip. And being able to let go of it. Seeing it as a passing cloud instead of it being a part of us. With diligent practise of meditation all this can be untangled in matter of seconds.

We have the power to notice thoughts arising. To be curious about them without dwelling. To observe them with interest instead of making them part of us.

It won’t always be perfect. It won’t always happen in seconds. But the more we practise, the quicker we can let go of the thoughts that control us.

In the end, that’s what our whole experience is. Thoughts.

Photo by Anastasia Taioglou on Unsplash
When You Feel Like Giving Up

When You Feel Like Giving Up

Do Paranoid!

First some quick housekeeping: the paperback of my new book Spandex Not Compulsory is now available through well-stocked online retailers.

Amazon.com.au
Amazon.com and EU
Booktopia.com.au
Barnes and Noble

And now this week’s blog post.


When You Feel Like Giving Up

Showing up to train is easy when all is swell. You’re seeing results and being fueled by the powerful concoction of energy, anticipation and progress that keeps you coming back and striving for more.

Yet, only beginners are naïve enough to think this is the norm.

If you’ve been training any longer than six months you know constant, linear progress is a short-lived, fairy tale scenario that only happens to Mickey in the Disney Gym.

But eventually all of us face the non-Disney Gym reality. The shock wake up to the miserable world where Donald Duck looks more like Donald Trump. Maybe it is that our progress slows down or even stalls. Or perhaps, against a better judgement, we keep pushing too hard and too fast to where the body can’t keep up.

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The Skill of Being Still

The Skill of Being Still

“aaand another one rides the bus…”

The other day, I am sitting on the bus on my way home minding my own business as I usually do. Yet I am drawn to observe the erratic behavior of the gentleman sitting in front of me. A gentleman who we shall call, Homer. It looks as if Homer’s mind and fingers are possessed by mystic, dark forces. Something out of an aftermath of a zombie apocalypse.

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Gracefulness For a Better Body And Mind

Gracefulness For a Better Body And Mind

Grace
Grace
ɡreɪs/
smoothness and elegance of movement.
“she moved through the water with effortless grace”
synonyms: elegance, stylishness, poise, finesse, charm;
courteous good will.
“he had the good grace to apologize to her afterwards”
synonyms: courtesy, courteousness, politeness, manners, good manners, mannerliness, civility, decorum, decency, propriety, breeding, respect,
respectfulness

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Is Self-Shaming Corroding Your Chances of Change?

Is Self-Shaming Corroding Your Chances of Change?

Corrosion

Since reading Daring Greatly – How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown* I’ve started to notice even more how people talk to themselves down over and over again. And since I spend most of my time training clients in a gym, this negative self talk is most often related to one’s body and self-image.
“I am fat/weak/bad/” or insert any other negative adjective. These are some common sentences that I hear every day. It’s what Brown calls shame-talk and something that has a very negative consequences to our self-worth and well-being

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